Rituals are repeated acts. We repeat them to help us behave in a way we want, without even having to think about it. Rituals in the family home are especially beneficial in supporting children to understand what is happening and what is happening next. Here I’m sharing some of my favourite rituals for encouraging rhythm.
Songs are a joyful indication of what’s happening. When I sing a song as I prepare snack, children know that soon it will be time for snack. I sing a song at the start of snack time to not only indicate the start of our time together, but also to celebrate it and bring transition in mood from busy play, to calm connection. Songs work well for all transitions and save us from having those often unnecessary conversations which often turn into over explanation or persuasion. As children become more familiar with the songs, they sing along and soon the song becomes an act of connection as the whole family or group, take a moment to enjoy the simple act of singing together.
Candles are a powerful tool for prioritising connection during an anchor. When we light a candle a feeling deep within us is reminded of connection and presence, similar to sitting around a campfire. Fire requires respect – children instinctively sense this and quickly learn how to take the necessary measures. When we light a candle we send a strong message to all those who are present that we wish to be together, to connect and reflect. Whether we light a candle at meal times, story times, bed times or other times in the day, we can not help but create a moment of calm as everyone focuses on the lighting of the candle. We are instinctively drawn to the light. The candle is is powerful in it’s ability to bring calm and presence to the moment. A little safety tip: when with children I always use candles which are inside a lantern. I am able to open the glass door and light the candle, leaving the match inside the lantern until later. When putting the candle out I always use a snuffer to avoid hot wax being blown.
Blankets and Slippers
I am queen of cosy! I just love to stay warm, crawl under blankets and wear my cosy slippers, I’m usually wearing two jumpers (even in summer) and knitted socks. There’s just something so comforting in feeling warm and cosy. Of course, I don’t suggest that you risk making your child too hot, but adding an element of cosy to your rhythm will bring comfort, familiarity and calm. You can bring cosy to your daily anchors by having special blankets, slippers, cushions or socks that you always use. It may be that at story time you lay out the cosy cushions on the floor ready to tell the story. Perhaps you share story books before breakfast, you could light a candle and also get out the same blanket that you put on your lay each day. These little rituals to feel cosy will bring comfort to your anchors and moments of connection.
Although food can be a tricky dynamic for many children and families, I’d like to add the idea of creating rituals with food. I don’t believe that food should ever be used as a reward (or punishment) but I do believe that food can be something special and something we can enjoy together. Food can be a deeply connecting part of our societies daily and yearly rhythm. Within each culture, we have the meals of the day, and special meals for seasonal celebrations. There are many food rituals surrounding cultural traditions, family traditions and regional history and I think it’s worth considering each of those as a starting point to delving deeper into the idea of food as connection. What if we reconnected with food as a tool for moments of presence and love? It’s my belief that food can be a mindful act of intention. When we are intentional about the food we eat, when we eat it and how we eat it, we are developing children’s sense of gratitude, community, nourishment and togetherness. We would start small and start with what we know (my moto for rhythm). It may look like a mug of warm milk at bedtime story time. Or perhaps, breakfast always served with a special china bowl and a metal spoon. Perhaps some seasonal fruit is always a part of morning snack time. The idea is to create intention around the food we enjoy, so it supports our rhythm and adds connection.
We can use nature to decorate our homes, add to our toy baskets, create gifts and create arts and crafts. When we are mindful about collecting nature and displaying it as a celebration of the natural world we help children to connect with what’s around them. For those who experience seasons, displaying seasonal nature will create connection to the rhythm of the seasons. Nature can be a beautiful ritual of the day. You may pick a few natural objects whilst out and about, perhaps on a nature walk, to display on your nature shelf, the table you eat at or as garlands. We can also celebrate nature by making it the topic of our stories, songs, poems, artwork and studies.When we pay attention to the natural world around us, and bring it into our daily, weekly, monthly or yearly rituals, we send a strong message of our appreciation for nature and our need to celebrate it as well as nurture and support it. When nature is part of our rituals we strengthen our family bond to the natural world.
What you can do next…
- Choose two or three songs which have meaning and purpose in your life. These may be simple children’s songs that recognise what is happening in the outside world.
- Choose one time of day that you wish to add a ritual. Is it a breakfast time? Perhaps you want to add a candle? Perhaps at story time you want to use a favourite blanket? Choose just one ritual and start regularly implementing it.
- Take a closer look at nature. What is happening around you at this time? Do you see leaves turning golden? Perhaps you will collect a few for your table. Next time you are out and about, gather a few common objects from the ground, and display them in your home.