Ideas for open ended story responses

Sometimes the most significant spiritual moments with children come when they have been given the freedom to explore the things they have heard in their own time and in their own way.  We often lose sight of the fact that children have incredible spiritual depth without (or maybe even in spite of!) adult intervention and we programme our time with them so that it is full of meaningful activity. Just think how stressful it can be to plan a whole Sunday session on very short notice!

We’ve experimented a lot at our church over the years and have found that giving children freedom to create their own responses to what they have been shown or told has two-fold benefits. Children are not contained by our expectations of what we want them to learn and, therefore, come up with fascinating insights or questions that we could never have predicted; and it is also less onerous for leaders in terms of preparation.

There are several options we offer children for the response time and, as they create or explore, we spend the time chatting to them about the story and what they think. Children will often take this time as an opportunity to retell the story in their own way, or to pick out something that was particularly significant to them.  We don’t do this every single week, but children are familiar now with using open ended responses and the results are fascinating and often quite humbling for leaders!

Here are the top ten activities we like to offer on a rotating basis (maybe 3 or 4 options each time).

  1. Playdough

IMG_36322. Fuzzy felt

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IMG_05173. Lego

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4. Building blocks

IMG_00955. ‘Loose parts’ box

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6. Junk modelling box (using e.g. recyclables)

IMG_02207. Pens and paper

8. Paint

9. Chalk boards and chalk (or chalk boards with paintbrushes and water)

10. Play people e.g. playmobil, lego, wooden

I’d love to hear from you if you give this a go or are already doing something similar!

 

 

The Parable of the Mustard Seed Branch Craft

There are so many avenues you could explore when thinking about this short parable! There is so much here about the value of small beginnings with the gospel, not underestimating the power and potential of the kingdom of God and thinking about how we plant seeds in other people’s lives to help them see God’s love.  This craft, though, is a great way of helping children to think about what their ‘home’ in the kingdom of heaven might be like.

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”  Matthew 13: 31-32

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You will need: long twigs that have fallen from a tree (there are normally loads on the ground wherever you find trees!) buttons, beads, feathers, glue, glitter, pipe cleaners, wool, paint.

Talk about the home that the birds find in the branches of the mustard tree, just like the Kingdom of heaven is a home where we are all welcome.  What would your branch look like if you found a place to perch in this Kingdom tree?  Let children decorate their branch and use the time to chat to them about what the kingdom of heaven might be like.

 

The Parable of the Pearl Lesson

When you have a range of ages in a children’s group, it’s great to provide a range of activities that are more open-ended that children can choose from.  This means that children are more likely to find something they can get on and do independently and to their own level!  Here is a session we used this month with a group of children ranging in age from 2-12.

First we organised a hunt for coloured paper squares which we had hidden around the room.  Children worked in small teams to find specific colours.IMG_0443

Next, we told the parable of the pearl. I used my Godly play set, but a version from a children’s Bible or a video of the story would work just as well.

Children could then choose from a range of related activities that helped them to explore the story themes of ‘treasure’, searching for something precious and what the kingdom of God would be like…

  • Making pearl ‘treasure’ biscuits. Click here for the link to show you how.
  • Drawing a picture of the story
  • Using play dough to make a scene from the story or to make a ‘treasure’
  • Using a range of collage materials to make ‘treasure’

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  • searching in moon sand for ‘treasure’ (glittery foam shapes, buttons, pom poms)

As the children created, we used the time to talk to them about heaven, treasure, what it must be like to give up everything for something incredibly precious and what they would have done if they had been in the story. We had some fascinating conversations!

Moses in the Bulrushes: Floating craft construction

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One of the most popular activities (especially for boys and grown ups) at our last Messy Church was the challenge to build a craft that would float on water and hold a stone (baby Moses). You can guess what our story was!

This was a great craft as there was no expected outcome, other than something that floated, so everyone was free to use their imagination to its full capacity. We had numerous attempts from some people and some very ingenious ideas!  We laid out a selection of materials including straws, balloons, card, paper, plastic spoons, lolly sticks, sellotape, foil and just let people get on with it. Here are a few of our examples of construction …

And the winner!

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This was a great way in to talking about the care that Moses’ mum would have taken when she put him out on the water and helped us to think about the people who care for us and to thank God for them.

Easter Story Stone Painting

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Stones are an important part of the Easter story because it is a massive stone that is placed in front of Jesus’ tomb and the same stone that is rolled away at the resurrection. Stones are also amazing tactile. They are something firm to hold on to and also something hard to help children to reflect on the hard times we all face in our lives. They are also a great surface to draw on and this craft was really popular at our Messy Good Friday service yesterday.

You will need:  Stones (enough for one each), paint pens, sharpies, felt tips (test the pens on your stones before starting as different types of pen work better depending on the kind of surface your stone has!)

Ask children to reflect on what they know of the story and of who Jesus is and to decorate their rock accordingly. They might want to use words or pictures or a mixture of both. Use the time they spend creating as an opportunity to speak to them about the story and what it means to them.

Prodigal Son Crafts

If you are doing a Sunday session about the Prodigal son, or if you are putting together a Prodigal Son Messy Church, here are some craft ideas for you!

IMG_0158Party hats: Paper. staples, glue, glitter, ribbon, stickers, sequins

IMG_0156Building the Father’s House (or the pig sty!) out of boxes and tape

IMG_0145Clay hearts to help think about the Father’s love

IMG_0144Cornflour and water ‘pigswill’

IMG_0142Pig biscuits: Biscuits, icing, marshmallows, chocolate chips

IMG_0147Jewellery for the returning son to wear, made of strawberry laces and cheerios (this was very popular!)

Have fun!