A day in our home : reclaiming our rhythm 

I have been thinking a huge amount about our daily rhythm at the moment, and what I want that rhythm to look like. This summer has been quite difficult for me personally, and that coupled with the lack of structure that summers often bring has seen our rhythm flounder. I knew something had to change, so I re-read “Simplicity Parenting” (the bible on simplifying and rhythm setting in the home, I cannot recommend it enough). I started to make a mental note of what was working well and where the “low” points of our days were falling, observing patterns and thinking about where I could improve the flow of our day, as well as considering what was really important to me (lots of time for free play, daily time outdoors, habit forming, family meals) and how to be intentional about these things.

After lots of thought and observation, I think our current rhythm is working really well for us, so I wanted to share with you a little bit of what our weekday rhythm looks like.

I know that life is messy, and it won’t always be practical to stick to this rhythm. It might look quite rigid written down, but is actually much more fluid. At first when I read about having this sort of rhythm in the home, I will freely admit I thought “Gosh, how dull! Where is the excitement?” But my goodness, how my opinion has changed! I want Frida to feel secure, and confident about what her days and week look like. Life must often feel so powerless for young children, and I really believe that giving them back some power through predictability and stability leads to happier, calmer children who simply don’t feel as out of control. I know that the days where we follow a strong rhythm are just so much better for us. Less friction, less boundary-pushing, less stress, less impatience. More smiles, more cuddles, more joy. I end the day feeling tired but content, rather than tired and disappointed with myself and wishing I had done things differently.

I have put timings down to give you a rough idea, but I go by our moods and needs rather than the clock. If Frida has woken extra early or seems tired then everything might happen a bit earlier, or we might spend less time outdoors and more time snuggled up. What’s important is the rhythm and flow of the day, rather than what happens when.

Our weekday rhythm 

6-6:30ish – Frida wakes up, which is my prompt to wake up too. I’m really not a morning person so before we get up we usually have a snuggly cuddle under the duvet which gives me a few minutes to wake up until she pulls me out of bed and into her playroom. Frida sleeps in her own bed in our bedroom, but often climbs into our bed in the middle of the night and I wake up to find her next to me!

I sit with Frida in her playroom as she plays, until either she wants breakfast or my need for a cup of tea becomes too strong, and we go downstairs. The cat usually joins us. Before we go down there is “tidy up time”, prompted by me singing (poor Frida!) and tidying up.

7:30ish – Before each meal Frida fetches herself the appropriate crockery and cutlery from her shelves in the kitchen, chooses a bib (if eating something messy), and fills a glass with water. I do have to prompt her still sometimes. Frida is as involved with meal preparation as she wants to be; sometimes she will want to help a lot, and sometimes she doesn’t.

We light some candles as we sit down to eat. Breakfast on a weekday is usually porridge or maybe cereal, often with fruit. When we are done eating, Frida needs to put her bib in the washing machine, bring dirty dishes to the kitchen, wash her hands and face, then go to the loo, brush her teeth, and get dressed for the day. I help where needed.

At the moment my focus is on habit-forming and gaining independence around self-care such as dressing, pulling pants and trousers up and down, and washing hands and face, so this after-meal routine is important to me. My hope is that eventually all of these things just become ingrained as a habit and that she will need less and less help.

9 – At this point hopefully we are all dressed and ready to leave the house at some point within the next hour. Frida plays, works, or does some art once she is dressed.

10-12 – Outside. Currently I am trying to make sure we are out of the house by 10am. It doesn’t matter if it’s just to the local park, or even in the garden – what matters is that we are outdoors. In September we will start attending our wonderful Steiner playgroup again, adding in an outdoor session too which I’m really excited about. We also may try out a local forest school which has weekly child / parent sessions. This will leave a day a week with no scheduled plans, and another day for Frida to spend with her daddy (they do a special outing together every week as he works four days a week, giving me a day to do some work).

12:30 – Lunch. We usually have something simple like soup, a picky plate with raw vegetables, cheese, falafel etc, egg on toast, or fish and vegetables. Again Frida is as involved with preparation as she wants to be, abd fetches the things she needs. We light candles (unless we are having a picnic in the garden) and then after the meal the same routine applies as I described for breakfast. I usually clean up lunch whilst Frida plays, although she is always invited to help me.

1-3 – Quiet time. Now Frida no longer naps, she really needs a good chunk of quiet time to feel happy in the afternoon. We usually start this off by reading some books together, and then we go into her playroom whilst she plays and I sit and read or, occasionally, write a blog post (exactly what I’m doing now!)

Frida sometimes asks me to play too, but I remind her that this is quiet time for both of us. I might join in for five minutes and then go back to what I’m doing. This is so important for me, as I struggle if I don’t have any down-time. I am a better mother and wife for it, and I’m right there if she needs me. Win/win. Before we go down we have tidy-up time again.

3 – Tea time! We prepare tea (herbal for Frida or a babyccino) and a snack, and decamp to the dining table. We light a candle and share some books together – I usually try and include poetry, a long story, and a non-fiction book. We might also play a game, or look at some sandpaper letters or some art, depending on Frida’s mood and energy levels. After a chunk of quiet time where I am not engaging much, this is a welcome time of reconnection and fun. The snack also keeps Frida going until supper time.

4 – Time for Frida to work, do some art, or play, or for us to go for a walk, go in the garden, have a dance party – whatever appeals to Frida!

5 – Supper preparation / chores. As ever, Frida is invited to take part if she wants. Otherwise she amuses herself whilst I’m busy.

6 – Supper. We eat as soon as my husband gets home from work. It’s really important for us that we eat supper together regularly as a family, so unless Frida is really exhausted we try to make it happen. On weekends or on days my husband doesn’t work we might eat at 5:30 instead so Frida isn’t so tired.

6:30 ish – My husband takes Frida upstairs for a bath, tooth brushing, and stories, whilst I clean up after supper and have a bit of downtime.

7:00 ish – Bedtime. Frida either goes to sleep in her bed with us sitting next to her, telling stories, or in the sling with my husband. The latter is often the most effective at the moment. We then have the rest of the evening to relax and do any final chores.

9:30 – Bedtime for me! I try to be asleep by 10pm so I can get eight hours of sleep. I don’t always succeed but it’s my goal.

Phew! If you have read all of this, thanks for sticking with me! I would love to know more about your rhythm and what works for you. I will try and write more about rhythm, and helping children transition from one activity to another, in a future post, but for now – motherhood beckons… 

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My favourite Montessori books for parents

I am often asked if I can recommend some books on Montessori for parents who would like to find out more, or to deepen their knowledge and understanding on the topic. I have finally organised myself enough to share some recommendations with you!

There is so much more to the Montessori philosophy and approach than pretty trays and wooden toys. At the heart of Montessori is a deep respect for the child, a trust in their desire and ability to learn, be independent, and make good choices, and a desire for peace and cooperation, in the home and in the world at large; it is this element of Montessori which first got me interested in its approach to education. It goes hand-in-hand with gentle, respectful parenting – no shouting, no punishments, no reward-charts or bribing, just learning, together, with love.

If you have heard about Montessori, but don’t know where to start, I urge you to begin with books – for yourself. Although it can be tempting to throw yourself in at the deep end right away and start making changes to your home or buying Montessori materials, a little time spent reading to fully understand how to set up a Montessori home – and a Montessori parenting attitude! – will allow your child to truly flourish.

Here are some of my recommendations:

Learning Together: What Montessori Can Offer Your Family (Kathi Hughes)

This is a lovely, short “beginners guide” to Montessori. A perfect place to begin if you’d like to find out more about the Montessori approach, or to buy for your partner / your child’s grandparents / anyone you think would benefit from an overview!

The Joyful Child: Montessori Global Wisdom for Birth to Three (Susan M. Stephenson)

If I had to recommend one Montessori book to a parent of a baby or toddler, this one would be it. It covers everything you need to know, including the prepared environment, physical development, toys, music, language, self-respect, science, care of self, and much more. I found this book invaluable when Frida was younger and I was just starting to really learn about the Montessori philosophy, and it shaped a lot of my thoughts and parenting.

Child of the World: Montessori Global Education for Age 3-12+ (Susan M. Stephenson)

I have just read this, and now my husband is reading this. It’s a great overview of the topics children should be introduced to, and how to introduce them. I can see myself coming back to this book a lot! I really enjoyed reading it, and felt it conveyed a lot of easily-digestible information in a short book.

How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature (Scott D. Sampson)

Not actually a Montessori book, but I think it should be prescribed reading for every modern parent! On days where I really don’t feel like leaving the house, the lessons from this book serve as a virtual push to get us outdoors, and I have never once regretted it.

Montessori Today (Paula P. Lillard)

This book is a great overview of Montessori education, from birth to adulthood. There is a focus on the classroom rather than the home, but I have still found it a very useful book in terms of development and the sorts of activities to be considering now as well as planning in the future.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids (Kim John Payne)

This book deeply affected the way that I think about parenting, our family rhythm, and what I want to prioritise as a mother. Although it is rooted in Waldorf philosophy, I think it will resonate with Montessori-inspired families. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with children.

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason (Alfie Kohn)

This wonderful book has really influenced the way my husband and I parent, and again, although Kohn is not a Montessorian, his gentle and respectful approach to parenting without praise and punishment fits in beautifully with the philosophy. We love this book so much, and it has given us much food for thought.

Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-school Years (Elizabeth G. Hainstock)

A lovely, approachable, illustrated book describing a wealth of practical life, sensorial, language, and math activities, all suitable for pre-schoolers. Because this is aimed at parents teaching Montessori at home, many of her activities can be DIY’d, and she even provides instructions. When I first read this book I was struck by how un-intimidating it made Montessori activities feel. I love it!

Montessori Read & Write: A parent’s guide to literacy for children (Lynne Lawrence)

I believe this is essential reading for the parent of any young child, not just those Montessori-inspired families. The approach Lawrence sets out in her book is beautifully simple and logical, and would be a wonderful complement to traditional schooling as well as a fantastic resource for homeschooling families. If you have a little one, and wish to help them learn to read and write, then you need to read this book!

Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives (David Gettman)

I would recommend this book to anyone who has decided on a Montessori approach (or whose child will be attending a Montessori nursery or school) and who has perhaps read other more general books on the Montessori philosophy first. This brilliant book is a practical guide to many Montessori materials, including what the child learns from each one, how to present it, and (if appropriate) some options for DIY. I find myself picking it up constantly at the moment.

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk (Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish)

I love the respectful, encouraging ethos of this book, and I’m sure I will be returning to it a lot over the years. It is definitely aimed at parents of older children though, so I have How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen in my online shopping basket at the moment!

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As we are planning on home schooling, I find myself reading so many books on education. Although I love the Montessori approach, I personally see real benefit in reading about many different approaches, so my bookshelves are groaning under the weight of books on Steiner Waldorf education, project-based learning, classical education, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, and more. From each book I read I find myself storing little parts to take forward with us on our journey.

Which parenting or education books do you love? Please share your recommendations with me in the comments, as I love discovering new titles. 

Seven ways to encourage consent in young children

Yesterday my husband Sam and I shared a high five over our parenting. The prompt? Frida had been in the garden, wearing just shorts and wellies. Sam asked her if she wanted to wear a t-shirt to keep warm and she proudly replied “No! My body my choice.” 

We are so pleased to be raising a daughter who has a strong feeling of bodily autonomy and her own power of consent.  

If I told you an adult was obedient, compliant, and carried out orders even if they didn’t believe in them or understand them, what would you think ? I would imagine you would not think very highly of them. Yet these same qualities are valued in children – children who are then expected to grow into adults who are not afraid to speak up for what they believe in and stand up for themselves. 

I want to raise a child who feels that she has a voice, and that her voice is listened to. Tied to this is the work of teaching and encouraging consent and bodily autonomy. Not just important for girls (but oh so important for girls!) raising a child who understands that they are the boss of their own body is crucial. 

SEVEN WAYS TO ENCOURAGE CONSENT AND BODILY AUTONOMY IN CHILDREN 

Respect your child when they don’t want hugs and kisses…

… and stick up for them in front of relatives and friends, too. Teaching your child that their no means no when it comes to their body is a huge deal! If we don’t teach them this as children how can we expect them to know it as teens or adults. I want my daughter to know that she can always say no to unwanted affection, even if it comes from a place of love, and that her no should always be respected. 

At times I do have to remind myself that just because I grew her and fed her it doesn’t mean that her body is mine! If Frida doesn’t want to hug or kiss goodbye we suggest she might want to blow a kiss instead, which she always does. Her body, her choice! 

Talk to your child about what you are doing to them 

I think this is so important, but in my experience often overlooked. This might look like telling your child you are about to pick them up, or change their nappy, or wipe their face, or put them in the sling. It might be about explaining they are going to have a vaccine which will hurt but will stop them getting poorly in the long run, or that you’re going to need to put them in the car seat because otherwise the car isn’t a safe place to be. 

Think about how cross you would feel if someone much bigger than you just picked you up with no warning whilst you were in the middle of doing something and moved you! Extending your baby or child the same courtesy you would extend to an adult costs nothing but shows your child you respect them and their body. Their body, their choice – and when they can’t choose, they are respected and actions are taken in their best interest. 

Don’t try to control your child’s eating habits 

Food is such an emotive issue, isn’t it? I know that I often feel disappointed if Frida doesn’t eat much, and feel pleased when she eats a “good meal”. But… what the heck? Isn’t that so odd? Obviously I am happy when my family enjoy the food I cook, but I would never feel the same emotions if my husband decided he wasn’t very hungry and had a small meal, or ate a lot because he was ravenous.

I think food is a key area where we can teach children from a very young age – from day one, in fact – that they are the boss of their bodies. We can trust them to eat when they are hungry, and to stop when they are full. We can (breast or bottle) feed on demand, and let ourselves be guided by our children for weaning. We can offer foods they like alongside new foods, and not feel like failures if our children eat toast or porridge before bed because they didn’t enjoy or want their suppers. We can trust them to feed themselves – even if it’s messy! – and we can listen if they tell us they are still hungry even if they’ve just eaten a banana and two bowls of porridge.

I know that I would hate it if someone else controlled what I ate, so I will not control what Frida eats (even if this feels really hard at times). This includes asking her to help decide what we eat at mealtimes, just like I sometimes ask my husband what he wants and sometimes I decide. Everyone will have different views on food, but I am very pro children having access to healthy snacks and drinks so they can manage their own bodily needs throughout the day. Their body, their choice of what goes in it! 

Model your own power of consent

For me personally I have found this important whilst breastfeeding. At 27 months Frida is still breastfeeding (although not very often) and although when she was a baby I breastfed totally on demand, as she got older I found it important to say no if I really didn’t feel like it! I would explain that mummy was feeling a bit tired / dehydrated / poorly / whatever, and tell her that although I understand she wants milk she can’t right now because I don’t want to. 

I am sure people will have different views on this but for me it’s been a wonderful opportunity to model what exercising consent over my body looks like. My body, my choice! 

Explain to your child why you have asked for something – ditch the “because I said so”! 

Even if your child is young, I believe they still deserve to understand why they have been asked to do something, or stop doing something, or a suggestion has been made. How else will they learn about informed consent? I often find explaining something to Frida makes a huge difference in terms of her willingness to do something, because it’s not just a meaningless, random request any more. She understands why it is beneficial to her. Her body, her informed choice (even if she then chooses to keep her cardigan on although it’s boiling or chooses to pour water on herself even though she will then be wet!) 

Allow freedom within sensible boundaries 

The brilliant blogger Lucy Aitkenread write something on her blog Lulastic (do you know her blog? It’s so good!) which really struck a cord with me. Writing about the boundaries she enforces, she said she stuck to a simple rule of “harm no body and no thing”. I love this, and come back to it often. 

If a behaviour isn’t harming anyone, or anything, why am I trying to curtail it? Is the problem with Frida’s behaviour, or is the problem that my expectations are unrealistic or that I am trying to exercise control over her? I strongly believe that children need sensible and realistic boundaries, which are upheld consistently, and that for each family those boundaries will look different. But I also think that children need freedom within this boundaries. To learn, to explore, and yes, to test those boundaries to learn where they are and to be reassured that they are still loved if a boundary is broken. 

Hitting someone? No, never ok. Drawing on the wall? Not ok – that damages it. Drawing all over herself? Climbing on the coffee table / dining table? Her body, her choice! (Even if I find it irritating – which I sometimes do! I am not perfect and find certain behaviours very triggering, but I am trying hard to be intentional about asking myself if the problem lies with Frida’s behaviour or with my emotional response. It’s almost always my response!) 

Provide meaningful choices and involve your child in decision making 

From a very young age you can offer children meaningful choices around their body and life. Good places to start might include which outfit to wear that day, what food they would like to eat and how much of it, whether they would like to go to the swimming pool or the park, which toys they play with, which books to read… the list is limitless! For example, aged two, Frida also gets to choose if her hair should be cut or not (she can choose to have her fringe cut or clip it back if it’s in her eyes), if she has a bath or a shower or a flannel wash, if she would like to clean her own face or have me help her, and so on. Her body, her choice!

Obviously there are some things which are non-negotiable, which again I imagine will look different in each family. For us these non-negotiables include tooth brushing and having a clean body. 

Is teaching your child consent important for you? How do you show them that they are the boss of their body? 

Frida is two!

I wanted to share a few photos from Frida’s second birthday last week. 

I set up a Waldorf celebration ring with two candles for our dining table, Frida chose her own birthday flowers, and I hung the birthday banner. 

We had a lovely, relaxed day at home; playing with new toys, eating pancakes for breakfast and birthday cake in the garden, and just enjoying spending some time together. Frida loved her gifts and cards, and really enjoyed unwrapped the most beautiful gift from her “birthday fairy” (I do a secret-Santa style gift exchange with some friends who all have children born around the same time). 

I couldn’t be happier or prouder or more in love with our little girl. We are very lucky. 

Sleep, and the family bedroom 

Last week we decided to move Frida’s toddler bed into our bedroom (for now the “family bedroom” I guess?!). 

Her bed had previously been in her room, but as we are still cosleeping it wasn’t being used at all. The few times I had tried to get her to nap in her room, it took ages and was just not very successful – and who can blame her? Most of her toys are in that room, and her only association with it is play, not sleep. Moving all of her toys out wasn’t an option (we don’t have a playroom and our house isn’t very big), but more and more I felt that if she was going to sleep out of our bed, moving her into her room with our current set up was not going to work.

It also seemed like a big jump to move her into another room. Lying next to me, she reliably sleeps most of the way through the night, perhaps waking once or twice. All I have to do is lie her back down and cuddle her and she immediately goes back to sleep. The logistics of this seemed much harder if she was in a room behind two closed doors (we can’t leave bedroom doors open as our cat likes to jump on our faces). I know that it’s unusual in our society to bed / room share with a toddler or older child, but for us, for now, it makes sense. It also means that she has a playroom with lots of space to play. 

As for Frida actually sleeping in her own bed? Well, this week was in hindsight not the best week to try as she’s been ill so we have been happy for her to be in our bed. She’s had a few naps in her own bed though, and has done a few stretches from the beginning of the night until around 1am when she’s woken up and I’ve just brought her in with me rather than resettling her in her bed. Now she’s feeling better we’re going to try again, this time resettling her in her own bed if needed. 

When it’s time for Frida to move into her own bedroom (and I have no expectations about when that might be!) I think we will move her into the tiny bedroom (currently used as room for her books and as a guest room) so that she still has a dedicated play space separate from where she sleeps and her sleeping space is calm and peaceful. However, our home layout is always evolving, so we will see. 

Although Frida’s sleep is hugely improved since I night-weaned her a few months ago, she currently wakes around 5:30am asking to nurse, which is still a bit too early for me. I usually ask her to wait until 6 which can lead to frustration for her. I’m considering getting a Gro Clock as an easy way for her to tell the difference between night and day, especially as the days get longer, but the blue light puts me off, so I’m not sure really. Maybe I just need to accept that earlier mornings are the trade-off for better sleep at night.

I will do another post soon showing you around her playroom soon. She’s really enjoying the space so far. 

Life lately 

Life lately has been pancakes for breakfast. Baking, often. Long stretches of child-led play. Cold walks with mittens and hats, spotting the first signs of spring and road-testing a new balance bike. Planning. Piles of books snuggled under the duvet. Deliberations about naps – to drop, or not to drop? To wake, or not to wake? (I never wake). Bird spotting. Puddle jumping, mud squelching, searching through leaf litter for bugs. Wiped noses, wiped fingers. Tea. Bulbs on the tables. Slow decluttering. Slow mornings. Slow days.