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I’ve written previously about the challenges and joys of offering an activity for children in a sanctuary that cannot accommodate a permanent prayground. For me, these activities must meet these criteria:
- Allow for Open Ended Creativity: Made in the image of our Creator, children enjoy the process of creating.
- Appropriate for the Space: Since we sit on the floor in the sanctuary, activities must not be too large, messy or noisy.
- 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.
- Engages 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.
This year’s readings during Lent center on God’s covenants with us. The marvelous Carolyn Brown has helpful ideas for discussing these readings with children.
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.
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 in church. 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.
February 18: Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 1:9-15
Reflection Question: Today we will hear two different readings about water. How does water remind you of God?
Project: Water painting
We will paint with water. As you do, wonder about God and water. I wonder what other stories about water are in the Bible?
Supplies: Brushes, cups of water (don’t fill to high!), Magic Water Paper (used in calligraphy practice, it costs a couple dollars per sheet but can be reused). Alternatively, you could use water color paints and paper. Tip: Cutting paper into half-letter size sheets encourages children to fill the paper.
Alternate Project: (Because water doesn’t work in some spaces) Cut strips of different shades of blue paper and make a 3-D paper sculpture of water. Directions can be found in the 2017 Fall Prayground post.
February 25 : Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Mark 8:31-38
Reflection Question: In today’s reading, God makes a promise to Abraham and Sarah’s children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, & great, great, great, great grandchildren. Who is a part of your family? Your church family?
Project: paper dolls
Today we will make a looooong string of connected paper people. You may color them and write the names of people in your family on them.
Supplies: Paper, scissors, crayons. You may want to pre-fold the paper and make a paper doll template for older children. For younger children you might pre-cut the paper doll chains.
March 4: Exodus 20:1-17, John 2:13-22
This one is tricky. If you think of a better idea, please share!
Reflection Question: The “Ten best ways to live” are about loving God and loving neighbor. I wonder if you think one of them is most important?
Project: Making a treasure box.
We know that the Ten Best Ways to Live were kept in a special container called the ark. Today you can create drawings of the Ten Best Ways to live and place them in a special box.
Supplies: Small boxes, shiny or heart shaped paper, crayons or markers.
March 11: Numbers 21:4-9, John 3:14-21
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: Luminaria (could be used during an upcoming evening service – maybe even the beginning of Good Friday?)
Jesus said, “I am the light.” I wonder what other words we can use to describe Jesus? Today we will decorate these bags with words or pictures that remind us of who Jesus was and what Jesus was like. When we place a candle in the bags, it will illuminate our words and drawings!
Supplies: Paper bags, black markers.
March 18: Jeremiah 31:31-34, John 12:20-33
Reflection Questions: I wonder what it means to have God’s instructions written on our hearts?
Project: Magic Scratch Heart Shapes
Today we will create designs on these hearts and remember God’s promises.
Supplies: Magic scratch hearts and plastic stylus tools.
Alternate heart projects can be found here.
Palm Sunday is an interactive service with lots of movement for the children. For this reason, I would provide activities that can be done while sitting in pews with parents.