How To Create Circle Time Routines the Children Will Love

How To Create Circle Time Routines the Children Will Love

The best daily routines help kids feel safe, secure, and comfortable.

Create a beautiful circle time gathering space, infuse your meetings with predictable routines, and get moving and get silly!

Whether you're doing circle time at home, or in the classroom, these are some things you can do to make sure it's a fun and engaging experience for everyone.

How to Figure Out What Day It Is

How to Figure Out What Day It Is

My 3 1/2 year old daughter woke up the other day and said, "Is today yesterday? Tomorrow is today. Yesterday is tomorrow. Every day is the same now!"

All I could think was, Indeed, darling. Indeed.

When we were first quarantined, we set up a home learning environment with beautifully organized trays of materials. I had grand visions of finally being the homeschooler I've always wanted to be. Hahahahahahahahaha!

That lasted for about a week. Turns out, I was not prepared to create a good rhythm in my home when we were all stuck there together, every damn day. Yes, me, the calendar lady. I couldn't hack it.

Here we are four months later, still at home together, still struggling. Turns out, it's hard to create a good rhythm when you don't really leave the house. Pre-pandemic we went to school and work every day. Sundays we met family for breakfast. Chess on Mondays. Gymnastics on Wednesdays. Our weeks were dotted with so many small experiences that helped define one day from the next.

If anything, I've learned that all of this stuff I've been saying for so long about the importance of rhythm and routine--well, I didn't know how right I was! ;) It remains true that rhythm, ritual, and routine give children (and apparently their parents) a deep sense of security. We thrive with rhythm, it guides us gently from one sunrise to the next. And when we're out of rhythm, well, things don't go so smoothly, do they? Not around here, they don't.

So how do we figure out what day it is in a global pandemic? How do we create rhythm when so many of us aren't even leaving the house much?

We're still working on it, but here's what we've figured out so far:

It's time to create some new rituals and routines.

In our house, we've adopted Friday night pizza and movie nights. So basic, I know. But it's basic because it's fun and easy for overtired parents to pull off. (By the way, are you even more exhausted lately? Me, too!) We've designated Wednesday as Ice Cream Truck days. On Mondays we grill. Taco Tuesday is a non-negotiable. Weekend mornings we let the kids watch cartoons when they wake up so we can sleep in. (Whyyyy haven't I been doing this one all along?)

Keep those calendars on the wall!

Believe it or not, we took our big calendar down in May, and thus commenced a period that is nothing more than a blur in my mind. I had no idea what day it was. I was constantly asking my husband the same questions my little one asked me--What day is it? Is it yesterday? Where am I? We recently put our calendar back up and restarted our little morning ritual of setting the current day, date, and weather, and it really helps anchor our days. Which, of course, I knew it would.

Make the small things, big things.

Pre-pandemic, we spent a lot of time visiting museums, and trampoline parks, and local waterpark hotels. Now? We turn the smallest events into EVENTS. We made Rice Krispies treats yesterday, and you would have thought we'd been sculpting gold. It was a to do. We turn family game days into tournaments, and dance parties now require costumes, a pre-planned music list, and invites. And you know what? We're having a lot of fun.

Like you, I never expected to live through a global pandemic. I never thought I'd get months upon months (or has it been years?) to spend long days at home with my husband and children. And it has not been all unicorns and rainbows. Nope nope nope. I've had days where I found myself yelling at the kids, and even as it was happening and I was telling myself to stop, I just couldn't. Those were bad days, and I think we all have those, too.

But we're well, and we're together, and we're carving out new rituals each week to mark one day from the next, to add some structure to our time at home. I still can't always tell you exactly what day it is, but I'm feeling more grounded with each passing week. We're pushing through, and making moments of joy, and truly testing out all these ideas I've been yammering on about all along--the simple life, and slow living, and protecting our time.

So, my friends, here's to more good days than bad. Here's to new rituals, and finding simple joy at home during this unprecedented time.

How are you? What's working for you at home? Have you established any new rituals? Please share in the comments. (Did I mention my favorite new ritual? It's when the kids are asleep and my husband and I gorge on Netflix, popcorn and diet root beer. Seriously, try it.)
July 22, 2020 — Lori Oster
How To Choose Connection Over Productivity

How To Choose Connection Over Productivity

I've been reading a lot of articles about lonely motherhood lately. None of them are surprising, because I've been there.

We pay a price for our privilege today. All of us do, not just mothers. And that price is isolation.

My slow living tip for this month is this:

Resist the pressure to do it all, and choose connection over productivity.

Easier said than done, right? Absolutely. I'm not going to pretend that I'm making this happen for myself on the regular. I'm not.

But here are some ideas from an imperfect soul just trying to find some meaning amidst the chaos:

  • Make a NOT TO DO list. This one is my favorite. We live in an age of invasive technology, and it's wildly distracting. Check out Warren Buffett's 5/25 rule, do the exercise, and then make a NOT TO DO list based on what you've uncovered. And really do not do them. The things we say no to are sometimes more important than the things we do.
  • Foster hyperlocal community. This one is powerful, and there are a lot of ways to connect with your neighbors: Start a book club. Start a local Buy Nothing group. Do Flamingo Fridays in your neighborhood. Social connections to those around you are absolutely vital to your health and well being. I know these particular efforts pay off, because I've tried them all. If you want to start any of these things in your neighborhood, please feel free to contact me for help.
  • Nurture existing connections. I'm so guilty of neglecting my friendships in these years of early motherhood. Commit to reaching out to your friends just once a week, maybe. Or get really old-fashioned and write a letter. Liking a Facebook post will never be as satisfying as sharing a coffee with someone you love.
  • Stay home more. Do you live with other people? Consider clearing your schedule just a tiny bit, and committing to spending some real quality time with the folks who share your address. This isn't so easy when you need to shove piles of laundry off your dining room table just to make some space for game night, but it's worth it. Resist the urge to take care of some thing during this time, and take care of yourselves, instead. Some things to try: screen-free week, a weekly game night ritual, 20 set minutes every day of presence, a yes day with the kids, a family date night, the list goes on.

What about you? What are you doing to connect with the people you love? How are you resisting the pressure to do it all? Please share your tips here, I sure could use them.

Read January 2020's Slow Living Entry: How to Practice Radical Self-Acceptance

February 21, 2020 — Lori Oster