Sunday, June 26, 2011

Personal Care for Young Children

This is a long overdue post, and I am excited to reflect on my thoughts and findings on this important and often overlooked aspect of Waldorf Education and homeliving....The bodily care of young children!
Diaper changes, handwashing, bathing, hair combing, nail trimming, dressing and undressing...
These necessary tasks make up much of the day for any caregiver to young children. Sometimes they aren't pleasant (I think of my 22 month old and how he abhors having his face wiped...), yet they ought to be filled with love, involvement, and a feeling of unhurriedness.
   When it comes to the cornerstones of Early Childhood Waldorf Education (bodily care, warmth, imitation, nutritious food, indoor/outdoor imaginative and self initiated play), the important element of bodily care is what I have found to be most challenging. A toddler who strongly dislikes laying still for a diaper change, hates to be in the bathtub without me, bites me while attempting to brush teeth....young children who don't want to wash their hands....tangled hair.....the list could go on, and I am sure many of you know what I mean:)

  How do we complete these necessary tasks with honest joy? The love is there...but what about the joy? The following are some tools and notions I have learned over the past few months:

  *Keep a personal care basket. The Waldorf Early Childhood teacher I have been lucky enough to observe maintains a personal care basket which she brings out during handwashing time. The basket is beautiful, mindful, and, of course...useful.

   This lovely basket contains a hairbrush for the children to use themselves and a balm for post handwashing. It is applied to the child's hands while singing a special song. What a special and worthwhile moment to stop and share!
  *Set up a personal care "station" in a designated space. I created our "station" a few months ago...it contains a small bowl, a vial of lavender oil, and a space for a beautiful postcard, all resting on a smooth piece of wood. (I do have a few for sale in my newly opened Etsy shop!)

I mix the lavender oil into the bowl while the children wash their hands. After they are through, they come to me and I gently and slowly pat their hands dry with a soft towel. They hold out their hands as I massage the "magic drops" into their palms while reciting a verse. They enjoy it so very much, and it has made handwashing a joyful task for all of us. Little W, 22 months old, has come to realize that "magic drops" always come after handwashing. It is so sweet to watch him come running over; hands held out in front of him:)


   Your station could also include a personalized hairbrush, comb and fingertowel for each child....a special bar of soap, beautiful, but simple hair ties...I'd love to hear your ideas!
  *Unwanted behaviors may come from a child who is experiencing physical discomforts....hot, sweaty hair in the face and eyes, an itchy tag on their clothing, a strap that keeps falling down on a dress or tank top (have you ever been incredibly irked by a bra strap that incessantly falls down! It's so annoying!!), chapped lips, dry hands...to a child, a true sense organ, these things may cause real frustration. Keep a watchful eye out for these things and repair them with love and a gentle hand. Find special moments in these times of care...One of my most favorite times of the day during playschool is our rest hour. Before rest, I brush the youngest girls hair into a loose braid, but not before gently running my hands through it for about 10 minutes while humming softly. She falls right to sleep (I once had to catch her from falling over!), and it is such a precious moment for me (and hopefully for her, too!)


 *Diaper changes for a child who is highly active is a real challenge! I don't think I have quite "gotten" this yet, but here's what has worked thus far...
-A colorful mobile above the changing table
-Diaper changes on the super soft lambskin have worked best for us...it's like laying on a cloud and I think he very much enjoys the feeling of sinking into the fibers...who wouldn't? They are a worthwhile investment; look for them on Ebay.
-Something to distract or entertain, such as a book, a song, or special plaything reserved for the occassion.
-Incorporate sweet moments of gentle stroking or massaging while speaking in a soothing voice.
-A wipe warmer in the colder months has worked well for us. I'm also loving these honey bun drops for a soothing wipe solution!


Bodily care involves both the caregiver and child alike. Yes, we are always gently and slowly guiding our children towards independence, but I believe that genuine time and effort should be placed on modeling and assisting (even with the older 5 and 6 year olds).
I should include a sort of disclaimer here that I am not a Waldorf teacher! In fact, I am probably the biggest "wanna be" you'll ever meet. That very real want is driving our entire family to somehow afford teacher training over the next 3 years or so. I begin an introductory class this July (!!!), which will bring me one (small) step closer. As a very new student of Anthroposophy I continue to educate myself by reading books, magazines, essays and observing fantastic teachers at our local waldorf schools. However, my greatest guides on this journey are the 4 magnificent children I care for during playschool, and our beautiful son, my biggest inspiration of all.

RV Waldorf School
...I also wanted to share with you one of my new favorite online shops: Two Tall Trees, Lifeways inspired products for home and center. Such beautiful and useful accessories! If you're not yet familiar with the Lifeways program (which is a tremendous inspiration to me!), please read more here:) You'll be glad you did!

41 comments:

  1. This is a really great post, Rebecca! I guess I had not really given it too much thought, but we also really struggle with the 'personal care' area. You've made some really great suggestions, though. Thanks! You've got me thinkin'.

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  2. Good ideas, Rebecca! At diaper changing time (a challenge for us, too!), I take Nathan over to his bookshelf and let him pick out a book... or I suggest books until he says "uh-huh!"

    xoxo

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  3. oh what a lovely post! I always felt like the attitude I brought to diaper changes etc.. would set the tone for our experience. I once read a beautiful message that said, "every act can become one of service". That always helped me to focus on truly loving personal care with my children.

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  4. Excellent recommendations Rebecca!
    I think the most important thing for our children is keeping with a routine. The same bath nights, teeth brushing at the same time in the morning and before story at night. Hand washing as soon as we return home from an outing. (Along with hanging up coats and putting away shoes!) If the whole family develops the same rhythm then everyone benefits.
    ~ joey ~
    PS. To make bath time fun we have 4 small baskets of themed Schleich figures (ie: farm animals/pets, wild animals, water animals, dinosaurs) You could also create baskets that coordinate with an activity from the day or a favourite bedtime story! Part of the routine is gently drying off the few toys with a towel! ;o)

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  5. I really enjoyed this post thanks for sharing.

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  6. Always love to visit here my friend. Such a lovely post - thank you. I look forward to taking this wonderful idea into our home :)

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  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on personal care! Our family struggles with it even though our daughters are now 6, 4 and 4. We've made some progress recently in our rhythm, adding things here and there, without overwhelming anyone, and now may be the time to start working on personal care for the girls.

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  8. Thanks a lot! The idea of personal care basket is great, we gonna start using it from today! :)

    By the way, I just love your blog, it's so inspiring!!

    Laura

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  9. Love this post! Love the idea of a personal care basket and the essential oil after hand washing. So lovely.

    Becca

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  10. Oh so great! We LOVE Weleda producst and they are the only premade products I trust. I am so happy to see you opened up an Etsy shop! Miss you!!! XO

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  11. What a great post. I'm excited for your pursuing your dreams of waldorf teaching. If only they had a waldorf school near us... We sing or say silly things for brushing teeth and things like that. I've learned with especially Noah that if I can make him laugh, he'll normally let me do what I need. I talk about seeing the sugar bugs in his mouth and he giggles and opens his mouth wide open. I just recently purchased laying down the rails, a charlotte mason handbook and it has some good gentle ways to instill habits and manners in your little ones.

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  12. This is a lovely post Rebecca! I'm so excited about your etsy shop too! A few months ago we switched to mostly changing diapers standing up instead of laying down. We change our little guy in the bathroom now. He brings a book in and looks at it while I change him and often he also wants to sit in the potty for a few minutes. It has worked so much better for us. He feels more in control and squirms away less and it keeps him from kicking me half to death. One of the moms at our Waldorf parent-child class suggested it and it has been such help!

    I also really like the ideas of using the essential oil after hand washing and having a personal care basket/ stand. Just lovely!

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  13. i have been doing waldorf at home care for mixed ages for nearly 10 years now -- we love this everday aspect of our day -- neccessary, unhurried, gentle and loving .... don't you love this way to educate?
    light and love to you ...

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  14. Thank you for sharing. I think a lot of people struggle with this!
    Greetings Severine

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  15. What a wonderful post!! I have been wracking my brain for a way to to make tooth brushing more fun and effective...I'll have to see about creating a gentle way to get Oliver to let me help!

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  16. Great Post, thank you so much for it, I set aside some quiet time for personal care for my little man today, he seemed to enjoy it. Also thank you for the link to "Lifeways" I had never heard of it, even though my daughter attended a Waldorf School and I am very into biodynamics. I thought I was up on my Steiner lol! Anyways I am very interested in Lifeways now and am even considering enrolling in their training. I think my city needs a Lifeways center and perhaps I am the person to do it!

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  17. Rebecca, this is lovely- thank you! It is true, personal care for small children can be fairly traumatizing for them- with brushing tangles, flossing teeth, etc. I imagine if someone came at me several times during the day and did those things to me, I'd feel assaulted- and it's probably all the more so with small children, who go about in a dreamy state so much of the time! I think it is key to always remember that small children are real little people- and to honor that.
    I love your soft contoured wood for your personal care station!

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  18. Wonderful post Rebecca! You are right, the joy of homecare is often overlooked, and such a beautiful part of the ritual. Thank you for these great tips.

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  19. Hi Rebecca,

    Very thoughtful post. I am relatively new to any kind of waldorf anything :) I have 4 daughters, and incorporating a lot of things from the waldorf way has been, well, difficult. I have a hard time breaking away from duties and chores in order to work with the girls, and trying to include them in my work is just, sometimes a disaster. I am curious as to how you are able to do what needs doing, yet also teach the little ones in your home.

    Enjoy your blog very much!
    Jessica

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  20. Wonderful ideas and I love how beautiful, clean and simple it all looks. Thank you for posting this!

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  21. Lovely post. After reading a lot of the books recommended on the Lifeways site (I went there after reading Home Away From Home), I could add (I apologize in advance if you or another poster already mentioned this) that we need to talk to our infants/young toddlers whilst we are "handling" them. For example, before changing their diaper, we would say to them "Now I am going to pick you up"-then-"I am going to put a fresh diaper on you", and so on.

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  22. Hi Rebecca, Thank you for this post! The idea of making personal hygiene a pleasurable experience is sadly lacking in most children's lives. Usually they are just hurried through whatever needs to happen and they hate it. I have to admit that I have been guilty of this as well. I massaged my son's hands the other day (after reading your post) while washing them and sang a little song. Even though he is seven, he just loved it and wants me to do it every evening. I am so glad that I read your post before he was way too old for such things.

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  23. I found that having little songs for each different task really helps. We have a tooth brushing, a hand washing and a getting dressed song. For nappy change I find just letting my little one hold something like her hair brush or a head band. Sometimes I sing - but I don't have a specific song for that. I think that songs gently ease the child through the transition time. I love your suggestion for magic drops - must find some lavender oil

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  24. Lovely post. Thanks for sharing. We sing the "This is the way we ..." song fo most of our personal care moments and it works like a charm.

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  25. What wonderful ideas, thank you for sharing. I am definitely going to incorporate a few of them into our daily life.

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