Warmth in the Red Rose Kindergarten and Beyond by Amy Stocker
Updated: Apr 13
’Tis the time of year when we in early childhood are singing songs about King Winter, icy frost and bundling up for some cold weather play. The children are delighted to cut their own snowflakes to hang in the windows. There is a happy hum as some of the children are working at the table while others are creatively playing in the classroom. We move about vigorously in our winter circle, warming our bodies and limbs. Our circle combines elements of warmth and cold, of expansion and contraction, of cross lateral movement, subtle articulation of body parts and engaging speech patterns.
Knowing how important warmth is, especially this time of year, I urge us to carefully consider how to ensure and foster warm within the children’s physical, emotional and spiritual bodies. The following reflections on warmth are of special consideration for caregivers of infants and young children but the same holds true for students all through the grades, as well as for ourselves.
For the developing child, warmth is one the most essential elements needed for healthy growth and development. We know that keeping warm helps us to be more resilient to viruses and illnesses. Rudolf Steiner noticed a direct connection between maintaining warmth in childhood to physical health and emotional warmth in adulthood. Also, a study from Yale university shows that people judge others to be more generous and caring if they held a warm cup of coffee and less so if they held an iced coffee. One could say that outward or physical warmth is essential for children to maintain inner or emotional warmth.
Children, especially under the age of seven are developing at such a rapid rate. So much of a child’s energy or life force is needed in the further growth of internal organs, rhythmical processes and sense integration. When their bodies are warm, children are more able to remain focused and engaged. Warmth encourages our children’s ability to learn. The bodily forces that are used in development and growth are the same forces used when the body is attempting to heat itself. Therefore, if a child is not properly layered and warm, they are using their precious and finite store of energy to heat up their core temperature, taking away from the growth of their physical body and development of cognitive skills.
Young children do not yet know how to regulate and maintain their own body temperature. They need our help determining appropriate clothing for the weather. Sometimes we can get an idea of a child’s internal temperature by feeling their hands and feet. However, children have an accelerated metabolic rate and they may just feel warm to the touch and want to take off a layer, when in fact for optimal development they need to keep their layer on.
Dr. Adam Blanning, a highly respected anthroposophical physician, says:
There is physical warmth, emotional warmth of love, of generosity, of true morality-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.
Inside Our Cozy Warm Room
With the cold and wet weather and with the images of ice and cold that I am bringing the children through story, song and verse, how can I ensure that they are having authentic experiences of warmth? How do I bring warmth into the room with the children? Perhaps its a warm smile, or loving touch. Perhaps it is the warm glow from a candle or the natural light filtering in through the silk curtains or in the pastel colored walls. These elements are not unique to the early childhood spaces at WSMC, but instead extend into the grades classroom as well.
Heading Out Into the Cold
Red Rose Kindergarten friends head out to play in all types of weather. Caregivers have carefully stocked cubbies with water proof mittens, rain pants, rain jackets and hats, now it’s time to head outside! By this time of year, the children of Red Rose Kindergarten know how to diligently dress themselves in their rainy weather gear. The greater challenge is to take it off, turn it right side out and hang it up, but they are getting pretty skilled at that too.
Some of our favorite ways to protect warmth in all WSMC students are:
1. Hats on! We loose so much of our body heat out the top of our heads. Dr. Blanning shares with us that the best way to protect warmth in a child is with a hat.
2. Layers! Cotton, wool and silk under layers are great. Polyester doesn’t breathe, sweat is trapped against their bodies and they eventually become chilled. Wool allows the body to regulate it’s own temperature without getting overheated. In my own family I find that even a wool tank top under a long sleeve does wonders for keeping the core of the body warm.
3. A rubber hot water bottle. Dr. Blanning speaks on the therapeutic benefits of a rubber hot water bottle. The quality of the hot water, the weight and movement of the water is far more potent than the heat from an electric or microwaved heating pad. Dr. Blanning recommends a warm water bottle on the lower abdomen or feet at bedtime.
4. Warm food for breakfast and even in lunches. Insulated thermoses full of warm food and warm tea can help bring elements of warmth throughout the school day.
5. A lighted candle during a meal brings a special warm feeling and spiritual nourishment to time spent together as a family.
6. Indoor slippers or shoes.
7. Warm bath with Epsom salts.
8. Proper rain gear from head to toe for rainy days. Children LOVE to play in the rain. Helping them to stay warm and dry leads to the most joyful discoveries and play!
Children will sometimes resist putting on their jacket or coat. It can be so helpful to begin the habit of wearing layers from an early age adopting the attitude, “It’s just what we do in cold weather.” We can even hold the coat open for the resisting child and help them with the initial movement into the coat. Sometimes they just need help getting started. Some children respond well to the idea that their coat will help them run faster and have more energy for play. Other children need a stronger, more direct statement such as, “I really want to go outside and play with you but we can’t do that until you are wearing your jacket.” You can feel confident in your insistence knowing the gesture behind it is one of love, care and protection.
Warmth just might be the greatest gift we can give the children in our care. Not just the warmth of our heart, but also warmth in their physical bodies. What are some of your most effective and meaningful ways you bring warmth into your family life?
Amy Stocker Red Rose Kindergarten Waldorf School of Mendocino County She/Her