RHYTHMS of life

As a parent of two little ones there used to be so many days when I would count down the hours until bedtime, when I could finally have a break. I didn’t want this to be what my relationship with my children felt like. I wanted to look forward to my time with them and to be a mom who is calm and nurturing. One of the things that I learned along the way was that children need flexibility, boundaries, and consistency. This is where rhythms come in.

What is a daily rhythm?

According to the Marriam-Webster dictionary, rhythm the movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements. This means that daily rhythm is the movement between activities throughout a day which are marked by the regular recurrence and natural flow. Daily rhythms are regular and dependable but also responsive to their environment. This means that rhythms are not strict like a routine or schedule, instead they allow for flexibility. You may be wondering how does a rhythm allow for flexibility? Well the neat thing about a rhythm is that it doesn’t follow strict timelines instead it is a pattern of activities. This means that if your children are enjoying their indoor play and experiencing flow you can allow them to continue playing and move onto the next activity when they seem ready or if they are really struggling with getting along for indoor play you may transition earlier to the next activity to hopefully change their mood and engagement.

Rhythms help us to set boundaries, especially around snacks, tv time, and chores. They give us a framework. Because our children know what to expect and what the ‘rules’ are there is less room for power struggles and we can easily redirect the child to the current activity. For example, a child has just finished breakfast and is asking for a snack – you can direct your child to the daily rhythm and explain that we are now going to get ready for the day but that after some indoor play we will have a yummy snack.

We all know that consistency is so important for kids whether its for discipline, boundaries, expectations, language, or rhythms. Consistency allows for familiarity and familiarity grounds the day and relieves anxiety for the child. I don’t know about you but I always feel more grounded and secure when I know what to expect for my day.

How do I create a daily rhythm?

Our daily rhythm is built around anchor points. Anchor points are things in your day that have to happen each day and generally at specific times such as meals, naps, and bedtime. We start by writing each of our anchor’s down. with space in between. Now when we are planning the other activities in our rhythm we need to consider alternating times of activity with times of rest and for younger children, times of concentrated effort (such as a chore or listening to a story) with times of playing freely.

As an aside about anchor points – it is really nice to have a ritual surround each point. This not only helps with transitions but it also helps to make these points in the day feel special. An example of an anchor ritual from our day is our dinner ritual. Each night at dinner we light a candle, and go around the table to say what we are thankful for.

Tip: Make it fun and engage the kids in the process! (it really helps with buy-in). The girls colored a giant white sheet of paper (our goal was to have no white space left) then after talking about our rhythm and brainstorming we wrote it over top of the color in black marker – it now hangs on our chalkboard wall. (aka family commander center)

Walking You Through Our Daily Rhythm

Breakfast & Getting Ready: We start off each day with a yummy breakfast together. My kids are usually hungry right away and like to stay in their jammies for breakfast so we allowed this and put it into our rhythm as per their request. This also helps with transition to the next activity. The girls go upstairs and pick out their clothes, get dressed, and brush their teeth (sometimes they even make their bed) while I put away the breakfast dishes. I try to have a clean kitchen after breakfast as I feel like it helps to start the day off on the right foot since the kitchen is the hub of our home.

Homecare: aka chores. Chores are so important for children to engage in on so many different levels. I love this quote about chores. “Domestic activities, housework, taking care of the surroundings: all of these take us out of the personal and into the social realm. Caring for one’s surroundings is a social gesture. We work together and for each other! The basis of our community life is the home, and social responsibility starts here.” (Stephen Spitalny). There are a lot of ideas on Pinterest on how to make cleaning fun! My 3 year old loves unloading the plastic kid plates or utensils from the dishwasher, moping, and cleaning the windows with homemade (vinegar and water) Windex! Since the whole Covid-19 situation she also loves wiping down door knobs and handles with a Lysol wipe and gloves. My 5 year old is able to help with more detailed tasks such as helping to clean a bathroom, vacuum, sweep, and mop (all the spots her sister missed 🙂

Indoor play: as I mentioned above, it is important for children to have a good balance between focused activities and free play. Stephen Spitalny says, “We need to create the feeling of ‘there is no rush, there is time to play’. I would also like to note that sometimes it takes kids a little bit of boredom time before their creative juices really get flowing… and that’s OK. Don’t jump in and entertain them all the time!

Tea time, snack & story: This is a special time for us as we love to drink a nice warm cup of tea and eat a nutritious snack while listening to mama or dada read a story. It is a time to connect and enjoy focused quality time together. If you have older kids you could read a chapter book and read a chapter each day or listen to a story podcast such as The Story Pirates.

Outdoor play & wiggle time: Outdoor time just does something to kids that I can’t explain. Whenever the kids are moaning and groaning we look forward to getting outside (even if it’s raining! Have you ever seen the joy on kids’ faces when they are allowed to jump in muddy puddles?) Sometimes we do outdoor activities outside such as walk, bike, chalk, and kick a ball. There are also times when we do indoor activities outside such as bring a blanket and a basket full of Barbies or baby dolls out to play with. Wiggle time: Wiggle time is extra important in 2 scenarios… 1) It is yucky weather outside and outdoor play just isn’t a good idea or 2) You or your kid are in a funk and need a mood change. What is wiggle time you ask? It is any silly game or activity you play to get your bodies moving! The favorite in our house is a DANCE PARTY! We crank the music loud and dance our troubles away. O man it really does change a mood almost instantly… I dare you to give it a try next time you have cabin fever and see how the atmosphere changes!

Rest time & school: rest or nap time are for non-school aged children. School-aged children spend some time working on schoolwork such as an educational app, or educational workbooks or games etc. Once your school-aged children is done working on their school work they can transition to a period of rest also. Nap is obviously a nap for younger children who are still napping. Rest time meas that a child is in their room either laying in bed looking at books/reading or quietly playing. My one daughter likes to go into the Barbie room and spend her quiet time just playing Barbies by herself, while my other daughter likes to either bring all her stuffed animals into her bed and play or set up a house with her Peppa Pig play set.

Play & Set table: Play time often blends with quiet time as the children become bored of quiet time they begin to want to play together or express that they are ready to move on to a new activity. During this time I also have the girls clean off the table and set it for dinner time. This has been a huge advantage for me as it really makes my feel calm when at about 3:30 my table is already set for dinner.

Snack & Show: Show time is a hot commodity in our house as the kids don’t regularly watch shows. It is not our preferred style of entertainment. However at that witching hour it is a really nice distraction while I make dinner. The children earn their show using a sticker chart. There are 4 stickers they can earn 1) getting ready for the day, 2) completing their chore, 3) setting the table, and 4) getting along during play time. If by snack & show time they have not earned at 4 stickers they have to do an extra chore/task for me prior to getting their show. The children really enjoy earning stickers throughout the day.

7 Min pick-up or tidy: I love having this mom hack in my rhythm as it makes mom life easier – it means I am spending less time after they are in bed picking up after them/tidying the house. In our house we put on the tidy up song (just Google it and you will find may) and dance around picking up toys and clothes for 7 min. After 7-min we stop and leave the rest to tomorrow (or me after the kids are in bed if I’m feeling energized).

Family fun: I am going to be honest here… family fun doesn’t happen each night for us. If our children are struggling with dinner or we had a really nice long walk, or dinner is running later, family fun time is often our flex time. If we have time we love playing a board game together. When days get busy and time runs away on us instead of doing a separate family time we often have an extended walk and a longer reading time in our bedtime routine. Let’s be honest, with covid-19 quarantine family fun is built into many different parts of the day.

Bedtime Routine: We generally start our bedtime routine around 6:45pm. We start with a bubble bath, followed by snack and story time. The girls then go and brush their teeth (with help of course). Lastly, they crawl into bed, turn out the lights, and we sing 2 songs in each girl’s bed. Sweet dreams!

Tip: It will take at least a month of consistently following your rhythm before it starts to really stick and flow! This means don’t get all frazzled if the first week isn’t perfect (or if it’s never perfect). Just do your best and remember that kids need flexibility, boundaries, and consistency!

I hope that you have found this post helpful and that it maybe has given you some insight and motivation to create a daily rhythm of your own (ps. I even recommend doing this if you are an adult with no children as we all thrive on rhythms). I have posted an example of a daily rhythm based on mine below. I am excited to hear about yours! Post a photo in the comments below or just comment and share what is working in your rhythm 🙂

Wanna connect further? Follow along at FB or Instagram @mentallyhealthymama

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