I have organized a Waldorf-inspired weekly playgroup for the last two years. Although neither I or any of the mothers involved are currently Waldorf teachers (one is in Waldorf teacher training), the Steiner approach to young children, with its emphasis on natural beauty, rhythmic structures, and gentle guidance appealed to us. I modeled the playgroup after the parent-toddler group my friend Devana used to teach. (Devana Came IS a Waldorf teacher – you may know her from the Waldorf School of Orange County or the Pasadena Waldorf School or from her crafts on the pages of Living Craft Magazine or from her own home-based kindergarten in Corona, California called The Garden of Enchantment.)
I often get inquiries about my playgroup – which I call Playgroup in the Woods, because we meet outdoors every week rain or shine – from local moms who are interested in joining us or even from not-so-local mothers who are just looking for a bit of information on circle time or crafts. This page is my ongoing attempt to corral all the songs, handplays, crafts, bookclubs, and ideas that pass through our weekly gathering.
For those who are interested in possibly joining us, there is a waiting list. That said, there has never been a family that we’ve turned away, just that sometimes, it takes a cycle or two for there to be room to join us. I like to cap the number of walking children at eight. The playgroup is run like a coop and each participating mother runs the playgroup once during a cycle. I organize four cycles a year based around the seasons, and we normally meet seven to ten times, depending on the number of families participating.
Our children are aged 0-7 years old. The playgroup is primarily geared towards the 3-4 year old set, but the babes-in-arms are welcome, and the older children can join in with the adult crafts.
As an attachment parenting, homeschooling parent, I give priority to other attachment parenting, homeschooling families. It is not essential that you are a homeschooling family (some of us have older children at Journey School, a local public charter school that operates with Waldorf principles); but it is essential that you consider yourself an attachment parent. Frankly, you probably won’t feel comfortable with us if you aren’t.
Each cycle I ask for a $50 cycle fee, which covers the cost of the craft supplies we use. Each cycle I organize a beginning circle time, a craft project, a puppet show, and a book club discussion. The songs and handplays for circle time and the puppet story are repeated throughout the cycle. Each mother is responsible for getting her own book (although we often have a mother organize a group purchase) and for bringing basic crafting/sewing supplies (needles, pins, thread, scissors, etc).
If you are interested in joining us, you should read through the framework and the guidelines (both of which need to be updated…). It is also great if you have read Rahima Baldwin’s You Are Your Child’s First Teacher and Sharifa Oppenheimer’s Heaven on Earth. Then contact me, so I can add you to the waiting list. Once you are on the waiting list, you will receive all the group emails. You will also be invited to visit our group as a guest (no cost), so you can see if the group is a good fit. Although we have a strong core of committed families, there is always one family moving out of the area, or onto to other ventures, or just going on vacation.
You can see a post about the first playgroup I hosted here (before) and here (after). For each of the playgroups described below, click on the adjacent thumbnail picture to see the circle time songs and handplays. Some of the basic songs we use to call children to circle or to handwashing are not repeated in each cycle’s post, but you can access all of those in the first cycle post here.
This cycle begins May 17, 2011 and will run for seven weeks. We will be sewing birthday crowns for our craft. The puppet story is a continuation of The Root Children. We will be discussing the book, The Happiness Project. Click here to see our opening circle songs.
This was the first playgroup. At the beginning I tried to have a small different hand project for each week. It turned out to be as crazy as it sounded; and we now prefer to work on one larger project throughout the whole cycle. However, in the beginning it was a great way to learn lots of different crafting techniques. With this first little owl finger puppet in felt (that I designed), we all learned the very useful blanket stitch. Our story was The Porridge Pot. We had not yet started a book club.
There are many blogs, websites, and resources that we use and enjoy. I’ve begun listing some of our favorite ones here.
*I used to call the group Waldorf in the Woods, so in the posts the playgroup is often referred to that way. I decided to stay away from official affiliation and changed the name to Playgroup in the Woods.