Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rhythm of a Steiner Playgroup

For the last few years we have been involved in leading Steiner-inspired playgroups. They are really beautiful and nourishing, and it only takes a little understanding to create them. They can be formed with just a few families, simple and natural resources and a good dose of parent enthusiasm.

Steiner playgroups intentionally follows the same rhythm each time, like a flowing “in” and “out” breath, creating a warmth, sense of security and knowing for all. The songs, rhymes and actions gently move the parents and children from activity to activity, without need for verbal instruction, such that even new families on their very first day can seamlessly join the group.

Adults happily participate, keep their awareness to what is happening with and around their child, delay their adult social time with others and be present to the dreamy joyousness of their child. This creates a rich and nourishing space that allows the child to freely come into their own being in their own time, and build their imagination and sense of wonder of the world.

To begin, everyone quietly and calmly gathers outside. With a song the children settle and the whole group comes together to welcome the day and greet each other. With practice this time can be used for the parents to truly tune in, become present and delve into the dreamy consciousness of the children. A quiet and reverent space is created for the children to sit, listen and enjoy. Slow pace, songs, verses, beautiful handmade characters and findings from nature are used to set a scene and tell, rather than read, a simple seasonal story. We told stories in cycles of three to allow the child to come to know them well. The words, imagery and way of storytelling spark the child’s imagination and soul and allow the child to form their own inner pictures to take with them.

Seasonal songs and verses relating to nature are carefully selected, and we would intentionally use simple melodies, clear voices, good humour, rhythm, repetition and easy gestures to engage the children and allow freedom and independent movement. Children are gently encouraged by the adults’ own joyful and sincere participation. Coming inward again, we would wash our hands, gather around the table to receive our dough. Children joyfully knead, roll and shape their own bread while the adults quietly watch. The rhythmic movement allows the hands to come into harmony with the breath, as we prepared food in and for our community.

When bread-making was finished, children had time to completely immerse themselves in free play with the help of beautiful, natural and simple materials. Parents would allow the children to be self-directed, and refrain from interrupting or playing with them. Instead, parents use the time to find a quiet cushion or corner that is out of the way to model silent focussed care and attention to craft. Craft materials and instructions would be provided, with new projects every few weeks. This care and attention to our own work is observed by the child, and over time follows into the child’s own work… that is their play!

At times a child may need a little assistance to begin play. We keep this gentle and use imagery to engage the child’s imagination. For example we may lay a green silk down and say “where are the sheep to eat this grass?” allowing the child to enter into play so we can return to our quiet craft.We've ask that parents do not force their child to share or take turns during play. True sharing comes from within and is an expression of one’s will, so we allow the children to do this only when they wish to do so. There are many opportunities for sharing and turn taking within the playgroup rhythm, such as waiting for our food or receiving our bread, and we trust that the child picks up on our positive model of warmth and care towards others.

In a mood of unhurried devotion and reverence for our children, space and belongings we happily and carefully pack away, and see this as an important activity. With a song, the children gradually transition from their play and begin to put blocks in their baskets, dolls in their beds and vehicles in garages of cloth. A song would lead us outside where our table, cups, bowls, drinks, organic fruit and wholesome treats await. A meal blessing brings an atmosphere of love and gratitude, and the natural conversation and sharing of food around the table builds a sense of belonging and community.

Children then enjoy a time of outward expression, exploration and freedom, within the safety of a large designated outdoor area – no matter what the weather! The children could experience sand, water, earth, mud and rain, with access to simple tools for gardening, digging, building, raking, sweeping and materials for imaginative play. The focus is on self-directed, hands-on, open-ended and real activities in nature. Now parents would have an opportunity to observe their children and chat with friends.

It is ideal for a space to be created where the children can smell, feel and taste the earth through the seasons and weather. In Spring we can prepare gardens, sew seeds, pick flowers and listen to the birds. In Summer we may taste the herbs and vegetables, harvest sweet fruits, wash seashells or play hide and seek. In Autumn we can sweep, rake leaves, fly kites or visit the neighbouring horses. In Winter we may chop and stack wood, gather kindling or polish stones.

In our last activity of the day we pack up our outside play and move inside to sing, celebrate any birthdays and say goodbye. To keep the ending clear families leave quietly, bringing a feeling of completion and quiet contemplation.


  1. i'm very very happy to read such article ! i'm a french waldorf homeschooling of 3 and Just starting a waldorf playgroup in the forest. My difficulties is with parents....french parents talk a lot and are not very creative. They sit down and talk and talk. i don't know how to encourage them to talk less and act more...But i'm sure we will progress and your article are very helping for me. Visit my blog if you want (but it's in french) http//
    thocolorand the little drawing of your log is so cute

    1. Thank you Isabelle! Your forest playgroup sounds lovely. It takes a while for the culture of a group to become established. When parents see the impact talking less and observing more has on the children usually they will be on board. Sometimes they need a lot of encouragement though to help create the space around the children. Good luck and I'll check our your blog!