A long-time friend of LifeWay Kids, Kelli McAnally, stops by the podcast to help us discover ways to help parents stay connected to your ministry through family fun fellowships, including ideas like: Daddy/Daughter Date Nights, snack and chat trivia, Build-A-Nativity, and church scavenger hunts!
Easter family traditions can provide kids some of their favorite memories and can even be major milestones in their spiritual development. Share these ideas with families in your kids ministry. The activities can be done in the days leading up to Easter, as well as Easter Sunday itself.
1. Rally Around an Opportunity for Ministry.
Preparing Easter baskets for needy children is a joy that can be shared by any family. Secure a name/names from a local homeless shelter/mission. Plan for and gather the ingredients needed for a fun-filled Easter basket: basket, grass, cellophane, ribbon, candy treats, a card or book with the “real” Easter story. Encourage your kids to make homemade Easter cards to include in the basket. Let the kids in your family help you deliver this treasured creation. Engage your kids in a conversation about the real meaning of Easter on the way to deliver this gift on the Saturday before Easter.
2. Plan for Family Worship.
Regardless of your church’s plan for a time of kids worship, would you be willing to include all of your family in a time of worship for Easter? Consider inviting your nearest friends and relatives to be a part of your church’s Easter worship. Be sure to include your family’s older preschoolers and school-age kids. Parents make significant impressions on their kids when seen worshipping through prayer, singing, and Bible reading. If you are a grandparent, consider including as many of your grandchildren as possible for this time of Easter day worship. Make sure you communicate with older preschoolers ahead of time about what to expect in “Big Church.” If you’re having a meal at home after worship, encourage your family to talk about their experience during worship.
3. Schedule a Time for Family Fun.
Even adult children enjoy being a part of traditional family fun. Include family members of all ages in a time of family fun. My kids, even through adulthood, have enjoyed games of egg toss (with real eggs!), Easter egg hunts, and the sharing of “He is Risen!”/”He is Risen, Indeed!” cards. Kids of all ages enjoy “homemade” cards from their parents, grandparents or whoever has played a major role in their upbringing. You might even consider writing an “Easter Letter” to each of your kids inviting them to this time of fun. Also include in the letter what your prayer is for your child related to his/her response to the Easter story.
Additional note: Grandparents can be key players each year in making sure that their grandkids are exposed once again to the true meaning of Easter!
Recently, Klista wrote a post giving you some great quick and easy ideas to use in the classroom during the Christmas season. Today I’m going to give you four more activities you can use with elementary kids in these weeks leading up to Christmas. Plug these activities in when you have a little extra time. These might make great options during Sunday School or Sunday morning programming, but some may also be great options to use on stage during a large-group environment, or even during a mid-week program. Simply adapt these to your environment and tweak as needed. It’s important to always connect activities back to the truths of Scripture, so make sure kids are hearing the great message of the Christmas story.
Guess the Gift
Gather 5-7 small gift boxes (per group) with gift wrapped items inside: shirts, shoes, shorts, ink pens, jewelry, money (1 item per gift box). Invite kids to sit near the wrapped presents. SAY: “Each present has something different inside. We’re going to play a game to find out what is inside each gift. But it’s going to be tricky because you cannot open the gift or tear it in any way to find out what’s inside. Do whatever will help you guess, but don’t open it.” Give each child a turn to select a gift from the pile, shake it, and try to guess what is inside. Give clues as needed and allow the children to guess until they get it right. Play until each gift has been correctly identified. Connect it to your Christmas lesson by discussing what an incredible gift God gave us when He sent Jesus to earth. Talk about what Jesus came, and why Jesus is the best gift ever.
Gift Wrap Me!
Gather wrapping paper, gift bows, scotch tape, and child scissors. Choose a volunteer to be gift-wrapped by his or her friends. Guide the remaining children to form a circle around the volunteer. Allow the group to wrap the child using wrapping paper, ribbons, tape, and bows. Caution children against wrapping the face and avoid putting tape or sticky bows in the child’s hair. Apply the activity by saying: “It’s fun to give and receive gifts. God gives us special gifts, too. He gave us parents who love us and take care of us. He gives us the things we need. But He also has a gift waiting for us that is not the kind of gift you can see, touch, or even unwrap! That gift is Jesus.” Discuss why Jesus is such a great gift.
Gather several strands of tinsel. Form a group around each strand of Christmas tinsel. Lead the kids to begin the activity by placing the strand of tinsel in a straight line on the ground. Explain that you will call out an item. The group must work together to form the tinsel into the shape of the item called out. As soon as the group makes the shape, the whole team will stand up. Call out items such as a Christmas tree, a candy cane, a present, an ornament, a bell, a poinsettia, a wreath, and so on. Invite the kids to work together to make the last shape, a star. Discuss the importance of the star in the Christmas story.
Gift Wrap Relay (Great for Preteens)
Gather gift wrap supplies (boxes, paper, tape, scissors, and a bow). Form relay teams with five or six children on each team. Teams may race each other, or different relay stations may be set up around the room. Explain the relay by saying: “Runners will take a journey from the starting line to their team’s ‘gift wrap center.’ A timekeeper will give each runner 10 seconds to wrap as much of the box as possible. At the end of 10 seconds, the runner must race back to the starting line and tag the next runner. The relay continues in this manner until each team’s box is completely wrapped with a bow.” Begin the game and encourage the kids to cheer on their teammates. Discuss how much time this game took, and what made it difficult. Talk about the difficult journey Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem. Discuss why the journey was so important, and how God used them as part of His great plan.
Summertime is a time to think about and celebrate our country. Maybe you are planning a special event for July 4. Maybe you are looking to supplement your regular ministries. Here are a few activities that can celebrate the red, white, and blue!
Paint a Fireworks Display
What you need: washable glitter paint (gold, silver, yellow); black paper; shallow box; marbles; plastic bowls and spoons
What you do: Cut the paper to fit in the shallow box. Pour paint into bowls. Place a marble in each bowl of paint and lay a spoon beside each bowl.
What kids do: Guide a child to lay a piece of paper in the shallow box and scoop a marble from one color of paint and drop onto his paper. He can move the box gently so the marble rolls around on the paper, making streaks of paint. Remove the marble from the box and return to the paint. The child can repeat the process with the same or different colored marble. Talk about times when he has seen fireworks. Comment that we often celebrate July 4 and other important dates in our country with fireworks.
Make a Stars-and-Stripes Collage
What you need: white paper, red masking tape, star stickers, waxed paper or laminated piece of paper, child’s scissors
What you do: Tear lengths of the masking tape and place on waxed paper or a laminated piece of paper.
What kids do: Encourage children to use the masking tape strips and stars to create a collage. They may want to make a flag or create patterns and designs. Guide children to use the scissors to cut additional lengths of masking tape. Comment that the flag is a symbol of our country, the United States. Talk about the stars and stripes on the flag.
Option: Use red paper strips and small paper stars with glue sticks to create collages.
Paint with Koosh® Balls
What you need: large pieces of white or light blue paper, box with tall sides, bright colors of tempera paint, Koosh balls, shallow pans, paint smocks
What you do: Use a box with tall sides or plan to do this activity outside. Pour paint into the shallow pans. Place a ball in each pan. Place a piece of paper in the bottom of the box.
What kids do: Guide a child to drop (not throw) the Koosh ball onto the paper. The result will resemble fireworks. Help the child retrieve the ball and place it back in the appropriate pan. Allow the child to repeat, as desired, with the same or different colors. Talk about times the children see fireworks.
Build Parade Floats
What you need: shoe box lids, index cards, markers, scissors, glue sticks, masking tape (red and blue, if available), ribbon (red, white, blue), chenille stems, peg-type clothespins, fabric scraps (especially red, white, and blue), stickers, cars, wooden people figures, CD player, CD of patriotic music
What kids do: Talk about parades and times we have parades that celebrate our country. Guide them to create a parade with the materials. They may want to use the shoe box lids as bases for floats. They can create additional people with the clothespins. Encourage creativity. Play patriotic music as children line up their parade and weave it through the center.
Have a Parade
What you need: riding toys (wagons, bicycles, tricycles, cars, etc.); red, white, and blue crepe paper; tape; small flags; white paper; star stickers; rhythm instruments
What kids do: Guide kids to stick star stickers on white paper. They can use tape to decorate the riding toys with crepe paper streamers, starry paper, and flags. Guide kids to line up and drive the vehicles in a parade. Others can use the instruments to form a “band” to march in the parade, too.
Hunt for Flags
What you need: digital camera
What kids do: Walk through your neighborhood or drive through your city and find flags. Take pictures of the flags you find. Talk about the places you find flags.
Option: Gather small flags and place them around your neighborhood or inside around the building. Kids can search for the flags and take pictures with the flags they find.
Extend: Print and mount the flags on heavyweight paper. Punch holes in the pages and insert the pages in a binder to create a book.
Pose for Patriotic Pictures
What you need: patriotic bunting, pennants, and windsocks; masking tape; red, white, and blue streamers; variety of red, white, and blue clothing; clothing with stars and stripes; “Uncle Sam” hats; patriotic visors; small flags; digital camera
What you do: Hang the bunting, pennants, and windsocks against a wall (low enough for kids to reach).
What kids do: Kids can use the masking tape and streamers to add to the patriotic backdrop. Encourage children to dress in the red, white, and blue clothing and pose for pictures in front of the patriotic decor. Take individual or group pictures, as you choose.
Extend: Use the pictures to create a poster, bulletin board display, or book.
Make Red, White, and Blue Snacks
What you need: vanilla yogurt, blueberries, strawberries, small cups, plastic spoons, plastic knives
What kids do: Cut the strawberries into pieces. Spoon some yogurt into a small cup. Add blueberries and strawberry pieces. Stir and eat.
Write Letters to the President
What you need: paper, pencils or markers, star stamps, stamp pads, large envelope
What you do: Print the president’s address on the large envelope: The White House,
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20500
What kids do: Talk about the President. Tell the children that he is the leader of our country. Children can use the star stamp and paper to make stationery. Guide them to write letters to the President. Or print their words as they dictate them to you. Place the letters in the large envelope. (Include a cover letter with information about your church and kids.)
Note: You can find out more about contacting the White House at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call.
What patriotic activities have you done with your kids?
As we celebrate Christmas, we want kids to hear, know, and understand the Christmas story. These Bible passages relate events surrounding the birth of Jesus–Mary and the angel: Luke 1:26-56; Joseph: Matthew 1:18-25; Trip to Bethlehem and Birth: Luke 2:1-7; Shepherds and angels: Luke 2:8-20; Wise Men: Matthew 2:1-12.
Recently I polled my colleagues for ideas about telling the Christmas story. Here are some of their ideas (and a couple of mine).
Light It Up
Place candles on a table, one candle for each person or group in the Bible story. Choose a different color and/or style of candle for Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, angels, shepherds, and wise men. Read the Bible passages or tell the story; light the appropriate candle when that person is first mentioned. Review each person’s (group’s) role and blow out the candle after you talk about that person or group.
Use a Nativity Scene
Read or tell the story. Add a figure from a nativity scene as you talk about that person’s part in the story. Use a nonbreakable nativity scene you have. Or make figures by cutting out the appropriate people from teaching pictures or Christmas cards; decoupage the pictures onto pieces of wood.
Act It Out
Provide simple Bible times clothing–robes, towels or plain napkins and elastic headbands; lengths of fabric to drape over the body. Choose a narrator and choose/assign roles. As the narrator reads or tells the story, actors pantomime the action.
You may want to omit the narrator and tell actors to act out the story. You could create a rough script or just ask actors to improv their lines. Make sure you talk about what the Bible tells us about Jesus’ birth and what is not found in the Bible.
Read a Book
Read a book that approaches the story from a different perspective. Choose your book thoughtfully and be prepared to discuss anything in the book that differs or adds to the biblical passage. One book suggested is My Birthday, Jesus’ Birthday.
Make a Time Line
Gather a variety of teaching pictures or Christmas cards that show various parts of the story. Or ask kids to draw various portions of the Christmas story. As you read/tell the story (or after telling the story), place the pictures in order. Tape them to a wall or clip them to a length of yarn.
Read a portion of the Bible story. Sing a related Christmas carol after each portion of the story. Songs that could be used: "Away in a Manger"; "Angels We Have Heard on High"; "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks"; "O Come All Ye Faithful"; "Silent Night."
Bring a variety of items that relate to portions of the Christmas story–hay, wool, soft cloth strips, stone (for the manger). Pass around the items as you tell or recall the story.
Remember, kids learn in all kinds of ways. If you can involve different senses or ways of learning, more kids can connect with the story.
These articles on LifeWay.com contain more ideas about telling the Christmas story or celebrating Christmas:
- Celebrating at Home
- Make Room for Christmas
- Good Christmas Fun
- What’s Advent? Why Celebrate It?
- Bring the Christmas Story Alive for Students
- Six Tips for Making the Holidays Christ-Centered and Educational
These products from LifeWay could help:
This video series from Worship KidStyle could also help you talk about the Christmas story:
- Boys Only Club: The Video Begins (#1)
- Boys Only Club: Filming the Video (#2)
- Boys Only Club: Struggles on the Set (#3)
- Boys Only Club: Spreading the Word (#4)
What other creative ways have you used to tell the Christmas story?
Next week that holiday is coming. You know which one: National Overeat and Watch Football Day. Black Friday Eve. You know what I’m talking about. That November holiday.
Oh wait. It’s called Thanksgiving. Like many holidays, the real meaning of Thanksgiving can get lost in the middle of celebrating it. This year help your family–and other families–think about and embrace the significance of giving thanks. Interjecting a little fun and creativity can help, too. Here are a couple of ideas. Share what your family does in the comments below.
Perhaps your family has done a gratitude jar – all month writing down what you are thankful for and dropping the notes in a jar, reading those notes on Thanksgiving. This idea is a fun twist on that. Purchase an inexpensive journal; a simple spiral notebook will work, too. Make the first entry as a family. Note the date and list one thing that your family is thankful for. Then take the journal and place it in an unexpected place (that is unknown to the rest of the family)–in the pantry, under a pillow on the couch, on a bicycle in the garage, in the laundry basket under clean clothes. Whoever finds the journal writes the date and something he is thankful for. (Younger kids can draw a picture instead of write words, if they choose.) Then he places the journal in another location. Continue this process (hiding/finding/writing) until Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, read and talk about what is in the journal. Thank God for what your family members noted in the journal. (You may want to bring out the journal and do this throughout the year, too.)
Cut 10-20 leaves from orange, yellow, and red paper. On Thanksgiving Day, hide the leaves around your house. Before dinner, all family members should fan out and find the leaves; encourage each family member to find at least one leaf. Tell them to bring their leaves to the table. Before you eat, ask family members to share what they are thankful for, naming one thing for each leaf they found. Place the leaves in the middle of your table as a decoration and a reminder of your thanks. You could just lay the leaves on the table or place them in small clear bowls on the table. Pray and thank God for the things mentioned.
These articles on lifeway.com can also help you celebrate your gratitude.
- Thanks-Filled Activities
- Sharing Thanksgiving with Your Kids
- Nurture Thanksgiving
- How to Keep Thanks in Thanksgiving
- Thanksgiving Facts
And, if you are looking for Thanksgiving crafts or other activiites, try the ideas compilied on The Crafty Crow. (Note: This Web site is not affiliated with LifeWay, and LifeWay does not control its content.)
What are some things you or families in your church have done to celebrate Thanksgiving?