Rituals and Routines Save Your Sanity: Part IV

The Beauty of Rituals:  Part Four in a Four-Part Series on Routines and Rituals

Just before Spring Break we had a nightmare.  It was a gorgeous day, and I took the boys for a long walk along a lake watching geese and turtles and letting them get in some good running time.  As we slogged our way back to the car, exhausted from our play, the boys lagged behind me.  I looked up to see  a man on roller blades blazing down the path.  Just as I turned to warn the boys to move aside, I was horrified to see both boys slammed with the force of the collision.  My 5 year old escaped with a scrape.  My 2 year old went head over heels – twice – before smacking into the pavement.  My heart stopped.  Then it’s a blur of checking on each boy and discovering a wailing two year old with an enormous bump on his head and an unwillingness to move.  The rest is a hurry of rushing to the doctor and fears in the cars with a child turning blue and looking sleepy in the backseat as mama plagued him with every song she’s every learned in order to keep his eyes open.  And then the ER, and some relief as color and spirits came back to all three of us while we waited.  And then some good looking over from the doctor and words of assurance.  No broken bones.  No concussion.  Just the let-down after a rush of adrenaline to make a little guy sleepy.  Now I just regularly repeat to myself,  “Everyone is fine.”  I must also confess to some late night breathing checks.

I share this story both because I needed a place to write about it, and because it reminded me how precious our little ones are.  And as silly as it may sound that’s what rituals are about.  Rituals are about relationship, connection, understanding.  Rituals are one of the best things we can do to say “I Love You” to our children.  Think about some of your most treasured memories with your family.  One of mine is going to eat ice cream every Sunday with my Dad and my two sisters.  Initially, it was an incentive to get us ready for church on Sunday mornings:  if all three of us beat Dad getting dressed, we got ice cream later in the day.  However, Dad really just liked ice cream, and we soon figured out it was just an excuse to go every week.  Before long, it was a ritual.  It was a time we shared and sat and talked, and I thought “Hey, I’m like Dad because I like ice cream, and we even like some of the same flavors.”  That a ritual.

Or it’s a game of “Hold still, pillow” like I used to play with my grandfather.  He’d grab us and hold us down and pretend to use our bellies as pillows.  Then he’d tickle us and exclaim “Hold still pillow!  I’m trying to sleep!  Why do you keep moving?”  It’s one of my favorite memories of him.  What a special ritual.

You probably have some special rituals already in your family, special holiday traditions or birthday celebrations.  Maybe you give butterfly kisses every time you pick your child up from pre-school.  Or maybe every night as you turn out the lights you whisper “Goodnight.  Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”  Regardless, rituals are important.  That kind of special moment together helps build heal the hurt feelings after a bad argument or tantrum.  It helps ease the rough days.  And it helps your child be more cooperative, leading to more good days.

So, this week, think of some of your favorite rituals you already share and be more intentional about them.  Then, go a step further, and setup some new rituals.  According to Dr. Becky Bailey, the best recipe for what she likes to call “I Love You Rituals” is the following:


  • A dose of playfulness
  • Some good eye contact
  • Loving touch
  • A sense of being truly present in the moment

Now, think back to your Kindermusik class.  Can you think of a few activities that could be turned into these kinds of rituals at home.  How about…

For Babies:  Baby-O, Dickery, Dickery Dare, or even Wash the Dishes

For Toddlers: Bazoo, Bazoo Butz, Bo-Peep, or Itsy Bitsy Mouseykins

For Preschoolers: Try singing Sorida with your hands touching rather than just mirroring; sing Bonjour Mes Amis and shake hands or give a snake hug or a butterfly hug; or make your own family circle dance with There’s a Little Wheel or Jing Jang

Even Big Kids like revisiting favorite activities from previous semesters like these or even sharing games and songs from class each week with you.

And if you’d like more ideas, I can highly recommend the book I Love You by Dr. Becky Bailey, which gives tons more fingerplays, chants, songs, games, and other ideas to share together with special ones for dropping off or picking up your kiddo from school, celebrating milestones, welcoming a new sibling, and healing boo-boos.

But whether you use activities from class, ideas from your growing up, or even activities from a book, rituals will fill your days together with joyful memories you’ll cherish forever.

Read Part I:  Introduction

Read Part II:  Getting Started

Read Part III:  Favorite Songs and Games for Transitions

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