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Last Advent, I was called into school to do Christmas. At quite short notice. And I don’t have a small nativity set. I’ve knitted lots many, but I didn’t do one for myself (*note to self, have missed it again…) so I had to work fast.

Luckily, I had these to hand: nativity set before
which were turn-into-able-in-an-evening these:

nativity set after

with a matchbox and a bit of tissue paper for baby Jesus. All of it fitted into the smallest of my Orla Kierly cake tins to carry with me. I worried they might be a little too small, but it just meant that the children were super quiet and super attentive to see each piece passed round before we put it in its place. Yes, the sheep are just blobs of fluffy wool.

I’m quite a fan, I realise, of the faceless thing. I know this is common to Godly Play figures, but it was most keenly brought home to me in that I gave myself a lenten project to knit a last supper set to join the Jesus I did last year for my resurrection eggs. This was not so much a time issue (I have a little bag of 13 beards and hair am now not too sure what to do with) but that when I started putting them together I thought it might be better leaving them egg-headed to allow for imagination.

It turned out that this was spot on. I had deliberately chosen to keep the garment combinations as neutral as possible, but I included (red would have been a bit obvious) a couple of dark red/purple options. When I had the smallest children round me in church on Good Friday and I said one of these people left Jesus and told on him, which one do you think it was, they unanimously went for the one in reddy-purple. They could imagine sad and angry and scared faces on all of them, which was fine. And it marks a very obvious difference to Jesus himself, the only figure (figures, there’s an all white resurrection one too) with hair and facial features. The women have cloaks instead, doesn’t seem to confuse the kids too much at all.

Here’s the last supper set. Well worth it as they can be pulled out and re-used for all sorts of stories. One is make-able in an evening if you have done a hundred or so before, or you can knit fairly compentently. I use the Alan Dart pattern for these (this one for the colours, but you need this one for the camel).

last supper set

There are also last supper and resurrection sets available in the tiny wooden versions, see all these. but when you’ve seen a few, you can probably make your own. As ever, Hobbycraft is your friend for the pieces. I’m loving the little donkey. It’s on my to-do list.

you’re welcome :-)

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Given 15 2 and a half year olds and 10-15 minutes on harvest, surely the best thing is to sing, no? Here again is one of my guerilla knitting opportunities, as some of you may recall the first thing I had the knitters doing was a pile of fruit & veg ready for our Treasure Tots launch.

Well now I’m going into the local nursery – they’ve never had anything like visiting assembly type things and they fancy a try. On harvest – the children have been sent home a request list for something for the foodbank. So my woolly fruit & veg will be coming along and being shared out ‘interestingly’.

And I think we’ll sing. If you ever need some words to help teach 3 year olds about sharing and foodbanks, feel free…

If you’ve got food inside your basket, nod your head
If you’ve got food inside your basket, nod your head
If you’ve got food inside your basket,
there’ll be tea inside your tummy,
If you’ve got food inside your basket nod your head

If you’ve got nothing in your basket, shake your head
If you’ve got nothing in your basket, shake your head
If you’ve got nothing in your basket,
then your tummy will go hungry,
If you’ve got nothing in your basket shake your head

If you’ve got some spare to share, clap your hands
If you’ve got some spare to share, clap your hands
If you’ve got some spare to share,
share your food to show you care,
If you’ve got some spare to share, clap your hands

harvest

Father God,
thank you for the harvest,
for the men and women who grow our food
and work in our shops.

Look after those who are hungry,
make us happy to share what we have
with those who have none. Amen.

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as a follow up to the children’s tables, I came to set out yesterday morning for today, and remembered we had the final wedding of the year. The children’s resources were everywhere. I have had it in the back of my mind to produce a service sheet for weddings a little like Ally’s excellent baptism ones, but it hasn’t happened. And we don’t have the internet in church so I couldn’t whip up (or down) anything from the net/pinterest. Thankfully, however, I had just copied the things for the children for today, so I fetched a black felt pen, and channelled my inner Ally for ten minutes.

The result was amateur, but I reckon good enough.

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Not terribly religious, but it would give them something to do, I thought, as I slightly guiltily lifted my prayer and sacrament tables and carried them over by the font, hoping to minimise the chaos. Instead, I unwrapped one of my ebay purchases, and the requisite people, and laid these out instead. Obviously I’ll need wedding stickers as well….

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Having scanned my rather quick and dirty sheets, I’ve added a couple more things to them and pdf’d them here: wedding activity book. So now there are 8 pages, so you can do a little booklet if you like, complete with cover, or just print off ones you fancy. There are, if you google, lots of waaaaaay more professional versions, quite a few on not-on-the-high-street or etsy that as a wedding couple you could have personalised, but also a very lovely free version somewhat slicker than my 3 sheets. Theirs is here: weddingbook, and there’s also one from Something Turquoise here.

Maybe I’ll get round to a deeper version for older kids before the wedding season starts again… Anyway, in the meantime, feel free :-) Happy to turn over the ppt file for editing either.

PS, at time of typing, Wilkos has a special offer on a not-barbie wedding set (trust me, you can’t buy the dolls and the suits that cheaply), and they also have some wedding bunnies too if you’re building up a box. My church is the Happiland one (complete with bells that the children may or may not have found….) – eBay is your friend – or ELC at Mothercare. Beware addiction…

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Since my last post mentioned the children’s tables, I thought I better briefly show you what they look like. They are still evolving and I feel like I should write a book…I’ve realised I’m modelling movement that Richard Giles would be proud of – or I would if I had the space for them to move more than they can. Anyway, here’s the current layout:

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To achieve halfway decent space, there was a bit of aggro but finally we’ve lost a pew, so that the shorter one fits and faces backwards (we also bump the 2nd back up to the 3rd back at baptisms, so there’s a buggy park). I did have kneelers with feet until we found these nice new IKEA tables (£12, table +2 stools). It’s not hugely tidy, but I kind of like it like that, so that people can see that it’s lived in. I don’t clear away until I set next week’s up on Saturday.

So, we started with the cross on the table, and a story and stuff. Didn’t really work, so now they are separate. I’m still working on a ‘gathering rite’ – I think Messy Church’s song isn’t quite going to work in church. Ideally that would go on a table nearer the door, but already the kids are pretty trampled on as it is.

You can also see in this pic my ‘quiet’ bags – these now all have a bible story book and a relevant toy and something to do (ie a toy lamb, Big Bible Friends Good Shepherd and ‘That’s not my lamb’, plus a little Lord’s Prayer book.  The touchy feely Noah carry-book has 2 identical tiger toys in it. More stuff gradually appearing as I change out the non-religious for the mostly-religious) and also the clipboards with the paper activities – puzzles/colour-ins etc on the story.

On the pew then there is a selection of bible storybooks/children’s bibles, there’s a stack of toys and games (prayer cards, matching pairs bible characters, orange tree/house shopping (this raised eyebrows but I pointed out it’s next to the foodbank collection, so easy to talk stewardship/charity)) boxes (come back to those in a sec) and the basket for baptism. There’s not a basket yet but there’s a wedding set of barbie/ken (or equiv) – and currently Wilkos are selling wedding sets at only a tenner. Under the pew is a box with characters for story telling in – knew there was a good reason I knitted all those disciples… along with an increasing collection of bits and pieces usually from hobbycraft like mini baskets, buckets, barrels.

In the one cupboard I could sneak some space in, I’ve got a box of different fabrics and things like scissors, tape, sticky dots etc. We have a pencil sharpener which is a big dice, for playing games, some games counter/pieces and a folder of resources.

Story/activity table and a couple of examples:

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The notice is new. No I didn’t go through all my disciples to find the one nearest dressed to the picture in the Bible (may not be true).

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How the table got left after Pentecost (the flame crowns the children – and grownups – wore to gather the collection)

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Ready for good shepherding…. and the result. Sheeps from http://www.thetoyanimalcompany.com/

shepherd

The Prayer Table

Here’s where I just got sidetracked by Happiland people, after being somewhat disappointed by not being able to find diverse toys. I wanted the children to be able to pray with us for the church (crosses), the world (squashy globes) and people. I bought a wooden ambulance and fire engine, and we got a stethoscope. Having found many many cute little people (I recommend ebay, but with caution!) that can sit in the stethoscope box I’m delighted that you can just pull out a handful of people and they prompt prayers – a nurse, an old person, a farmer, or a child, a grandma, a fireman etc.

There are candles that the children can light at the beginning of the service when grownups light theirs, or in prayer time.

I have plans for a prayer prompt key ring…. #toomanyideasnotenoughtime

I actually hijacked this table for prayer group this month, they all had a little cross and held a squishy earth each while we prayed for areas of our world. Who says all this is just for kids….?

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Often the photocopied page from Searchlights has a prayer on, so the connection can be made from the story/activity table to the prayers.

The Sacrament table

When we ran out of space on the one table, I moved the cross and the figure here. I made the alb and some basic felt vestments, and the children wait to see what we’re wearing when the procession gathers. As the candles are lit for procession, the candles can be lit on the sacrament table.

Personally I really like this version of the Susan Sayers children’s communion book, because there’s so much richness in the illustrations, but for a variety of ages the communion cube and Ally Barrett’s Eucharist colouring book are also very good.

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You may spot my small rebellion against the ssh brigade, with the box of tambourines etc for the final hymn :-)

Again, all still evolving. Watch this space…

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I probably need to do a handful of posts on children in church, but I’m contemplating setting up a separate blog to host them, while i find time to pull them together. However, in the meantime, since I’ve been asked, here’s our go-to package for baptism* days.

* do not engage discussion about main service/not main service

It’s pretty basic, but it’s now serving us quite well.

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It contains (other suppliers are usually available):

  • a baby doll, dressed in a christening gown knitted by one of our parishioners
  • some baptism cubes  (you can see inside ‘pages’ here)
  • a blue plastic bowl (we have a modern blue glass font which is placed inside the stone surround)
  • a stainless steel milk jug
  • Ally Barrett’s excellent baptism colouring book (link to the page not the pdf, incase you need the printing instructions)
  • a fill in sheet which is proving pretty popular from Kinder Craze. Full doc available (free) from TPT, I just use this page
  • Scratch art crosses. These are popular with kids and parents alike. Can get through quite a lot!
  • Name badges. I don’t know a child who doesn’t like stickers, so we’re now doing guerilla outreach by sending them out of church wearing a sticker saying they’ve been…. I work with a 21-to-a-page sticker sheet, with this Baptism guest names doc.

So far so good. There may be a colouring sheet something to do with baptism, or I have some ‘you are loved’ sheets or something else as well, and the last two I’ve kept the baptism basket on the side and still produced some materials for the story of the day first. Whether you can do both/end up with chaos/only do the crosses kind of depends how many children turn up. But it’s a good basket.

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For info, there are electric candles and crosses on the children’s prayer table, so if you want to talk about the other symbols of faith, they are on hand, just not in the basket. You might want to add pound shop battery tea lights and some small holding crosses to your basket.

Also, these are all at our ‘activity’ table at the back (note to self, must blog these), but I also have some clipboards with copies of the colouring/fill-in sheets on and little bag of crayons attached to be taken withor without a children’s bag into the pews.

Also also, I keep allsorts of random other stuff pinned on pinterest

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