Rhythm in the Kindergarten Years
The kindergarten child (ages 5 - 6) still needs the comfort and predictability of a peaceful daily rhythm. In the first post in this series we explored the importance of daily rhythms in the early/preschool years (ages 1 - 4) and today I’d like to look at how these change in the kindy years. We’ll also look at the benefits of a weekly rhythm and why it’s important to embrace the seasons.
The kindergarten child thrives in a home life guided by meaningful, unhurried, and steady rhythms of the days, weeks, and seasons.
Elements of the Day
Daily rhythm in kindergarten is a continuation from the early years. Here’s a recap of those elements of the day for the young child:
- Anchor routines for waking, meals, and going to bed
- Singing, rhythmic language, stories…..and also quiet
- Purposeful work - helping with the home and meals
- Movement - play (especially outside), walks, fingerplays
- Creative play inside and outside
- Practical and artistic activities
- Afternoon rest time - time for little one to rest and mama to do something just for her!
In the kindy years some elements of the day become even more important. Children this age really benefit from a special time each day to sing and move their bodies (we usually call this circle time), to listen to a story, and to participate in the work of the home. It’s also wonderful to bring even more ritual and rhythm around the elements of the day by using songs and verses to guide your transitions, singing meal blessings, lighting a candle at certain times, and so on.
A kindergarten circle at home is a gathering time to sing songs, learn fingerplays or little poems with gestures, and practice movements that are so good for neurosensory development (such as skipping, hopping, crawling, or rolling), all in the context of an imaginative journey. The same songs are repeated for at least a few weeks at a time. I strongly encourage you to sing at home throughout the day, but adding in a consistent circle time to your daily rhythm is a wonderful thing! You can read more about circle in the kindy years here.
Little children need to hear stories and for the kindy child I recommend a magical time each day when you all sit quietly, perhaps light a candle or sing a song, and tell a story by heart. The same story can be told each day for at least a week (and for longer in the early years). In this way that story will really become part of the child and live in him and be so much more meaningful than a story told just for entertainment. You can read all about getting started with storytelling here.
The kindy child is raring to go on learning real skills and doing real projects. It’s important in these years to give your child responsibilities over time for taking care of their things and helping with the work of the home. You need to teach them of course and be patient as they’re learning! But make it a goal to include them in family chores, purposeful rhythmic work such as raking leaves and sweeping floors, and in your work in the kitchen and garden. Six-year-olds might also have projects such as woodworking or hand sewing that extend over several days. The work of the home and the hands can be part of your daily and weekly rhythm in the kindy years.
Elements of the Week
On top of a peaceful daily rhythm, kindy children love to have a special activity for each day of the week. A weekly rhythm is a wonderful way to bring in more artistic and practical activities for your kindy child and also helps to develop their sense of time. Children feel competent and calm when they know “this is baking day” and they have an inner picture of what that will look like. It’s concrete, unlike “this is Tuesday,” which means nothing to a 5-year-old. Here are some ideas for weekly activities in the kindergarten years:
You might also include things such as gathering with friends, visits with nearby family, trips to the library or to run errands, visiting the farmer’s market, or other things you want to get done every week in this rhythm.
If this is new for your family, I recommend you start with just one activity (on one day of the week) and build from there. It’s much better to start slow and steady and consistent than to try to pack in too many new things and have it all fall apart!
The Seasonal Rhythm
One of the most palpable experiences for the young child is the turning of the seasons. I think we as adults forget what a rich sensory experience the seasonal year is and in a way we tune it out (or just focus on whether the weather is convenient for us that day). But young children have their senses wide open and they delight in the magic of Mother Nature.
In the kindy years there isn’t any sense in talking dates and calendar years and history….a child’s concept of time comes from living in that cycle of the year. So wherever in the world you live, let your rhythms in the kindy years reflect the seasons of nature. Your stories, songs, crafts, painting, and so on can all be a mirror for what your child experiences with her senses as she plays outside. You can build up family traditions (such as apple picking every fall or special birthday rituals) and begin celebrating festivals to have a truly rich experience of the turning of the years. For more on seasonal rhythms read this post.
Putting It All Together
Your rhythm will be unique to your family. If you’re just getting started, choose just a small number of elements of the day to bring into rhythm and layer in weekly rhythm and festivals over time. Here’s just one example of a kindergarten rhythm at home:
Morning Routine and Breakfast House Blessing/Cleaning - kindy child has simple chores Outside Play/Neighborhood Walk Snack Circle - seasonal songs, verses, fingerplays with movement Story Weekly Rhythm Lunch and Playtime Read Aloud Afternoon Rest Time Outside Play and Snack Inside Play - while mama cooks dinner Dinner Bedtime Routine - bath, story, lullaby
Mondays - Bread Day Tuesdays - Garden Day (summer) or Soup Day (winter) Wednesdays - Painting Day Thursdays - Beeswax Day Fridays - Friends Day Saturdays - Hiking Day (summer) or Crafts Day (winter) Sundays - Family Day
If you look back at the early years rhythm post you can see how things have shifted a bit to meet the needs of the kindy child!