Here’s a tradition from the Waldorf Kindergarten that transfers well to the home: Family Washing Day. This is a fun way to get the household chores done, spend time as a family and involve the little ones. 1. Get brooms, rags and buckets for everyone. 2. Add music. Singing is usually best, but for us, this is actually a time when we play recorded music. Yesterday, it was “Celtic Roads” by the Revels. 3. Everybody sweep, wash, dust, fold laundry, wash dishes, and do any other chores you can think of, interrupted by occasional toddler initiated breaks for dancing.
No child is too young to be involved in Family Washing Day. Before they can walk, you can wear them. Once they can walk, they can join in.
It’s most effective when children are given as little verbal direction as possible, and when there is no overt focus on getting them to participate. Children at this age learn best through imitation. When we are joyful in our own work, our children happily participate of their own free will.
One week, they might get really involved with a particular chore and spend a long time with it. Another week, they might just participate for a little while, and spend more time dancing. It’s natural for them to participate in bursts like this while the whole family goes on working.
The important thing is that the whole family does keep working, and taking joy in the work. (Honestly, housework is a lot more FUN when everyone is doing it together, and when you’re not trying to keep a toddler entertained at the same time.)
To do housework in this way gives your children a wonderful gift– the chance to get swept up in collective activity for a meaningful purpose. It also casts a light on the importance of this kind of work. These days, much of work that our ancestors did by hand is now done by machines. But as parents, we can show our children the value of practical work, how it grounding and even enjoyable it can be to do it together.
We don’t give praise during the work, or afterwards. Direct praise takes a child out of the collective experience, and put the focus, at times uncomfortably, on him. What is more meaningful is to look together at the work we’ve done, and just let ourselves live in the satisfaction of having accomplished it. “Wow, we did it! Look at what we got done! Our home feels so nice now!”
One final thought is that it’s a good idea to do Family Washing Day at the same time each week. Our time is Sunday morning after breakfast, before we go out on any outings. The more regular an activity like this is, the easier it is to make it happen, for the children, and for you.
For more on Family Washing Day, and other traditions from a Waldorf Kindergarten, check out the book “Heaven on Earth,” by Sharifa Oppenheimer. For anyone interested in bringing a little Waldorf inspiration into their home life, Sharifa’s book is a great place to start. It’s packed with ideas for traditions, recipes, festivals, songs, and more, and is well designed for busy parents. You can pick it up for five minutes and get something of value from it. It’s not necessary to read it all at once.
Well, that’s it for me today! Thanks for reading.
Love to you,