The transitions from sleep to wakefulness and from wakefulness to sleep are mysteries. Both falling asleep and waking up are moments of crossing a 'threshold of consciousness''. We as adults don't normally pay much attention to it, but people who have children understand the importance of these moments. One of the first tasks of parents is to help their child to find the right rhythm of sleeping and waking. At night, parents read their children a bedtime story or listen patiently to what the children tell them about their day and in the morning, parents wake their children gently and maybe sing a little for them.
There are several reasons why sleep and rest especially in a child under the age of 7, (and also in children and adults of all ages!) are considered vitally important from an anthroposophic standpoint.
1. The years of birth through age 7 are seen as the foundation for the humanity of the child, for the unfolding of the soul, and especially for the basis of the ages of 35-42 in later life.
2. The ability of the child to perform intellectual work in the grades is dependent upon the development of the well-developed lower senses of the 12 senses and also of the systems that Steiner termed the nerve-sense organs/brain/nervous system. The only time the body has physical growth is during SLEEP.
3. A young child is unified in body, soul and spirit and all sense impressions go right into the child without any ability on the part of the child to censor these impressions. These impression form the physical body, and sleep is the way these impressions build up the physical body.
Just as daily life should be permeated with rhythms, so also should there be rhythmic alteration between waking and sleeping. The more we consciously and freely integrate into cosmic rhythms, the more healing and curative aspects can enter into our life and our children's lives.
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