I recently read a book that was basically the introduction to how to do preschool at home with your little ones. Of course, there are probably a lot of these kind of books, but this one had a bit of a Waldorf spin on it, which I love. In the book, there was a section on expansion and contraction throughout our daily routine. At first, it seemed like a bit of weirdness to me, especially with the way the explained it. (And named it. Seriously? When they start asking, "Is your child too expanded? Too contracted? I start wanting to roll my eyes.)
However, when I actually put the idea and practice into place, it makes a big difference!
I've always been big on having a routine with my kids. Not like a down-to-the-minute-this-is-what-we-do sort of routine. But I like, and my kids like, knowing what comes next. I think its an important foundation for little ones (and for adults) and without it we end up feeling frazzled, spread thin, stressed, and disorganized. And it's just hard to have fun when you feel crazy.
So here's the idea behind being aware of expansion and contraction throughout your day.
Expansion is basically relaxation and entertainment. A child's free play falls under this category, as does playing outside.
Contraction is focus and productivity. It's completing a specific task. Think reading stories, doing chores, circle time/preschool, arts and crafts, etc.
Now a good day happens when we balance the two, and children need to go back and forth between the two more frequently than adults. As mothers we naturally do this sometimes. Like when your child just can't handle another second of playing with friends and you know its time to go home. Or when they won't sit through one more story and you know its time for them to go play.
I've tried to keep this idea of flowing back and forth between expansion and contraction in mind as I go through my day with my kids. Max has a tendency to need to go back and forth between the two rather quickly and frequently. When I make sure to vary his day and his activities between the two polarities, he is so much better. We don't get to the point where he is teasing Jane just for fun. But we also don't get to the point where he is throwing crayons across the room. I just try and keep an eye out for when it is time to switch gears.
I didn't know if trying this approach to viewing my day and planning our activities was working until Max's birthday when we took the day of from preschool. The morning was a disaster. I thought it would be fun to just let the kids play all day, but after a while they just ended up fighting non-stop or whining about what we were going to do next.
For some of you awesome moms out there, this idea will be nothing new. But for me, it was a little bit of an "Aha moment" so I thought I'd share!