Monday, May 9, 2011

Jesus Chooses His Disciples

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.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ghana Night

(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.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Typical Cubbie Night

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!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fruit of the Spirit

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.