The Art of Hosting

hosting children at an AoH gathering - preparing for the Learning Village at Statenberg Manor in Slovenia, August/September 2012

For the upcoming Learning Village at Statenberg manor in Slovenia, a group of people is preparing the settings for hosting the children accompanying their parents to the gathering.

We are looking not only into the practicalities of play and rest space, enough materials for creative play, special food setups etc ... We are also and maybe even more looking into how to truly integrate the children in the gathering, as full participants according to their capacities and wishes.

If this speaks to you, please join the conversation.

It will for now be very practical in terms of what we need to bring to Statenberg, but we are definitely also looking for good practices from other gatherings.

How can needs of children and adults be honoured?

I am putting this conversation in the category of 'community of practice' because I prefer to see it as a gathering ground with practical application around the question of 'children at gatherings'.

update: on a 2nd thought, the conversation fits better into 'exciting new developments' - it is not linked to a location, and it is a truly exciting new development ;-)

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on a very practical note - for those coming to Statenberg or living nearby:

here a list of things to collect and bring with you, if you have a chance to do so, for upcycling crafts and other exciting activities:

old newspaper
yoghurt and other plastic cups
egg carton
empty food cans (if cut in a good way, like with the special can opener, so kids cannot hurt themselves)
old dresses and accessories for dress up
paper boxes and cartons

The plan is to pass on what we do not use to the local kindergarden!

Very good, Ulli. I just shared this on FB as well, with the following wording:

Dear friends and mates, anyone with experience hosting children at participatory gatherings is invited to contribute. As parents who are on the path of hosting their children into life rather than "educating" them, we have an integral approach to welcoming children to events. We are not looking to set up a "children's occupation programme", so they are "out of the way", but rather trying to see how to integrate the strengths of each generation and make them available to the whole, while tending to the needs of everyone. Thanks for contributions of well lived experience!

Hi Uli, just typing out Stefan's experience with a 'hosting a child' process at the Congress for Integral Politics 2012 in Austria at the beginning of the month.

Stefan will get it for proof-reading today and then I will post it here tomorrow evening...

How old are the kids?

I got a lot of useful experience working with young poeple (12 - 19)  as a facilitator to to help them express their views on decisions which are made about them,( by others ) . - Using alot of AoH type activities.  there is more to say of course. ....  I am interested to learn more about what you are planning with them.

hello Ruth, about 25 children toddler to teenager will be attending, as far as I know

we are mostly looking into how to include them into the process of circles and open space (and always having some extra activities on offer for those who rather not participate in all those conversations with the grown-ups ...)

oh very much looking forward!

I need to check again how many children there are now, and which age groups ... for us to be able to prepare well the different approaches

Frauke Godat said:

Hi Uli, just typing out Stefan's experience with a 'hosting a child' process at the Congress for Integral Politics 2012 in Austria at the beginning of the month.

Stefan will get it for proof-reading today and then I will post it here tomorrow evening...

Here is the harvest from the 'Congress for Integral Politics' in Austria

Version 2 with little additions from Stefan ;-)

Frauke Godat said:

Here is the harvest from the 'Congress for Integral Politics' in Austria


good morning fellow parents and others who are stepping into the circle to host the children at Statenberg ;-)

To know who is coming and what they are bringing, you may want to check this list

For now, most recent count, we are looking in to hosting 11 kids aged 1 to7 years, 9 age 8 to 11, and 6 teenagers. I believe we can add one more child age 3.5 years ;-)

Below an attempt of an updated list of materials to bring/collect/buy/find! locally or at home:

* wallpaper glue (a lot!)

* big long paper roll (Marjeta from the local hosts confirmed there will be paper available, a long endless roll)

* wool and/or thread thick and strong

* gouache paint (the washable kind  ...)

* glue sticks

* liquid glue

* some balloons

* tooth picks,

* pottery materials (be it earth to be mixed with straw or real clay)

* brushes thick and thin

* something to fix things on walls/trees, ... (pins, tape, thread ...)

I believe we can also make do with a small library picture books, and stories to be read and shared, not just at bed time, but also during the day (there will be a resting space available for the children!)

I'm so happy to see the AoH community making space for parents and children at this gathering. And I'm so sorry that I can't be there with my 11 year old son and my partner, but hope to connect another time. 

"How to truly integrate children in our gatherings as full participants according to their capacities"? - I would start with asking

"What do we need to be able to develop in ourselves the capacity to trust that the children are there to host us and our process as much as we are them?"

hello and THANK YOU for all the insights, comments, and encouragement!

Tonight Waltraud and me are preparing an email to be sent out to all registered participants of the Learning Village - we will share it with you here as an example of how setting the scene for a gathering with 25 children.

Attached to this post please find an edited version of the harvest of a skype conversation a group of parents had with members of the hosting team, back in July. We have come a long way since then!


Some thoughts for integrating kids into our week:

We can have activities that concern the children, and we can have those where adults and children happily work together and get both inspired. One big resource we will have there is nature: In addition to bringing things we can use stones, sticks, branches, leaves and feathers. Who does not remember the negotiation in front of the car, after our often still small children dragged enormous branches through the whole forest, in order to decorate their bedroom with it? Now this is the time of dirty sticks and heavy stones. Let’s collect them, and get inspired by the creative ones on what to do with them. Maybe different art works will show up every day? We might want to bring material to put them together like strings, nails and hammers for landart creations.


I heard there are ponds around, so any type of water games, with paper boat competitions and the like might develop.

Building huts in the forest is probably an adventure for many ages, and then one can visit each other in the huts of the other tribes for tea.

Building a labyrinth together on a lawn, collecting the stones, ordering them and then arranging them can be great fun for all ages. If that is too complicated, a medicine wheel would also work well, and then serve us for activities during the week, letting each age group walk and sense the different parts of it.



When we have visitors and our family system meets some other family systems, we always find it useful to do heck-in and check out circles with everyone. At the beginning to see what everyone would like dream of doing, or really need to do. Ant the end, on what was great in the day, and what we can let go for the future. Those are great learning moments, and very inclusive.


There are also a million games one can think of doing without accessories. Last night we spent two hours in the car, and the kids invented a game of thinking of taking a word, and put the letters together in a completely different way, and the others have to guess the word. Once in a while we had English or international words, which we thought could be used in Slovenia in an international or English speaking context. The game is so hilarious, even adults will find it fun! There is another one, where the aim of the game is to find out what the rules behind it are. That one would serve well for mixed groups also, with adults, for example in a morning circle of small circles of five or so. It reminded me of the quality of the wicked question game. That one itself also can be played with kids and adults together. There is a whole set of games one can play using ones body and gestures, I am sure you all know some, where one needs to perform something, and the others have to guess what:  a profession, a thing, an activity. I remember those moments were often the best ones at parties after midnight, with everyone cracking up laughing on the floor. Smaller kids often find that funny to watch, or else just will start their own activities in the gravel somewhere.


We might need some space where to discuss how to open up activities for mixed groups, and in what way.  One area of attention is how to build in the weaker members of our gathering? Only then all will be and feel included. We all know how to moderate and adapt games to different age groups. When palying hide and seek with a four year old, we make it less difficult than for the ten year old. This is a natural tendency we all have, and it is now just a question of how to do this in a collective way.

And last but not least, maybe this conversation can be extended to everyone, as there might be adults who do not have children who are creative and have thoughts on what to do. (Just thinking of Griet Hellinckx, who for many years has worked as a teacher of Waldorf teachers).

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!


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