In Waldorf/Steiner communities, you will hear the word "Rhythm" used a lot, especially in Early Childhood settings. In the classroom the Rhythm of the Day is one of the most important parts of our curriculum, and one of the most common pieces of guidance I share with families looking for support is to make their days more rhythmic. Soon, a post on the broader concept of rhythm will be coming, but for now I want to address what I see so often in the summer: families throwing their rhythms out the window because they don't feel compatible with the freeness and outward pull of the summer.
When summer comes in the Northeast, there exists a palpable pull towards a dreamlike state of being--long slow days, filled with sun ripened fruit and sun flushed skin, a draw of play and joy and ease. Even though much of modern life expects us to keep plugging along with the same productivity despite the season, our bodies can still sense the shift in energy and we're better off not trying to fight it too much.
For children, this seasonal shift is reinforced even more by the summer vacation from school and the incredible opportunities for play in the summer city (please tell me you've been to a splash pad at your local playground recently.) All of this glory is not without it challenges. Bedtimes creep later with the sunset, nap schedules shift as days fill with unpredictable outings, vacations throw everything off, and soon we've fallen headlong into the haze of the summertime and find it full of frazzle and meltdowns.
Here's the thing though. The long exhale of the summer still calls for breath and rhythm within it's days. And yet, holding the tight schedule that works well in colder months doesn't serve us either. Just as our inner patterns of breath and heartbeat change between waking and sleeping hours, so must the rhythms of our days change with the year.
When thinking about your family's summer rhythm, think about the things that your child will need every day:
Time to rest, time to play.
Time to eat, time to digest
.Time to be social, time to be alone.
Time in the sun, time sitting in front of the fan with your feet on an icepack and a cold drink in your hand (at least that's my system).
Breathe in, breathe out.
How can you make sure each is balanced by the other in a predictable way? How can you stay flexible with that, so you're still holding the rhythm when your days inevitably surprise you?
For those of you who like examples, a summer rhythm for your child might look like:
Wake up - Breakfast - Quiet play - Active play/activity - Lunch - Rest - Play - Dinner - Bathe - Bed
Things don't need to look a certain way, or happen at a certain time. In fact, taking a (much) slower, more relaxed pace of life will likely serve everyone in your family better. And still, having a predictable pattern to relax into will offer some comfort and--potentially unexpectedly--even more ease than in a totally free day where one always has to wonder and think what is happening next. Sometimes, breakfast and quiet play might happen on the train to the beach, and rest happens under the beach umbrella. Sometimes dinner will be campfire hot dogs and bathing will happen in a river and bed will happen in a sleeping bag. Summer isn't about knowing all of the specifics. But by keeping a simple breathing quality in the foundation of our days, we can find peace and harmony in that freedom, rather than stress and squabbles.