Summer 2017 tips:Session 1
You are not alone! Does the time you spend with the children sometimes feel chaotic? You are not alone! Young children are learning how to be in groups, how to share, how to use materials in the room. They have different attention spans and interests. This can result in some children moving from one thing to another very quickly. And it’s common for a mini “emergency” to arise whenever you turn your back. If it feels as if things have gotten out of control, gather the children together as a group. Hold hands and invite children to take several deep breaths. Be sure you do the same! Then have children choose between two simple activities, such as coloring, looking at books, playing with play dough, or building with blocks. These preschool “basics” can help calm children and focus their attention. This can allow for conversation about the Bible story or about children’s lives. Not every session may go as planned, but know that your love for God and for the children shines through and has a lasting influence.
Peace notes. Rather than act out many different animals, choose one or two of your favorites and sing the song several times over so that children become used to the actions and words. Alternately, you may wish to try several actions for the same animal, such as: “Fly like a raven,” “Rest like a raven,” and “Caw like a raven.”
Explore (Move). Especially if your group of children is large, you may wish to reduce the amount of activity in the room. Pair children and give each pair one “loaf of bread” (rolled-up towel secured with rubber bands). One child can act the part of Elijah and another child can act the part of a raven and bring the “bread.” Then switch roles.
Spiritual practice. Instead of using the paper rolls as symbols to represent what the children are thankful for, act out what the children are thankful for. Each person says what he or she is thankful for, then everyone uses their bodies to demonstrate the object or activity. For example, “I am thankful for food.” (Mimic eating food.) Someone could say, “I am thankful for the sunshine.” (Mimic rays of light.) Someone could say, “I am thankful for soccer.” (Mimic kicking a ball.)
Peace notes. To practice sharing in a more tangible way, sing a song to the tune of “Here We Go ’Round the Mulberry Bush” while passing play dough: “I will share things with my friends, with my friends, with my friends. I will share my things with my friends; we’ll take turns.” Pass the play dough as in the game “Hot potato.”
Explore (Create). Rather than make a “project,” simply use the same materials in a more open-ended way. Craft sticks or small sticks could be stacked or placed in the play dough. Stones could be “buried” in the play dough. You could facilitate sharing of the supplies. Free play still allows for conversation about the Bible story or children’s lives, but without focusing on a specific outcome.
Build community. Variety keeps children interested, but familiar routines are also very important in helping children to feel confident and at ease in their surroundings. Instead of introducing a new activity to greet everyone each week, you may wish to repeat a favorite greeting or modify it slightly. For example, you could modify the session 2 greeting as follows:
God is with ________, and ________, and ________. (Repeat until everyone is named.)
I am with you. (Gesture to group.)
You are with me. (Point to self.)
We are God’s family! (Join hands and raise them in the air.)
Create. Rather than make the flaps, simply have children decorate the boxes on page 4 of the leaflet. Play calming music while children make their creations.
Explore (Move). If moving around the building is not realistic given your space, given or supervision issues, stay in your room. Do a movement song in your meeting space to the tune of “The Bear Went over the Mountain.” You may wish to sing this song several times so the children become used to the words and actions.
Elijah went to a mountain, (3x)
he slept safe in a cave. (3x)
A strong wind shook the mountain, (3x)
God was not in the wind. (3x)
An earthquake shook the mountain, (3x)
God was not in the quake. (3x)
Elijah saw a fi-re, (3x)
God was not in the fire. (3x)
Then everything was quiet, (3x)
And then God spoke to him. (3x)
Peace notes. Physical activity is so important for children. Sometimes, however, doing large motor movements like jumping and marching with younger children can result in chaos! Children may get out of hand and have a difficult time returning to a group setting or even focusing for the Explore options. If this is the case for your group, you may want to simply have them do motions that they can do while seated. They can still stomp their feet, pat their legs, reach overhead, and so on, but this can help contain their energy.
Explore (Create). Young children often paint only small sections of the page, so you may need to help them cover the entire paper to be able to see the people you drew.
Explore (Discover). Unless you have an adult who can provide direct supervision, it might be difficult to have a water station with younger children. An alternative is to mimic bathing dolls using damp cloths, sponges, and brushes. Wrap the dolls in small towels. If you do opt to use some water, use a large container with a small amount of water. Ensure that children wear smocks, and have towels on hand to clean up spills.
Explore (Move). To help with “crowd control,” especially if you have a large group, have one person use the ribbons to make a space on the floor for one other person while others sit and clap. You or another helper may assist the child who is “making room.” Continue until everyone has had a turn to make a room and a turn to have a room made for them. For a large group of children, you could also simply have everyone join hands and notice that there is room in the circle for everyone. Then sing the following song once or twice to the tune of “London Bridge”:
“There is room for everyone, everyone, everyone. There is room for everyone in the circle.”
Explore (Retell). “Free play” options are especially suited to younger children. Whenever possible, provide enough supplies so that children can work in very small groups. This will allow all children to be actively involved and will minimize waiting. It will also reduce the number of conflicts between children.
Book corner. Younger children may tire of the large group time or may be overwhelmed by interacting with lots of other children. Create a cozy book corner in your room with pillows, blankets, and picture books. There are several recommended books in Media connections to get you started. Add Bible storybooks and other books about God’s love. This can be a place where children rest, calm down, or enjoy time alone or with an adult.
Early Childhood leaflet. Younger children are likely to need extra help to complete pages 2–3 of the leaflet. If you have a large group, do the leaflet pages during Explore time. Help the older children settle into playing with the supplies in the Discover activity. Then pull one or two younger children into a small group and help them complete the leaflet.
Explore (Move). Instead of using the “May I . . .” format, modify the game to be more like “Simon says.” Hold up the scepter, and say, “The queen says . . .” or “The king says . . .” and then give simple actions, such as touch your toes, turn around, or jump three times. Have fun, but avoid trying to “trick” the children as is common in “Simon says.” Simply try out different types of actions and enjoy moving together.
Explore (Discover). Prepare the snack ahead of time and focus on having the children prepare the table and serve the snack to one another. One person can put out napkins, another plates, and so on. The simple act of passing food to one another is a way to show kindness.
Explore (Create). Limit the number of art supplies you provide. Keep it simple! Too many options can be overwhelming for younger children and can just result in a large mess. Also be aware that it is common for younger children to put one or two items on a project and then be ready to move on. If possible, have another simple activity available that children can do independently. Building blocks or play dough are good options. This allows children who are done quickly to become engaged right away rather than having to sit and wait for others. You may find that they want to come back and add something else to their prayer window after a few minutes of playing.
Conversation. There are two guided conversations today—one in Build community and one in Peace notes. Choose the one that you think will be most interesting for the younger children in your group and skip the other one. Structured conversations can be difficult for preschoolers for a variety of reasons. Over time, children develop the skills to listen and speak in a group setting, but this is a long process with challenges along the way. Keep the conversations short and simple, being sure to allow children to pass if they do not wish to speak.
Explore (Discover). Invite another adult to join you for the window prayer walk. Younger children tend to wander off and will benefit from the proximity of an adult. This also allows you to divide the group in half. Doing so will make it possible to invite children’s own prayers.
Worship together. It may be too challenging for young children to hold an interesting musical instrument still. You may wish to collect the instruments after the Worship together song and use this prayer instead: “Dear God, we praise you when we move. (Wave arms over your head.) We praise you when we are still and quiet. (Freeze in position for a moment.) Amen.” Repeat this prayer several times.
Spiritual practice. Simplify the song and use fewer actions if a lot of movement is difficult for your group to manage. Say the following words or sing them to the tune of the “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” chorus. Use two simple actions, as indicated:
Yes, God is with me. (Hug self.)
Yes, God is with me.
Yes, God is with me.
I know that God is here.
Yes, God is with us. (Hold hands as a group.)
Yes, God is with us.
Yes, God is with us.
We know that God is here.
Peace notes. Depending on the size of your room and group, it may not work well to have children pull each other to a standing position. If so, place one of the People of God figures on its side in front of each child in turn, and give the child a chance to place it upright again.
Build community. For a simpler opening activity, greet children with a song to the tune of “London Bridge.” Sing once for each person in your group.
Jesus loves you, yes he does, yes he does, yes he does.
Jesus loves you, yes he does. He loves ____________ (child’s name).
Peace notes. Use these conversation ideas during Explore time, rather than have a large-group conversation immediately after the Bible story. This will allow younger children to get busy with activities and then talk when they are interested.
Early Childhood leaflet, page 2. You will need to guide younger children in finding the specified house. For instance, call the child’s attention to one feature of the house. “What color is the roof on Matthew’s house? Yes, it’s brown.” (Point to another house.) “Does this house have a brown roof? No. Let’s cross it off.” (Draw an X over that house. Point to all the other houses that do not have brown roofs. Cross them all off. Then point to a house that has a brown roof.) “Does this house have a brown roof? Yes. Maybe this is Matthew’s house. Let’s keep checking. The front of Matthew’s house is orange. Is the front of this house orange too?” Continue in this fashion until you have led the child to find the house.
Build community. If reciting fewer words would work better with your group of children, pass a handbell around the circle. The child holding the bell rings it, and everyone says:
“Ring, ring, ring the bell! _________ is here! Ring, ring, ring the bell! _________ is here!”
Share the story. Active involvement in the story is often helpful for preschoolers. However, for some groups and for younger children, it can be distracting and result in classroom management issues. Rather than put paper chains on each child, just do so on your own wrists. “Walk” your fingers on the floor instead of walking around the room. This allows for some movement, but it will be more contained.
Explore (Retell). Younger children won’t act out the story in the way that adults do. They are unlikely to tell the story beginning to end. Instead, they will focus on parts of the story that are most interesting and meaningful for them. It is fine to talk through the plot of the story, since it is often difficult for children to understand the sequence of events from hearing it just one time. It is also important to allow children to explore parts of the story that caught their imagination.
Planning. The Bible story is the heart of the session, so be sure to let the story take priority. The other elements can be added or omitted as needed to suit the needs of the children on a given day. Don’t expect to accomplish everything in the session plan with younger children. As you prepare, have a general plan, but identify an activity or two that you will skip if necessary. It is wise to also have a “sure to please” activity ready, such as play dough or blocks. That way, if things become too chaotic, you can tone it down and help children settle. You can have plenty of meaningful conversation with children as they play.
Share the story. Use an Early Childhood leaflet to tell a shorter version of the story. Read the story to the children once, and then a second time, having the children say the words that go with the rebus pictures.
Explore (Create). If decorating a small sun would be too challenging for the children in your group, prepare the sun cups in advance and just have children enjoy moving the sun up and down.
Peace notes. Limit the number of colors and shapes, since younger children may not yet know all the colors and shapes. Have only blue circles and yellow squares. Hold up the item when you name it, so younger children can just match their shape to yours.
Explore (Create). Sometimes younger children are hesitant to try new things, or do not like the texture of paints or ink on their hands. Offer the child the option to press a finger in the ink, but if the child resists, then use your own finger to make a bunch of prints on a paper. The child can then add lines to make arms and legs.
Explore (Move). Rather than have children pair up, sing this song to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus” and create your own actions.
The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round. I go with God.
The wings of the plane fly way up high, way up high, way up high . . .
The sandals on my feet go flop-flip-flop, flop-flip-flop, flop-flip-flop . . .
The whistle of the train goes toot-toot-toot, toot-toot-toot, toot-toot-toot . . .
The water round the boat goes splash-splash-splosh, splash-splash-splosh, splash-splash-splosh . . .
The engine of the car goes vroom-vroom-vroom, vroom-vroom-vroom, vroom-vroom-vroom . . .
Build community. Use a raised index finger (as for singing “This Little Light of Mine”) instead of candles if the excitement of the battery-operated candles may be too distracting for your group. To simplify the opening rhyme, have everyone hold up an index finger, and sing the following words to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”:
God’s light shines on you,
shines on you today!
Shines on _________ (name a child) and shines on _________ (name a child);
shines on us today.
Retell. If you would prefer to use more structure for the Retell activity, rather than the open-ended exploration activities, say the following words and do the actions. You may also use the objects mentioned in Retell with these words (e.g., flip the cardboard or lift a bowl off the candle)
We are not in the dark (cover eyes);
we’re in the light (uncover eyes).
We don’t want to do what’s wrong (cover eyes)
but what is right (uncover eyes)!
In the world, things can be sad (droop arms),
but God helps to make us glad (raise arms).
We are not in the dark (cover eyes);
we’re in the light (uncover eyes).
Discover. If the hole punch is too tricky for little fingers, prepare some black papers with holes in them before your session begins. You could also precut some larger shapes from dark paper, such as hearts. Then children can play on the light table with the frames and the solid shapes you have cut out.