A parent’s view on St. Michael’s Playgarden

MOMMY ON BOARD By Kristalle Garcia-Kekert (The Freeman)

I remember the very first time I walked into St. Michael’s Playgarden for my son’s trial class, I was immediately struck by its peacefulness, openness and especially their clean and green outdoor setting, which is a rare find nowadays. Walking inside the classroom, I was greeted by warm and lightly coloured drapes and many simple wooden structures for children to use their imagination with (toys, tables, chairs and a baby cot) all organized and uncluttered making it even more so inviting to newcomers. That was over a year ago now. I love it even more today.

Feeling more like home than being in an actual playschool, I especially like how the students get to experience and appreciate life’s simplicity without the use of modern technology that surrounds us today. Getting immunities from exposing yourself directly to your very own environment, the outdoor/garden area consists of a sandbox (a child’s favourite hang-out), a nipa hut complete with a bamboo slide, swings made out of rope and old car tires, a climbing net, a wooden pushcart as well a tiny turtle pond and some chickens. The children are even permitted to climb trees, monkey bars or even water the plants if they wish. But before going into the outdoors to play, the children are required to put on their rubber boots and are sprayed with organic insect repellant, this is a must! Then, rain or shine, they all race outdoors! Might even be better for them when it is all wet and muddy as it makes playtime a lot more fun! Some students even choose to run barefoot making it an amazing sight to watch! But do not be put-off by this idea. After playing in the outdoors, they should all go for a wash and get cleaned up. As a requirement, the children should always have an extra set of clothes and shoes. It’s as simple as that! It makes me recall and miss many good old times in grade school during breaks when my friends and I would just run to the playground outside and use our imagination in a natural setting with no modern technology involved and get dirty without a care in the world! This is what I like very much about St. Michael’s Playgarden that the students get the chance to play freely in the outdoors!

In this home-like atmosphere, the classrooms are non-airconditioned but filled with natural lighting to come through. It’s a happy environment. Pillows without designs and hand-woven/padded mats are stacked on one side of the room for the children to use during the indoor play period as well as resting hours, where a children’s massage (for good health benefits and helps lessen stress level) is given. When the toys are used and played with, the student also returns them. Free or fantasy play is highly encouraged. Songs on the other hand are sung using clapping, wooden flutes or even a wooden harp.

All natural and organic, the food during snack time is served in its simplest form, which consists of fruits and vegetables. This can include regular bananas or lacatan bananas (boiled), mangoes, oranges, apples, pineapples, to name a few. And for the vegetables, they have boiled sweet potatoes, carrots, string beans you name it. At times, the children would also have some bread and rice cakes. It’s a different meal each day. Fresh herbal tea (using leaves directly taken from the garden) or plain water is available to drink. What a relief to know that for a healthier lifestyle, very young children are being introduced to healthy food early on. The students on the other hand are also taught how to “cook”, prepare and set the table, which they do in turns. Putting away all the dirty dishes is also done individually.

On a personal note, I would think that simplicity creates an excellent balance and especially helps in the adjustment to many different situations we encounter nowadays. The saying is true that, “having less is more”.

Being the only playschool in Cebu City that follows the Steiner Waldorf educational system, to appreciate and fully understand this method, I believe that it is absolutely something to look into. Just use your imagination and be open-minded. Remember, it’s all-natural. www.stmichaelsplaygarden.com

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