Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Making Scarecrows

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Toddler Watercolor-ers!

One of my very favorite toddler art mediums is a set of old watercolors. 
Now Q and I are fussy about keeping our watercolors nice and the colors not blended together.  So we don't let Beck near that set.  However we have an old set that is close to being gone.  That's his.  We don't care if he mixes colors or scoops the whole thing out with his finger or the's his to explore and work with.

While playing with watercolors he is also discovering color theory, learning about the properties of solids and liquids, developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and just plain exploring some real art. 

This activity can just as easily be done outside, as well. 

Instead of a paintrbrush you can also give a toddler an eyedropper...lots of fun had with that, too!  Matter of fact, we might just do that tomorrow for painting day!
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Monday, October 14, 2013

Preparing their hearts for worship--toddler communion meditation

I wanted to share something that is working well for my barely-two year-old toddler in regards to helping guide him in a Jesus-centered time of meditation during communion.

To begin with, we really love this story Bible:

Particularly the passion story.  Often as communion begins help B thumb through the images of the last supper, the crucifixion and the empty tomb.  This is his favorite page in the whole Bible--he points and says, "My Jeeez."  This past week he was saying, "See God, Mama, See God."  He was telling me he wanted to see God, then turned to his page.  You can see the page is already well-worn by my little people's fingers!

Next we get out this manipulative.  I just used a sheet of craft felt and some sharpees.  

First we read him what it says on the body and he places a little pipecleaner man on the outline for the body.  

Then we read what the bread outline says and he places the bread accordingly.

The bread is some wooden bread that velcros together that came in a food set we have.  You could use any toy bread or even a piece of felt cut into the shape of felt.  And I realize that we use unleavened bread for communion and this is obviously not, but I don't think that small of a detail is necessary at this point for him.  He often likes to play with the bread a little bit--taking it apart and putting it back together.  

Then we read the blood and he places the red felt "blood" in its spot.

And the cup--which is a wooden egg cup I bought in the unfinished craft wood section at Hobby Lobby, though any small cup would work fine.  Even an empty plastic communion cup.

He likes to put the red felt inside the cup and pretend to drink.  

At this age the goal is not for him to understand each element necessarily.  Familiarity with the vocabulary and the memorization (which is learned gently through repetition week after week) of each element and what it stands for is the goal.  As he gets older and is able to think more abstract we will explain the meanings and he'll be able to understand them more easily, already being familiar with the wording and a concrete object.  

We also have a simple rustic cross, a big nail and a Jesus puppet in his communion materials for him to interact with.  

And all are kept in this plastic pencil box.

It's important to note that it took several weeks of repeated exposure to the materials before he seemed to "get the flow" of the activity and was interested in it.  The first few weeks he lost interest before we got through all the objects.  That's fine, we would just keep presenting each week and he gradually took more interest and ownership in manipulating the objects.  Now as soon as communion starts he knows the box will come out and he can quickly place all the objects in their correct spots.  We'll begin being more diligent in reciting the wording to him as he places each object now that he's ready for it.
And of course, if you make a set for your kiddos, feel free to change the wording however you want!
Older kids can actually look up the cited passages in their Bible to read.

Quinn, our 5 year old, also enjoys this activity after she finishes her own communion meditation (which I will share soon).  She is very interested in having me read what each object stands for.

This is a simple activity that took about 10 minutes to make but that I really feel helps focus my children's hearts and makes communion time an intentional time to teach about Jesus' sacrifice.  
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Preparing their hearts for Worship--checking in.

In a previous post I talked about the way we use the worship plans (prepared and provided ahead of time (via email) by our worship minister) to start preparing our 5 and 2 year-olds' hearts for worship earlier in the week.  Usually on Thursday I get the email from Patrick with Sunday's schedule. At this point I scan through it and look for a song or two that I feel will connect with my kids, or maybe some they already know.  I started out just picking one song a week, but after several months they are ready for two.

So this particular week I picked "Shout Hallelujah" because Beck loves saying the word "Hallelujah" and because it's an upbeat, fun song.  I also picked "There's a Stirring," because it's an amazing song and also because I have an mp3 of it on my computer already.  I often will create a cd for our car driving time with any songs I might already have (or if Patricks sends one out).  That is really helpful for the kids--to hear it lots of times.  And they even love continuing to hear it after the Sunday we've sang it. All of their very favorite songs were introduced in this way--I put them on a cd to get the kids ready to sing them the following Sunday and they still love to sing and listen to them. 

Anyhow, we sang the two songs many, many times during our cartime this week.  Sometimes even in the house.  Q and I talked about what the "Stirring" song means.  I am studying Revelation right now and I love sharing little bits of that book with her--she just eats it up because she is in a developmental stage where the imagery of dragons and horses and a green rainbow surrounding the throne are so very appealing to her.  So when we talked about putting our crowns at Jesus' "wounded feet" (her favorite part) she knows what that means.  And wow, this song is DEFINITELY not the same to me after my Revelation much deeper and I understand the implications more fully. 

When Sunday came, my kids knew "Shout Hallelujah" would be the first song.  That helped motivate all of us to get to church on time (a struggle for me, mostly) and they were anxiously awaiting the first song!  Both of them sang along joyously.  They didn't know several of the other songs, but I feel like they listen more intently to even the unfamiliar songs when we've spent some time becoming familiar with a couple, if that makes any sense.  When "There's a Stirring" began, both sang along excitedly.  It is the most precious thing to hear your five year old proudly belting out a praise song, let me tell ya!

I really feel that the few minutes spent practicing a couple songs (and maybe talking briefly about their meaning) has changed the way my children worship.  They are much more focused on the actual worship elements than people-watching or needing crayons or something to keep them occupied.  Typically the first 20 minutes of our worship time is spent in song, prayer and communion, and my kids are fairly focused and participatory during this time, which is a change for them from before we began using the prep time. 

I have some more posts to share in the future about our Communion focus time with the kids.....I just need to find my pictures to post!

Encouraging you to spend a little time this week preparing the little hearts in your house to be participatory worshippers--and it will have an impact on your worship, too, I bet!  Did for me!