Let’s Playgroup is now offering “Playing with Nature” – exclusively outdoor classes held at Prospect Park. We are now in the process of re-opening playgroup for the Spring season; special guidelines and restrictions will apply, following the recommended best practices established by the Center of Disease Control and the NYS Dept. of Health.
My name is Lele Luiza.
I was born in Brasil in 1967. My experience working with children started during the time when I was still studying Fine Arts. In 1993 I became part of the Casa das 5 Pedrinhas Foundation and travelled all over Brasil investigating what children do while not under adult supervision. I discovered a vast and incredible world! So fascinating that from that time on I decided not to become the art teacher I set out to be, but instead focus on researching children’s culture. Observing and learning from all the children I met, I came to the conclusion that my work would be to do all I could do to validate what children already know and to keep their learning connected to their feelings, senses and mind, all as a whole. During this investigation I discovered that the best environment for one child growing up is always to be in nature and in engagement with another child . I took pictures and made short films and in 1995 I focussed my work on one project called “Video Letter” – producing videos of children playing and making their own toys and then sent those videos to children from another area or even another country. We connected children that did not know each other, or even spoke the same language and discovered that regardless of geographical or social differences they all were connected by the same universal language – the language of play. This language is essential for a child to grow. Shortly after completing the project, I opened playgroup in various schools and also got hired by the government to work with children in risk situation (many of them living in slums, others in camps after loosing their homes due to floods). In 1999 I received a grant to develop a project named “Undolasi – A documentation of Children’s Culture” – workshops and a documentary about a group of children in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In 2002 I moved to NY and opened playgroups in Manhattan and Park Slope. In 2004 I created Let’s Playgroup. In 2015, the stream of imagery of children caught up in the midst of the migration crisis from the Middle East, caught my attention and spurned me to get involved. I went to northern Greece and worked with other volunteers at EKO camp, after which I created Childhood Rescue Project – a 501c non profit organization, whose goal is to protect children in risk situation to retain or regain their childhood through play while living in such harsh conditions. In 2016 Let’s Playgroup closed its indoor space and since then our home is Prospect Park with Playing with Nature – my dream came true and we are in Nature every single day, rain or shine.
” As the child plays, he is entering a consciousness that has access to what can be remembered only in play. This remembering is vast, for it includes not only personal experience, but the child’s link to sensation and memories beyond his capacity to explain or understand. The child has become a listener who speaks through himself what has been heard but cannot yet be defined – a knowledge unconscious but awakening”
Living By Wonder – The Imaginative Life of Childhood.
By playing children experience a freedom of BEING, here and now, in all their entirety. By playing together they create their own rules and learn their own limits. The outcome of this “get together” is what I call Children’s Culture.
My work is based in the confirmation that children live in this culture, where to play is a universal language of knowledge that initiate the human being in a life of freedom, happiness, unity, balance, harmony, humanity and greatness.
My Playgroup exists for children to come to play, make friends and grow through their own experiences. We meet in the mornings for 4 hours at Prospect Park. We start walking together and during the walk we sing, talk and observe what is new around us. We always stop when we see something interesting and we take out time to get where we decide to go. We have places in the park we like but we never have a set point when we start. It all depends how the morning is and what the children want to do. Sometimes we find long good sticks on the way and then we decide to “go fishing” at the pond. Sometimes we find nice rocks or beautiful seeds and we decide to go to our tree and make a nice stove to cook. Sometimes we find branches and we bring it to our tree and make a teepee. The most important is to let the children lead and find what they want to do and we teachers support and help with their ideas. When it’s time to go home, we disassemble everything and hide what we found in the bushes so we can use it another time 🙂 Everyday is a new day – full of joy, music, stories, laugh, curiosity and discoveries.
Let’s Playgroup started in a ground floor apartment in Park Slope. The whole place was carefully thought to be a warm, welcoming, playful and safe environment to receive the children. For 12 years I had the children coming from September – June for 4 hours a day and in July we had always summer playgroup in Prospect Park.
In the summer of 2015 we lost the space and I then I made a decision to move my playgroup a outside space. Prospect Park became our new “home” and today I can’t imagine Playgroup anywhere but in nature.
Here is a bit of what it was before – a beautiful nurturing place that I carry in my memory along with all the wonderful children that spent time there.
Childhood Rescue Project is an ongoing project to help and enable children in risk situations to regain their childhood, which is increasingly endangered by war, natural disasters, migration, child labor, violence, early marriage and even excessive access to technology. By playing, children will maintain the connection between their inner selves and the outside world in a harmonious way, thus having a fair chance to grow as a whole, and mentally, emotionally as well as physically healthy human being.
“Let’s Playgroup was an incredibly nurturing environment for our daughter Chloe for two years. We saw Chloe thriving and truly enjoying every second at the playgroup. Lele is an extraordinary educator, with a remarkable vision and vocation. She created a unique, inclusive and creative environnement in which each child could find his voice, build confidence, self esteem and develop a strong sense of belonging to a warm community. Lele’s dedication and deep commitment to children and their emotional well being, is contagious. She calls herself a facilitator but she is truly a visionary educator and a role model for children.
Through more than fifteen years of experience with children and profound commitment to her vision, Lele has developed a deep understanding of early childhood, of the importance of play, and how to foster creativity and imagination through original and poetic hands-on activities, games and group activities.
Chloe will always remember her years at the playgroup as moments filled with joy and wonder.”
“Working with Lele changed our lives. We have a wonderfully imaginative daughter, one who does things on her own a lot and very differently than most — which can create some challenges. Finding “Let’s Playgroup” was the best thing that could have happened to our family. Lele truly meets the child (and their parents) where they are in every moment. She is exceptionally skilled at reading behavior and finding creative and often brilliant ways to get the children to open up and connect. We watched our daughter blossom in the year spent with her. The confidence and communication we saw happening for her was amazing and exactly what she needed the most. Her bond with Lele exists to this day and she talks about her often (and the other children in the group). That emotional life was truly impacted in a most loving, nurturing way and she carries it with her – remembering her time with Let’s Playgroup! For my husband and I, Lele was always ready to stop and talk about what new things had happened for our daughter, no matter how small. Or to chat about the importance of play and what is going on in the world and how it impacts us, especially from the point of view of the young. The way she sees children (full of potential and genius) and what they have to offer inspires me as a mom and reminds me to slow down and be present when I’m with my daughter. Her dedication is moving and free of judgement and she even helped our confidence as parents! Assuring and educating us. Offering opportunities to see how kids play in other countries and regions and allowing us a space in which to discuss. Her care and love for children is extradorinaiy. We only wish every child could experience what she offers. The environment she creates for them to explore and discover is open and encouraging and full of possibility. I wish our daughter’s entire life (and ours) could be spent in a place Lele helped create! “
“I met Lele when I was looking for a first “school” option for my oldest daughter. Now, nearly seven years and three kids later, I cannot believe how lucky I am to have found her. Lele has a gift. Time spent in playgroup is magical: stories come alive, nature transforms into art, wild two and three year olds become little angels. Playgroup so special because it is child led but Lele facilitated. Lele is genuinely interested in how small children play. And she understands how important that play is to a child’s development and that child’s interactions with the world. Over the years my children have learned so much by being in this environment – and I have gained a warm, funny, smart and invaluable friend. I can’t wait for my youngest to join Lele’s playgroup!”
“My daughter Clara began attending the young children’s playgroup led by Lele Luiza when she was just 19 months old. She is now 3 1/2 and we are so lucky that Lele is still a part of her life. Lele’s magic quickly became apparent through my daughter’s enthusiasm and joy for both Lele and the playgroup. She flourished in the open and creative atmosphere that Lele set up for the children, engaging in imaginative play, discovery in nature, reading, singing, dancing and art exploration. Lele, a keen observer of each child’s particular interests, was always open to the direction the children wanted to take their imaginations, jumping in right alongside them to fully embrace their curiosities. Clara routinely came home with stories about the trips that were taken, the houses that were built, the baby dolls who were cared for and the laughs shared over funny moments.”
“Perhaps the most valuable part of Clara’s experiences with Lele were the leaps and bounds she made in terms of social and emotional development. Lele modeled kindness and patience but also served as a gentle leader in dealing with the children’s conflicts and frustrations. Clara was able to practice the ever important skills of playing and working together, treating others with respect and expressing her likes and dislikes. Upon entering preschool this past September, Clara was more than ready to handle the mixture of personalities and emotional temperaments of her classmates.”
“It’s not surprising to me that Lele has chosen to focus her work on the plight of refugees. She sees the humanity in all and validates each individual’s importance. She is one of the rare people who looks you in the eye and truly listens. She shares in others’ happiness and pain and does all she can to celebrate or ease it. She has been a gift to my daughter and my family. My husband and I proudly support the Childhood Rescue Project and will do all we can to see this organization move forward.”
“I met Lele 4 months after giving birth to my daughter and immediately felt a connection with her understanding and passion for children’s development and the importance of play in their early (and late) lives. When my daughter was about 18 months, she started to attend Lele’s playgroup in Park Slope. It was a magical period for her and for me as well. Lele’s creativity, genuine love for children and knowledge of all things children is inspiring and contagious. Her respect for children’s own thinking guides her activities and builds their confidence and I can still see that positive influence in my daughter’s today. I absolute love her and her work… she is a unique person whose focus seems to be always on the positive potential of the darkest situations, and that is something to cherish and pass on!”
“Both my boys were a part of Let’s Playgroup with Lele Luiza for 2 years each. We feel unbelievably lucky they had that experience in their early lives. Lele has one of the most light-filled spirits of anyone I’ve ever met. She has a preternatural ability to understand children, to meet them where they are, to speak to them, to laugh and sing with them, to support and comfort them. There was not a day, over 4 years, that she did not show up for the kids with an abundance of joy and kindness and generosity of spirit. The world–now more than ever–needs more Leles.”
If you are interested in having your child participate in playgroup, or have any questions or comments, please contact us here.