On Building a Rhythm
Autumn is a time of renewal and refreshment, little pockets full of the season’s treasures: fat acorns, conkers, and fiery, fallen leaves. After the hurried, frenzied pace of summer, where the focus is ever outward, ever onward, Autumn brings with it a slowed pace and a beginning of the turn to our inward being. Our inner flame begins to shine again, small at first but ever growing as we near Winter. This inward movement is a wonderful time for a rhythm refresh, or to begin the journey towards one if you’ve never had one before. The idea of creating a rhythm can seem daunting at first, but in reality you likely have the bones of a rhythm in place and simply adding structure to it and writing it out will solidify your days tremendously.
When setting the intention of building a rhythm into your day, it’s important to keep in mind that every family is unique, the family dynamic and the personalities within that family are all different. What are your family goals? What do you want your day to look like? Try not to imitate someone else’s rhythm; instead focus on your family and find the nuggets that spark joy in each. Take a few moments, close your eyes and imagine your ideal day. What does that look like to you? What is important to you? Is it important that your family be an outdoors family? Are sports activities important to you? Learning musical instruments? Going to museums or plays? Family dinner? Once you know what is important to you, you can start to incorporate these activities into your weekly and monthly rhythm and begin to say no to the activities that just don’t fit in with your family values and goals. If you take the time to be intentional with your goals, many years from now you will look back with fondness at the cherished time you had together. My mother-in-law once told me that our children will not know for many years, likely until they are also parents, what we have done for them with this life we have built. But we will know, and it is with that knowledge I find the motivation to plan out my days.
Contrary to popular belief, children not only thrive on routine but also very much enjoy it. Once you’ve set a daily rhythm, you will be surprised at how much easier your days flow. Your children will feel safe and at ease when they know what is in store for them as the day and week progresses, which will settle many discipline issues. It is comforting to children to know that after a morning walk, they will have a snack and read a story, or whatever the case may be for your rhythm.
Because most small children really can’t do more than 2-4 outings a week without feeling overwhelmed, it’s wise to make those outings align with your values. After writing out your rhythm, go back to your list of family values and goals and build in your activities. Is something taking your energy and focus every week that doesn’t align with your family goals? If you can cut it then do so now. Children really need the home as their security base and safe place, with plenty of uninterrupted, deep play to build strong imaginations. Leave plenty of space in your rhythm for boredom and silence. When my four year old comes to me and says he is bored, I tell him “boredom is a wonderful gift!” He heaves a deep, annoyed sigh but within 5 minutes I often find him with scissors, crayons, tape and a cardboard box, quite deep in imaginative play.
Our Autumn Rhythm
I have found it best to create our rhythm around anchor points. Because my children are very young, the anchor points that seem to work best for us are food and sleep. If our food and sleep rhythms stay on track, the other parts of the day tend to flow with less effort.
Here is a peek into our daily rhythm. I hope it inspires you to find a rhythm that works well for your family!
7am wake - An OK-to-Wake light lets our children know they are free to come out of their rooms.
7:30am breakfast - Our go-to breakfasts are scrambled eggs, oatmeal, or yogurt with granola. My husband often makes the children breakfast while I take a quick shower. I have found a morning shower helps me to feel fresh and able to tackle the day.
8-9am clean up/get dressed - Mama cleans/picks up, children get dressed for the day and have free play. This is the time of the day my children typically choose to work on puzzles; the focused activity seems to settle them into the day in a peaceful way.
9am snack - Granola bars and applesauce are much-loved for morning snack, they keep tummies satisfied and attitudes joyful should we venture out.
9:30-11am weekly activity - This is the time of day we typically have activities out of the home. For our family, these activities include dance or piano lesson, park play, library visit, nature hike, or local museum. If we do not have a planned activity for the day, we stay home and read together and play outside, then I will pick up around the house or package orders while they have more free play time.
11am lunch - Black bean quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches and salmon patties served with a vegetable are common lunch meals in our home. I have found my children tend to eat vegetables better at lunch so I try to make sure to have them on the plate.
11:30am rest time - nap-time for the littlest, rest and quiet play for the oldest. I have found it important for me to also have a quiet time during this portion of the day; I try not to clean. For me to have the patience I need for the remainder of the day, it is important I do something that makes a deposit in my joy tank, not a withdrawal. Around 1pm, my oldest and I will play a game or puzzle together and then read a chapter book until the littlest wakes from nap.
2:30pm afternoon snack - green smoothies, vegetables with dip, nuts, fruit and cheese are all favorites.
3:30pm nature walk - a lovely older couple with wooded land who live near us have told us we are free to walk in their woods as often as we please. We bring our explorer baskets and find treasures, then bring them home to display on our nature table. This is a lovely connection time before dinner prep.
4:30pm dinner prep - while I am busy prepping dinner, it’s a good time for a sensory activity. We love homemade playdough, kinetic sand, rainbow rice, or moon sand. When my husband is finished with work for the day, he and the children will clean up the mess before dinner.
5pm dinner - dinner is another connection time for the entire family. During the darker months of Autumn and Winter, we light a simple beeswax pillar candle and say a prayer of blessing. This ritual is well-loved and looked forward to by the children and they take turns being the one to blow the candle out at the end of the meal. Because they eat so well the rest of the day, we are not strict about eating much at dinner. My children tend to be too restless and tired to really sit and eat. At this point, we find it more important for us to hold the space for dinner; the enjoyment of sitting, eating and chatting together will come with time.
6pm bedtime ritual - our children share a room but don’t quite go to sleep at the same time. Our youngest seems to really need some peaceful, quiet play to herself before bed. After we read a story and tell her the goodnight blessing specifically for her, she reads books and plays a simple puzzle quietly for about an hour until she falls asleep. our oldest gets a longer story time with a chapter book and goes to sleep in our room; we transfer him to his bed after both children are asleep.
7-7:30pm asleep - and the parents said “ahhhh….”
I hope this post has helped you as you plan out your Autumn Rhythm. I believe you will find, as I have, having a rhythm will build a foundation of trust between your children and you. You will have more free-time throughout your day, with less meltdowns and clambering for your attention as you build in set connection times and set space for free play. If you take the time now to create a rhythm, you will find these Autumn days unfold with sweetness and wonder.
Wishing many blessings and happy growing on you and your little ones,