Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rhythm ~ Waldorf Style

I wrote this article for my monthly subscription program Celebrate the Rhythm of Life ~ a living curriculum, when I did a test run. Because it has been viewed more than any other page on that site, and because rhythm is such a important and fundamental element of early childhood, I am sharing it with you here.

Rhythm is life! Rhythm is strength! Rhythm can carry you.

We often hear these words but what matters most.... is our relationship to rhythm. 

If we tend toward the precise and exact and well... maybe even rigid,  we might need to loosen up and have more fun, be more fluid, go with the flow, laugh more and get the children to laugh too.

If we tend toward the loose with little structure to our day or week, we might find that the day has slipped by and we have not had lunch or fed the dog or thought about dinner and we're out of milk and no time for breathing into the fun. We might need to tighten up our self discipline, set tiny goals for the day and meet them.

Rhythm is really about balance, finding our own, finding our way to breathe through the day, to be calm and present and bring attentive awareness to our lives with children. Rhythm is flow, a feeling that we are moving in and out energetically with the needs of the day. Rhythm is finding rest and a time for pulling back in after having been out in stimulating activity.

Baby Steps
We begin to find our rhythm by taking baby steps, one at a time. What is the structure of our life right now? Do we go to bed around the same time? Do our children? Do we rise around the same time every day? Do we have regular meal times? Do we set a pretty table?

It's helpful to let go of trying to make many changes at once, we might try for one small change, maybe rising first or dinner by five or bedtime by seven.

In the Moment
When we are running from behind, always trying to catch up, we find ourselves breathless and not in the moment. When we are too focused on the schedule and on what is coming next, we are unable to relax and be in the moment.

Finding a rhythm that flows is key to life with children, for children thrive on a rhythmic and predictable life and a strong rhythm can carry us all through the years with breathing time and time for grace.

For those of us who work with young children in Waldorf nursery and kindergartens, and at home as our child's first Waldorf teacher, we have a rhythm of the day, a rhythm of the week, and, a rhythm of the year.

The Daily Rhythm
is the flow of the daily activities, a balance between quiet inner focused ones and more rambunctious outer focused ones, an in breathing and an out breathing, all anchored in four basic activities for health and well being. 

Every day, every child needs these elements to develop and thrive as a human being, along with a strong relationship with a warm, loving adult and protection from too much stimulation and the adult world. 

By warm loving, I do not mean sentimental and gushing, I mean present, one who sees, hears and feels the child and responds accordingly. 

Once we master the flow of these, we have a solid foundation for our children's early years. They are:

1. Eating
2. Sleeping  
3. Free play
4. Fresh air

Sample daily rhythm --> Rise ~ Breakfast ~ Chores + Outside Play ~ Morning Tea ~ Guided Activity ~ Lunch ~ Nap/Rest ~ Outside Play ~ Dinner Prep/Play at Kitchen Table ~ Dinner -~ Bath ~ Bed

Consider additional activities, such as circle, storytelling, cooking, baking, painting, craft making to be transitions between theses anchors with the basic four taking precedence over all other activity. Cooking and baking help satisfy the eating need, so you might start with those activities. 

Circle, painting and craft making can wait until children are five years old, it is in the kindergarten traditionally that children first had some of these experiences. 

We need to ask ourselves if we want these activities for ourselves or for our children. If the answer is for ourselves, then consider how and where they might fit and respect the child's need for time and space and play.

If your child is four or older and you have time and space in your life for crafts, circle and painting by all means do them, just not to the detriment of eating, sleeping, playing and being outdoors and most importantly, not if it gets in the way of your sanity.

If you are a child care provider and have parents clamoring for activities and projects to take home, think about what the child needs to grow into a healthy human being and find ways to convey what is needed for healthy development to the parents with articles, parent nights and laying it all out in your literature and your interview. 

Free child initiated play is fundamental for healthy growth. Eugene Schwartz has a great article on play, From Playing to Thinking, in the kindergarten as the basis for scientific learning later on. It is the child's ability to take time to do small tasks in the early years, like putting on their boots, tying their shoes, wrapping a gift, collecting an egg from the henhouse, so carefully reaching in, that lay the foundation for math later on.

The rhythm of the week is the pattern or flow of activities set for the days of the week.

The nursery rhyme reminds us of how our mothers and grandmothers lived with a task for each day of the week.
Wash on Monday
Iron on Tuesday
Mend on Wednesday
Churn on Thursday
Clean on Friday
Bake on Saturday
Rest on Sunday

Homemakers have had a homemaking task for each day of the week out of pure practicality, the oven was stoked with wood to run all day on Saturday to bake the beans and the bread. The clothing that was washed on Monday, got ironed on Tuesday and mended on Wednesday. Butter was churned on Thursday, ready for Saturday's baking. The wheel went round and round, week to week and the chores got done. Everyone knew what to expect. Life had form.

Now, with all our conveniences at the flick of a switch, we are forced to carve out our own rhythm in the home.

On mending day we can add a day for mending of toys. We can darn socks, mend holes in the toes, replace a button. A toy with a broken part can receive attention on mending day. This is one way to care for things that get broken.

In the Waldorf nursery and kindergarten, a weekly rhythm often involves a grain for each day's menu based on Rudolf Steiner's work on nutrition and an activity for the child for each day.

The example below is a rhythm that has worked for me, with my own children and with the nursery program group of mixed age children. I have shifted it over the years to accommodate morning naps, mid day naps and noontime pick up. I find it flows best when it is consistent with the fewest transitions and just enough time with each activity to be satisfying - yet not get in the way of play, which is the real work of childhood.

What really fosters play in young children is an adult nearby engaged in productive work with tangible results, results you can see, sweeping, shoveling, folding, ironing. The computer and telephone do not do it for children. A weekly rhythm of home making tasks can help make a time for everything that needs doing.

They need to see us engaged in work and when they see us grapple with something, with mending or sewing or repairing a door frame, it brings a gift to them, that humans sometimes have to grapple in life for that is what growing can be grappling for children. They need to see us do it and persevere and succeed in our endeavors, even when they are hard. This helps grow children who will strive and get through the hard parts of life.

The Weekly Rhythm
 in the kindergarten or the home is a set pattern of activities, one for each day of the week. The more they can be integrated into the home life the better.

An example of activities of a weekly rhythm:
Monday ~ Visit farm or go for a nature walk, make soup stock
Tuesday ~ Make Soup
Wednesday ~ Coloring/Seasonal nature craft day
Thursday~ Baking day
Friday ~ Painting day

The Key
 to the Rhythm of the Day is to wake up before the children and
  1. Get Dressed
  2. Start the laundry
  3. Think about dinner/organize it
  4. Have mother time before the children rise ~ whatever it is that helps you put the spin you need on the day. It might be a quiet cup of coffee or tea, to read a verse, or say it aloud. Maybe it's meditation, yoga, reading, a walk, whatever it is that helps you orient yourself for the day. 
Something to think About
What is your relationship to rhythm? Does it come naturally? Do you have to work at it? What helps it? What gets in the way? Did you have a rhythmic childhood?

What does your rhythm look like? Where are your challenges? How do you move through the transitions? How does it differ in Autumn?

I love to see your comments and feel free to link to your rhythm below in the comment box.

For support on homemaking, parenting and homeschooling with rhythm, come on over and join my living curriculum program Celebrate the Rhythm of Life!



Celebrate the Rhythm of Life 
Harmonious Rhythms ::  Parenting with Soul :: Waldorf Homeschooling

~living curriculum program to support parenting and homeschooling


  1. Lisa, Thank you so much for sharing this. We struggled with Rhythm for a while when my husband changed jobs and his crazy hours still through us for a loop at times, but having that rhythm instilled in the girls and myself really helps to get back on track after a crazy time.

    Blessings, Elizabeth

  2. Great post Lisa, thank you. I've just recently found your blog, it's great! Although not getting up before my 18 month old has happened as yet... it's good to THINK about it!! Hopefully one day I will get there!

    1. Thanks Motherwho. For me it can out of desperation, a dire need for solitary time. Some of us can recharge with others and actually prefer to, so there is no one way. Enjoy your sleep, that too is crucial!

    2. Trying to figure out how I can go to sleep earlier, so I can wake up before my 2 year-old, is on the horizon for my rhythm work. I use the night time for "me" time. I need to figure out how to get my time in else where...

  3. This is a great post as rhythm has been on my mind a lot lately. Thank you!

  4. I struggle with rythm and loved this post so much. I am just starting out Waldorf Living with my 3 and 4 year old boys. We are military and have so much confusion all the time that life at home just follows suit. It doesn't have to be that way and I am working hard to get our home to feel warm, spiritual, rythmic. Thank you for all that you do.

  5. Yes it is hard with confusion. We spent six years abroad moving from island to island and what seemed to help keep a sense of rhythm for my son were the rituals and repetitive elements to our days, our bedtime ritual of dinner, quiet play, story, bed and mealtime ritual of setting the table, finding flowers to put on it, the call to the table, lighting the candle, holding hands, singing our blessing and again at the end making closure through ritual at the table. These small things can bring strength to the child and to family life when they are regular and dependable. Blessings on your journey!

  6. i read so many great things about rhythm and yurn to have a rhythm going but iam so challenged in this area. Ive been a postpartum night doula for about 7yrs and now my son will be 5 in may.. I feel like the time has just slipped by and im losing my mind not having a way to flow. I recently quit my job because i really need to step back and look at what i am creating. Broken family home.. no school in place.. and no rhythm i so dream of creating for my son. We are very loving parents trying to figure out what our next step in life is. Im really looking for a waldorf community or place to move to to learn more and just jump into waldorf. I feel like it is the jewel for us at the moment. oh rhythm where art thou?

  7. Hi thanks for a great article the example of a week was particularly helpful, we are just trying to establish a rhythm at the moment, from watching my lively two tear old and the difficulties he is having at the moment Ive realised he needs simplification, a basic rhythm, less going on but more meaningful rings like meal rituals etc. I know to help him be calmer he needs breathing in and breathing out times. Can you help me know what a day might look like? Gillian x

    1. You're welcome Gillian. My monthly program helps bring daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms in a warm, playful and loving environment. February's focus topic is Rhythm and we will get into the daily and weekly rhythms.

    2. And you'll find the whole day here...

    3. Wish there were a printer-friendly version of this... So many people to share it with... We are a Waldorf family now and most of the other families don't do "screen time" as in online.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. I'm having a really hard time waking up before my two year old (he's an early bird, I'm not), so our rhythm for the day gets kind of wonky. But otherwise, rhythm has been the best way for my son and I to go about our day. Thanks again!

  9. Thank you so much for this wonderful blog. Would it be possible for me to use it as part of our monthly newsletter for our Waldorf-inspired preschool? (
    I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you.

  10. Thank you for this wonderful post! Would it be possible for me to use it as part of my monthly newsletter for my Waldorf-Inspired Preschool ( I am always looking for good articles to share with my parents. :o)
    I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing back from you. :o)

  11. Hi Bethany, Yes, you may use it in your monthly newsletter. Please note that I am the author with a link back to the blog. Blessings on your endeavors!

  12. Brilliant article! Thank you. I will share your post with parents xx

  13. Lisa, many thanks for your article. My son is five years old. After reading your article, I think he may loss his rhythm to do his routin job for example getting dressed. He can focus the things that he likes but he is not interested in the life routine and without much motivation to do it. What I can do to get back his rhythm? I don't want to get dressed for him as he already know how to do. I don't want to shout him to do. But I keep reminding him to get dressed nicely, he just ignore me. I tried to make a story to make the process being fun but it is not working after few times. Really don't know how can I make him focus on when he gets dressed. Would you please advise? Thanks a lot for your help.


I love to hear from you, do say hello when you stop by and leave a link to what is happening with you.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...