Summer is a time of expansion, the days grow longer and possibilities seem to multiply. After a school year of more regular schedules it can suddenly feel like there is no consistency. If you are a few weeks in to summer vacation and feeling more chaos than freedom its time to more intentionally consider a family rhythm to carry you through the remaining summer weeks.

The concept of rhythm comes from the Waldorf educational philosophy. A good rhythm creates systems that help build connection, consistency and ritual that allow us to flow through our days in a predictable way, freeing up mental energy for creativity and helping to ground us with the seasons. Daily, weekly and yearly rhythms help children understand what comes next and what to expect, helping bring more calm to transitions and flow to our days.

Our school year schedules are often an externally guided rhythm of steps that carry us through the day, from meals, classes/work, after school activities and back home to sleep. When these predictable patterns cease with the end of the school year and our weeks open up to more hours of choice many of us flounder and then stress. Our vision of a perfect summer turns into cries of boredom or frequent meltdowns.

This summer turn it around by crafting your own personal family rhythm to help you flow through the days and weeks with more ease. Creating a rhythm can look very different for each family but the concepts are the same.

Pick your touchpoints or anchors: These are the consistent repetitive points in your day and week that everyone knows to expect. Think about places where you are together as a family and can build connection. Some families tie these to their meals and snacks during the day. When thinking about the week you might have specific tasks or activities to complete such as laundry day, grocery day, park day and library day. You don’t need to schedule your whole day to the hour, you are looking for a repetitive order to the days and weeks. For example a daily rhythm could look like family breakfast, daily chores, snack, daily excursion, lunch, outdoor play, quiet time, dinner, bedtime. Your weekly rhythm could then specify the type of chore done each day and the daily excursion you have.

Write a list of repetitive things that happen in your house each day or week. Which can you use to bring your family together and make the day feel more predictable? What do you wish your family did more off, reading together, shared chores, singing, outdoor play? Write it all down and think about what parts of your day you can focus on to build more connection and ease. What can be made predictable helping build structure to a week?

Find balance:
Build in times for quiet and times for big energy. In Waldorf they call this in and out breath. In breath times could be meals, reading a book, nap or quiet time. These are calmer more inward thinking times, during the school year they are lesson time. Out breaths are more externally focused, energetic and playful. This might include trips to the park, playing outside, listening to or playing music, a special excursion or family chores. Children and adults both struggle if they have a full day of high energy externally focused activity with out a short quiet break to recharge. Balance your day by shifting between in and out breaths so that everyone can recharge and flow more easily.

Be Present: Many families find if they are present and focused with their children during meals or the in breath activity that children are then able to move forward to next part of the day with more independence. This means perhaps after lunch the children can play outside while you tend the garden or prepare dinner! In Waldorf communities families often make the touchpoints in their rhythm stand out by adding a verse they say every time or lighting a candle at meals, this can make a specific point in the day feel more ritualistic and special and be a cue for you to tune in and really be present.

Make it visual: New patterns take time to learn! Help everyone internalize the rhythm by drawing it out together. Perhaps a wheel of the day with the sun coming up in the morning, setting at night and pie wedges with your touchpoints in between. Or maybe a simple Monday to Sunday calendar with images showing each day’s main activities. You can see my rhythm for this summer below!piece of paper with days of the week across the top and rows showing different parts of the day

Adjust as your family grows: Rhythm with toddlers looks way different than older elementary or middle school kids. You might have a lot more planned during the day with little ones, while for teens the touchpoints bringing everyone together are breakfast and dinner with the family headed separate ways during the day. Remember there is no perfect rhythm or right way to flow through your days. The goal is to build relationship and provide predictable touchpoints that allow your family to feel comfortably held and supported so that the expansiveness and freedom of summer is fun and easy not chaotic and unpredictable.

Still feeling overwhelm with crafting a rhythm for a whole day or week? Start small, pick just one point in your day where it feels chaotic and find a way to add in a ritual to bring everyone back together. Perhaps starting the day off right at breakfast, or what to do after nap and before dinner is where you can start. Try creating a new ritual for that time of day and stick to it for a couple weeks, if things are feeling calmer, add another touchpoint to your day and build from there! Here’s to having a more joyful and relaxed summer!