Rhythm in the Early Years
Photograph by Sheila Jennings
The child is very much at one with the mother, in the sphere of the mother or the “mother bubble” from conception until around the age of three.
In these very early years from birth to around the age of three, life’s focus is on the daily care of the body of the child, nursing, feeding, bathing, sleeping, diaper changes, bath (this is sometimes called bodily religion) as well as the daily care of the environment, and our own inner work.
When the child emerges out of the mother bubble into the social sphere, this is the time when the “I” begins to emerge.
At this time, around the age of three, the change can be seen physically too, the child’s body stretches out, there is a separation of the abdomen and chest, the limbs stretch out, the child can now meet others and play, it is the beginning of imaginative play and memory.
This is the time for nursery rhymes and rhythmic stories with much rhythmic repetition. The child never seems to tire of these and asks for them over and over again. Finger play and very simple puppetry that is rhythmic supports the child’s growth in this time of life.
In my childhood in the 1960’s in the USA, three was the age for nursery school a few mornings a week, when our mothers could have a break and we could play with our new friends.
The weekly rhythms in a Waldorf environment reflect the developmental needs of the young child and are very nourishing. They are comprised of what LifeWays founder Cynthia Aldinger refers to as the “living” arts: domestic tasks of the household like soup making, bread making, sweeping, polishing, washing, social tasks such as thank you notes, checking in on neighbors, visit to the farm, nurturing arts like fingernail trimming, hair washing, bubble baths and creative arts of coloring, painting, modeling, singing, puppetry and stories.
Our family’s weekly rhythm has been carried by my home based Morning Garden program, The Children’s Garden, through the years, and remains with us as our rhythm of the home, a solid base for homeschooling through the grades:
- Monday ~ Soup stock day ~ Wash and line dry bed linens ~ House blessing
- Tuesday ~ Soup day ~ Ironing
- Wednesday ~ Coloring and Mending (toys and clothes) ~ Clean out the fridge, Plan menus for following week Make Your Own Coloring Pad
- Thursday ~ Baking day ~ Maple oat spelt bun, seasonal baking or yummy dessert ~Grocery store (for non farmer’s market items)
- Friday ~ Wet on Wet Watercolor Painting ( for older littles 3+ and up, 2 year old might finger paint) ~ Clean out the car, the purse, the book bag
- Saturday ~ Dump and Farmer’s Market, Yard work day (baked beans and brown bread in winter)
- Sunday ~ Hike and Renew Spirit (ski in winter)
Very early childhood is a great time to begin building a repertoire of songs, stories and pictures you want to bring to your child through song, story and pictures: coloring, painting, chalkboard drawing. It’s a good time to explore the pentatonic flute or kinderlyre for yourself to use with your child.
Each month look at what is happening in nature around you and learn one song for the season. Each month create a season’s table with elements of the season on it, something from earth, air, fire and water of the season. Each month learn one simple rhyme or verse that you can tell with a felt finger puppet, very simple such as a bee, butterfly, cicada, ladybug for June and make it and learn the verse, just one each month. I like to write them out on an index card and put them on a magnet clip on the stove hood or refrigerator side. Make a chalkboard drawing each season of the essence of the season, think of the elements, summer sun, water. Hang it in the playroom or kitchen.
Each month choose something sweet and something savory that grows around you and is in season to prepare. In April, May and June we have lots of eggs, cream, asparagus, chives, lettuces, peas and strawberries. Prepare something to eat with it, strawberry shortcake, strawberry jam, strawberry tart, something that sings to you and do it each year when the strawberries come. You can freeze jam if canning is too daunting. Make simple savory tarts, quiche or frittata with the eggs, cream, asparagus and chives. Add some local cheese.
In July pick blueberries and prepare something dear with them, pie, jam, pound cake, muffins. Tell or read a story about blueberries, like Blueberries for Sal. Do this each month with a food and a story about that food. In August we have corn, tomatoes and basil, in September apples, in October pumpkins in November cranberries…
Now you have one song, one rhyme with finger puppet, a seasons table for Mother Nature’s treasures, a chalkboard drawing and a food to celebrate each month.
Each season you might make one toy for your child:
- a ball,
- a silk cape,
- a crown for his birthday,
- tree blocks,
- a moving picture…..
Like this over the course of the year you build a strong foundation and very gentle introduce your child to the goodness of the world through beauty and nature.
Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie is the Editor and Publisher of The Wonder of Childhood and has spent fifteen of the past twenty years with one of her own children in early childhood (under seven years of age.) She has worked with children and their families for the past twenty three years, initially as a homebirth midwife. Lisa’s home based program The Children’s Garden began thirteen years ago on a remote tropical island in the Pacific Ocean. Lisa’s current focus is on supporting parents of young children to find their own rhythms, along with helping parents nourish imaginative play, harmonious meal times, smooth transitions, gentle bed times, as well as a look at child development, artistic activities, stories through the year, puppetry, songs, festival celebrations and more in an interactive curriculum/program for early childhood found here. She lives with her family in Vermont. Lisa blogs at Celebrate the Rhythm of Life and hosts a discussion groups for parents of young children here.