Spirit Play was developed through grants from the Unitarian Sunday School Society and the fund for Unitarian Universalism. The co-developers are Dr. Nita Penfold, Rev. Ralph Roberts and Beverly Leute Bruce.

It is derived from the Montessori Method. There is a Catholic version called “The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd,” which was developed by Montessorians based upon Maria Montessori’s Catholic beliefs. Then a Montessorian named Jerome Berryman created a similar program to be used in Protestant churches. And, as noted above, other Montessorians who were Unitarian Universalists, developed “Spirit Play.” This curriculum is being widely used in UU churches throughout the U.S. and Canada.


The morning begins with ritualistic lighting of the chalice, maybe “sharing time,” and the Gandhi Peace Poem. Then a story is told by the teacher, using three dimensional materials. The stories usually have something to do with our UU Principles (which are called Promises in Spirit Play language) or the Sources (Roots) of our UU faith. At the end of each story, the teacher says, “ I wonder…” and the children respond. There are also liturgical stories (religious holidays stories). Then the children move to doing whatever work they choose: maybe telling the story of the day or another story on the shelf; maybe using a variety of art materials; maybe decorating the chalice table. The morning concludes with “feast,” which means that all the children sit in a circle for a snack in community.

The co-developers see the purpose of RE as helping children to find the religious language and story to live into their own answers to existential questions such as:

Who am I?
Where did I come from?
What is my purpose?
What are my gifts?
How do I choose to live my life?
Why am I lonely and sad sometimes?

They want children to find meaning within the container of Unitarian Universalism.


Children learn the Promises according to the color spectrum:

  • Red Respect for all people
  • Orange Offer fair and kind treatment to all
  • Yellow Yearn to accept and learn about ourselves, others, and the Mystery
  • Green Grow by exploring what is true and right in life
  • Blue Believe in our ideas and act upon them
  • Indigo Insist on a peaceful, fair, and free world for all
  • Violet Value our home, Earth, which we share with all living things


The children add to the UU Promises by exploring the sources of those Promises.

  1. Our beliefs come from our sense of wonder. We learn by asking why.
  2. Our beliefs come from the women and men of long ago and today whose lives remind us to be kind and fair. We learn by hearing their stories.
  3. Our beliefs about how to live together come from all the world’s religions. We learn from many cultures.
  4. Our beliefs come from Jewish and Christian teachings that tell us to love others as we love ourselves. We learn from our past history.
  5. Our beliefs come from the use of reason and the discoveries of science. We learn by knowing we are a part of nature and the cycles of life.
  6. Our beliefs come from the harmony of nature and the sacred circle of life. We learn by knowing we are a part of nature and the cycles of life.

The oldest children focus on community and practice the “promises” within the classroom, church, school and society.