Many people have commented on the hat my son is always wearing. They say it is beautiful, ask if I knit it or are surprised when they see how bald my baby is for the first time. His lack of hair is not why he is always wearing a hat nor is it the reason he has no hair, all of my children have been rather bald in the beginning. No the reason my son always wears a hat is because I am doing what I can to ensure he reaches his full potential.
If this sounds odd or you are unsure how wearing a hat contributes to human development then read on.
Two years ago my then 9 year old daughter had a battle of wills with her teacher about the importance of wearing a coat outside. I had never forced my children to wear coats, shoes, hats or mitts when they went outside to play, instead I took the approach that if they wanted them they would know where to find them and put them on. I made sure these things were readily available but didn’t stress that they be put on to play outside. Now at 9 years old my daughter was pushing back against this position of authority being placed upon her that contradicted her upbringing so starkly. Adding to the conflict I had always explained and rationalized with my children giving them reasons as to why things were the way they were. Here this teacher was holding an expectation with no reason, no explanation only insistence and that she comply. Neither she nor I understood the teacher’s reasoning and so in an effort to make peace I set up a meeting to talk about wearing a coat.
She was (as Waldorf teachers are prone to be) vague and said something about inner organs and keeping her core warm which didn’t really make all that much sense to me and I left feeling rather frustrated. My partner (a Waldorf teacher in training himself) did little to alleviate my frustration being equally vague and unable to give me a good reason for this parameter other than “for the benefit of all”. Being the strong willed (stubborn) person I tend to be I sought out better reasons. Knowing what I knew about Rudolf Steiner I knew that there must be a very good reason wearing coats and hats was adopted into the expectations teachers held for their classes.
Steiner discussed in several of his lectures that while humans are extremely adaptable and survive under all manner of conditions and circumstances they do so at the expense of their inner development. Every parent will attest to how quickly their young child grows. Their bodies require proper nutrition and nourishment in order to meet the pace of demand put upon their systems to ensure they grow up strong and healthy. No one would argue this and many a family has taken up eating healthier after having children.
With Steiner it is often about the unseen and in this case it is about internal organs. A young child’s major organs are still maturing, growing and developing at an amazing rate. It is now well known that brain development occurs most rapidly from ages 0-6 and never again will our growth out pace that which occurs in early childhood. The heart and lungs of an infant are not fully formed until they reach 42 weeks gestation making what I am about to discuss all the more important for premature babies.
The first law of thermodynamics is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed it can only change form, the second states that as energy changes form the level of disorder in a system tends to increase. What does that all mean?
Relative to my point is this: while my daughter certainly can go outside and play without a coat on and appear to be just fine what is actually occurring is the energy that is being used to keep her external body warm is being taken from her internal organs. The more frequently her body is asked to regulate itself in this manner the more disorganized her system becomes resulting in further “loss” of energy.
Remember that old belief that 90% of our body heat is lost through our heads? A few years ago we proved how silly that was when we looked at the fact that the rest of our body was covered up and we actually lose heat equally throughout our whole bodies it is just that our heads are most frequently overlooked.
Relating back to children it is our job as parents, care givers and teachers to care for the well being of our children based on the reasoning above we now know that a child not wearing a hat, socks, or a sweater is being asked to regulate their external body on their own. While that is all fine and well for us as adults for a young child in the throes of their peak physical development this can have a devastating effect on their internal organs and ultimately their ability to self regulate down the road.
After discovering this I saw how I had done my older children a disservice by not holding that expectation for them and also better understood her teacher’s reasoning. I’m glad I learned because it all makes such logical sense as Steiner tends to do.
Keeping my child’s feet and head covered potentially gives him a better start to life and a brighter healthier future. This is so simple and really doesn’t cost me anything but a bit of mindfulness about his well-being.
I hope it helped you as well.
Steiner also liked our elementary education system as the cause of the spike in heart disease, diabetes, liver failure etc we are seeing in the 40+ crowd of the modern era. However that is a discussion for another article….