Have you ever felt weary? Maybe it is the rainy weather and the lack of sunshine. Maybe it is weariness from being emotionally fatigued. I think we can all look back on these times and think about how inviting rest was for us.
Small children take in sense impressions all day long, without any kind of filter on those impressions. They also tend to go “full force” in their work and play without a good ability to balance these inward and outward forces. And lastly, small children under the age of 9 really have a difficult time balancing their excesses of emotion, of bringing their emotional and feeling life being into balance. Rhythm is strength for them, and for the brief reasons mentioned above, sleep and rest are vitally important for small children.
One thing that forms the basis of health is stillness. Stillness is the basis for nearly all spiritual traditions around the world. In my own tradition of Christianity, the Early Church Fathers discussed stillness, prayer, love, and self-control. Stillness is also the basis for wonder and awe which leads to a sense of goodness in the small child, this idea that the world is a good place, which is a foundation of health. When we have consistent sleep and rest times for the whole family, I think we convey to children that being still is valued. That resting is okay. That having an unhurried pace is okay.
In this age of information overload and the “need” to respond to things “right now, hurry, hurry and respond and don’t think first” I think through rest and sleep we are giving our children the foundation to be able to say as adults, “That is interesting. Please let me think about it and I will respond to you in a bit.” We are giving our children the ability to find the stillness to connect with themselves, with the natural world and with the spiritual world. We are giving them the tools for health.
Rest – I was thinking today about how adults also use meditation and prayer as a form of resting connection, and how children really use rest to rejuvenate themselves as well. Children can also start to learn the fundamental basics of resting in prayer and other spiritual practices as according to their family culture as a form of health.
In rest, we also think of the physical act of resting. A consistent napping schedule is important for small children (and adults enjoy this as well if they let themselves rest!).
I have often observed two main transition points for naps:
- Going from two naps that normally end up beginning around 10 AM and 2PM to one nap that usually then starts around 12 or 1. An interesting observation I have had over the years is that children who are having challenges around bedtime often have a nap that is scheduled to end too late. Once children become older toddlers, they may fight going down for a nap to a certain extent, even if you have had a wonderfully consistent routine. In those cases, I often just tried to make a dim place with a comfortable nest and told a very slow, repetitive story and to remain as neutral as possible. Having something repetitive to do with one’s hands can often be helpful in these situations.
- The other transition point I have seen is when the nap is dropped and we move into holding a quiet time after lunch. This is something the whole family can hold, including mother sitting down and resting as well. If you are homeschooling, this is truly important.
We have had many discussions on this blog about rest, quiet times, naps. Here are a few of my favorite back posts on this subject: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/10/05/cultivating-stillness-and-silence/
Sleep is important, and to me, intricately tied to warmth. Does the child feel emotionally embraced and warm? Physically warm? There is something so vulnerable about drifting off to sleep, and I think some children are more sensitive than other in regards to letting that happen.
The other thing I often think about with sleep besides rhythm and when wake-up and nap times are includes physical exertion and being outside, but for children ages 7 and up, also the permeation of artistic activity into the day. There is some discussion of this artistic activity and how this relates to sleep in the lectures compiled in the book “A Modern Art of Education” by Rudolf Steiner.
Here are some ideas about babies and sleep: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/03/the-peaceful-baby-in-march-sleep-part-one/ and this one: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/04/the-peaceful-baby-in-march-sleep-part-two/
And this is a pretty comprehensive look at how to handle bedtime struggles: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/05/29/struggling-at-bedtime/
Many physicians tie the liver into sleep challenges. Here is an article by physician Susan Johnson on this subject: http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/GW4003.pdf
There is also an interesting article by Waldorf Educator Arthur Auer here regarding sleep and its importance to education: http://www.waldorflibrary.org/Journal_Articles/RB1401.pdf
Much love to all, and peaceful rest,