The vision of Lilaloka (“the universe of Play”, in Sanskrit) is to be a Self-Learning and Resource Centre for the Child. Lilaloka offers various activities based on self-discovery and spontaneous self-learning through Play, which allow the child to reveal himself as an individual and amongst others, without competition or judgement.
Lilalolaka is open to all children, schooled or not, having difficulties or not, beyond all categorizations and allowing mixes of ages. The team of Lilaloka works in collaboration with schools and parents, considering each child as an evolving being. In the field of children with special needs we work close together with Marion.
Activities of the year:
Individual work is concentrated in the mornings from 8:30 am till 12 am. The sessions are provided to the Auroville schools and Auroville home schoolers. The facilitators describe their work below:
- Working with Shiatsu and reflex therapy points are a means to connect with the children and gain their trust through a non-verbal communication. We start with a small alignment where we connect the sky and the earth to join into the heart.
- The full session takes about 1 hour and happens once a week. The relaxation takes between 5 and 30 minutes. It can take 5 or 6 classes with active children to get to manage a 15 min. relaxation.
- The rest of the session is tailored to the needs of each child through cognitive or physical games.
- The aim is to release the body of the day to day tensions and increase confidence. It gives also tools to the children to learn how to cope with their emotions. Improvements in the behaviour of the children have been noticed by parents and teachers.
Jitta ‒ Individual play sessions
- The sessions aim to provide the opportunity for children to explore themselves, to be themselves, to find their joy that connects to a deeper layer inside, in the presence of an adult. To contribute to a balanced unfolding of children’s potentials by allowing them to face challenges and find their own way in dealing with them.
- The sessions are centred on the child, meaning that he/she is the one who leads the play. There is an atmosphere created for the child to feel safe and accepted as he is, feel as comfortable and free as possible to do/ express what he needs to. We are there to acknowledge and reflect to the child some of the facts and feelings he expresses so that he gets insight into his behaviour, feels accepted and free to change or continue. Each way is according to the child and the moment. We do not direct the play or conversation. The only limitations set to make the child aware of his/her responsibility in relationship with the adult are no destruction of play material, room or furniture, and no violence towards the adult or him/herself.
Margarita ‒ Communication through sound
- Music and movement activities for self-discovery and self-expression.
- The individual activities are focused on sound dialogs: one hour where the child can freely explore sounds, instruments and elements. At first the adult is the witness and I will observe, and then start an imitation/mirroring process to start a dialog, based on sounds. In the middle of the mirroring process, some sound/rhythmic variations are added by the adult and the reaction of the child are observed and transform in a playful communication through sound and movement. These activities are mainly based on the awakening and stimulation of the mirror neurons: a brain cell that reacts both when a particular action is performed and when it is only observed. They underlie imitative action and awareness and understanding of another person's act, intention or emotion.
- The main aim is to give more self-confidence and awareness to children, let them freely explore themselves through sounds and movements, so that they will have a more free and clear way of expressing themselves, to discover, understand and change their patterns and keep their imagination and dreaming world awake. This will have a better development of intuition and empathy too.
Group activities at Lilaloka take place on 2 mornings per week from 9:30 till 12:00, and 4 afternoons from 2:00 till 4:00.
- An open morning for Aurovillians and visitors. This activity was mainly offered in the second and third term.
- When we realized that we had to deal with a lot of interest in the project, people popping in at any time, we decided to offer an open morning where always one member of the team would be available to answer questions and tell the story of Lilaloka. It was an interesting experience and added a lot in getting clarity which roles we, as a supportive educational center, can play.
- During these sessions we offered activities including: discovering local medical plants, rhythmic sounds and movement, art, play, and games in the game room.
- A weekly session for toddlers and their parents. This activity was offered on request to a group of Auroville parents and children up to three years old. It was an existing group who would come together to have collective activities for their children three mornings a week. Activities at Lilaloka included art /painting, gardening, sound and movement.
- It was an interesting experience which gave us a lot of clarity of certain areas we could offer within Lilaloka. We will not continue next year with a toddler group, but instead will focus more on what we can offer in the field of support for parents.
Afternoons with Jitta
- We learn the use of mainly local medicinal plants. The activity is based on teamwork; together we honour Mother Earth, each other and the world around us, explore and learn how we can support each other.
- We do this by exploring the land around us and learn to recognize many medical plants just growing around us who can help us, our body and mind to be healthy and comfortable.
- We learn how to prepare remedies (the children call them magic potions) ‒ simple home remedies for rashes, burns, dehydration, common cold, body coolers, anxiety, nightmares, anger, shyness.
- The preparation of our plant creations and their application invites communication, sharing and team work. We share stories of our experiences related to the plants' healing abilities. This builds trust among the children; we become aware of our inner self, about the other and the world around us.
- In the second part of the activity we put our hands in the earth to make an offering for Mother Earth and show her our love and gratitude. We use clay and natural materials. This helps to develop the senses, experience the different textures, smells, to experience the joy of sharing and discover how all has its place and function. And the children themselves are part of this giving positive life energy.
- My main objective is to build confidence, respect and ownership of oneself and one's feelings. To help the children to learn to express and respect themselves and the world they live in. I do this with the help of medicinal plants and how they live in coexistence with other living things.
Afternoons with Margarita
- For group activities (not more then 10): I let the children explore freely the instruments and their sounds; starting from their inputs, I propose games, stories and movements, always connecting them with sounds and movement.
Afternoons with Mousumi
- Story telling, games and role play. In this activity we offer books, hand puppets, games and dress-up props. It is a collective activity where we go on a journey into our imagination. We read and create stories and play games. This activity encourages communication and verbal expression.
Afternoons with Anna
- In Lilaloka we follow the flow of the children and provide the space they need. In the afternoon sessions we observed that there were always some children who did not feel like participating in the particular activity that afternoon, they just wanted to be in Lilaloka and play. Anna offers this space, where children can play with toys like Playmobil, Legos, wooden train, dollhouse, kitchen and art material. The sessions go very much in the direction of building worlds and playing in them. Making houses, mountains, animals, puppets. Building a world together and live in it through play. The only strict rules we have are that we do not hurt each other, do not damage material or invoke disharmony. Each child has the right to play alone and we have to learn to respect each other’s space. We all like to feel safe.
We created a space for children and parents and tried as best as we could in a raw building to answer to the needs. The age group who benefited from this were the ages 5 to 10 years old. Mainly children from the kindergartens, home schoolers, and children of long-term guests.
It was interesting to notice that most children who attended Lilaloka were in need of some special attention. Some because of the arrival of a new sibling, a best friend leaving Auroville, and other reasons. Children of long-term guests made contact with another way of education.
This was the first year that Lilaloka functioned full time. To function in an unfinished raw building with mostly voluntary facilitators without maintenance it was quite a challenge. It brought limitations in the amount of participants we could enroll: the demand was larger than what we could offer given the circumstances. The positive side of starting slow with small groups of 5 to 10 children was that our focus could be mainly on the quality of our work. With facilitators participating on a voluntary basis it turns out a lot of times that there is not enough dedication and consistency.
It was very meaningful for us to experience the positive reaction of the schools and parents and the joy in which the children attended.
Through our open mornings we realized that there is a need among Auroville parents to have a place to go to where they can share their concerns, and where they can be guided towards help. The issues which are brought to us are mostly very temporary-seeming and small, but at that point it's an issue which disturbs harmony, and being assisted in finding solutions can help prevent escalation.
Next year we will extend our team of facilitators. Some activities will be offered on Saturday and Sunday. Lilaloka aims to be in close contact with the schools and the team of facilitators who focus on help for children with special needs. We are also in the process of establishing contact with the outreach schools. We get requests and sadly we cannot always answer to this need.
Fundraising will have to be a big part of the work to be able to finish the first building, so we can offer more activities at the same time and receive a larger amount of participants.