One of the best pieces of advice I received was from my child’s Kindergarten teacher. It was simply “keep your child well-rested, well-dressed and well-fed.” It’s remarkable how those three simple things can make such a difference in the health and wellness of a child. The excerpt below was written by two of our beloved Early Childhood faculty on the importance of sleep (well-rested) and warmth (well-dressed).
Warmth, rest and breathing provide the foundation on which the Waldorf early childhood program is built. Allowing plenty of time to live into each aspect of the kindergarten day provides the rhythmic in-breath and out-breath that that guides the young child through work, play and rest: The rolling of warm bread dough, lighting the candle for morning verse, long sessions of deep imaginative play, resting on the rug with a pillow filled with sheep’s wool and lavender.
Sleep, written by Niki Rainwater
Children work hard being children and at the end of the day, their bodies are in need of deep, restful sleep. The transition to rest following the day’s adventures can sometimes be the most difficult time of day. There is a magic window, experts agree, for getting your child to nestled into bed by 7:30pm. It looks something like this: Dinner by 5pm, wind down activity (play and bathing) by 6pm, jammies on and bedtime stories finished by 7, quiet cozy snuggles leading to the Land of Nod by 7:30.
Should the timing bump forward by even one hour, the magic window closes with a metaphorical slam. And another magical thing happens called “the second wind,” which is great if you are a competitive marathon runner, but not so great when your child is the one lapping you at the finish line at 10:30 pm on a school night.
The young child needs about 12 hours of sleep each night in order to restore and regulate energy levels needed to go about the daily work of being a healthy child. When sleep falls short you’ll most likely find yourself with a tired, irritable child and a tricky day ahead for all in her wake.
The liver plays a key role in the quality of sleep and strictly adheres to Benjamin Franklin’s wise advice, “Early to bed, early to rise makes (one) healthy, wealthy, and wise”. A hard worker who clocks in on the early shift following a good night’s sleep, the liver’s glycogen stores are replenished by 5am or so and ready face a new day of detoxifying, metabolizing and filtering. (Which, if you stop and really think about it is downright miraculous.) By 3pm the liver has finished the mopping up of high fats and heavy protein and clocks out of Big Meal Diner for the day. By 6pm the liver heads off to dreamland with all the sugar (broken down glycogen) needed for the next day’s work safely tucked away. When this rhythm is shifted by late meals and later bedtimes, the liver thinks, “slumber party!” Before you know it the pancreas has also joined the fun and the insulin begins to flow in an effort to keep the host primed and energized. And then come the cookie cravings…Ending this party before it begins is both a challenge and a gift.
When my children were young I often felt like the village constable when it came to the nightly bedtime roundup. I remember the best nights of sleep I ever had were when we’d all fall asleep together, just as the first star appeared in the evening sky…I hope our livers were smiling:)
Warmth, written by Jessica Porto
During early childhood, children grow faster than at any other time in their lives. Parents often feel as though they need to buy the next size of clothes and shoes every few months! During this time, a child’s body not only grows bigger and stronger, but their organs are fine tuning their development and functioning. The same kinds of forces which make this growth and development possible are also the ones children need to keep their body’s temperature at homeostasis. Young children also lose heat faster than adults, especially through the tops of their heads, and can become chilled quickly if they are not wearing enough clothing and a hat during the colder months. When children are not dressed adequately, the forces for growing and learning are compromised and instead are used to keep them warm. Young children often cannot tell whether they are too cold or too hot, and need loving adults to ensure their body temperature is at a healthy level. Wearing layers of breathable natural fiber clothing inside and waterproof, warm gear for outside play is the best way for a child to maintain their warmth.
There is another aspect of warmth that is also essential for a young child’s growth. When we meet someone who is friendly and caring, we often describe them as ‘warm’. On the other hand, someone who is disinterested and harsh is often described as ‘cold’. This is no accident. It is important that the adults in a child’s life show them and each other this kind of warmth of soul through our speech, our gestures, and our general countenance. This helps to solidify the feeling of being loved and cared for, as well as giving them an example that is worthy of imitation.