Our Grove has recently started kicking it up into full gear with the children’s programming. We probably have somewhere around 15 kids associated with our grove, not to mention any others who happen to show up to public high days. Our Little Oaks programming is geared towards the kids who are direct members of the Grove, rather than the public stuff we do for the kids at High Days.
Those of us who are trading around leading the meetings right now are working on getting a good routine in place so the kids start to get comfortable. I’ve got it set up in a basic outline that has an Opening, Story, Craft, Ritual, Closing. It keeps things moving and allows each thing to build right into the next.
This was our first time trying out this routine, and I think it went really well. It was structured enough to keep the kids engaged. We were done with the whole meet up in 45-60 minutes. Which is plenty long for preschool aged kids, and remarkable that they stayed relatively sane the whole time.
So, what did we do?
For the babies (under 1 year old) we set up some sensory play for them. We had a whole bunch of different textured gourds for them to feel. We had small drums for banging on. We had a baby pool ball pit.
For the rest of the kids we followed the loose outline I mentioned earlier. For our opening song we sang a version of “My Roots Go Down” that I had modified for our Little Oaks Druidry. It was a great way for the more shy toddlers to warm up to what we were doing, to get everyone comfortable and moving, and to set a clear beginning for our meet up.
We then moved into the story. I told it as an interactive, cooperative story. They had parts where they joined in with certain words and hand motions. The preschoolers and early elementary kids stayed pretty well engaged and into the story. They enjoyed shouting “Trick or Treat” and pretending to lift a lantern up. The toddlers were a little harder, but with some parental redirecting they stayed in the same general area and didn’t go running off. I got a video of me telling the story that I’ll post when I get it off the camera.
Since the story was about Jack-o’-Lanterns it flowed very nicely into the craft portion. All the kids were able to get into this part. The first craft was to draw a Jack-o’-Lantern on a piece of orange paper. Since the story was about using Jack-o’-Lanterns to keep the fairies away, the kids were invited to make a Jack-o’-Lantern they could hang up at their house for Trick-or-Treating to make sure that only humans came to their door, and no fairies. They seemed to have a really great time with it.
The second craft we did was to write letters or draw pictures for our Ancestors. We started with a quick discussion of what and who the Ancestors are, and had the kids give examples. It ranged from the beloved cat, to a grandfather, to a parent. The younger kids were welcome to either draw pictures or dictate what they wanted to say to an adult who would write for them. The older kids were able to write and/or draw as they desired. It was explained to them that we were making these as presents for the Ancestors, and we’d be giving them to them at the party we were having in just a little bit.
That allowed the craft to flow nicely into the ritual portion of the meet up. We started with a quick discussion with our listening ears on about what kinds of things make up an altar, and how we don’t touch them or play with them. In the future I’d also like to start having a small fire for these so we can begin teaching fire safety a little more directly.
After the brief pre-ritual discussion we moved right on in to the ritual. It draws very heavily from Rev. Kathleen Pezza’s work with the Children’s Programming for Charter Oak Grove, ADF with some modification for our specific group and age range. In the future we have plans for other deviations from her work, but the basic idea of how to present ritual to kids as a birthday party is fantastic. We were able to keep the ritual moving right along by having the parents (armed with song sheets) continuing right along with the pieces, each of which had a song (with a children’s song melody) to go along with it.
During the Key Offerings each of the kids brought their present (the letter/picture they made) up to the offering bowl, said who it was for, and put it in. For the Return Flow, after I drew an omen (Omicron, Mu, Khi) and explained it in kid-friendly language we put each of those gifts into our “goody bags”, represented by cookies and juice. The kids were then able to take the blessings into themselves by eating them. We then closed out the ritual by quickly saying thank you to everyone that we invited, and hanging up our Cosmic Telephone.
Finally, after the ritual was over, we congratulated all the kids on doing so well, and sang our goodbye song, which I had my daughter teach me from her preschool class. All in all, it was a very good day and meet up for our Little Oaks. There are still things we want to do, and revisit, and modify. But this was a good day.