Godly Play is an innovative Montessori-based curriculum that engages children in learning through storytelling, ritual, and hands-on activity. The children meet for Godly Play classes in three different groups, the Caterpillars class for three year-olds, the Butterflies class for four and five year-olds and a class for Kindergarteners. Classes meet each Sunday from 10:00 to 10:50 a.m. The Godly Play rooms are on the first floor of the Parish Hall next to the nursery. You can sign up your little Caterpillars and Butterflies by emailing Rita Yoe or calling 202-333-6677.
Tell Me More about Godly Play!
Godly Play is a Montessori-based religious education curriculum developed by Jerome Berryman, an Episcopal priest. The curriculum has been used for over 30 years in churches of different denominational traditions and all over the world. Classes follow the shape of the Eucharist. The children gather in a special space, hear one of God’s stories, and then respond to God’s story through art or an activity of their choice. After this response time, the children pray and feast by enjoying a snack together, and then are dismissed from class. Sometimes parents have questions about Godly Play because it “looks” and feels different from many other curricula out there, including the Episcopal Children’s Curriculum, which we use here at Christ Church for our older children. We invite you to enjoy the information below and to ask further questions of our Youth Missioner or our clergy at any time!
Why is the curriculum called Godly Play—are the children just playing?
Playing and praying don’t just sound alike—they are very similar activities. Think of what it’s like to play—for example, we are joyful, we aren’t self-conscious, we become engrossed in what we’re doing, and we feel centered, enriched, and strengthened. Praying can often be thought of as playing with God. In a Godly Play classroom, children are invited to come into the presence of the mystery of God, to hear God’s stories, and to respond out of love.
What projects will the children work on in class?
In a Godly Play classroom, children respond to the story verbally during wondering time and also respond by working with story objects, creating art, or even caring for the classroom during the response time. Children are not given specific projects to finish; rather, the consistent structure of the classroom space and time allows the children to choose their responses to the biblical stories while being guided by the ritual and routine of the class.
How do I know if my child is learning anything?
In addition to learning and engaging the stories of the Old and New Testaments, the children learn through the Godly Play classroom how to listen, how to treat sacred space, how to treat one another, and how to begin to be self-directed. Parents report that their children will begin to “wonder” aloud about things, will treat objects with greater reverence, and will include elements like the baby Jesus in their play at home. They may also begin retelling the stories they heard in class on the way home from church or later in the week.
How can I support my child’s experience in Godly Play?
It sounds simple, but the most important things parents can do are to bring their children to class regularly, and to bring them on time (10:00 a.m.) and pick them up on time (10:50 a.m.). Just as with any class or practice, the more regularly a child attends Sunday school, the more enriching the experience will be! Timeliness is important because in the Godly Play classroom, children are greeted individually at the door and invited into the circle one by one. Building a circle of children who are “ready” and who are not rushed or late, sets the tone for the morning and allows the sacred story to be told without interruption. Likewise, teachers say goodbye to children individually at the door. When parents are on time to pick up their children, the children have a happy, secure dismissal and teachers, who have given much already, may rejoin their waiting families or make it to the 11:00 a.m. service on time.
Is there anything else I can do to support my child’s experience?
Tell stories at home! Practice using the “I wonder” construction when talking about stories or art. “I wonder what part of the story you liked the most?” Instead of asking, “What did you learn in Sunday school today?” which a child may not be able to articulate, try “What would you like to tell me about Sunday school?” Your child may not have a response at that moment, but you are inviting them to reconsider their experience and your child may have more to share later.
Can I attend the Godly Play class with my child?
The Godly Play classroom is a sacred space for children, and parents are asked to say their goodbyes at the door. You’ll notice that all objects are placed at a child’s level in the Godly Play classroom. Even teachers keep a low profile: they are always either seated in a chair or on the floor. Often times a child who is agitated as a parent is leaving will calm down as soon as the parent or relative is out of sight. Of course, in some cases, it is best for the class and for a child if that child’s parent is present to help the child transition into the class. If you think this might be the case, please speak with the Rita Yoe, Youth Missioner, so that we can let the teachers know.