Praygrounds, or dedicated areas in the worship space for children, are a wonderful new development many churches have added. But, what if you don’t have a dedicated space? We share our small sanctuary with another congregation, so a permanent area with furniture or baby equipment wasn’t an option for us. Instead, we use the empty floor area up front as a space where children can come for a worshipful activity during the sermon.
When planning, I have five guidelines I use to select activities that are both practical and reflect our beliefs about the faith development of children. Activities must:
- Allow for Open Ended Creativity: Made in the image of our Creator, children enjoy the process of creating.
- Be appropriate for the Space: Since we sit on the floor in the sanctuary, activities must not be too large, messy or noisy.
- Be appealing to a Wide Variety of Ages: Pre-schoolers through high school join us. They often remark that doing something with their hands helps them to listen to the sermon.
- Engage the Scripture: We choose activities that remind children of the weekly lectionary reading.
- Use Inexpensive/recycled/available materials: We strive to be good stewards of Creation and church resources.
Beginning the prayground time:
During children’s time, we introduce the Scripture and then briefly explain the activity. Children are then invited to sit on the floor. Older youth and I sit with the children to assist as needed. We use plastic fast food trays ordered online to create a portable, hard surface for writing and to protect the floor.
September 3: Exodus 3:1-15
Reflection Question: Moses encountered God in the mysterious burning bush, but everyone’s experience of God is unique to them. What does God look like to you? What do you see and feel when you encounter God?
Project: 3-D Collage
Today we will create a 3-D paper collage using glue and strips of paper as we think about encountering God. By bending and twisting the paper, only gluing down the ends of the strips, you can create a paper sculpture that isn’t flat. (This is one project I might have a simple example of because it is difficult to visualize).
Supplies: Construction paper sheets for base, pre-cut strips of paper in many colors, glue sticks or glue dots.
September 10: Exodus 12:1-14
Reflection Question: In today’s reading, God keeps his promise to the people who marked their doors. What words think of to describe someone who always keeps their promises?
Project: Contact Paper Suncatcher
Today we will make a heart sun catcher for our windows using tissue and contact paper. This will be a visible reminder of God’s covenant and love to hang on our doors or windows.
Supplies: Multi-colored tissue squares, clear contact paper (sticky shelf liner) cut into hearts. You will need one for the front and one to place on the back, sticky sides facing, when finished.
September 17: Exodus 14:19-31
Reflection Question: God makes a way for the people to cross the sea in today’s reading. When have you encountered a huge obstacle? How has God helped you?
Project: Silent Storytelling
Today we have fabric water, felt, and wooden people for you to use to silently tell the Bible story or your own story. After church is over, I would like to hear you tell me your stories out loud.
Supplies: Felt pieces the color of sand and water, wooden people (clothespins or peg dolls)
September 24: Exodus 12:2-15
Reflection: Today God feeds people with a different kind of bread that strangely appears on the ground. What a surprising gift! What gifts and things are you thankful for?
Project: Drawing on Sandpaper
The people of God were travelling in the wilderness, which was dry and sandy. Draw the things you are thankful for on these pieces of sandpaper.
Supplies: Crayons, pieces of sandpaper cut into 4×6 inch pieces
October 1: Exodus 17:1-7
Reflection Questions: Again today, the people receive a gift from God they need to survive in the wilderness! What are you thankful for?
Project: Drawing on Rocks
Today we will take ordinary rocks and create extraordinary designs on them as we think about all that we have to be thankful for.
Supplies: Rocks and chalk pens. Permanent markers could also be used.
Transitioning back to worship:
We use a hymn as the cue to clean up our projects and return to sitting with parents. The 10- 15 minute prayground projects engage children with worship during the most challenging time for families, the sermon. For the remainder of the service, we find it works well for families to take the opportunity to sit together. There are a variety of ways and times to engage children in worship. I hope that these activities provide some inspiration for you as you plan what works in your setting.