Inner and Outer Warmth for a Healthy Early Childhood

warmth

As the cold wind blows stronger I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the importance of warmth especially in early childhood. Keeping our children warm during the colder months is essential not only to their overall health but to their physical, emotional and cognitive development. Only when a child is sufficiently warm can their energy be used to support the developing brain, heart, liver, lungs and other organs. Warmth is truly one of the most important gifts we can give our children on a daily basis both physically and emotionally. Hats and woolen long underwear are complimented with warm touch- hugs, massages, aromatic footbaths, warming foods and warming drinks.

There is physical warmth, emotional warmth- the warmth of love, of generosity, of true morality-and all of these “warmths” pour over and merge with each other. Perhaps most importantly, warmth is the essential ingredient in transformative work. Without warmth, we cannot change, and the life of the small child is consumed with processes of growth and adaptation. Warmth helps us be healthy human beings on many different levels. Waldorf education understands that a child is indeed actively striving to integrate: to learn to feel comfortable in her body, to find the means for expressing outwardly what she feels inwardly, to develop a sense of security and understanding about all the new and unusual experiences brought by the world around her. To bring what is in, out; to make what is foreign, one’s own. Warmth helps that process.

Adam Blanning, MD.

Because children have such a high metabolic rate it’s very rare that they ‘feel’ cold even when they are.  Layers of cotton, silk and/or wool that can be peeled off and then put back on help to regulate a child’s body temperature are ideal. A woolen long undershirt is the foundation for warmth in the Winter. It is best worn as the first layer of clothing and should cover the child’s entire torso during both day and night. Don’t feel rushed to wash it- in some schools of thought, it is believed to hold and strengthen the child’s etheric (energy, life-force) and is best worn for a prolonged period of time without washing. Take it off for bathtime and put it right back on again underneath layers of cotton pajamas. Hats, socks and slippers are also of importance in the cooler months in order to ensure a child maintains a healthy body temperature. The type of fabric should also come into consideration: natural fibers breathe and insulate keeping children warm but not sweaty, while polyester, nylon and other synthetic fabrics don’t ‘breathe’, encouraging sweats and chills.

Warming foods infused with spices also play a large part in nourishing and supporting children’s warmth and immunity during the Winter months. Homemade vegetable and bone broths, stews, soups, custards and porridges are not only warming but because they are slow-cooked as opposed to raw, the body uses less energy and heat to digest them. Even drinks are best at room temperature or slightly warmed in the cooler months- spiced and warmed milk, tea and broths.

We also try to set a warming mood in the home during the winter months- lighting candles, having a fire burning when we can and using warming essential oils such as citrus, cinnamon, spruce, cardamon or rosemary.

Finally, physical touch also creates a sense of warmth in the child. Being present, stroking her hair or rubbing his back throughout the day creates a sense of connection and warmth between child and caregiver. Little bedtime rituals such as hot footbaths with a few drops of lavender or rose oil or just a few minutes each evening giving a candlit massage are enough to refuel your child’s emotional health and warmth after a long, chilly school day away from Mum and Dad.

How do you and your family try to stay warm over the Winter months? We are new to the Northern Hemisphere and I am first to admit it’s a lot harder to keep everyone warm and snug in below zero weather especially when we still value lots of outside play each and everyday.

Meagan Wilson is a parent educator and author of the now-retired seasonal series of Whole Family Rhythms. After finishing a BA, she went on to complete her Foundations in Steiner Education and Anthroposophy at Sydney Steiner College, as well as her Waldorf Early Childhood Certification at the Rudolf Steiner Centre in Toronto. She has received her certification as a Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach and has supported hundreds of parents to create a strong family rhythm unique to their own values and culture. She has four young children. Meagan provides resources, support and information to parents who are looking for a bridge to cross between their unique family life and their children’s (often but not always) Waldorf schools.