Waldorf education is all about active learning. Movement games and activities get our bodies warmed up so that our minds are ready for learning. Everyone benefits from movement games for children.
Clapping, bean bag games, rhythmic stepping or marching, and hand movements to nursery rhymes are all fun and engaging ways of bringing movement into our homes.
Movement can be a good warm up in the morning as well as a great way to “breathe out” after a period of deep concentration like writing a summary in a main lesson book.
My favorite way of bringing movement to children is by reciting verses while passing bean bags. This can be done with two or more people in a circle. Each person needs their own bean bag.
How to Pass Bean Bags
Stand in a circle (or if just two of you, face each other). Hold your bean bag in your right hand with your palm facing the ceiling.
First, pass to yourself by bringing your hands together in front of your body, turning your right hand over while holding onto your bean bag and passing it into your left hand as it faces the ceiling now.
Step two is then taking your hands and arms out to the sides of your body (or straight in front of you in a twosome), this time with your empty right hand facing the ceiling ready to receive a bean bag from your neighbor and your left hand turning toward the floor and placing the bean bag into your neighbors open hand.
Once you add the verse recitation, you’ll adapt your passing rhythm to the rhythm of the verse.
Many verses can be recited with bean bag passing. This is also a wonderful way to memorize a poem. Just like kindergarten children enjoy hand motions to rhymes, elementary children enjoy doing something while reciting verses. Especially at home where many children become self-conscious during “circle time.”
Some children become so self-conscious that they simply cannot participate or they make it difficult for anyone else to participate! No worries, you can find ways of bringing movement throughout your day with these and other games.
Just to give you some perspective, Rudolf Steiner never suggested “circle time.” He did recommend all sorts of “ring games,” as well as gymnastics exercises, to help develop confidence, concentration, balance, control and coordination, a sense of rhythm, direction, and form in space.
But “circle time” as we know it is an American invention! Steiner also encouraged verse recitation as a way of regulating the breath.
Here are tips on How To Do Circle Time at Home.
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I highly recommend the book, Games Children Play, by Kim Brooking-Payne for activities and game ideas. The subtitle is “How Games and Sport Help Children Develop.” This book has ideas for kindergarten, the elementary years, and teenagers.
How to Make Bean Bags
Bean bags make a wonderful handwork project, too. A good size is about 4 or 5 inches, and bean bags can be round or square. I recommend using felt as no finishing seams are needed.
Wool felt is best, or a wool and rayon blend. Check out my wool recommendations here. This is a natural material that feels better than synthetic and lasts longer without pilling.
Simply cut two pieces of felt from a round or square template. (You can make the template out of card stock.) And then stitch the two sides together. Children as young as seven or so can whip stitch around the edges, or older children might enjoy learning the blanket stitch.
Remember to be patient with handwork projects, stitching a little bit each day. By leaving a little space open for filling the bean bag, you can then pour in rice or beans. The younger the children, the larger the beans so that you don’t have the beans slipping out between the stitches! You might need to do a little repair here and there to keep anything from leaking out! It’s fun to stitch simple designs on the front as well.
Verses for Bean Bag Passing
Here are a few verses to try once your bean bags are finished:
King winter now is in the land
He rules with cold and frosty hand.
He makes Jack Frost touch nose and toes
And gives our cheeks a shiny glow.
In January falls the snow.
In February, cold winds blow.
In March peep out the early flowers.
Then April comes with sunny showers.
In May, the roses bloom so gay.
In June, the farmer mows the hay.
In July, bright shines the sun.
In August harvest has begun.
September turns the green leaves brown.
October winds then blow them down.
November fills with bleak and drear.
December comes and ends the year.
Want to hear more ideas for weaving movement into your homeschooling days? Check out my podcast interview with Jen Hoffman over at Healthy Moving, “Movement in the (Homeschool) Classroom and Beyond.“
For even more movement ideas, check out this guest post by Janet Allison of Boys Alive! Learning is Moving and Moving is Learning.