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February 28, 2023

Grimm's Marble Runs 101

Guest post by BuildingWithRainbows

I don’t always have the emotional energy left at the end of the day for small world play, but building a marble run is always relaxing for me (and the kids (ages 4/7) normally want to take over before I get very far).  I’ll usually stick around as the support crew, keeping things lined up and stably stacked, but for the most part, once the first few ramps are in place, they’re off and running with it.  I started this one simply enough…and was very heavily embellished by the time the kids were done—but it still worked!  (Even if you couldn’t see the marble for the decorations).


As you start to assemble your marble run kit, there are lots of great sets you can work with.  To get you started I’ve tried to outline a few that would be a really good starting point and a give lot of flexibility.    There are lots of other sets that are also fantastic, but as you’re shopping and planning, consider these four main components: 

  • LIFT to get the start of the track up high (the marble needs some place to go)
  • BROAD SURFACES for the marbles to run on
  • SLOPES to get the marbles running and keep them going, and 
  • RAILS for the marbles to bump against

Many pieces can double up as more than one of these elements, but most runs need all four components. 

I think of these as great starter sets, but you don’t need all of them to build great runs, and you certainly can swap out for other sets to get a great effect.




The Grimm's Basic building set (4cm scale) is one of the most useful and flexible sets out there—the big pieces that have more than a single 4x4cm contact point with the ground make a great foundation when you’re building tall, and the arches are beyond cool when you can route the run both over the top and under the tunnel.  The 4x4 (large) Stepped Pyramid seems to find a way to make itself useful in almost everything, but having a variety of sizes is helpful to slot things in when you’re close, but not quite at the right height (the stepped counting blocks give you even more precision, but we really appreciate having those biggest pieces that are only in the stepped pyramid). 


Grimm's Basic Building Set

                      Grimm's Basic Building Set I                           Grimm's Large Stepped Pyramid



Because these marble runs often don’t have an indentation for the marble to follow down the length of the track, it's important to have a broad surface for the marble to roll on to allow for a little imprecision.  The Grimm's Building Boards are a nearly-essential component to marble runs.  If you have a large rainbow, you’ll want to have the Grimm's Natural Semi-Circles as well for a most satisfying corner rounding experience.  The Grimm's Natural Stacking Bridges are really fun for swoops and arches, but are a little harder to balance and integrate.


Grimm's Natural Building Boards
Grimm's natural semi-circles


For all three of these, while the rainbow colours are tempting on the shelf, I’d highly recommend the natural wood pieces to make it easier to find and track the marble as it moves down the course.  There is already SO MUCH colour coming in with the blocks, I really appreciate the natural pieces in marble runs (and have always been happy with them in other construction).

Grimm's Marble Runs, with natural elements



Every marble run needs something to get the ball rolling, and while you can do this by raising one end of a building board, it’s really helpful to have some sloping pieces to build and keep the momentum between components on a run.  We started out with the slopes set, and it has a lot of really good pieces, but it takes a bit of finesse to find the right angle for each situation.  Additionally, as many of them have “drop offs” at the bottom of the slope, you need to work a little harder to fit them in place smoothly.  More recently we added the stepped roofs, and in addition to making a marvelous sound, the consistent slope that always ends at “ground” level has been much easier to work with.


Grimm's rainbow stepped roofs  Grimm's Sloping Blocks

            Grimm's rainbow stepped roofs                                         Grimm's Sloping Blocks                                



I love the simplicity of a run that doesn’t require any edges to keep the ball on track, but most builds need something to do the job.   To turn a full 180°, a Large Rainbow arch resting on a Semi-Circle is perfect.   On a long straight-away or in tight spots, the Colour Charts Rally pieces are narrow enough to give guidance and because the edges are flat, they stand pretty easily. When the ball is coming in with a lot of momentum, the rails do sometimes need to be weighted or backed up by heavier pieces to keep them in place.



Grimm's Large Rainbow  Grimm's Colour Charts Ralley


                     Grimm's Large Rainbow                                          Grimm's Colour Charts Rally


This is one my 7yo built—you can see the narrow guides on the side and supported, heavier rail pieces where it turns corners.




We do most of our runs with the Grimm's “small balls” (12 in a set) as they have a good mix of weight for momentum, but not so much weight that they frequently knock the track out of place.  As the runs get bigger, they often get more fragile and then we use the smaller Grimm's marbles.  The set of larger 6 Grimm's balls (the ones that come in the egg carton) can be used in a few cases, but most of the time we find they have too much oomph and knock over the structure.


Grimm's Small Rainbow Balls                                                          Grimm's Wooden Marbles




This first run is a great one for getting the hang of how the balls move down the track, how they affect the track, and how you might need to tweak and adjust the track to keep the ball moving all the way to the end.  It uses just three sets- Classic Rainbow, the Semi-Circles and the Building Boards.


The arches of the Large Rainbow are first used to elevate the track, then again as rails and then finally to support the semi-circle rail.


The Building Boards are the main track in this one, and the Semi-Circles function both as tracks and as a rail.


I often prefer to work from end to start on runs as it seems to take less rework and adjusting that way.  Starting at the end of this one, here are a few things to keep in mind: when the ball is using and running along the semi-circle rail at the end of this run, it’s important that it lines up with, and does not overlap, the blue arch that it feeds, otherwise the ball will snag:


Similarly at the turn, the rail catches the ball close to where it comes in off the ramp.  Where the ball comes off the red arch, the arch is not on the very edge of the building board but instead ~1/4 of the way in, to release the ball so that it rolls down the middle-ish of the board:


Take a look!  You can see that as the ball runs its course, it bumps the pieces around a little bit.  Sometimes the little adjustment makes it run smoother the next time, sometimes you need to put it back.  When you find a position you like, you can weight the pieces by adding something on top or back them up with heavy parts so they stay in place.




This next run uses the Stepped Pyramid (large), Stacking Bridges, Sloping Blocks, Stepped Roofs, and Colour Charts Rally.  The Large Rainbow and Semi-Circles were used at the end to catch the ball so I didn’t have to keep chasing it after each run!



The more complicated a marble run set-up gets, the more important it is to start building from the end of the run, then make it longer by making it start a little higher, and a little higher, testing frequently as you go.


This one was built in 3 stages; always before moving on to build the next stage, the current section was tested and fine-tuned to ensure the marble stayed under control.

Stage 1 used Stepped Roofs and the 4th of the Stacking Bridge as track:


The Stepped Roofs are supported by Rally Charts to bring them above the catching tray, and the bridge is supported by two pieces from the slopes set.  Blocks from the Stepped Pyramid provides support for the green slopes.  Notice that the beginning and end of the bridge are at approximately the same height.  When the bridge “slopes” down, the ball gets moving too quickly.  When that happens, not only does it get out of control, you also don’t get the same sound on the Stepped Roofs at the end.

Stage 2 is very similar in construction except that stepped roofs lead into the bridge:


This one uses the next sized bigger of the Stacking Bridge; Sloping Blocks are used again to support the Bridge; and more pieces from the Stepped Pyramid to support the Stepped Roofs.  Again, notice that most of the total drop across this portion of the run comes from the slope (stepped roofs) at the start, and the Bridge begins and ends at approximately the same height.  The green Sloping Block after the bridge is just a tad lower than the edge of the bridge so the ball doesn’t snag and get stuck.

Stage 3 is similar in nature, but took more adjusting to get the heights right:


Again, the Sloping Blocks provide the supports for the bridge and the entry to the bridge, and the stepped pyramid provides the bulk of the elevation. In this segment, I also needed smaller height adjustments from the rally charts to get the height of the bridge and the slope just right. It took a little bit of guess and check work to find a slope and a height that would get the ball rolling and keeping it moving without sending it flying so fast that it skipped off the track.  

After getting the basic structure built, there’s some fine-tuning and detail work to add.  At the start, the top two slope pieces are set just a little bit apart.  This creates a straight track/ trajectory for the ball and helps start it moving in a straight path.  At each slope/ bridge/ steps interchange, make the transition as tidy and straight as possible to avoid redirecting the ball.


As you test the run, keep checking the transitions to ensure that the next portion of the run always starts below the previous.  Parts shift as you test them and you may have to reset portions of it more than once as you fine tune it.

Next, add rails wherever the ball seems tempted to pop of the track. For me rails were needed at the higher set of stepped roofs and in both lower bridges.


When you test the run and see the ball popping off the track, try to start the rails just a little before the spot the ball seems likely to veer off.   This reduces chances that it can snag on a small corner and bounce even farther off course.  Here, the “X” marks the spot the ball kept popping off the track for me, so I made sure the rails started a little earlier.


Be sure to turn on the sound for this one!

I always enjoy sound the ball makes bouncing down the steps.   When the ball moves too quickly it sort of skips over, so in this run I tried to control the momentum by limiting the slope of each section.   While it was in works, this one took quite a bit more adjusting throughout the build to keep it in good shape.  The kids usually love being in charge of fixing pieces that skootch out of alignment, and I love the lesson for them in how tiny adjustments can make a big difference!  My son also loves being the rail-builder—if he had his way we’d hyper-re-enforce every bit of the track!



This next run uses the Stepped Pyramid (large), Stacking Bridges, Rainbow, Semi Circles, Building Boards, Basic building set Stepped Roofs, and Colour Charts Rally.


This one I built alone, then left it out for the kids to find when they got home from a birthday party.

It bears repeating: the most effective way to build these is to start at the end!  If for no other reason, so your marbles don’t go all over the room as you build and expand!

As the runs get more complex, it's often smart to shift to the marbles instead of the small balls as they have less momentum for the speed and are less likely to bump pieces out of place.   This one here is built for the Grimm’s marbles (Grapat marbles probably work just as well, but we don’t have those).


Starting at the end, I used the 2nd and 3rd smallest bridges to create this swoop down, up and into the blue arch catcher.  Line up this join as smoothly as possible so the ball doesn’t snag, and then put the other end of the bridge on top of the semi-circle base of the catcher at the end.


The inverted bridge is supported by the smallest piece from the Grimm's Large Rainbow.  The smaller Semi-Circle is supported by the two yellow half-circles from the Grimm's Basic Building Set as well as a "2 cube” block.  The large semi-circle is supported by a green arch and a green elbow from the Basic Building Set.


A top view shows that the semi-circles are not fitted exactly to rainbow arches, but rather a bit bigger.  This gives wiggle room in case a piece gets bumped, and more space to set up the parts.  Notice that the green arch releases the ball towards the center of the swoop, and the ramp feeding the green arch drops the ball all the way inside the arch.  The ramp leading from the yellow arch to the green arch rests on the same piece that is supporting the upper platform so that the marble can move smoothly from one to the next.  The yellow rainbow arch hangs over onto the ramp to help establish the right trajectory.



The last piece of the run to build is the top—and its my favorite part!  The support for the bridge comes from the Basic Building Set (arch + two corners), and the support for the steps is made with pieces of the Large Rainbow.  Check out the alignment of the steps and the swoop if your marble is popping off the track a lot.


The jump is short—just barely enough space to pass a marble between, but the right spacing will vary depending on the exact angle of your swoop, so plan to adjust and check a few times.


The last step is adding the rails.  The first two at the top of top ramp are set at an angle to help catch and funnel the ball onto the course.  At the end, it opens a little to line up with the yellow arch.  Again, leaving the yellow arch, pay attention to how the arch and rails line up.


For the sake of an easy-to-watch movie, I spent extra time tweaking each bit of this so it would run smoothly without any rails, but with kids involved I’d recommend adding the rails.  

Happy Rolling!

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Ostheimer wooden figures - items retired in 2016-2018
December 11, 2021

Ostheimer wooden figures - items retired in 2016-2018

This is list of discontinued items that was published directly from Ostheimer in 2018.

"Please note: These items are - after sale of remainders - permanently removed from the program:

10621 Yorkshire
10811 Tournament Rider
10812 rider
10813 Rider Girl
11026 calf lying brown
11046 calf lying black
11111 Black horse
1151 mole
13141 cock dark
13142 chicken lying dark
13143 chicken turned dark
16440 ladybug
17151 vulture
20104 Tiger playing small
20785 Gorilla standing
20786 Gorilla sitting
22702 Canada Goose's neck long
23001 sea animals set 4 pcs.
23003 starfish
23004 Seahorses
23005 shell
23710 Tree trunk for vulture 2 pcs.
2570 Pied Piper
27910 nobleman with sword long
27930 jester
3040 Maple colourful with prop
3050 birch group
33895 Spring leaf
42100 angels II
42155 Shepherd lying II (Aug 1 2019: in stock at
43911 St. Martin big
43912 horse for St. Martin big
43913 beggars big
43915 St. Martin set big
43916 St. Nicholas with staff big
5510069 Xylophone ladybug
5510097 Airplane colourful
5510140 Finger puppet raw (10 pieces)
5510162 Horse swing
5520130 Shelf wardrobe Dwarfs
5540518 Catapult
5560213 Aircraft nature with 1 little man
70110 Thank you, little Easter bunny (set)
70120 Dwarf Bodo and the vixen (set)

The following products are no longer included in the program since 2017:

00510 natural wood swinging girl (Aug 1, 2019: in stock at
00515 natural wood rocking boy
5510057 Ball catching game orange
5510058 Ball catching game purple
5510059 Ball catching game blue
5510064 Ball catching flower yellow
5510065 Ball catching flower red
5510066 Ball catching flower blue
5520061 Mobile monkeys
5520090 Mobile aircraft
5520093 Mobile earth globe
5520099 Mobile Bee
5520120 Wardrobe duck (2 hooks)
5520123 Wardrobe snail (2 hooks)
5520131 Wardrobe sea NEW
5520134 wardrobe blue fish (2 hooks)
5520135 Coat rack fish yellow (2 hooks)
5520225 bar sea NEW
5520306 Door harp traditional
5520307 Door harp little Luna
5530101 Candlestick crib
5530210 Tree ornaments bird pink
5530211 Tree decoration bird blue
5530212 Tree decoration bird yellow
5530255 star moon
5530256 Star The Holy Family
5530257 star shepherd with sheep
5530258 Star The angels
5530260 Tealight angel red
5530270 Tealight angel yellow
5530271 Angel red
5530272 Tealight angel blue
5530273 angel blue
5540543 Battleline with entry
5540544 stairs
5540545 Tower with drawbridge
5560208 Motorbike nature with 1 little man (Aug 1st, 2019: in stock at
5560209 Red motorcycle with 1 little man
5560305 Jeep
80250 KL grandfather (KL is the unfinished wood creative figures for painting)
80251 KL grandmother
80252 KL Father
80253 KL mother (Aug 1st, 2019: in stock at
80254 KL boy (Aug 1st, 2019: in stock at
80255 KL girl
80257 KL cat
80258 KL Elephant
80259 KL Giraffe
80260 KL Leo
80263 KL donkey
80264 KL pig

The following products were already listed [as discontinued] in 2016:

00810 father with clothes
00820 mother with clothes
00830 son with clothes
00840 daughter with clothes
00850 child boy with clothes
00860 child girl with clothes
00870 grandfather with clothes
00880 grandmother with clothes

5510086 boat with drive
5510087 car red with rubber motor
5510088 car blue with rubber motor
5550831 Jeep large
5550832 Caravan
5560051 Grab Excavator red

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Holztiger production 2021
April 22, 2021

Holztiger production 2021

The following list continues to be deemed non-high-priority (as in 2020) so Germany can focus their resources on producing other high-priority items.  As such, production of these non-high-priority items is suspended for the remainder of 2021.  These items have not been removed permanently from the catalogue, they are still expected to make a comeback eventually.

List of Holztiger items deemed non-high-priority (as of Jan 5, 2021):
80000 Holztiger Bull, black
80004 Holztiger Calf, grazing, black
80032 Holztiger Horse, running, light brown
80053 Holztiger Cat, small, black
80054 Holztiger Cat, running
80060 Holztiger Husky
80063 Holztiger Dalmation, standing, small
80084 Holztiger Goldfish
80098 Holztiger Hare, standing
80112 Holztiger Peacock
80113 Holztiger Eagle
80115 Holztiger Woodpecker
80120 Holztiger Sparrow
80129 Holztiger Adder
80132 Holztiger Groundhog
80135 Holztiger Tiger, running
80137 Holztiger Tiger, small, running
80144 Holztiger Panther, small
80159 Holztiger Rhinoceros, small
80162 Holztiger Hippopotamus, small
80163 Holztiger Antelope
80167 Holztiger Monkey
80170 Holztiger Chimpanzee, playing
80173 Holztiger Snake
80177 Holztiger Pelican
80181 Holztiger Llama
80188 Holztiger Turkey
80192 Holztiger Chameleon
80199 Holztiger Dolphin, small
80205 Holztiger Seal with ball
80214 Holztiger Reindeer
80223 Holztiger Maple tree, small
80224 Holztiger Autumn tree
80228 Holztiger Willow tree
80241 Holztiger Damsel
80351 Holztiger Seahorse
80352 Holztiger Koala
80353 Holztiger Toadstool, small
80537 Holztiger Elephant, small, trunk raised
80567 Holztiger Leopard, small
80571 Holztiger Mammoth

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Stockmar crayons picture on paper
December 13, 2020

Why we reach for Stockmar crayons



Stockmar crayons

photo credit:


In Stockmar's Words:

Why Stockmar Wax Crayons contain 10% beeswax – no more and no less.

Stockmar wax crayons contain 10% natural beeswax, which provides the right degree of transparency and gives off a pleasant beeswax scent.  In addition, the essential oils in beeswax have a preserving effect, enabling us to completely abstain from using preservatives in our wax crayons.  A proportion of beeswax in wax crayons that is appreciably higher than 10% would have a negative impact on colouring quality.  Too little colour would be produced and the actual colour of the beeswax would distort the colour shades.  As a consequence, the use of a higher proportion is not necessary.

Beeswax has advertising appeal: it’s natural, ‘renewable’, smells good and everyone admires and loves bees.  Beeswax – what kind of substance is it exactly? It is a precious and limited natural product. In the interests of bees, whose numbers are under threat worldwide, any use of beeswax should be acutely conscious, measured and responsible.  Any beekeeping geared towards increasing beeswax production would not constitute natural beekeeping and would have ominous consequences from an ecological perspective.

Why use more beeswax in our crayons if it wouldn’t enhance the product quality and would only unnecessarily consume a precious natural product?  That is precisely why Stockmar consciously uses 10% beeswax for its wax crayons.

Stockmar has partnered for years with   Visit this site for more information on stewardship of beeswax and protection of bees. Honeybees entering beehive

photo credit:


Why Stockmar uses paraffin (microcrystalline wax) in its wax crayons

Paraffin is broadly used due to its non-toxicity and water insolubility.  It is often contained in ointments, skin creams and lip balms, and is even a principle component in many skin protection creams for small children.  Paraffin is also used in foodstuffs (sweets, chewing gum, wax coatings for cheese) and in medical applications (as an antidote for poison and as a laxative).  The possibility of deposition in the human body only exists in the case of constant intake of the substance.  A constant intake is highly unlikely in the case of wax crayons.

According to expert opinion, however, the detrimental effect to health in the case of paraffin does not stem from any potential deposition, but through heating to high temperatures as this could release carcinogenic substances.  Accordingly, hazards to health relate to people whose work, for example, involves heating paraffin for long periods and who breathe in the resulting vapours; which naturally does not apply to consumers of cosmetics, medication and wax crayons.

For Stockmar wax crayons, they use paraffin (microcrystalline waxes) with a high melting point, that is they first melt at a temperature of around 70 °C (158 °F).  Can this happen with children’s wax crayons or even wax crayons that have been swallowed by kids?  70 °C?  No.  The paraffin in Stockmar wax crayons have an extremely positive impact on colouring quality.   In contrast to chalky fillers, they don’t dull the colours, but rather maintain the transparency and colour intensity.  Paraffin is produced as a by-product in oil refineries and, as a crude oil product, is naturally not a renewable resource.  Nevertheless, we currently have no viable alternative to paraffin that would be resource-conserving and ecologically friendly and at the same time maintain the colouring quality of the product to the extent of the high melting paraffin we use.

Other frequently used resources that are eagerly touted as renewable, such as soy and palm oil, do not produce the same product quality and in our opinion are not ecologically friendly.  As a result of the increase in global demand, they lead to the creation of monocultures, in turn prompting the clearing of rainforests and disappearance of areas used for agriculture, with all the resulting negative ecological and social consequences.


How does Stockmar compare as a working material?

Stockmar crayons are known for the following characteristics:

  • typically less breakage than other brands --> greater cost savings
  • long lasting --> greater cost savings 
  • colours based on Goethe's colour wheel.  In Stockmar's words: "Based on an understanding of the effect colors and artistic creation have, we develop products that promote the artistic experience while appealing to all the senses."
  • safety of ingredients: Stockmar products are regularly inspected by an independent laboratory in Germany for residue analysis.
  • In Stockmar's words: "STOCKMAR products are known around the world for their quality, and we aim to live up to our reputation all along the value chain—from the procurement of raw materials to the delivery of the finished products.  We don’t just surpass material quality standards and have all of our batches inspected by independent laboratories, we also continuously review and refine the subjective quality and artistic utility of our products."


Socially just:

From the website: "What does the economy of the future look like? STOCKMAR does not operate according to profit and growth, but instead with the ambition to fulfill a purpose and to promote humane development not just through our products, but also through our business activities. As with all Neuguss Group companies, STOCKMAR’s profits are put to use in a way that benefits society. For economic, social and educational sustainability."

As a company, Stockmar also follows the sheltered workshop model seen throughout Europe that operates as an initiative more for social inclusion than for profit: "Inclusion matters to us, so we have a portion of our products assembled in communities for people with disabilities."

Stockmar takes on responsibility for 'Quality as an Employer'.  In their words:

"As with our business itself, we take a holistic approach to our standard of quality as well. STOCKMAR employees are incorporated into the various stages of production with all of the unique requirements they entail from start to finish, and are therefore critical to our quality control. But their involvement goes well beyond the production process. They also receive a share of the company’s profits. We don’t just strive to provide an ideal work–life balance, but also to put our ideas into practice for the greater good."

"STOCKMAR quality standards apply to all of our suppliers as well, not just in terms of raw materials, but also all aspects of their business and social activities.  These quality standards are based on reciprocity throughout our entire partner network.  We maintain constant dialog to develop new, improved products together.  This enables us to live up to our quality standards and move forward as a company."

For much richer information than this, please check out Stockmar's Sinne.Formen brochure which they regularly produce:


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Wet-on-Wet Painting
June 22, 2020

Wet-on-Wet Painting

Tryptich Wet-on-Wet Painting from Tanja Markies on Vimeo.

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Walnut Shell Candles
January 25, 2020

Walnut Shell Candles

PurposeA wonderful addition to a Waldorf celebration, these lovely candles will float in a bowl of water. Note that they do not last very long. Be careful around little hands with the hot wax. And never leave candles unattended. Materials NeededBeeswax PelletsCotton WickWalnut Shells (halved and shelled)ScissorsPot filled with waterGlass Jar or Metal Tin/container (for [...]

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Monica Storey photography.  Children riding on a tricycle on a sidewalk, in front of a home, blue sky, sun shining through the trees.
November 26, 2019

We sell the things.

[photo credit: Monica Storey Photography]


We sell the things.

We sell the pretty things.

We sell the things that we think contribute to a more harmonious household and family life.

We sell the things that we believe are sustainable in more than one sense of the word, including in an all-important sense of ecological sustainability.   Things that will decompose one day without detrimental effects to the soil, water, or air, or life they support, including our own species.   Things that have had some thought put into justifying their existence, and the energy that's gone into making them.

We sell the things that we appreciated when our children were babies, and as they're growing now.

Here's what we can't sell you.


1. Sleep. 

"I can do it all!  I just need to never sleep...."  This highly irrational, highly unsustainable thought has humorously gone through my head, as I turned in at 3 AM or later some nights, abuzz with relief from some tasks accomplished, and the feeling that I actually had a fighting chance to keep up with all the realms with their own to-do lists: work, nutrition/ family meals, finances, cleaning, parenting, marriage, important relationships and caregiving for others, causes close to our hearts, ..  The truth is, we lose in the end when we compromise our sleep.  It's not just about tonight, or today.  We're in it for the long haul, for ourselves, and for our families.  But still, it's very hard for me to resist staying up late for more productivity, or for some alone time to decompress.   Now in my forties, I know it catches up.  Here are some ideas to help with getting more sleep.

- As parents of babies and young children, these are tough years.  If you have more than one child, you especially might notice how different each child can be when it comes to sleep, and the various challenges among people and at different ages.  Don't compare to others, just try and find what works for you and your child in particular.  Start where you are.  Nap when you can when they nap, for the wee baby years.  For the baby/toddler/pre-schooler/kindergarten/primary years, bedtime varies quite a bit among children.  The 'Waldorf way' is to encourage a big block of outdoor time in the morning, no matter the weather (good raingear or good winter weather goes a long way, we know ourselves here in Ottawa, Canada, and take up snow-shoeing, skiing, or skating, or whatever activity best suits you and your ages and stages.  Even just romping around is often all that's really needed for most kids). Commit to some early morning outdoor time with a buddy if that might help you.  Make sure you get enough daytime calories, and come together for some good together time at mid-morning snack, lunchtime, afternoon snack, and dinner.  Ideally, the afternoon is a large 'breathing out' time for kids, without a lot of instruction or things they 'have to' do or respond to, but more time to relax and unwind.  Then we join together again for dinner, and finally after dinner, we are ready to wind down for the evening together.  This kind of flow to the day supports children who are ready to once again 'inhale' together and follow the caregiver's lead for a soothing bedtime routine before the biggest exhale of the day - sleep.  Any schedule is to be adjusted for different ages, stages, energy levels, and otherwise.  For example, much of our modern life and schools see children, in a sense, 'inhaling' and holding their breath much of the school day, with little chance to breathe out and relax in the afternoon at school, especially if it's noisy with conflict around them, or a lot of instruction to follow.  Right after school, a block of outdoor playtime, in a relaxed setting with space to roam and a picnic dinner can be the exhalation everyone needs.  This can help some people.  Everyone really is different though.  The important thing in the end is to find what works for your child(ren) and for you.  Those of us with overactive brains, use that brain power to loosen the knot and figure out how to get blocks of rest vitally needed.

- Babysitting/ parent swap/ family visit (let expectations be known ahead of time: "My goal for today is to get a 2 hour nap in.   In order for that to happen, I will have to retract from interacting starting at this time", etc.).  Or, announce, eg. “I’m going to close my eyes for five minutes.  If I do fall asleep, wake me in fifteen...”   

- Sleep arrangements that manage overall needs often puts us square into philosophical debates about the greatest good for all.  Like much of parenting, and certainly in life always, there are going to be trade offs.  The parent who is stricter around certain limits, can then give more of themselves in other ways.  It’s important to remember and to remind others that only you can speak to the value of things to you personally that you are backing your choices with.    And they are not easy decisions.  And there are often moving parts, among the ages and stages, in sickness and in health.  We do what we can, and we ask for and give support to respect the decisions and abilities of those around us.  In other word, whether you co-sleep, coax more willingly into a schedule, and/ or are working with the temperament of your own child and yourself, know that you could spend your life trying to explain and defend your choices to others, and they still might not get it.  Keep figuring out what you need, and how to ask for it, as they say, and try not to envy too much or be too smug along the way.  We figure that one out quickly enough as parents, and then we get reminded of it over, and over, and...

- Feeding a family.  Right from the start with babies, we can see how nutrition and sleep follow a pattern.  Getting enough daytime calories, good fats and protein in a day for everyone is a big part of our days.  Iron and magnesium, B-vitamins.  Hydration.  If it’s not balanced out throughout the day, bedtime can be delayed with more snacks.  Food intolerances that might disrupt sleep.  Nowadays, there are so many great blogs and Instagram accounts with helpful photos and recipes, etc.  Remember, you only need to hit on a few helpful things to rotate through for meals and snacks.  Ask other parents with children similar ages what they’re eating in their household if you like.  Our emotions can be so tied to what our children eat in a week sometimes as parents.  “Getting to Yum” is a fun book to instil some lightness to what can become a heavy issue in some households, with games and exploration and give us some tools, whilst taking off some of the pressure.

- Lastly, we do well to be mindful of our own inner mood around bedtime.  Soothing nerves, and a calm bedtime routine should be one that helps us with our own sense of calm as well, as our children can be so perceptive and take a lot from us.  After dinner ‘in the parlour’ with music, games, giggles, not too much wild play later in the evening... or maybe it’s better for your kids to get some?  Keep observing, keep being curious about what could be helpful.  Children can have an enormous amount of fears around bedtime that can manifest in different ways.  The more calm and soothing we can bring to ourselves after a long day, the more we can share our calm with them.  It could be as simple as one big breath we take upon entering the bedroom.  Or doing a tiny bit of handwork in the evening.  As our own children are a little older now at the time of writing this, at 6.5 and 8.5 years old, I’ve lately been telling them many nights, “I saw you being strong, and brave, and kind today a hundred times.”  I’ll mention specific things, just the littlest things, eg. ”I noticed you listening with your heart when so-and-so was talking about ___.”  After some days, it wasn’t long before I heard my children saying the words themselves, that they were brave at school when such-and-such.  Some sort of journalling aloud can be good for some souls, already quite young.  Other people might find it works more to keep the naptime or bedtime routine with little chatter.  

2. Civility

“Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untravelled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as "empty," "meaningless," or "dishonest," and scorn to use them. No matter how "pure" their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.”― Robert Heinlein

Well, to that I’d add that we need to remember to be civil to ourselves too.  Pretty sure you're doing great a lot of the time, just getting by, because let's face it, as a parent, especially if you don't have family nearby, or you are a single parent, or have high needs children, or are providing multi-generational care, or so many more of the situations so many of us face, we’re doing a lot.  You're probably giving generously a lot of the time, and maybe without the number of pauses and ways to fill your own cup as you could benefit from.

Civility means that we don't correct each other openly in front of others, and that goes for children too. Civility with our children can mean that we don't tell stories and talk about them in front of them. Civility is being respectful.  Civility with our spouses means we let some things go for a time.  Maybe this is your year with low iron stores, or a low point in your biological rhythms.  We are not the same people every day, and we can't always expect the same from ourselves each day, and that goes for our children too.  Cut ourselves and each other some slack.   Make the home a safe space, where members can re-charge, and feel supported.  Within routine and healthy values, everyone can then work for their goals.  In terms of parenting young children, it means we don't react or over-react with criticism, often people probably already are feeling poorly inside over mis-steps and that usually goes for children too.  For our children or for ourselves, instead of criticism, we can react with support.  We can think about our proximity to them, their unmet needs that moment or day, and we think about what can actually help reduce barriers to better outcomes.  Cut ourselves and others some slack, and look at what we actually need to feel better and do better.  This is a challenge when both partners in a relationship are giving so much, and it's easy to take each other's contributions for granted.   Try trading places or routines for a day to gain /renew appreciation.  Being gracious with each other goes a long way every day, and over time that adds up.

3. Routine. 

Here are some of the best fixes we've found for encouraging routine.

- Morning affirmations.    Begin with kindness, acknowledging our presence, our participation, our needs... Maybe there is just one thing you’d like to focus on this week.  Maybe you’d like to put it on a note on the fridge or near the kettle or coffee maker.

- Songs and verses. It’s hard to say no to a rhyme. And a well known secret in Waldorf pedagogy that songs and verses help with transition times. Over time, they relieve the pressure and expenditure of energy associated with transitions as they allow us a predictable queue that we can participate in.

- Meal planning and prep.  Keep it simple.  Some people do Taco Tuesdays.  :)   Whatever your family’s preferences. Nowadays, an internet search for ‘meal plan’ yields dozens of results to pick and choose from.

- Nailing down the critical points of the day.  Eg, for us it’s the 4:30pm dinner.  If we don’t have dinner ready then, the evening succession is all too late, and it becomes hard to make up for lost time without the evening feeling stressed or crunched, which almost always backfires in us as overtired energy.  We are on the right track when we are vigilant about the critical points in the day.

- Snacks.  Regular snacks, although small, just fill in those spaces nicely.  Apple and cheese, carrots and celery, red cabbage stir fry... it can be simple most of the time, and a bit extra some of the time.

4. Exercise and movement

Air in our lungs, and pumping through our body.  Exercise and movement just feel good.  When you’re so very tired or sore, what about putting some music on and letting it coax you into some gentle swaying?  Two birds with one stone, if you’re too tired to talk, a slow dance with a partner or friend.  If you do this while the kids are awake, a lot of little ones will likely want to join in.  The doorway stretch helps open up the chest muscles from all that forward rounded-ness of parenting, devices, dishes, and driving.  I know a lot of parents whose children were agreeable to the babysitting option at their local gym, and they took advantage of this time for them.  If it suits you, BrainGym is a neat framework for movement exercises, for body and mind.

5. Human contact. 

Flush with the good feeling of sharing a fun time, breaking bread together, relating together, having some laughs, playing some music.  Or sometimes it’s about having witness to our ups and downs, as part of a community.  The golden rule, to do unto others as we’d like them to do unto us comes into play, as we can aspire to be the friend and neighbour that we’d hope to have.  To think beyond the hyper focus of our own lives and issues, means that we can relate to others in a way where we don’t lose our focus on our own needs, but we widen our lens and our hearts.  Sometimes, when we’re still finding that we’re without meaningful connections, some kind of volunteering or charitable donation can have the added benefit of connecting us to others in ways we’d not expect.

6. Home-cooked meals. 

Let's face it, we all have to eat, but not everyone has to be a super chef. It's really okay. But you probably would like some home-cooked meals in your house. Here are some ideas:

- Meal service.  Home delivery or take out options from catering companies, or local restaurants.  Prepped meals, ready for you to put together, depending on your city, you might find some options.

- Half-home cooked and half frozen/store-bought... Eg. you make the grain or cauliflower or some veg, or a fresh salad, but you buy or order in a stew or curry, or a roast.

- Batch cooking, where you freeze part of what you make, or have some leftover for the next day in the fridge.  Even if it’s just one or two extra batches.  Future you will be thanking past you.

- Slow cooker/ pressure cooker.  What a revival the humble slow cooker has had recently.  Well-deserved,  hundreds of thousands of households can’t be wrong, right...?  Although, I can say that I personally prefer slow cookers to the very fast pressure cookers, but we’ve called upon the ready in a jiffy pressure cooker option several times.

- Hiring a cook to come in your home, and cook and stash in your fridge and freezer.  I’ve not done this before, but it occurs to me that even a young teen as a father’s or mother‘s helper could wash and chop some celery and carrot sticks, wash some lettuce, prep some veg for dinner, etc.  

7. Less stuff. 

This is a funny one. We can't sell you less stuff than you already have. There are lots of nice things in this world. They cannot all possibly fit into your home and your day.  And you could never keep up with cleaning and maintaining them all. Choose wisely, or just plain have fun or make do with what you choose.  Or swap things out.  Just watch out for the balance of time spent wishing for other things, or more things.  It’s normal and can be helpful in life to wish for things, but the forces of media might be throwing too much of it into our field of vision, and we might recognize the need to proactively lower the volume on that.  There really ARE a lot of rapidly changing ages and stages when children are young, so we do find ourselves looking for solutions to situations and that does frequently involve ‘stuff’.  Just be mindful of it all.  It’s all too easy to acquire, and tricky to let go.  Especially if you’re sentimental like our family, and paring down the stuffed animal collection doesn’t come easy.  It might actually all be nice stuff that we have, but if it’s too much stuff for our abode and our mental space, then that it is nice stuff only makes it harder to choose what to let go... Better to leave some things on the store shelves to begin with.  Don’t worry too much about what you’re missing out on.  As you’ll not be missing out on some crisp, clean empty space... Ahhh...


8. Gratitude. 

Gratitude is not dismissing our unmet needs. It's not saying we should be happy now, and to simply relax into a beatific smile and sense of well-being in the world (although those moments are good).  Gratitude is where we find it, and recognizing the ways that we do feel safe right now. The ways that we do feel lucky. It reminds us of our good fortune. Our minds are often spending a good deal of time focusing on what needs to be done, or created, or acquired.  It can be a blessing in itself for our minds, hearts, and nerves to spend a little time remembering what we already have.  Gratitude can be a resting place from our worries.

9. Maker Mentality. 

Doing a lot with a little.  Making something from nothing.  Using found objects from a forest walk to build something delightful or useful.  The act of creating.  Every day, in some way, it shows us that we don't need to buy or consume in order to create or to delight or to feel satisfied or to find a solution to some need.  We feel our power, our ability.  We use our brains in ways we didn't before imagine.  We delight in the unexpected outcome, and to our surprise, the process and its journey.


10. Special time. 

Look into both of your child's eyes. Look back and forth from one eye to the next.  See them.  Sit with them.   Be still. For young children especially, when the centre of their world (their parent) is moving around so much, in and out of the room, it can be quite disconcerting. Carve out relaxed time together. And time for that re-connection. It can then come and go throughout the week, but with regular prioritizing, you both know it will be back, and you'll get your special time again.

11. Financial stability. 

Personal household debt levels are high.  Focus first on the big things: the large furniture items, your house and its maintenance.  Take a page from some old world frugality and thriftiness, when and where need be.  Don’t go in debt for ‘things’.

12.  Self-acceptance

Love and compassion.  Patience.  So much begins with this basic need for us to accept our range of human emotions.  Meditation practices offer much guidance.  Some people that I know get help with self-acceptance through a community or network of people that welcomes and accepts us as we are, be it through newfound friends or old friends, family members who we dance through relationships with over the years.  Knowing that each moment, each day offers us the chance to practice again and again, self-compassion is truly the greatest gift we can give ourselves on this journey called life.  Mantras to begin each day can help.  Be a friend to yourself.  The kind of friend you would like to be for yourself.

Allowing for our feelings that arise, some deep breaths, observing the thoughts, like birds flying through the sky of our mind, and just letting them go, without chasing them... or else for those who prefer some focus, a line to focus on, such as "I breathe in compassion for myself, I breathe out compassion for my child(ren)"... or focusing on the breathe itself, feeling the air against your upper lip, through your nose, and throat, puffing up your lungs, and pushing your stomach to rise and then when it falls again... There are so many different ways to meditate.  

13.  Discipline

How to learn how to practice.  For years, I've known so much cerebrally, but putting it into practice is harder than saying it in words.  Discipline is whatever helps us bring ourselves back to the mat, time and time again.  Whatever works for you. 

In conclusion, sometimes there is a tendency to turn to online shopping, or to the buzz of the internet to look for feelgood solutions.  Feeling good and solutions are both fine of course, and we like offering products that we hope helps with those within the larger picture of all the things that we can't sell you.  Please shop responsibly.

These thoughts and ideas expressed here are entirely built on my own experiences.  I share what I hope will be helpful to others, but please take only what works for you and leave the rest.

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