5 Reasons I Love Easter in the Preschool Rooms

I love Easter. Love it.

Like Christmas, love it.

And so, I love to make the most of every opportunity to help our lil HiSKidZ see God’s Big Story about Jesus as we draw near to the holiday that is truly a Holy-Day.

Along with 5 reasons I love Easter in the preschool  5 (or more) ways we helped lil HiSKidZ at our church learn about and love Easter, too!

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1–We share things we know they won’t completely understand.

We know preschoolers won’t completely understand everything about Easter. But y’know what? Neither did the grown men who walked with Jesus. This month we taught that Jesus loved his friends so much that He tried to explain everything that was going to happen. He told them that He was going to go to Jerusalem, He was going to die and He was going to come back to life. They didn’t really understand at the time, but they would later, and it would mean A LOT when they realized He cared enough to try to explain it them.

Our lil HiSKidZ made this place mat to use at home so that just like Jesus’ Bible friends, He would be helping them understand what Easter is all about. It was so easy for them to just glue the pieces on, and then work with our leaders to watch the laminator do the magic!! (Kids love laminating!)

 

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2–We teach God loves everyone no matter how small, no matter what they’ve done.

Next, we taught about Zacchaeus. Because on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus met this now infamous man and changed his life forever. Jesus showed us again that He loves everyone–no matter how small and no matter what they’ve done–and that only He has the power to save them and forgive their sins.

We made the fun snack, (Twix bars, Rice Krispie Treats and Teddy Grahams) and our little ones made the craft! In case you needed to know one more thing you can do with a paper towel roll, try making a sycamore tree! Zacchaeus climbs up the tree to see Jesus and when Jesus stops by, down he comes.

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3–We celebrate Palm Sunday.

This week we will reenact Palm Sunday complete with Jesus in, not on, a donkey and our own interpretation of “palm” branches! You can make a million kinds of animals out of boxes, and be sure to hit up your local home stores for paint sticks–they are great for so many fun things.

My favorite thing this month has been our snack for this week. I saw this idea made with real rocks, (but not for a snack, obviously) which made me think of the verse from the Palm Sunday story where Jesus says that if the people stop praising the rocks will cry out. So, donut holes, candy eyes, some toothpicks, little flags and Hosanna! We are rocking the snack this week!!

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4–We get to have real Palm Branches.

As part of Palm Sunday, we always buy Palm Branches! And, yes, I think they should be capitalized. We get them for HiSKidZ of all ages, and they all love them. Several years ago, I almost stopped. I’m not sure why. Maybe they seemed old-fashioned, maybe I wasn’t sure if the kids liked them.

But, then, one of our 5th grade boys commented the week before Palm Sunday, “Next week is Palm Sunday! I love Palm Sunday! We always get those Palm Branches and we get to act like we were there.” ‘Nuff said. I’ve been buying them ever since. When a 5th grade boy tells you that Palm Branches have become a spiritual marker in his life, you buy them forever!

We live in midwest, and our palms aren’t always the best, but this year they are so green, I can’t wait for the kids to see them.

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5–The angel rolled the stone away, and Jesus is alive!

Like I said, I love Easter Sunday. I love saying, “He is Risen. He is Risen, Indeed!” I love singing Celebrate, Jesus, Celebrate, Rise and Sing, and Jesus is Alive Right Now with our bigs and Hosanna, 1-2-3 and Jesus is Alive with our littles. I love the power of the day, and the reason we celebrate. I love how God moves as we share who He is and what He has done.

One of the above angel bags will be our craft on Easter Sunday. I’ll let you guess which one!

The picture on the left represents one attempt at an angel bag. I know it looks like a bird–a very surprised bird, but it is an angel. The bag on the right, thankfully, was created by one of our amazing volunteers so our kids don’t think angels are owls, and so their parents will let the come back to church with us!!

What do you love about Easter in your preschool rooms?

 

 

 

The Interrupt Rule-Teaching Our Children to Honor Others by Waiting

 

“One of the most important ways I can love my children is by refusing to let them interrupt my wife and me when we are talking.”

This morning I ran across this quote in my twitter feed, and it reminded me of one of the most valuable principles Tim and I learned when we were raising our boys:

Our children can learn to wait.

Even more, it’s important they learn to wait. It’s part of life. It’s respectful. It’s self-control. It’s patience. It’s loving. It’s about others.

When we were raising our boys, we had the opportunity to both take and lead parenting classes where we could learn and pass on valuable tools and heart principles. One of those tools was “the interrupt rule.”

We then taught our children that if they needed to speak with us and we were in another conversation, they should simply place their hand on our arm and wait patiently.  In placing their hand on our arm, we would know that they needed us, and we would take a break in our conversation as soon as possible without being rude to the person we were talking to.

This worked whether we were in person or on the phone, and it helped us teach and train our children that their thoughts and needs were important to us, but so were the thoughts and needs of others.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

When we specifically applied this principle to our marriage, our boys learned that our marriage relationship was our priority. They were not the center of our world, but rather a valuable part of it. Knowing mom and dad loved each other and put each other first added to their sense of security. They grew in patience and respect for us and others as they realized that they could wait and still be heard, and that others needed to have their chance to be heard as well.

I’d love to know:

What tools have you used to help your children learn to wait without interrupting?

It’s a Good Thing Their Nets Were Empty (A Preschool Craft Fail/Success Story!)

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I had planned a simple craft for our preschoolers at church. It had something for everyone–color for the visual, texture for the tactile learners, scents for those who love smells. . . .you know! It was looking  to be a good day.

Preparing to head out of town to a wedding, everything was prepped and ready to go with the sample neatly placed in the preschool room.

We were teaching our littles that “Jesus is Our Friend.” Our craft would help them see how Jesus helped his friends catch fish one day when their nets were coming up empty. He even made them breakfast!!

The picture above is the craft they were supposed to make.

It was pretty cool. The “water” is really hair gel–that’s where the bubbles come from. The kids would work on counting skills as they added the Swedish fish to represent the nets going from empty to full! Our littles love to put stickers on of any kind, so we had the label reminder of the lesson truth. What could go wrong???

Well, for one thing, a blood bath– something that resembled a massacre of fish in a bag!

You see, I didn’t think about the fact that Swedish fish are just sugar and water, and that sugar and water are easily dissolvable.

When I came in early Sunday morning after being out of town, I was confident and relaxed knowing everything was in it’s place. But, that all changed when in the place of the lovingly prepared sample craft, I found this:

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Oh my heck!

What’s a girl to do?

For about a half a sec, I thought about just going with it. I mean, how many parents really keep those crafts anyway? (At our church, thankfully, quite a few.)

It was immediately funny to me. However, as humorous as it was at the moment, I just couldn’t feel good about what was going to happen to those fish over the next twenty-four hours if they went home with our lil HiSKidZ.

After a quick, “OK Lord, what are we going to do with this mess?” I decided that no fish would be going in those bags and our craft talk would now go something like this:

Teacher: “Jesus disciples fished all night and didn’t catch a thing. Their nets were empty. But Jesus helped them to fill their nets. This “water” in our bag doesn’t have any fish in it, does it?”

Lil HiSKidZ: “No, teacher.”

Teacher: “But, now, whenever we play with our ocean bag, we can remember that when things might not be working out, we can trust that Jesus can give us all we need.

Who remembers what Jesus did after He helped his friends fill their nets with fish?”

Lil HiSKidZ: “He made them breakfast!”

Teacher: “That’s right. He made them a breakfast of fish. Real fish, not the candy kind I’m going to share with you today. . . . “

And so it goes. The lesson was reinforced. The kids had a great sensory activity and no additional Swedish fish had to be harmed in the teaching of God’s Word.

Sometimes things don’t work out like we plan. Sometimes, the results are downright murderous! And sometimes, the fail becomes a win!

If the disciples’ nets hadn’t been empty, they wouldn’t have seen the miracle of the catch and the provision of their Lord in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

If our nets wouldn’t have been empty, our preschool craft would have been just another Pinterest fail. Thankfully, it was a great success and an opportunity to see the provision of the Lord in ways we could never have imagined!

5 Things to Consider About God’s Plans for Your Life

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When I go on a trip, I like to know where I’m staying. There ya go.I said it. I’m one of those people.  I search for my hotel online, try to get the best deal and make sure the GPS on my phone knows how to get me there. For better or for worse, I want to know there is room at the inn when I get tired.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a compulsive planner, but I do like a little structure in my day-to-days.

Currently, in our Sunday morning children’s services we are teaching through the life of Moses. (Thank you Brian Dollar and High Voltage Kids!)

The series begins with an important reminder that God has a plan for us. Ultimately, His plan is for our salvation, and a life filled with worship and faithfulness, walking with Him in love and obedience.

But, we want “the big picture.” We want to know the “big”thing God wants us to do (or that we want to do for God). In focusing on that big thing, we can unknowingly walk out of the boundaries of His plan for us. It’s like trying to put together a puzzle without all the pieces.

Here are 5 truths that have helped me see the big picture:

  1. God’s plan is for us to be reconciled to Him. Is there anything keeping you from Jesus?
  2. God’s plan is for us to know Him. How can you use your time to get to know God more deeply?
  3. God’s plan is for us to share His plan with others. Who can you tell about Jesus?
  4. God’s plan is for us to love, forgive and show others the grace we have been shown. Who do you need to love? Who do you need to forgive?
  5. God’s plan is for us to serve others. How can you use your resources, gifts, talents and heart to help someone else?

This year let’s plan to know God, follow Him, share Jesus, love and serve others as part of God’s plan for us all. As we focus on the little pieces, I can’t wait to see the big picture emerge!

 

 

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Craft

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Simple. Meaningful. Fun.

These three words resonate with me when it comes to crafting with kids. I am in no way, “The Queen of Crafts,” and have absolutely no desire to ever where that crown. I don’t even want a tiara. But. . .I do like to have fun and simple activities to help focus kids on the real meaning and purpose of the holidays.

We originally made this as part of our preschool classes at church, but this little Turkey Bag Craft may be just the thing for your Thanksgiving Day gathering. It takes very little prep–Win! It cost very little money-Win again! Plus, it can help to keep your kids in the thankful zone all month long as you prepare for Christmas and fight off the temptation to become focused on more than the blessings in our lives-Win! Win! Win!

Interested??

You will need the following supplies:

1) Brown paper lunch sacks

2) Brown paper (card stock or construction paper) for the turkey head and hands or talons. The word “talons” just seems kind of violent somehow. (A quick google search reveals that, “turkeys do have talons. In fact, they have a large, sharp talons that they will use to peck or grasp the head of another turkey while fighting.”- answers.com) SO let’s stick with hands for today!

3) Colored paper for feathers, nose, bow tie and the turkey’s snood or wattle. Yeah, snoods and wattles, I think what yours is depends on where your child puts it on their craft!) And you will have tons of fun saying “snoods and wattles” with the littles in your life!

4) Jiggly eyes (you don’t NEED them, but really, who doesn’t love jiggly eyes??!)

5) Glue dots, glue sticks or some kind of child friendly glue or adhesive. (Super glue not recommended.)

5) Something to attach to the front explaining your craft.  You might try, “In this bag, we can see, things to be thankful for from A to Z.” Or come up with something way better!! Remember, I like to keep things simple!

6)  Pieces of paper, each with a letter of the alphabet on it.

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Depending on the ages of the littles at your feast, you have a few options. You may want to cut out the shapes you need before hand, enlist some teens to help or just let them have a go at it. (When using scissors at family gatherings, be sure to watch out for any siblings with anger issues or who want to be a cosmetologist when they grow up.)

Now that you have your supplies together. Here’s how it goes together:

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  1. Cut out from brown paper a turkey head. (It looks a bit like a drumstick.)
  2. Cut out some noses, snoods and wattles!
  3. Cut out some little “hands.” (See my sample below)
  4. Cut out some bow ties and feathers.
  5. Cut out your A-B-C papers.
  6. Write some things you can be thankful for on the feathers.
  7. Attach the face pieces to your turkey’s face piece–yeah, I just wrote that, and I’m still secure in Jesus.
  8. Attach the turkey face to the inside front of your bag.
  9. Attach the bow tie, hands and message to the outside front of your bag.
  10. Attach the feathers to the back of the bag.
  11. Add the A-B-C square inside the bag.
  12. Every day, have your child pick an A-B-C square from the bag and write or draw what they are thankful for.

I hope you have some sweet fun with this and that your kids will “gobble” up the time you spend together not just celebrating Thanksgiving, but sharing Thanksgiving.

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Here are the little hands (see, no talons here–safety first!) we made. We attached them to strips of glue dots to make them easy for our preschoolers to use. Gotta love the glue dots.

(We adapted this turkey craft from several different turkeys we found around the web. Feel free to adapt our turkey to meet your needs. An article from National Geographic states that turkeys are pretty adaptable.)

Just 4 Mondays Left Until Thanksgiving-3

Preschool Lighthouse Craft

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We made these super cute Lighthouse Crafts last week with our preschoolers. They were pretty simple, plus the kids and parents both loved them. I got the idea from Pinterest–where else?–but the site they were connected to, familyembellishments.com–no longer exists.

Thankfully, these aren’t too hard to figure out on your own. Just in case, I’m including some directions as to how we made them.

Our preschool curriculum comes from Karyn Henley’s folder lessons. This month’s theme is “God is with Me in the Dark,” and this week’s lesson was about when God freed Peter from prison in the night.

Children learned that we don’t have to be scared in the dark or at night, because we know that God is always with us. He’s our Lighthouse!

Here’s how we made our lighthouses:

Before Sunday:

  1. We purchased cups, medical tape and battery operated tea lights.
  2. We gathered black paper and glue dots.
  3. We put strips of tape on the solo cups.
  4. We cut the black paper into circles, rectangles and squares for the ceiling, doors and windows.
  5. We put the glue dots on the paper for the kids. (Be sure you don’t take off the backing when you do this, the kids will do that when they make the craft.)

Then on Sunday:

  1. Give each child a solo cup with tape and enough black paper to decorate their lighthouse. Help them put these on as needed.
  2. Place the label on the back of the cup.
  3. Remove the little plastic battery thing from the tea light and show the children how to turn their candle on.
  4. Put the candle on the top of the solo cup and cover with the clear cup.
  5. Turn off the lights and let your lights shine!

Our label said, “God in heaven is my light and I can trust Him day and night.” But you can make yours say whatever you want or use a memory verse, etc.

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Have fun with the craft and we are praying that God is your lighthouse, guide and ever-present help in times of darkness.

Quiet as Pie–A Deliciously Spontaneous Way to Help Regain Classroom Control

pie

A couple of weeks ago, we were finishing up our Wednesday night program. It was that time of the night where we share some final announcements before car line dismissal begins.

I took a minute to ask HiSKidZ if I had told them I loved them yet that day, and quickly added, “Because I do–more than Oreos!”

They all know  I love Oreos, and that I have to be careful not to get too close to a bag of them. I use Oreos for all kinds of illustrations about temptation, sin and love!!

Of course, as the banter grew, the volume did, too–right when we needed things to settle down so they could hear their names called as their parents arrived. I quickly explained to them I needed them to be quiet as “Mr Dave” started car line.

At this moment I uttered the words, “I need you to be as quiet as. . . as quiet as. . . “

My mind began to freeze as I couldn’t really come up with something for them to be as quiet as. I thought about Oreos, but honestly, when you eat an Oreo, it isn’t always quiet!! They are crunchy little cookies! Dunking doesn’t really help because you hear the chug-a-glug of the swallow. Oreos would not do.

And so I made this statement, “I need you to be quiet as . . . .quiet as. . . .PIE!”

Yeah, pie! I can’t explain it, either.

Honestly, they were as surprised as I was! It was like the whole room became silent at the same moment, and all eyes focused directly on me. But, no one could argue that pie is about as quiet as it gets.

Then, amazingly, for the next 10-15 minutes as we dismissed, our small groups were indeed as quiet as pie. Not a peep. Not even one!

As I saw them respond so well, I sweetened the deal by telling them that the small groups that stayed quiet would receive their own package of Oreos for snack the next week. I didn’t expect that I would be buying Oreos for each of our groups, but I did! Because really, truly, every single child and leader was as “quiet as pie.”

Now, I can’t tell you that if you tell your kids to be “quiet as pie,” that they will all be quiet for 15 minutes, but here are three ways you can help regain classroom or group control when needed.

  1. Be creative. Don’t just do the same ole, same ole. Ask God to fill your mind with creative ways to help your children gain or regain self-control.
  2. Be fun. Find something they don’t expect, and make it fun.Google ways to gain classroom control for some ideas that may work for your kids.
  3. Reward, don’t bribe. Set a standard and then consider adding a reward. Be careful not to send the message of “If you, then I’ll. . .” Instead, use “Because you, I’m going to. . .”

Setting an appropriate, respectful standard for the kids you lead is a win for you and for them, and a great night within safe and honoring boundaries is better than a bag of Oreos!!!

Jesus Doesn’t Care How You Spell His Name

i love geses

Last week one of the precious children at my church handed me the picture above in the most beautiful, hand decorated envelope.

I knew from the start whatever was inside was going to be great, because of the love that was written all over the outside. But, oh no, as you can tell, it was better than great! I mean, seriously, how cute is the spelling of Jesus’ name.  A friend of mine was standing next to me when I received the letter and the word, “Awwwwww,” came out of us in unison as we read it. 

I kept my treasure close by all day, showing it with pride. My heart was overwhelmed with love for the One it was written about as well as the one who wrote it.

Someone I showed it to commented, “I don’t think Jesus cares how His name is spelled.”

Truer words have rarely been spoken.

Jesus doesn’t care how you spell His name when it’s spelled with love. He cares that we know His name. He cares that we take the time to tell Him. He cares that we share that love with others. He cares about our hearts, he cares about us–his children who love Him.

“I love Geses.”

I hope you do, too.

The Power of Praying Hands

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You know when you read those blog posts that have these amazingly great ideas. Then you find out that they are way out of your budget or could in no way be done in your facility.

Well, this is not one of those blog posts!

This is just one of those little things. You don’t really need any money. It should work in just about any venue.

All you need is some paper, some tape, a hand print, and some people to pray. Curious?? Read on.

Our leaders met this week to kick off HiSKidZ Wednesday night program, KidZRocK.

Each year we resolve to make prayer a bigger commitment, especially before we meet each night of our mid-week program. Then, life happens. The kids are sick, you have to work over at our job, you lock your keys in your car (Maddie!), and next thing you know that big group prayer time just isn’t happening because of last-minute craziness. Although each of us knows and believes that prayer is the, group prayer has not been attainable for our group.

This year as I was praying about that, this simple idea came to my mind. It’s so simple!! Really! It comes with a little poem that is, perhaps, a bit cheesy. However, I believe it originated from the Spirit and trust that He must like a little cheesy now and then–especially if it moves us to pray.

And it has.

On each door where our small groups and stations meet, I attached a laminated sign with a large hand print and the following poem:

On this place a hand was laid, where someone took a moment and prayed For power and grace from up above, teaching and truth that’s filled with love. To help change a life, here’s what you can do: place your hand on the hand and say a prayer, too.

As we finished our meeting up, each small group team went to their room and placed their hands on those hands and they prayed for power, for grace, for holiness, for salvation, and for a whole lot more other things that I didn’t get to hear. But we prayed. We prayed not just for our own spaces, but we went from door to door to door until each leader had prayed for every spot of our program.

Then we left the posters up–determined to stop for just a moment each night as we enter those rooms and pray. We are trusting that through the week, God will send people through our hallway who will also see those hands, and stop for a moment and pray.

It was the smallest thing, but it has sparked a flame in our group.

Maybe today you are looking for a spark, something small, but powerful, and maybe this is it. Our team thought it was worth sharing.

From our team to yours, may God move in powerful ways through your praying hands.

What a Girl Wants, What a Girl Needs (A VBS Story Pt. 3)

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Sorry about the title, but it’s what keeps dancing around in my head as I think about this post.

In planning a VBS, I always begin with this question, “God, what do HiSKidZ need to hear this year?”

And then I wait.

I try to do it patiently, but I wait the best I can until I hear God’s voice leading me to what He wants to teach HiSKidZ in our little corner of His world.

This year, once the idea came that we needed to build God’s Word into their lives like never before, I went to my leadership team and begin to lay out a plan for partnering with one of my sons to write a VBS based on building blocks–a brand name of which I won’t mention here. It would be a big task, and would take a lot of time, energy and money.

Then, I asked whether or not we should do VBS this year.  Like any church, finding enough help can be a challenge, and without enough help, frustration and burnout can occur even among the strongest of Kidmin leaders.

Before I could get out my reasons for asking whether or not to do VBS, my leaders went C.R.A.Z.Y. on me! (Yeah,our children’s leadership team is awesomely like yesterday’s blog post!). Of course, we were going to do VBS! Dawn, how could you even think about not doing VBS??  There are kids to be reached and families who need to know Jesus. And it’s a VBS with building blocks of a brand name we won’t mention here!!  And so. . .

The planning and praying began, and we discussed what we wanted and needed for the week.

One of those things included Jumpstart3. (Yes, the Jumpstart3 promo week continues–Jeff, I know you are smiling as you read this!)

However, we are a small church in a small town in a small state with a small budget. But hey, no worries, because we have A BIG GOD!!

This summer, we were going to be reminded of how big.

I made the call, or two or three, to Jeff, and plans began to take shape. The problem was Jeff’s fee. His regular fee for a week is like my children’s ministry budget for a year. Yet, I knew he was supposed to come, and thankfully, so did he. He agreed to come for much less than his usual fee, and I agreed to pay him much less than his usual fee.

And our team agreed to pray that God would agree to pay his actual fee.

After talking with our church leadership, we launched our first ever investment program for VBS using an envelope system of giving. Basically, we put 100 envelopes on a wall, numbered $1-$100. People could pick an envelope, put in the corresponding amount of money and we would fund our VBS through it.

We wanted to raise enough money to cover Jeff’s fees, and to provide one Jumpstart3 CD and a t-shirt for each child who attended VBS.

What a girl wants, what a girl needs! What a mighty God we serve!!

As my friend Kate would say, “Jehovah Jirah!” The Lord Provides!

Through our investment program, God’s people generously gave in large and small amounts every penny we needed. On the Sunday of VBS, we were just $200 short of receiving all the money we needed. Yeah, you know–on that day 3 people came to me with envelopes which totaled $200, exactly enough to fund building God’s Word in HiSKidZ lives, Brick by Brick!

Jehovah Jirah! What a girl wants, what a girl needs, her God provides!

But, that’s not all. . . .there’s more. . . so stay tuned for . . .

A VBS Story Pt 4