Posted in Crafts and activities, Ramblings

Kids eat dog food!

When I was thinking about what to do for the first Kids’ Club session after the Easter break, several stories in the Bible came to mind. I thought that what follows on from Jesus’ resurrection would be his appearance to his disciples, and I wanted to tell the children about doubting Thomas. As I was churning over in my mind how I might make the short passage in John’s gospel (Chapter 20) more memorable, somewhere in my subconscious surfaced this illustration, and whether it connected the dots for the kids or not, I was determined to use it. It went something like this:

“Hello kids! I’ve not been feeling that well lately, and I thought I should try something new for my diet.” I took out a tin of dog food from my bag and continued, “You know how they always advertise that these branded dog food would give your dog energy and make their coat look shiny and silky. It’s great tasting and full of vitamins… Well, I thought I could do with some of that.”

At this point I opened the tin by pulling on the ring-pull and started scooping up the contents into my mouth. The children gasped and made disgusted noises, even commented that it smelt vile.

“Does anyone want to try some? It’s really nice!” I said.

Rev James jumped at the opportunity and hogged the tin of dog food for a moment, while we distributed spoons amongst the children – they were willing to try some! We took turns to dip the spoon in and proceeded to eat the dog food. Some found it quite appealing, whereas others spat it out straightaway. The point was, they ALL tried it. They tried it not just because I said it was tasty (perhaps more so that Rev James said it was tasty – maybe he has more authority amongst these youngsters!), but they tried it for themselves before deciding whether they liked it or not.

Then I told the children that it isn’t real dog food they had been eating, but chocolate muffin set in orange jelly. It looked convincing enough! (This is how I prepared it: I opened a tin of baked beans from the bottom and substituted the beans with chunks of chocolate muffin set in orange jelly. After it had set in the fridge, I stuck the bottom of the tin back on with sticky tape. Then I carefully removed the dog food label from a tin of dog food and stuck it on the tin containing the chocolate muffin and orange jelly. I found that most brands of dog food had tins with rounded bottoms which normal tin openers fail to open, so it was easier to find a similar sized tin with a lip on the bottom and then exchange labels.)

Linking the dog food tasting to the Bible story, I explained that this is a bit like Thomas not believing that his friends had seen Jesus after he was raised to life. Thomas wasn’t in the room with them and so he said that unless he could see the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his finger where the nails were, and put his hand into his side (where the spear had speared Jesus when he was dead), he would not believe. Thomas needed evidence; he needed to see for himself and not believe just because his friends told him so. A bit like the Kids’ Club children wanting to try the dog food for themselves. They were keen to do so, and there was a certain amount of excitement about it.

So I imagine that there would have been a certain amount of excitement and awe on that day when Jesus did appear again to his disciples and Thomas was there this time. That’s why he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” He saw for himself and could touch Jesus for himself. I often think that he was very hard done by being branded doubting Thomas. Wouldn’t you and I have the same reaction given the circumstances? The disciples saw with their own eyes that Jesus died on the cross, and the women amongst them saw with their own eyes that he was laid in a tomb. So the kids here this afternoon saw with their own eyes that I opened the tin with the dog food label on, and that I scooped out a spoonful from that tin into my mouth and ate it. I said it was good, so whether they believed me or not, they were willing to give it a go and experience it for themselves.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good.” – Psalm 34:8

OK, some of the kids did not like the chocolate muffin and orange jelly combo, even though we had it on good authority that it tasted great! Hang on a minute, you say. It is not advisable to try absolutely everything before we trust that what we’ve been told is true. For example, we wouldn’t want our children to try taking drugs before they find out for themselves that it’s dangerous, do we? For bad things, we’d like our kids to trust our judgements. But for good things? I hope that all of us would “taste and see that the Lord is good”. We don’t like to just take others’ words for it. I believe that if we are willing to give God a chance, He will come close to us and bless us. My prayer is for you and me to experience that awe and happiness which Thomas had when he encountered the risen Jesus.

Posted in Crafts and activities, Ramblings

Kids’ Club joins in new craze of Easter Egg Tree

Did you know that the Easter Tree is nothing new? I thought it’s a novel idea, but apparently  it’s a European tradition and our American cousins have had Easter Trees for a while. Anyway, that’s the activity Arthur had prepared for us on the last session of Kids’ Club before school broke up for the Easter holidays, but first of all we had to talk about the Easter story. The children were keen to show off their knowledge, so we had a Q&A time.

It turned out that a fair bit of prompting was needed, so we had a quick recap of Jesus’ death on the cross on Good Friday, and then how on the very first Easter Sunday, Jesus’ disciples and Mary Magdalene went to the tomb only to find his body gone. Two angels told them that Jesus was not there. He had risen from the dead! Much to Mary’s surprise, Jesus himself appeared to her in the garden where the tomb was, and her grief was turned to joy. Jesus also appeared to his disciples later, but that’s for another time. We wanted to focus on Easter Day in the session, and what it means to us.

Sprouted willow cuttingTo help with the explanation, Arthur had brought in a willow “tree” from his garden, or rather, a slender branch he had stuck in a pot of compost last year because it looked dead. He looked after it all winter, and a few weeks ago it showed signs of new life – fresh young green leaves sprouted from the twigs. So he thought it would be very apt to use it to illustrate the message of Easter – that of new life.

New Life

Talk of Easter to anyone and what excites them about it, and people think of Easter eggs, especially the children. So we asked our Kids’ Club children what the eggs have to do with Easter and with new life. At first they couldn’t move past the thought of chocolate eggs…

Easter Egg templatesArthur:   What has an egg got to do with new life?

Children:  Easter eggs!

Arthur:   Yes… what might be inside an egg?

Children:  Chocolate!!!

Arthur:   What new life would you get inside a real egg?

Children:  Chocolate!!!…Er… Chick?

Arthur:  Yes! Little chicks are the new life you get from eggs. The eggs might not look alive, but there can be new life forming inside them. It’s a bit like that on the first Easter Sunday. Everyone knew that Jesus was dead but he came back to life with a new kind of body.

 

Easter Egg Tree
Easter egg tree made by Kids’ Club

I remember taking my own children to local farms when they were little, and we always enjoyed seeing baby animals. We remember the excitement and joy of handling tiny chicks, bunnies and guinea pigs. There is definitely something to celebrate about new life.

So here at this Kids’ Club session, in order to celebrate new life, we made an Easter tree by hanging decorated Easter eggs (coloured-in cards by the children) on the branches of the willow “tree”. The idea was borrowed from an article that Arthur’s wife Rita read in the Woman Alive magazine with templates for the eggs.  The children coloured these in and wrote their names and perhaps a short prayer on the back of the eggs. Then we hung them on the branches using scarlet yarns.

The Easter Egg Tree has only just been catching on over here in the UK and apparently it’s taking over Instagram and Pinterest by storm. More and more shops are selling Easter trees, together with chocolate eggs and myriad food items and decorations. This is turning into Christmas!

And like Christmas, it’s great that everyone is celebrating this important Christian festival, but let’s not forget the real meaning of Easter – that sin, death and decay isn’t the end; that God gives new life – a different kind of life, which was displayed in Jesus when he rose from the dead.

We see this similar but perhaps less powerful life force at work everyday around us, especially in springtime – in the new growth in nature, in the waking up of animals from hibernation. So it stands to reason, perhaps, that the dead-end things in life, the ugly, shameful and, dare we say sinful, things in our lives don’t have to imprison us forever. If we turn these over to Jesus, he who defeated death on a cross, can surely produce new life in us, and bring something new to our situations.

As the children have shown us, just the mere talk of new life, of little chicks (and of course chocolate) and little bunnies, fill us with excitement and positive energy. Perhaps it’s time for us grown-ups to take a leap of faith. Let’s face it, what humans can create new life? We can help the process of growth along, just as gardeners take cuttings of seemingly dead twigs and put them in compost, but we can’t force any roots or shoots to appear by will. Parents help babies and children grow by caring for them, but we don’t understand entirely the mystery of how it all happens. Scientists for centuries have tried to create new life, but still haven’t found any definitive answers.

I say that God is the only one who truly creates new beginnings, new life, new answers to our dead and decaying world. Perhaps this Easter we can let Him do that in our lives. Then we would truly have something to celebrate about.

Have a Happy Easter!

Posted in Crafts and activities, Uncategorized

Mother’s Day Crafts

So last week I was thinking, what activity should I do with the children at Kids’ Club… Mothering Sunday is coming up, but it’s a week and a half away. Perhaps the usual making Mother’s Day cards and parcelling up a few fun-sized chocolates would be ideal. What Mum wouldn’t appreciate that? We’ve done that several times before, what could go wrong?

I cut out all the cards and folded them the right size, got boxes of fun-sized chocolates, found the colouring pens and pencils. Ah! And I’ve recently found some bargain mini  stamps and mini ink pads from Hobbycraft. That brought back happy memories of me as a little girl stamping all over to make pretty pictures (or so I thought anyway) – so easy and quick, and nowadays you can get so many bright colours.

Well, it turned out to be a most stress-inducing session (for the leaders anyway)! There was ink oozing out everywhere as the children pressed on the ink pads. (In the old days, you’d be right to press hard on the pads to try and get a good bit of ink, as they tended to be dry.) Somehow there was ink on the table, all over the cards, on their hands, on their clothes (sorry parents!), and we’d done well not to have ink all over the leaders too.

This week after the event, I thought, whether it would have made any difference if I had tried it at home first. I usually do a trial run of all the activities to make sure it works, and assess whether it’s suitable for my group. Here you can see, it needn’t have made too much of a mess, but then again, I didn’t attack the ink pads like I would do if I were 6 or 7 years old. Lesson learned! Steer clear of mess-inducing paint or ink if you don’t want to have a lot of cleaning up to do. The kids would’ve been happy with just colouring pens and pencils anyway, and it would have left us with more time to make the other thing too. But if you really want to paint or do messy craft, then perhaps some disposable table cloths would be helpful and have some wet wipes to hand.

The “other thing” we made was using paper napkins to parcel up a few fun-sized chocolates as a gift for the mums. You can usually buy a large pack of paper napkins from supermarkets quite cheaply. I also found some bargain lilac raffia ribbon for the job.

Tie a label tag to the parcel. Write “To Mum, love from…” and there you have it!

We also did a story in the session, but that’s for another post

Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted in Crafts and activities, Ramblings, Uncategorized

Light of the World

Having drawn a very rough picture of a house and a wiggly path leading up to it on a flip chart sheet and stuck it on the wall, we played a game of Pin-the-Arrow-on-the-Path (like Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey). The children thought it was hilarious being blindfolded, spun around, missing the picture entirely at first and then some sticking their arrow on a tree instead. However it’s surprising and lovely to see that they were all shouting helpful hints to each other during the game, so they were all winners!

Linking the game to our previous session on St Paul’s conversion, the kids remembered (hurray!) that Saul saw a bright light on the road to Damascus. Well, our conversation went a bit like this:

Me:   So… do you remember who spoke to Saul?
Child A:  Erm… is it… is it…
Child B (putting hand up but interrupting):  It’s Jesus!
Me:   Yes, well done! And do you remember what happened to Saul when he…?
Child C (shouting excitedly):  He was blinded!
Me: That’s right, he couldn’t see.
Child D: Saul changed his name to Paul.
Me: Yes he did… So he couldn’t see. It’s like when you were blindfolded just now.
Child A: She didn’t put her hand up.
Me:  I know. Put your hands up to answer… So what was it like to be blindfolded?
Child E (hand up): It’s dark!
Me: That’s a good answer. So when it’s dark, can you see where you’re going?
Children: No!
Me: Has anyone been out for a walk at night or in the dark?
Child B: My Mum has.
Me: So how can you see where you’re going or what you’re stepping in?
Child E: (hand up): You use a torch.
Me:  Good! So if you have some light, you can see in the dark. You know, Jesus said that he is the light of the world…
Me:  Remember Saul or Paul again? Who did he meet on the road, or who spoke to him in the light?
Child B: Jesus!
Child E: She shouted out!
Me: OK, no shouting out. And you know if you go into a room at night when all the curtains are drawn and there’s no light, is it easy to find what you want? What helps?
Child C (hand up): You turn on the light.
Child A: I don’t think God’s real. I don’t believe in him…
Rev James: That’s OK. I think it’s a good job God believes in you though.
Me: So… it helps you to see if you turn on the light. What happens to the dark when we turn on the light?
Child B (hand up): It disappears!
Me: OK! We’re going to make some light switch covers to put in our rooms, so each time you flip the switch, you can be reminded of Jesus being the light of the world and getting rid of the darkness.
Me: But just before we do that, can you all read this verse from the Bible?
Children (all keen to read):

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

We then chose our light switch covers to colour in, and the kids took them home… (If you would like to download the light switch cover template, click here. This is for most standard British light switches, and you will need to choose Actual Size when printing.)

However, I was secretly glad that nobody asked me what being “the light of the world” or “having the light of life” means, because I’m not sure I could have given the kids an adequate answer – I’m no theologian, and I doubt they would have wanted a well thought out reply. But I did think that we can all relate to this: we all like light and warmth. Having spent a long miserable winter on the British Isles, we can all agree that the days are lengthening and spring is just round the corner. We all look forward to more sunshine and light – it gladdens the heart and gives us hope. We see new life appearing as spring bulbs come up from the ground and flower. The light isn’t just brightness – it gives energy and life.

And for those of us who’ve had little ones who were scared of the dark, who couldn’t go to sleep for fear of something or someone jumping out from the shadows, the gentle glow of the nightlight was a life-saver! That light, however dim, calms our fears (in the case of the child) and restores our sanity (in the case of the grown-up’s).

So perhaps Jesus is saying that he’s like all of that – he brings life and hope, calms our fears and souls, gladdens and warms our hearts, and energises yet calms our souls. May we all know something of this great Light.

Posted in Crafts and activities

How to make a paper plate butterfly

As I was mulling over craft ideas about Saul turning into Paul (yes, as if by magic!), I thought of the transformations that happen in our world, or on Cybertron – but thought it just might be a bit too tricky to make a car that turns into a robot. So I settled for the ever popular metamorphosis of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. In my research on the internet, I came across several good-looking paper plate caterpillars, and since I had a stack of paper plates at home, I went one step further and added wings too.

Here’s how I made it…

Step 1:

Draw lines on the outer ridged part of the paper plate to separate into 3 equal sections. Cut along these lines and around the centre circle of the plate so that we have 3 caterpillar bodies, comme ça.

Step 2:

Draw 3 circles in the centre of the paper plate for the caterpillar faces (or heads). You can find a suitable object to draw around, like my Winnie-the-Pooh pencil sharpener here.

Step 3:

Put some stubby antennae on the top of the heads, then cut them out.

Step 4:

If you wish, write the Bible verse “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 on the caterpillar body. It may help the children remember why we’re making the butterfly, and not just a science lesson.

Step 5:

Colour in the face and the body. Staple them together.

Step 6:

Now take another paper plate and fold it in half. Hold the doubled up plate firmly and cut into both halves together to make some wing shapes. I did mine freehand – just winging it! Go on, try it…

Step 7:

Open up the wings and colour in on the concave side of the plate. I used Sharpies, but you might want to let the kids use washable felt tips or colouring pencils, or decorate in any way you see fit.

Step 8:

Fold up the wings so the coloured sides are facing outwards. Staple them to the caterpillar body, and voila, you have a beautiful butterfly!

I find that with my group, it’s best to do all the cutting out beforehand, so they can concentrate on the colouring.

Let me know if you’ve tried making this!