The theme night for this AWANA was "All Star Night". The kids could come dressed up in a sport uniform if they wanted. So I thought we would talk about Jesus' "team" of friends he chose. I introduced the story by talking about being on a team and getting picked for a team and then explained Luke 5: 1-11 and Matthew 10:1-4 using felts. I also talked about how the word "disciple" meant "friend" - at least for our purposes :)
For our craft we did "following Jesus foam feet". I got this craft idea from Mumx6, although I modified it a little for our use.
Basically what we did was trace each child's foot on craft foam and write "Following Jesus" down the center. Then I let the kids go to town and decorate the feet with stickers, glitter glue, etc.
(image credit) We had a missionary come speak for our themed "Ghana" Awana Night. Since I didn't have to do a story for that night I had some extra activities to reinforce the Ghana theme. I got some simple books from our local library on Africa, the desert, and animals that lived there. I set up the felt board for kids to play with African animal felts and desert scenes and for our craft we made Animal Masks.
I realized that I never posted our typical schedule for a night of AWANA. Since the Cubbies are only 3/4 our schedule runs a little bit differently from other clubs.
6-6:10 - Opening Ceremony. All clubs participate in Opening Ceremony, even the Cubbies. We are the first ones dismissed back to our room.
6:10-6:30 - Book Time. Since memorization is such an integral part of AWANA we make sure we have a good chunk of time set aside for reciting. I also have coloring pages available for children who are finished with their verses and a small area with toys (typically for the boys who have trouble sitting still) to keep the kids quiet and non-disruptive for the children who are still reciting verses.
6:30-6:45 - Story Time. This is my time in the spotlight :) Just kidding. I get seriously excited about sharing the Bible with my kids. After all, for 3/4 year olds with short memories it's like telling them a story they have never heard before! If I am really excited about the lesson - they will usually mirror my excitement.
6:45-6:55 - Bathroom/Drink Break. After sitting for story time preschoolers need some time to move around so I usually have each leader take their "team" of kids to the bathroom or water fountain to allow the kids to wiggle and keep the kids who don't quite have the whole potty training thing totally down a chance to empty their bladders :)
6:55-7:15 - Craft Time. I always try to have a craft that not only reflects the story, but is interesting and on a level that the Cubbies can participate and help create. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it's always a fun time!
7:15-7:30 - Games/Song Time. Depending on how energetic (wild) the children are on a particular night, I might sing some action songs with them (Zacchaeus, I'm in the Lord's Army, Cubbie Song loudly then softly, etc) to allow them to move and be noisy. Or we might play a game to go with the story (this is one area I REALLY struggle with - I can never come up with good games). One of our favorite games that a former brilliant director created is called the "Animal Game". Basically you make all the kids lie down on the ground and turn out the lights (works best when it's still light outside so the kids don't get scared) and tell them when the lights go on they need to be ____ nonviolent animal. Turn the lights on, give them a couple minutes to act out the animal, turn the lights off so they lay down quietly again and think of another animal. I suggest NOT asking the kids for ideas as the boys in the room come up with the most violent animals possible. Or maybe that's just my children :)
7:30-7:45 - Snack Time. I have a sign up sheet at the beginning of the year and parents bring a simple snack (no drinks or nuts) for our 3 dozen or so kids and leaders.
7:45-8 - Award Time and Review the Story. Pretty much what it sounds like.
And that's it! Then I go home and CRASH from all the energy I expend with the children. I am always amazed at how much energy preschoolers have!
I LOVE doing the Fruit of the Spirit with preschoolers. It might seem like an abstract concept, but I have really found that preschoolers understand and identify with many of the fruits we talk about. The way I usually do the story is to Google, print off, color, and cut out a page-sized fruit for each virtue to go with Galations 5:22-23:
Grapes = Kindness
Orange = Joy
Apple = Self-Control
Strawberry = Love
Banana = Goodness
Peach = Gentleness
Cherry = Faithfulness
Pear = Patience
Watermelon = Peace (get it? a piece of watermelon)
I don't remember where I originally got the idea, but I had a short introduction that went something like this:
"You need a good banana and a brown/bad banana. As you show the children the rotten banana ask 'Who would like to eat this banana? Why not? How can you tell the banana will not taste very good?' Then show the children the good banana and ask 'Now who would like to eat this banana? Why? How can you tell this banana will taste good? Did you know our lives are like one of these two pieces of fruit? Children who belong to God do nice things, so other people see them as good and wholesome, like this good banana. The Bible says in Matthew 7:20, "You will recognize people by their fruit." What kind of fruit do you want to be?"
Then I had the felt board set up with my cut out page-sized fruit taped onto it. Underneath each fruit was an example using our felts of the spiritual fruit it represented:
Love = Mom and Dad holding a kid/baby
Joy = Kid holding a present
Peace = Kid sleeping
Patience = Kids standing in line
Kindness = Kid sharing with another kid
Goodness = Kids helping to set table
Faithfulness = Kids reading Bible
Gentleness = Kid holding a baby
Self-Control = Kid eating ONE cookie instead of five
By removing the fruit covering the examples one at a time and explaining them, the kids really catch on to what each fruit means. By the end of the story, I am usually able to point to each example and have the kids tell me what each fruit is illustrating.
For our craft, I wanted to do something similar to THIS craft from Oriental Trading. I love Oriental Trading's crafts - they are easy and convenient, but I can't afford to do them every week for three dozen children! So, I try to pick the top five or so weeks that I really need a convenient craft due to other events going on in my life and I buy crafts for those weeks. Otherwise, I use Oriental Trading more as inspiration and make my own crafts like it. For this craft, I had my sister draw the apple shape on green foam and we basically copied the craft on our own. This craft would also be a good one for illustrating the Fruits of the Spirit.
In order to help cement more complex concepts like this in my kids' minds, I do try to go over the story again at the end of the night during Award time. Even so, don't be discouraged if a parent asks their child what they learned that night and the kid replies "I don't know." or "Jesus." I truly believe that God's word won't return void and that planting the seeds of the gospel in kid's minds is important - even if it doesn't seem to make an impact immediately. I have learned kids listen closer than you think.
The first time for anything is usually hard. This is especially true for kids it seems. On the first day of class when kids are new, don't know me, each other, or their surroundings, it can be difficult to put them at ease and teach a lesson. This year I decided to go with the theme of "God Made Me".
I got "All About Me" posters from Oriental Trading which the leaders would help the kids fill out. This helped the leaders get to know their kids better. We read the book "God Made Me" by Debra Stuckey which is SUCH a perfect book for small children.
For our snack time, I brought in undecorated gingerbread cookies and frosting and let the kids make self-portraits. This was kinda messy but a huge hit! Plus it gave us a chance to talk about how we are all different and special.
I have been involved with our church's AWANA program for over ten years now.
Most of that time has been in the 3/4 year old's class - the Cubbies. This year, I have also been teaching the 2/3 year old Sunday School class.
I love the 2-4 year old age range. Everything is new and exciting. I get so excited by the fact that when I tell my kids a Bible story they are hearing it and understanding things about it for the first time. Since I have invested a good deal of time and effort into making the stories and crafts I use each week accessible and interesting and understandable for preschoolers, I thought I would attempt to post them all here as a resource for me for future planning, but also to help any other parents and teachers of preschoolers that might be interested.
Today I want to post about the ways I tell a Bible story. I like to use lots of different resources when I tell a story because kid's learn differently and because preschoolers have a short attention span.
Our church has a set of Betty Luken's Felts that I like to use occasionally. These take some time to set up and put away so I don't use these every week. When I do tell a story with them I try to pick one that uses LOTS of pieces of felt so I can give each child one to hold. Then, as I tell the story they get to come and put their felt onto the board. This works wonderfully for helping more active children listen and be involved in the lesson. I also keep the felts at the kids level after the story so they can play with them and retell the story to each other.
Puppets are a wonderful way to explain more abstract concepts to kids! I have a Cubbie bear, Lamb, and Elephant puppet.
Occasionally I use books such as 3 in 1 to explain big concepts like the Trinity.
I have a box of large realistic Bible Story Pictures, that Abeka makes that are fabulous, realistic ways to tell the story.
Every week I provide a coloring page for the children who have finished reciting their memory verses. I try to reinforce the theme or story I will be teaching on. The Bible Story Coloring Pages book has been wonderful for preschool appropriate coloring pages that are so cute!
My favorite way to teach children about Easter is with Resurrection Eggs. You might have already seen this idea around; I believe there are even sets you can purchase. I made our own set though because it really isn't that hard to do and lasts for years! There are lots of variations you will find when searching for Resurrection Egg sets so this set may not match up with others out there. Personally, the ability to customize your set is part of what makes these such an effective teaching tool.
Basically you need a dozen plastic eggs and an egg carton. Then you can copy and print out the list below and glue it to the inside of the egg carton. That will tell you what passage of scripture to read for each day, what is in each egg, and what it represents. I have found it helpful to either number the eggs or the slots in the egg carton so you know what goes where.
DayReadIn EggTo Represent
Day 1Luke 22:1-6Silver CoinsJudas betrayed Jesus
Day 2Mark 14:12-26BreadThe last supper
(bread will mold, I used crackers)
Day 3Luke 22:47-54SwordPeter cuts off servant's ear
Day 4Luke 22:55-62RoosterPeter denies Jesus
Day 5Matt. 27:1-2RopeJesus tied and whipped (Judas hangs himself)
Day 6Matt. 27:11-31ThornsJesus' crown of thorns
Day 7Luke 23:26-34CrossJesus dies on the cross
(I used popsicle sticks hot-glued together)
Day 8Luke 23:35-43SpongeJesus is given sour wine
(vinegar works well for demonstration purposes)
Day 9Luke 23:44-53LinenJesus' body is wrapped
Day 10Matt.27:59-61RockStone in front of the tomb
Day 11Luke 23:54-24:1SpicesWomen prepare spices
(whole cloves, lavender, any larger spice that smells good)
Day 12Luke 24:1-12EmptyJesus is risen. He's ALIVE!