10 Simple Tips to Create Slow Days and Peaceful Rhythms for the Young Child
by Kate Saffle
A year ago
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”
-- Annie Dillard in The Writing Life
Wake-up, quickly throw together a semblance of breakfast, rush the kids out the door, and go go go. Repeat at the end of the day with dinner, baths, and bedtime, only to start the cycle the next day. There is a sense of urgency and impatience that permeates our culture, and it has trickled down to the very youngest members of our society. If Annie Dillard is correct, then the way we spend our days as a family, and particularly the rushed schedule of the young child, will set the pattern for our lives. Babyhood, the toddler period, and preschool age are the ideal time to consciously take a stance against busyness and preserve the innocence and slowness of early childhood. It sounds like a wonderful idea, but how can you create a counter-culture home environment that is simple, attuned to the needs of the young child, and provides a space separate from the busyness culture? Let’s explore this idea together.
We as the parents set the tone for the pace of life with our children. Some responsibilities are unavoidable, and we really can’t hold ourselves to an impossible ideal for childhood. However, there is a breadth of opportunity to simplify our schedules and expectations for the daily rhythms of our youngest family members. One way is to reconsider any outside activities or enrichments. There is indeed a great deal of pressure on young families to enroll their children in all the activities in a fear that the child might fall behind otherwise. According to author Sharifa Oppenheimer, “[w]e need to remember that there is nothing more ‘enriching’ for a young child than exploring his own world of home, filled with natural playthings, and the work of caring for a family-- housework, laundry, cooking-- and exploring his own backyard.” Whether your child is in childcare during the workweek or at home, how can you incorporate time for him to slow down and connect with his family and home environment? Here are 10 simple ways to create a peaceful space in the daily schedule of the smallest child.
- Greet the sun as soon as he wakes by walking outside (barefoot as a bonus!) and listen to the early birds and sounds of the morning.
- Choose simple breakfasts that are easy to prepare and nourishing, to allow time to connect at the morning table.
- Set aside a few minutes (or more!) for a cuddle session and to gently prepare for the day. For an older toddler or preschool, this can also include a preview of what to expect the rest of the day.
- Keep screens turned off, and instead choose slow play: reading books, playing with homemade dough, digging in the backyard, stacking blocks or cups, and practical life activities (such as sweeping, wiping, watering plants, and pouring). This book is full of wonderful Montessori inspiration for activities with your toddler.
- Give a toddler or preschooler a cutting board and a child-safe knife and let them help prepare lunch by chopping soft fruits and veggies, like banana and broccoli florets. You could also let them spread toppings on a slice of bread and pour themselves a cup of water from a small, lightweight pitcher.
- If errands need to be completed, use the car time to listen to audiobooks or expose your child to good music (if you need suggestions for this, check out the Basal Baby playlist for child and adult friendly tunes.)
- Keep naptime sacred and allow time for a slow transition into sleeping time. Darken the room, read a calm book in a soft voice, and turn on a fan to create a peaceful soundscape.
- Engage in outdoor play after naps: roll together in the grass, practice different skills such as hopping on one foot or walking on a line, or even go on a nature walk around your neighborhood.
- Wind your little one down after dinner with a warm bath.You could also give her a backrub using a little coconut oil with a drop or two of lavender essential oil mixed in; it’s soothing and sleep-inducing.
- Dim the lights in the home and create an atmosphere of calm by quieting voices and other noises throughout. Lighting a small candle to read by is a gentle ritual that will give the tired child a sense of peace and warmth.
Our youngest children crave simplicity, order, and rhythm in their days. Even trying just one of these suggestions will have a ripple effect in your home and schedule. Early childhood is an opportunity to be a little counter-cultural and say no to all of the enrichment activities; at least for now. Instead, give your young child a sense of rhythm and knowing about her days because how she spends her days, is of course, how she grows into her life.
Which one of these suggestions will you try first?