Radiant Hearts is an online multimedia program for families to learn Baha’i prayers, memorize short quotations from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, and study spiritual qualities together. It was not specifically created to be Baha’i Playgroup material however the lessons in Radiant Hearts contain all the elements of a typical Baha’i Playgroup and therefore can easily be used for this purpose.
When children are getting to be one and two years old, many mothers start to look for playgroups and Radiant Hearts can be one resource to help you host one centered around a spiritual quality. (If your child is under one year old, you may like to consider hosting a Mothers Devotional. If your child is three or four, you may like to teach a Baha’i Preschool Class.)
Sharing the Writings set to music and conversation centered around spiritual themes with friends and their children can be invigorating as well as a true source of comfort and strength. On this page we will offer some thoughts on how one might like to run a Baha’i Playgroup.
If your children and/or their friends are two years old and under you might find a type of “music playgroup” most appropriate to keep little ones engaged. You might sing a few prayers and Baha’i quotations, sing several songs about the particular virtue you are focusing on, and then sing some other popular preschool rhymes afterwards. The formal playgroup can last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the children and the effort you would like to put into organizing it.
Please note: If you want to host a group, consider your motives and the language you use in describing the activity to those you invite. If you call it a “virtues playgroup” and do not mention anything about the Baha’i Faith – but hope to eventually invite the families to join a Baha’i Preschool Class and eventually Baha’i Children’s Classes using Ruhi Book 3 materials when the children turn 5 years old – you may not be setting the foundation you want. Don’t be afraid to invite your friends to a Baha’i event. You may like to name your group something else such as “Brilliant Stars” but be clear about wanting to have Baha’i prayers and quotations involved in the playgroup activities.
The direct exposure to the words of Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha can transform hearts and minds, and it will be a blessing to share these wonderful gifts with your friends and their children.
Ideas for Inviting Friends
If you already have a set of friends you’d like to invite to your playgroup, you may find creating a flyer you can email out or just using word of mouth works well. If you are looking for more families to join your group, you may like to advertise by posting flyers on library billboards or by handing them out at playgrounds. A neighborhood flyer drop (or door knocking) can work well in some places, as well, especially if you are new to the neighborhood and just trying to find out who lives around you.
It doesn’t have to be unnatural or forced. Just think about what a gift you will be giving by sharing these beautiful spiritual qualities and words with others, and it will give you strength to invite those you care about or those you’d like to get to know better.
Here is an example of how you may like to introduce the playgroup to a friend: “Our family studies a spiritual quality, or virtue such as friendliness or patience, each month and I’d like to host a playgroup that is focused on developing this quality in ourselves and our children. Since our children are so young, we’d just have some songs and then free play afterwards with a few snacks. I’d like to start the session with some songs to prayers and quotations from the Holy Writings of my Faith, the Baha’i Faith, and then sing other songs related to the virtue and more fun action songs that we probably all know such as ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ or ‘Wheels on the Bus.’ I hope it will be a fun way to spend some time together and also expose our children to morals and spiritual ideas. I find it really helpful to think about my spiritual well-being by focusing on developing a particular quality each month, and I hope you will too. It will be neat to go through the journey together.”
Focusing on a Spiritual Quality
Whether your playgroup is once a week or once a month, you can choose a spiritual quality to focus on during the playgroup and sing the Baha’i prayer and quotation for that spiritual quality according to the Radiant Hearts lesson. We recommend focusing on a spiritual quality for at least two or three weeks (or a full month if your group meets monthly) as this allows more practice of the virtue and memorization of the prayer and quotation.
You can also sing the two songs about the spiritual quality (the lyrics and tunes for which are on the Online Lesson) and then add a few virtue-related songs from other lessons if you desire. Adding a few actions songs, songs the children can dance to, or giving the children instruments or rhythm scarves to use for certain songs can be a nice addition as well. To find more songs for toddlers simply do a google search and you will find many.
Getting Others Involved
You may like to assign duties to the families attending, such as bringing a snack, preparing a few extra songs, and cleaning up. Getting everyone involved and part of the action can help solidify the group and bring people closer together.
Make-up of the Group
Sometimes after inviting several friends to a gathering, you may find you have a few different age groups present – such as a few one year olds and a few of their two or three year old siblings. One idea is to do the prayers and a few songs together, then split up the children into two groups (toddlers and preschoolers). This way the older ones can have some more discussion, stories and activities with one parent, and the toddlers can share some more music and free play supervised by another parent.
To find ideas and helpful printables for hosting a Baha’i Preschool Class appropriate for three and four year olds, visit this page. You may also find ideas that would be useful for hosing a Baha’i Playgroup there also.
Spiritually Uplifting Conversation for Parents
After the formal portion of the playgroup, parents may like to use the “Getting Started” page (the first page in each Basic Lesson document) for a discussion starter while the children have snacks and free play. You could discuss the inspirational quotation or talk together about how you and your children exhibit the virtue, and how you would like to work on showing it better.
On the surface, it might seem that organizing a playgroup would be quite straight forward. However sometimes more sensitive issues come up unexpectedly. These can range from behavioral challenges to differences in parental discipline to concern about what the children are overhearing from the parents (either talk about the children or adult conversation).
Open conversation about expectations and “rules” is helpful. Establish a consultative environment from the very beginning – ask the other parents what they think or what they do at home, and come to an agreement about how to deal with conflicts between children.
For example, some parents insist a child say “sorry” while others feel it is okay for the child to be led into a different activity after a scuffle ensues. Keep a loving and open atmosphere and hopefully everyone will feel free to share their feelings when challenging situations arise. Parenting on its own can be tricky enough but when other children outside your family are involved – whether your child is having the upper or lower hand – it can be even more so.
This post contains a list of three rules which may be helpful to use in a Playgroup setting (plus a free download poster of them).
Start and End
Due to the napping habits of toddlers, it may be necessary to set clear “start” and “end” times for the playgroup sessions. Even though parents may be having a lovely time chatting, things can get rowdy when nap times are not adhered to. Parents should be encouraged to be respectful of their children’s need to sleep. This includes families being free to leave whenever necessary, and also everyone leaving by the set end time so that the host’s child can sleep when needed, as well.
Your playgroup may like to rotate houses you meet at. Just be aware that when you are not in your own home and you are essentially running the playgroup (if you are organizing the playgroup songs), you may have to be a bit more prepared than if you were in your own home. Make sure you have all your materials together and that you will get there in enough time to settle your toddler in before the playgroup “starts.”
Sharing snacks can be easy for some groups and more tricky for others. If everyone is allergy-free and basically on the same diet, some parents prefer for everyone to bring a plate to share. In this case, you may like to assign “fruit,” “sandwiches,” “crackers,” etc so that you have an arrangement of foods, or just go free flowing.
If there are some dietary restrictions, parents may wish to instead pack their own kids some individual snacks. This, of course, can sometimes pose problems between children if they want what another child has, so parents need to decide ahead of time how to deal with it. Have an open discussion with the parents to decide what’s best for your group, and reassess if necessary.
What experiences you have had and learnings you have gained from hosting Baha’i Playgroups? Please share in the comment section below!