As the days grow colder and shorter, the winter holidays bring a sense of warmth, connection, and community to the season. At the same time, a spate of holiday parties, blasts of sugar, vacation travel, and the frenzy of buying, giving, and receiving gifts can overshadow meaningful family traditions.
At Marin Waldorf School, we encourage parents to thoughtfully simplify the lives of young children in order to cultivate a more peaceful home life. There are many ways to do this, from developing a dependable daily schedule to simplifying the number of toys and books to choose from in a child’s bedroom.
Simplifying the holidays means less waste, fewer tears, and a renewed focus on what really matters.
Create Homemade Crafts and Traditions
At Marin Waldorf School, we celebrate the winter season thoughtfully and with a focus on the natural world. One of our most beloved traditions in the early childhood classrooms is the annual Lantern Walk, for which kindergartners create handmade lanterns at school, then gather with their families to light their lanterns on a cold evening in late autumn. It is a simple tradition that builds community and warmth.
At home, our teachers suggest making a simple lantern by painting pieces of tissue paper onto a reused glass jar with white glue, then lighting a small tea light inside. Or create a bird feeder by painting nut butter on the leaves of a pinecone, then hang it in your backyard or in a nature spot. Our Sunflower preschool lead teacher Lisa O’Callaghan recommends the book Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children as a source of inspiration.
Clean Up the Play Area
If your child gets a lot of presents anyway, put some away. “Get one toy from storage and then put another toy in storage. Keep five books out and rotate them,” Ms. Marieke explains. “When I clean up the play area and take out the toys that my children don’t play with, they start to play right away. Less is more.”
Remember the Rhythm
Marin Waldorf School’s early childhood teachers emphasize the importance of the family rhythm, or the set of activities that you do with your child every day. Keeping a sense of order and rhythm, even when school is closed and your daily routine is upended, can help maintain a peaceful atmosphere for young children.
“The more rhythm they have, the more safe young children feel. They feel safe when they know what’s coming next,” says Fernanda Fuga, the Buttercup preschool lead teacher. “At school, after the first few weeks, children are comfortable and can be themselves, because we repeat and repeat and repeat the same thing every day—and young children love that.”
Providing some predictable moments in the day—whether that’s the same thing for breakfast every morning or a bath before bedtime—will help children feel more relaxed and comfortable. But don’t worry about being rigid, either. “It doesn’t have to be a strict thing, like we always have dinner at 6pm. It should be an A-B-C. B always comes between A and C. For example, we always have dinner, then brush our teeth, then read a book—or whatever it is that you do,” says Marieke Duijneveld, the Morning Glory kindergarten lead teacher. “Maybe one day it’s a little later, one day it’s earlier, but we’re still going to do the same thing.”
Remember to Reset
“If there are days that are really crazy and overstimulating, balance it with a nature day,” suggests Marieke. A visit to the park, a day at home, or a walk outdoors after dinner can keep things peaceful when stimulation is high.
“Make sure they’re moving, they have time to run around and play and be outside. It’s a reset button,” Fernanda adds.