Slippers, soup, tea, stories, snuggling, candlelight, being fireside, the feel of natural materials like silks, handmade dolls and wooden toys, acts of kindness, lullabies, wonder, simplicity, beauty, laughter, touch, slow pace, sharing, sunsets, warm comfortable clothing on a cold day, pausing, free play, connection, a smile, holding hands in a circle, holding hands (period) (-:, singing together, rest, heavy warm blanket, sunshine. All of these have a quality of warmth to them … open, nourishing, grounding, embodying. Some physical warmth, some more of an emotional heart-felt warmth.
Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf Education, really saw the connection between these two types of warmth. Steiner would talk about how the physical warmth that a child receives in the younger years (before age 7) would impact positively not only their physical health in years to come but also a child’s capacity for emotional warmth as an adult. Talk about looking at the bigger picture! We probably can all think of an adult who really embodies emotional and physical warmth – generous heart, warm hands, great hugs … and we know how good it feels when we are in that space ourselves.
I'm wondering if you have noticed that when you are physically warm and cozy it effects your emotional warmth and well-being in general? Just take a look at this connection for yourself. How do you feel when you drink a cup of something warm compared to something cold? How you feel when you are in a warm place, feet in warm sand. Think of the sun on your face, the warmth of a puppy or kitten on your lap (my fave!), the warmth of a slow, lingering hug.
I notice that I feel more grounded and in my body when I am physically warm. I feel more open, generous, lighter and relaxed. I actually feel more myself … freer. You?
Our young children's sense experience is unfiltered compared to ours so I can only imagine how deeply and juicily warmth nourishes them in their foundational years.
The truth is Steiner wasn't ho-hum about warmth for growing kids. He placed a very high importance on providing physical warmth. Actually, it was one of the top three things he wanted every parent to know about. So why this passion for making sure parents knew the importance of warmth? Well in part it was due to what he noticed about the connection between physical warmth as a child and soul warmth as an adult but it all tied into his understanding of child's development on all levels. Specifically he understood that young children don’t have the same capacity we do to maintain and regulate their body temperature yet. And what does this mean? Basically children under 7 expend a lot of energy when they are cold and have to regulate their temperature because that function is not well-developed. The problem with this is that that beautiful energy that is going to the effort of trying to regulate and maintain their body temperature is (from a development point of view) best used instead to support the important foundational work the body is up to at this time of massive growth. Birth to seven - yup - lots of growing and maturation going on for sure and so Steiner saw that this was one way to support the child's body in having the energy to do the best job with that important work. Steiner was definitely a looking-down-the-road-big-picture type of guy.
I'm guessing he was so passionate to share this because no one else was talking about it and he knew that if parents and teachers understood the impact he would be giving them such a simple way to positively effect a child's well-being ...
At one Waldorf school I visited I heard a teacher during recess say, "Hat back on Matthew, it'll help you run faster!" (-: She was serious.
Take home: The more we can help take care of the warmth for them the better.
Exploring Warmth and Growth 101 ...
I’m guessing you haven’t given warmth this much thought … I hadn’t but on reflection started to see how Steiner’s suggestions overlapped with other learnings such as in my Chinese Medicine training where the number one health recommendation for illness prevention and treatment for young children is to focus the diet on warm foods and drinks and to keep young ones heads covered even in the Summer (for babes).
And ... then there's nature. Nature seems to think warmth is important for times of growth too - the Sun for one! (-:
And ... our body wisdom wants it for growing babes too as the warming hormone progesterone increases in pregnancy to create a warm, cozy container to do so much growing in.
And ... we now know more than ever the proven benefits of warm touch – skin-to-skin contact on growing babes wellness and ... (last but not least) ... breast milk ... just wouldn't be the same cold would it ...
The good news is that we all benefit from warmth of all kinds especially in the winter so get intentional and bring a little more in to the whole fam. Don't be fussed about your older child/teenager not wear their hat (although it's kind of 'in' now isn't it!) but find creative ways to get that hat back onto your 5 year old. And maybe buy an electric kettle so you can get a tea habit happening in the homestead and find one the kids love.
By knowing the importance of warmth we can help our children develop a capacity for warmth to carry them through their life – warmth physically and also warmth emotionally.
This really is an invitation to increase the yum in your home life – to bring in some extra warmth into your days - something that nourishes you too. Think cozy, think feeling cared for and loved. Think yum.
Start with being curious about how you already bring warmth into your home and home life and be open to seeing where and how you might bring in some simple, nourishing ways to add more warmth into the day-to-day. See what you notice when you put some extra attention on warmth not only for your child but also for yourself. Yum. xo, Dr. Monika (-:
There are warmth suggestions throughout the article but here’s a list of some of our faves ..
- Comfortable, warm clothing that can breath – dress in layers. Warm hats (that they will keep on. lol) If you have a hat-throwing-off-child it's ok - some young children are furnaces or don't like certain textures so it can be trickier - do your best - guaranteed they are receiving more than enough warmth in many ways so just stay curious as you figure out how to get a hat to stay on but don't sweat it ... (-:
- Tea (Honey Vanilla Chamomile and Sleepy time Vanilla by Celestial Seasonings Tea Company are two yummy ones we like).
- Soup ... and more soup – in thermos for a warm lunch or for breakfast. Instant pot/crockpot helps.
- Stories, Lullabies, Snuggles, Singing Together, Connection – notice what warms your heart.
- Candles, Beauty.
- Laughter – 100 Jokes Book at Dinner Table, Noisy Children Book by Astrid Lindgren, Gathering with friends.
- Candle light, epsom salt baths for me! (-: