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A Party for Baby Jesus

This is the post excerpt.

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Here’s an interactive nativity story to use at a toddler Christmas party or celebration. It simply shows that Christmas is the birthday of Jesus, the baby who slept in a manger. Ask the adults to bring their children (or a soft toy) dressed as a nativity character. It doesn’t matter how many Marys, Josephs, shepherds etc. come along on the day. Helpers could dress up, too!

Toddler groups might like to invite their minister to make the brief point that since Christmas is a birthday party for Jesus, it would be a shame to leave him out of the celebrations.

Ready: Decorate your meeting room and/or kitchen counter with items that help us celebrate both birthdays and Christmas, e.g. a cake with candles, balloons, cards, decorations, presents.

For the story, you will need a box for the manger, some straw, a big star to hang over the stable area, and a baby doll wrapped in a shawl.

Teddy: Dress Teddy as a nativity character, e.g. as a king with a paper crown and a cape. He could be holding a small box wrapped in foil as a precious gift.

Go: You’re ready to explain what Christmas is all about.

Story-telling tips: This story aims to keep the children engaged by involving them in simple actions, songs, sound effects and questions throughout. You might like to ask the adults to listen out for their cue to make animal sounds in the stable! The story starts at Mary’s house and moves to the stable area.

Leader: Welcome to our Christmas party, everyone! You all look great in your costumes. Look! Even Teddy’s dressed up! We’ve got (as appropriate) balloons, a cake, presents, decorations and most important of all, friends to help us celebrate. It’s just like a birthday party, isn’t it? But whose birthday is it? I wonder! Well, listen to the Christmas story and you’ll find out!

Helper 1: Long ago, God wanted to send us a present to say, “I love you!” What do you think that present was? It was a baby boy – his own son, Jesus. Isn’t that amazing?

Helper 2: God needed someone kind to look after him. So he sent the Angel Gabriel to ask Mary to be the baby’s mummy. Is anyone here dressed up as Mary? Yes! What about as an angel? Good! Can you stand up?

Helper 3: Mary is very surprised when the angel comes to her house. “Don’t be afraid!” says the angel. “God loves you very much. You are going to have a baby soon and you must call him Jesus. He will be a great king. Will you look after him, please?” Wow! What do you think Mary says? She says, “YES!” What does she say? She says . . .

All: Yes!

Helper 3: Let’s all stand up and sing a song about that.

All: (To the tune Frere Jacques)

       God is sending,

       God is sending,

       A baby boy, a baby boy, (rock arms)

       You can be his mother,

       You can be his mother,

       Jump for joy, jump for joy! (jump and clap)

Helper 1: Let’s all sit down again! Well, Mary is so happy that she can’t wait to find Joseph. Is anyone dressed as Joseph here? That’s wonderful! Listen to Mary’s news! “Joseph, God is sending us a baby boy and he wants us to look after him. Isn’t that exciting?”

Helper 2: Now Mary and Joseph are very busy getting ready for the baby. Mary’s tummy grows big and round. But just when it’s time for the baby to be born, they have to go on a long journey to Bethlehem. Oh, no! Come on, let’s walk with them and help them on their way . . .

All: (To the tune Here we go round the mulberry bush)

Here we up to Bethlehem, (walk on spot or to stable area)

Bethlehem, Bethlehem,

Here we go up to Bethlehem,

On a cold and frosty morning. (repeat as required)

Where shall we stay in Bethlehem, (hand above eyes, searching)

Bethlehem, Bethlehem,

Where shall we stay in Bethlehem,

On a cold and frosty morning?

Helper 3: Phew, I’m tired! Let’s sit down for a rest . . . Mary and Joseph are tired, too. They need somewhere to stay for the night. But everywhere’s so crowded. It’s buzzing with people! Can you make a buzzing sound?

All: Buzz, buzz, buzz!

Helper 1: Yes, all the inns and hotels are full. Where can they stay? Joseph knocks on lots of doors, rat-a-tat-tat . . . Can you knock on a door?

All: Rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat!

Helper 1: Have you any room? But everywhere they go they hear the same thing. No room, no room. What do they hear?

All: No room, no room!

Helper 2: Until at last, one very kind innkeeper says, “Oh dear, you do look tired. You could stay in my stable, if you like. That’s if you don’t mind my animals!

Helper 3: Mary and Joseph don’t mind at all. Oh, thank you, thank you! What do they say?

All: Thank you, thank you!

Helper 3: Come on then, all you Marys and Josephs, come into the stable and sit near the manger, the animals’ feed box . . .

The straw feels all prickly and tickly, doesn’t it? If we keep very quiet and still, we might hear the animals saying “goodnight!” Listen!

Adults: Ee-aw, ee-aw! Neigh, neigh, baa-baa, etc!

Helper 3: Have we got any animals here? Come and settle down for the night near the manger!

Helper 1: (whisper, with awe) Tonight, the stars are glowing like birthday candles in the dark sky. Have we got any stars here? Come on then! And tonight, in this chilly stable, baby Jesus is born. (Bring out the doll and show it to the children) Mary gives him a cuddle. Then she wraps him up and places him gently in the manger. (Place the baby doll in the manger)

All: Away in a manger (sing the first verse together)

Helper 2: All the angels in heaven are very excited that baby Jesus has been born on earth. Come on, you angels, can you flap your wings and play “follow my leader” to come and stand behind the others? Don’t forget to have a peep in the manger on the way . . .

Helper 3: “It’s Jesus’ birthday today!” sing the angels. “Let’s give a party for him!” So they hang up a bright, shiny star over the stable as if to say, “The party is here! Everyone is invited!” (Hang up your star)

Helper 1: But who do you think will come? Who is awake in the middle of the night? Yes! The shepherds on the hillside, of course! They always stay awake to look after their sheep. Do we have any shepherds here? “Dear Shepherds,” sing the angels, “You are invited to a birthday party for baby Jesus. Do come! You’ll find the baby lying in a manger.”

Helper 2: “Yes, please! We’d love to come,” say the shepherds. They gather up some lambs and hurry into Bethlehem to look for the baby. Come on, shepherds, come and kneel in front of the manger . . .

Helper 3: Far away, some kings see the star hanging in the sky. Do we have any kings here? Can you point at the star? “Look! Someone’s having a party,” they say. “Let’s follow the star and see who it is! We can bring some precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Come on, kings, come and join the party!

Helper 1: What a wonderful time they had admiring the new baby king. And that’s why we’re having a party today – to remember Jesus’ birthday. So that’s whose birthday it is! Shall we sing Happy Birthday to him?

All: Happy birthday to you,

       Happy birthday to you,

       Happy birthday, dear Jesus,

       Happy Birthday to you!

Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for sending us such a wonderful Christmas present – baby Jesus! Thank you for Mary and Joseph who looked after him, for the innkeeper and his animals who shared their stable with him, for the angels who invited the shepherds, and for the stars that sparkled like birthday candles and led the Kings to Bethlehem. This Christmas, help us to remember to say, “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” Amen

Party bag: Why not suggest to the adults that they continue the birthday theme at home over the festive season by helping their toddlers to complete the Christmas Eye-Spy activity?

Christmas Eye-Spy

Have fun keeping your eyes open for the real meaning of Christmas!

Have a look out for some of these things.

Do they remind you of anything or anyone from the nativity story?

Wrapped Christmas presents 

Precious g – – – –       

Christmas cake with candles    

Jesus’ birth – – –

Party hats in crackers

The K – – – – from the East

The Angel on the top of a Christmas tree

The A – – – – Gabriel

A star decoration                    

The s – – – over the stable              

A newborn baby

B – – –   Jesus

 nativity

September:Friends for life!

FAITH IN THE FAMILY

 Diary of Jonathan, Son of King Saul

 PRIVATE! NOT TO BE READ BY ANY PERSON

 Father in bad mood again today. “Tormented by evil spirit!” Keep out of his way . . .

Still bad. Servants fetch lad from Bethlehem. Brown face. David. Plays the harp to Father. Great! The King feels better! We keep David on! . .

I get chatting to David. He’s about my age. Not shy! Looks after his father’s sheep. Asks me about my success in battle . . .

I talk to David again. Says he’s a warrior, too – he’s killed lions and bears with his hands. Really? But I like him – and so does Father! . .

Crisis! The Philistines threaten our army. Their champion Goliath looking for fight. Nine feet tall . . . INCREDIBLE! DAVID KILLED GOLIATH WITH SLING AND STONE! THE LORD IS WITH OUR YOUNG SHEPHERD!

 

David is here to stay! I love this guy! We make solemn pact – friends for life. Give him my sword, etc, as sign . . .

Yes! Father gives David high rank in army. Deserves it. Popular with the men – and the ladies!! BUT Father uneasy again. Feels God not with him as before. Horrible bursts of anger . . .

Father truly disturbed today. Wants me to kill David! Why? I warn David to keep away. I speak up for him. Remind Father of all D has done for us. Why kill innocent man, etc? Dad promises D is safe. Feel reassured . . .

David leads our army to victory again! Am I jealous? NO – because I know God is with him . . .

Strange – David says King trying to kill him. “What is his crime?” he asks. Know this cannot be true. Father would have told me. David says he’s keeping me in dark because of our friendship. We make a plan. David to hide in archery field while I confront King. If he means D no harm, I’ll go out later and shoot three arrows at target. Then shout to my boy, “Go fetch my arrows. They are on this side of you. Bring them here.” But if father does mean him harm, I’ll shout, “Look, the arrows are beyond you.” That’s D’s sign to flee . . .

I’m trembling. Angry. Spoke to King who flew into rage. Accused me of siding with David, giving him my future throne. “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” I asked. The King hurled his spear at me.

I saw his eyes, full of hate. Now I see, he means to kill David. It’s shameful. Call for my bow . . .

* * *

Feel numb. David is gone. We wept. Thank God he went in peace. We once swore friendship to each other and to each other’s families and we won’t forget that – whatever happens.

Pause for thought: They say that you can never have enough friends. The supposed diary extract above tells the story of the strong relationship between David and Jonathan – an unbroken friendship.

As parents, we want our children to find good friends and also to be a good friend to others. How can we help them to do so? Take time to think back to your own school days. How did great friendships come about and how have you managed to keep them going? Be prepared to pass on these stories.

It’s also great to model being a good friend by communicating our thinking. For example, “I’m meeting Sue for a coffee today – she’s been feeling a bit down recently. Maybe I can cheer her up.” “Ben’s got a job interview tomorrow, so I’m sending him a text to say I’m thinking of him.” We can also model speaking well of our friends, rather than running them down.

It’s interesting that David and Jonathan make a serious promise of friendship before God. It’s a decision they make and stick to, not something that comes and goes according to how they feel – or abandon when the going gets tough.

If children understand the true meaning of friendship, they can better understand the friendship that God offers to us.

 

 David and Jonathan: Read the diary extract above together about the friendship between these two young men. Wonder about it as follows:

  • I wonder why the King wanted to kill David
  • I wonder who was a good friend in this story
  • I wonder what you think makes someone a good friend

Pizza Party: Invite new school friends round to make pizzas together! You could buy some ready-made bases (or make your own dough) and prepare some tomato sauce in advance by heating tinned tomatoes with a dessertspoon of tomato puree and a pinch of oregano or mixed herbs.

Provide a variety of toppings for your friends to choose from, for example:

Tuna pizza: black olives, capers, tinned tuna fish, sliced onion

Spicy sausage pizza: chopped ham, sliced spicy sausage, sliced pepperoni, grated

     Mozzarella cheese

Courgette pizza: sliced courgette, sliced mushroom, sliced onion, gated cheese

 Lay circles of dough (about 13cm/5 in diameter) on a greased baking tray. Spread the sauce over the bases, leaving a small margin. Add the toppings and bake until bases are golden brown (approx 15-20 mins at 220 C/425 F/ Gas mark 7).

 

Friendship bracelets: You will need rectangles of white paper, about A5 size; pencils; crayons or felt-tipped pens; sticky tape; scissors

(Each piece of paper makes three bracelets)

Fold the rectangle of paper in half, short edges together, and then in half again (in the same direction). With the short end of the folded paper towards you, draw a circle (for a face or head shape) near the top of the paper. Connect each circle to the long edges of the paper with two lines (rather like a narrow watch strap). Repeat in the middle and bottom.

Cut out each bracelet, taking care not to cut along the folds of the ‘straps’. Open them out and decorate them with your friends. You could draw your own face and those of three friends. Or you could decorate them with pictures of David and Jonathan and some items from the story!

Help each other to fasten them around your wrists with tape. You could even make a long chain of everyone in your class or Sunday Club and hang it up on the wall!

 

A good friend . . .

Write this heading on a big piece of paper and leave it pinned or taped where family members can write their ideas. For example:

  • Always wants the best for you
  • Tries to understand you . . .
  • Never . . .

 

‘Friends’ scrapbook: Why not keep a diary, scrapbook or photo album of all the things you do with your friends this year. Write some notes to remind yourself in the future of all the things you are doing together now. Send paper birthday cards and tell your friends how much you appreciate them – or thank them for their support in the past. If you take a good photo of a group of friends, perhaps you could buy a ‘friends’ frame for it and give as a birthday present.

 

Bedtime meditation: Remind children that when God made the world, he wanted to be good friends with us. Chat quietly about all the things he did for us (giving us plenty of food, a beautiful world, trusting us to look after his world, etc). Ask children to close their eyes and use their imaginations as they listen, answering the questions in silence . . .

 

(Speak slowly and quietly) Imagine you’re standing in a beautiful garden with God. He smiles at you and asks you to walk with him through his garden. As you walk, he seems to match his steps with yours, so that he is always by your side. The sun’s just setting. What colour are the clouds? He points out some trees with fruit on them. What kind of fruit hangs on the branches? Now you come down to some water. Is it a lake, or a river? Is the water flowing fast or still? What reflections can you see in the water? A bird flies down to the water’s edge. What’s it like? Now God beckons and a horse comes trotting up to make friends with you.

You walk on together and God asks you about your day. What do you tell him? You chat together happily – what are you chatting about?

Now you are both quiet, but it doesn’t matter at all because you feel quite at ease – with a good friend you can be happy whether you are talking or just being quiet together.

 

Prayer time: Thank God for particular friends or ask him to help us find friends. Ask how we can give them support. Thank God for sending Jesus to be our friend forever.

Vicki Howie

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAITH IN THE FAMILY FOR JULY/AUGUST

 Let’s get creative!

The Story of Creation (Based on Genesis 1-2:3)

A story poem to read aloud, mime and join in the repetitions!

In the beginning, there was nothing. (Show empty hands) So God made the heavens and the earth. “Let there be light!” said God. And light appeared!

That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the land. But there was nothing growing on it. “Let all kinds of plants grow on the earth!” said God. And they did! There were trees and bushes, fruit and vegetables and colourful flowers. (Mime growing up, spreading branches)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the sky. But there was nothing shining in it! “Let there be lights in the sky!” said God. And there were! There were brilliant suns, glowing moons, spinning planets and twinkling stars. (Wiggle fingers like twinkling stars, spin like planets)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the sea. But there was nothing swimming in it. “Let the sea be filled with all sorts of sea creatures!” said God. And it was! There were crabs and dolphins, turtles, fish and sea-horses all swimming through the water. (Mime swimming, diving, floating)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the air. But there was nothing flying through it. “Let there be birds!” said God. And there were! The air was filled with birds. There were swallows and parrots, eagles and owls all flying and swooping and hovering (mime flying, swooping, hovering)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the jungle. He made forests, fields and gardens. But there was nothing moving through it. “Let there be animals!” said God. And there were! There were big animals and tiny creatures. There were wild animals and friendly pets. (Mime crawling, galloping, stalking, trotting)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

So God made the world. But there was no-one to look after it. No-one special to share all it’s joys. “Let there be a man and a woman!” said God. And there were! And soon the world was filled with families – Mums and Dads, boys and girls, Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles. They sowed seeds, they made music, sang and danced, they made clay pots and carved wood . . . (mime different activities) . . . and God was very pleased – especially when they made time to walk and talk with him!

“That’s WONDERFUL!” said God. “That’s REALLY wonderful!”

And God was so pleased with all that he had made, that he stopped work for a rest and to bless and enjoy it all!

 

Pause for thought: Take time to read the story above and the Creation story in Genesis 1-2:2 on which it is based. The Bible story, written over two thousand years ago, is not meant to tell us how the world was made – scientists do not know for certain today. In fact, the writer probably believed that the earth was a flat disc mounted on pillars, with water beneath and above the great dome of the sky. What interested him was not how this happened but why – and he makes it clear that it was at the will of God and not by accident.

The writer was a devout member of a community which saw the seventh day not only as a day of rest from work, but as one on which to gather for worship, prayer and seeking the will of God – in other words a chance for recreation in a profound way. In his great hymn of Creation, he sees the working week as a reflection of the great creative acts of God who, on the seventh day, rests and refreshes himself, content with a job well done!

The Bible passage sees man in a privileged position, able to run the world but accountable to its Creator. He is made in God’s image and is therefore capable of great things, with the freedom to respond to God.

The summer holidays are a great opportunity for us to delight in the natural world around us and to encourage our children to do the same. We can help them to create memories and family traditions that will give them pleasure in years to come and which they in turn may introduce to their own families!

  

The Creation story: Read the story above out loud while other members of the family do the mimes. Wonder about it together, as follows:

  • I wonder if you could leave out anything that God made and it would make no difference to the world
  • I wonder which part of the story you like the best
  • I wonder how we can look after God’s world
  • I wonder why God rested after all his work

 

Recreation time for Mums and Dads! As a busy parent, it’s easy to feel we are simply “Emma’s Mum” or “Ben’s Dad”! The more relaxed summer months may be a good time to resume an enjoyable interest or therapeutic hobby dropped through lack of time. Arm yourself with the right equipment (water-colours, walking map, maintained bike, yoga mat, etc) and put aside some time to “recreate” your own identity! If personal prayer time has been short, perhaps now is the time to refresh it!

 

Recreation time for kids! During the summer holidays, encourage children to find new hobbies for relaxation both now and for their future benefit. For inspiration, you could:

  • Visit a craft store such as Hobbycraft for ideas and supplies
  • Visit a good bookshop or a library. Search for books that inspire, for example a book on how to draw/make origami animals or a storybook about an animal by Michael Morpurgo
  • Invest in a book of 365 poems for children and start reading one every day
  • Have a look in the supermarket for “creation-themed” sugar cake decorations, such as stars, butterflies or carrots (for carrot cake!)

 

On a car journey: On a long car journey, play the alphabet game, with each person naming something that God has made starting with A,B,C, etc. For example, Alligator, Berries, Corn, Daisy . . . You could do the same thing with names of people and countries, for example, Andrew, Belgium, Christopher, Denmark . . .

 

Put on a good show! Perhaps children could get together with friends to perform the Creation story above. Instead (or as well as) the mimes, they could draw and paint stars, animals, sea-creatures etc as props to be brought out of a box at the appropriate moments in the story. They could have some regular craft and rehearsal sessions.

Why not perform this to family and friends? Everyone could bring some themed refreshments (star biscuits, butterfly cakes, tuna rolls, etc) to serve afterwards. You could ask for donations to a favourite charity or towards the mission of your church!

 

Plants: Give children a small bed or container to dig over or look after during the summer. If you have a flower press, experiment to see which flowers press the best. Alternatively, wrap them in tissue and put between the pages of a heavy book. Once pressed, use them to make greetings cards.

Visit a garden centre to plant up a herb pot or small alpine garden in a container.

 

The National Trust: Look out for some fun family days out at local NT properties. In the south-east, for example, at Emmetts Garden, there’s a family trail from Sat 1 Jul – Sun 3 Sep (10am-4pm) and there’s a performance of Wind in the Willows on Thurs 31 Aug at 4pm. At Chartwell, there’s a “Winston and other animals” family trail over the summer and at Sheffield Park and Garden you can enjoy a night under canvas at a wild camping weekend (Fri 7 and Sat 8 Jul). Cook on the campfire and enjoy a spot of stargazing.

For these and other events, visit nationaltrust.org.uk/southeastevents

 

Fabulous Fruit Lollies! Make some refreshing fruit lollies! Put 50g (2 oz) each of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries into a saucepan together with 1 ½ tablespoons icing sugar (sieved). Cook over a gentle heat for a short while until the fruit is soft. Puree and sieve, then stir in one 150g (5 oz) pot raspberry yoghurt. Pour into 4 ice-lolly moulds and freeze.

 

Prayer: In the story of Creation, God rested on the seventh day. As a way of making Sunday special, have a time of family prayer and thanksgiving for the summer holidays. Talk about the things that each person has enjoyed over the past week before each one says a simple one-line prayer thanking God. Finish by thanking God for our wonderful world and for giving us the gift of time to enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Father’s Day story for the young

 

 

Ready: Here’s a multi-sensory story to celebrate Father’s Day. It’s based on the Bible story of the Prodigal Son. The story ends with a party, so you might like to provide some party plates, cups, and straws for refreshments both to ‘play’ the story and to celebrate the occasion. Some chocolate coins would also link with the story.

When the children arrive, let them play with a toy farm that includes pigs, or toy shops/money tills.

 

Teddy: Use Teddy to introduce the idea that sometimes we need to say sorry for making others sad. Teddy could even play the part of the boy in the story!

 

Go: You’re ready to show that God is our loving Father, always ready to forgive us and to let us start all over again whenever we are truly sorry.

 

The story basket: Pack a basket with some multi-sensory props for the children to experience during the story, such as: a boy doll with an item of clothing, a small drawstring bag or purse with coins to jingle in it, a toy pig, a container of mud, some pieces of raw swede, paper party hats for everyone.

 

Story-telling tips: The finger rhyme, Two little dickey birds sitting on a wall, provides a good “way in” to the story:

Two little dickey birds sitting on a wall, (hold up index fingers)

One named Peter, (wiggle one finger)

One named Paul, (wiggle other finger)

Fly away Peter, (take first finger behind back)

Fly away Paul, (take other finger behind back)

Come back Peter, (bring first finger back)

Come back Paul! (bring other finger back).

 

Welcome: Hello, everybody! How are you feeling today? I’m sorry to say that Teddy’s feeling very cross. I wonder why? (Teddy appears to whisper in your ear.) Oh, he says he just woke up feeling cross!

Well, we all feel like that sometimes. We fold our arms . . . (encourage everyone to fold arms), we stamp our feet . . . (encourage everyone to stamp feet) and when someone asks us to do something, we shout “No!”. . . (encourage everyone to shout “No!”) Oh, dear! That makes our Mums and Dads feel sad and we need to say sorry! Here’s a song about saying sorry! Can you join in?

 

SONG: (To the tune of Morningtown Ride, sung by The Seekers)

Sometimes I am naughty,

And that makes you feel sad,

But if I say “I’m sorry!”

We can hug and all feel glad! (Repeat)

 

Who likes getting a bear hug? Yes! Well, Jesus told a story about a boy who got a great big hug from his Dad when he wasn’t expecting it! Listen!

 

Storyteller: (Show doll) One morning, a boy woke up feeling as angry as a lion shut in a cage. He sprang out of bed and got dressed . . . (dress doll)

Then he paced up and down, up and down . . . (walk doll)

Out of the window, he could see his father and his big brother working hard on the farm.

“Hurry up!” they called. “Come and help us with the work!”

The boy didn’t want to. So he folded his arms . . . (all fold arms), stamped his foot . . . (all stamp feet), and shouted “No!” . . . (all shout “No!”) That wasn’t very kind, was it?

 

Storyteller: Then the boy marched outside and spoke rudely to his father.

“I’m a big boy now,” he said. “Give me some money! I’m going to leave home.”

Well, the father loved his boy very much. But he let him go.

“Here’s your money,” he said, sadly . . . (show money bag)

“Take care. I’m going to miss you.” He held out his arms to give his boy a hug . . . (hold out your arms) but the boy just walked away, jingling his moneybag . . . (let children hear the money jingling in the bag)

 

Storyteller: At last he reached a busy town. In the market there were lots of exciting things to buy.

“Hooray!” he said. “I’ve got all this money to spend! Listen!” . . . (jingle bag again)

So he dipped into the bag over . . . and over . . . and over again . . . (give coins from bag to helpers) until . . .

Listen! . . . (shake empty bag) No sound! The bag was empty!

Soon the boy’s tummy was empty too! . . . (rub your tummy)

“I’m hungry!” he said. “But I haven’t got any money left to buy food. I’d better get a job.”

 

Storyteller: Well, someone gave him a job looking after their pigs (show pig) . . . can you smell the mud in the pigs’ field? . . . (invite children to smell mud!) Pooh! But no-one gave him any food.

“Oh, no!” he said. “I’m so cold and hungry that I could eat the pigs’ dinner!” Would you like to taste the pig’s dinner? . . . (offer some swede!) It’s not very nice, is it! Poor boy! So he gave himself a hug . . . (all hug themselves) and he stamped his feet to keep warm . . . (all stamp feet) and then he whispered “No!” . . . (All whisper “No!”)

“No more being rude and unkind! I’m going to go home and say sorry to my father.” What was he going to say? (all say, “I’m sorry!”) That’s better!

 

Storyteller: So the boy turned back towards home . . . (turn doll back) But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming and what do you think he did? He RAN to give him a great big hug! Shall we do that? . . . (Encourage the children to move a short distance from their carers) . . . Then one two three . . . (The children run back for a hug!) Shall we do that again? . . .

“Oh, Dad,” cried the boy. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry I made you sad!”

“It’s all right!” said his father kindly. “Pooh! You’re a bit smelly, though! Lets find you some clean clothes and then we’ll have a party!” . . . (Hand out some party hats)

Storyteller: When the boy’s big brother came in from working on the farm, would you believe it, he folded his arms . . . and stamped his foot . . . and shouted “No! . . . No party for that lazy boy! I’m the one who’s been working hard!”

“Oh, don’t be like that!” begged the father. “You see, I was very sad when your brother went away. But now I’m happy because he came back to say sorry.”

 

 

I expect they had a wonderful party, don’t you? Jesus says that God has a party whenever we say sorry! HOORAY!

Just before our party, let’s say another finger rhyme together:

 

Two boys working on a farm one day, (hold up index fingers)

One was rude and ran away, (take one hand behind back)

He came back (bring hand back) and his Daddy said “Hooray!

I’m so glad you’re home to stay!” (Link index fingers)

 

And now let’s put our hands together for a prayer:

 

Dear Father God,

Sometimes we do things that make you sad.

Please help us to say “sorry”.

Thank you that you are just like the Dad in the story, always ready to forgive us and let us start all over again.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL: Faith in the family activities for Easter

Story: The Resilience of Jesus

 God was delighted with his world, but not with the behaviour of his children. They were doing the one thing he’d asked them not to – deciding for themselves what was right and wrong. Soon his ‘clever’ children had stopped listening to their heavenly father. Instead they kidded themselves that it was fine to steal, to make war, to ignore the hungry, to pollute the rivers . . . Like straying sheep, they went their own way!

But God still loved his children. So much so, that he planned to send his own son Jesus into the world, a kindly shepherd who would gather his flock into the fold. Jesus would even pay the price for people’s mistakes by dying on a cross. But that would not be the end . . .

From the word go, it was not an easy life for Jesus. God gave him loving parents. But they were far from home when Mary gave birth and Jesus was born in a poor stable. Then they had to flee from cruel Herod. Refugees! But his childhood in Nazareth was peaceful, learning useful building skills from Joseph.

God provided Jesus with an older cousin John who prepared everyone to listen to his message about living God’s way – the way of kindness. But no sooner had he been baptised, than he was tempted by the Devil. Tempted to use his God- given talents for his own power and pleasure. His utter determination to do God’s will enabled him to resist and he voiced this in words of Scripture that he knew by heart.

At least the Devil recognized Jesus as the Son of God! Many people did not – especially those in his own town of Nazareth, where he was rejected. He was often criticized and questioned in a hostile manner but he parried with a question of his own to make others think. His close friends were a support and he taught them to love their enemies and to do good to those who hated them.

Even his best friends did not understand his real mission – especially when he revealed that he would suffer and be killed. But he resolutely set out for Jerusalem, saying, “I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day . . .”

What a welcome there was for Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday! But within a week, the same crowd was demanding his death. He was betrayed by Judas, arrested, mocked, insulted, spat upon, flogged, disowned by Peter and nailed to a cross on Good Friday. He died.

But he was victorious over death and on Easter Day he rose again. He had fulfilled his purpose to heal man’s broken relationship with God.

Pause for thought: There is no getting away from the fact that life is full of ups and downs. We all need a certain amount of resilience or toughness, to be able to survive the bad times and to provide the capacity to bounce back again afterwards.

Throughout his life and particularly at the end of it, Jesus suffered more than most (see the Bible story above). Knowing that he had to face death on the cross, he nevertheless resolutely set out for Jerusalem to do his Father’s will. Along the way, he faced temptation, rejection of his ministry, threats, betrayal, mocking, insults, he was spat upon, flogged and was killed. He survived it all, even conquering death itself for our sakes.

Children today face a particularly insidious problem in the form of online pressures and bullying. This can be constant since iphones go with them everywhere and parents may not be aware of what is happening. In our competitive world, there is also the pressure to succeed in all sorts of subjects and activities set against a background of complicated family set ups.

So how can we help our children to build reservoirs of strength to draw upon? Perhaps we can ensure that they have a positive view of themselves by being generous with praise. At the baptism of Jesus, and at the start of his ministry, Jesus heard God say to him, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” We need to show too that our love is not conditional upon achievement, but that they are loved for themselves.

Jesus surrounded himself with a group of close friends. We can encourage our children to join in with others, perhaps at one of our church groups, and we can welcome their friends into our homes. In such groups they can learn to share problems and support one another.

We know that Jesus often withdrew to a lonely place to pray. Again, we can build quiet times (without phones!) into our hectic lives giving our children the space to think and pray, and allowing them the chance to get things back into perspective.

Psychologists say that resilient people have a sense of purpose, making realistic plans and sticking to them. They are flexible enough to embrace change and are able to maintain a hopeful outlook despite what is going on. Here are a few family activities for Easter that might encourage resilience!

Sweet and sour recipe: Prepare an easy family meal using a ready-made sweet and sour sauce from the supermarket. Put any phones away and read the story above together. As you eat, chat about the sweet and sour aspects of Jesus’ life on earth.

What do family members find easy or difficult in their lives today? Share how you each deal with these things. Do people agree that a problem shared is a problem halved?

Ups and downs: Start playing some easy board games, such as Snakes and Ladders or Ludo, with young children to get them used to set-backs. At first, they may be upset at having to move a counter backwards on the board. But persevere and demonstrate a light-hearted attitude yourself at moving your own counter back.

The good news and the bad news: Play this game on a car journey or a long walk. One person starts a story about a character setting out to achieve a goal, but unfortunately . . . they run into a problem. The next person takes over the story, saying fortunately . . . and then provides a solution until unfortunately . . . etc. Keep the mini-story going for several minutes until the character achieves their goal and it is someone else’s turn to start a new story.

No gain without pain: It can be useful to learn to think positively about things we have to do but may not look forward to! For example, on the way to the dentist, chat about:

  • What would happen if we did not have our teeth checked
  • Modern dentistry methods as opposed to earlier ones
  • The short time in the dentist’s chair compared to the year!

Can everyone think up some positive thoughts about a cold, rainy day in the Easter holidays, an exam, a boring chore, etc!

What did we all gain from the pain Jesus suffered on Good Friday?

How do I look? Make a regular habit of complimenting children on their natural good looks, especially when they are least expecting it! “Your hair looks such a beautiful colour in the sunshine,” etc! When teenagers are getting ready for a party, you could say things like, “I know its fun to wear a bit of makeup, but with your beautiful eyes/lips/cheekbones, you really you don’t need it!” Give them confidence as they set off. “Wow! You look like a film star!”

Try to give young children the words they need to deal with run-of-the-mill hurtful comments from others. For instance, “If I were you, I’d tell him/her to go to Specsavers!” “Well, if they are going to say that sort of thing, I should think you ought to say, ‘[name], I’ve had enough of you for the moment’ and walk away.”

A home for bees and bugs: Help the mini-beasts in your garden to be resilient by making them a home. As a family activity, build a stack with various unwanted materials such as wooden pallets (good as a base), bricks (to keep the structure together), old terracotta plant pots, etc. Stuff the layers with bamboo canes, twigs, straw, moss and pinecones. Build in semi-shade and cover with something to keep the rain out, such as roof tiles. Mini-beasts will help keep pests away and also pollinate, helping your garden to be fruitful!

 

 

 

Teddy’s Easter Surprise!

Here’s an interactive story to use at a toddler group Easter celebration. It involves a hen laying eggs, a bird building a nest and a rabbit, but the inclusion of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly provides a simple metaphor for the Easter story.

Toddler groups might like to invite their minister to explain briefly to the adults how this metamorphosis mirrors the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The story leads well into an Easter egg hunt (and is available to buy from CPO with all you need for an Easter Celebration for your group!)

 

Ready: Decorate your meeting room and/or kitchen counter with some Easter items such as some spring flowers, some twigs with catkins, a decorative nest with eggs, chicks, mini eggs.

Pack a story basket with some props/pictures to illustrate the story: a toy hen, bird, rabbit, caterpillar and butterfly. Use a pair of socks for the cocoon and hide the butterfly in one of them.

 

Teddy: If possible, dress Teddy in some play clothes such as a pair of dungarees and wellingtons.

 

Go: You’re ready to mirror the sadness, but ultimately the joy of the Easter story.

 

Storytelling tips: Practice the story out loud several times before you perform it, especially hiding the caterpillar and bringing out the butterfly so that this becomes really slick. Alternatively, ask a helper to show the props for you.

Try to use your voice to show the sadness, happiness and surprise in the story.

 

Leader: Welcome to our Easter celebration, everyone! Have you noticed how everything outside is bursting into life? The flowers, the trees – even the birds are bursting into song! Well, one spring day, Teddy was out in his garden but he didn’t have anyone to play with. It made him feel sad. Poor Teddy! Can you make a sad face?

All: (All pull corners of mouths down and make sad faces)

Leader: If only Teddy had a friend to play with!

Just then, along came a yellow hen.

“Yellow hen, yellow hen, will you play with me?” asked Teddy.

“Oh, no!” clucked the hen. “I have no time to play. It’s nearly Easter. I have eggs to lay!”

And she went running off to the henhouse.

Song: To the tune “Polly put the kettle on”

         Yellow hen where did you go,

Yellow hen where did you go,

Yellow hen where did you go,

Where did you go?

 

I went home to lay some eggs,

I went home to lay some eggs,

I went home to lay some eggs,

Some Easter eggs!

 

Leader: I love Easter eggs, thought Teddy. But it’s much nicer to share them with a friend.

All of a sudden, a blackbird flew down from a tree.

“Hello blackbird,” said Teddy. “Will you come and play with me?”

“Oh, no!” sang the blackbird. “There’s no time to rest. It’s nearly Easter. I must build a nest!”

And the bird fluttered up into a tree.

 

Song: Little bird where did you fly,

Little bird where did you fly,

Little bird where did you fly,

Where did you fly?

 

I flew up to build a nest,

I flew up to build a nest,

I flew up to build a nest,

An Easter nest!

 

Leader: I wish I could show that nest to a friend, thought Teddy.

A rabbit came hop, hopping along the grass.

“Hello, Rabbit!” said Teddy. “Will you play with me?”

“No, no!” said the rabbit. “I’m not being funny. But Easter is busy, if you’re a bunny!”

And the rabbit hopped into a rabbit hole.

 

Song: Rabbit, say where did you hop,

          Rabbit, say where did you hop,

Rabbit, say where did you hop,

Where did you hop?

 

I hopped down a rabbit hole,

I hopped down a rabbit hole,

I hopped down a rabbit hole,

An Easter rabbit hole!

 

Leader: Then Teddy saw something eating a nettle leaf. It was a small, hairy caterpillar. Can you wiggle your finger like a caterpillar? Wiggle, wiggle! How did he go?

All: Wiggle, wiggle!

Leader: “Hello caterpillar!” said Teddy. “I’m feeling so lonely. Can you play with me?”

“Yes I can!” said the caterpillar. He wiggled his way onto Teddy’s paw . . . and up his arm . . . and onto his shoulder . . . and up, up onto his nose!

“Ooh, you’re tickling me!” said Teddy, with a BIG smile on his face. “Hooray! Now I’ve got a prickly, tickly friend!” Can you make a happy face like Teddy’s?

All: (All push corners of mouth up to make happy faces)

Every day, Teddy went to find his caterpillar friend munching leaves in the nettle patch. The more he ate, the bigger he grew. And the bigger he grew, the more he tickled Teddy and made him smile from ear to ear. Can you make such a BIG smile that it stretches from one ear to the other?

ALL: (All make BIG smiles.)

Leader: But one sad day, the caterpillar said, “I must go away now to do something very important.”

“Oh, no, don’t leave me,” said Teddy. “You’re my best friend.”

“Don’t be sad,” said the caterpillar. “I promise you’ll see me again and then you’ll be glad!”

The caterpillar began to spin a silky sleeping bag called a cocoon. (Show the empty sock) He snuggled down inside the cocoon, pulled it over his head and disappeared from sight. (Place the caterpillar in this sock and hide it) Teddy went indoors feeling sad.

But inside the cocoon, the caterpillar began to change. (Show other sock) He wriggled out of his hairy body, and then he grew long legs and silky wings, and on Easter Sunday, he BURST out of his cocoon – a beautiful, colourful butterfly. (Pull butterfly out of this sock)

As he was drying his wings in the sun, Teddy came down the garden. He looked inside the empty cocoon. (Show empty sock)

“Oh, no! Where has my caterpillar friend gone?” he said. “The hungry birds must have eaten him.”

“Look out behind you!” called the new butterfly. “Are you looking for me?”

Teddy looked round.

“It’s you!” he cried. “You’ve come back! But now you’re a beautiful butterfly! What a wonderful surprise!”

“A good friend always keeps his promise,” said the butterfly, fluttering around Teddy’s head. “Shall we explore the Easter garden?”

“Oh yes!” said Teddy, jumping for joy. “Lets go and find some Easter eggs together!”

 

Song: If you’re happy and you know it

           If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap)

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands   (clap, clap)

If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it,

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap)

 

If you’re happy and you know it, jump for joy (jump, jump), etc

           If you’re happy and you know it, say a prayer (ssh, ssh)

 

Prayer: Dear God, Easter is such a happy time of year. Everything is bursting into life! Thank you for the blossom on the trees and nests full of eggs, for the bright colours of spring flowers and butterflies’ wings. Thank you, God, for our friends who help us to enjoy your beautiful world. But most of all, thank you for Jesus who has promised to be our friend for ever. Amen

 

Party-bag: Why not encourage the adults to continue the theme of new life at home by giving them a “Happy Easter” activity sheet to take away with them?

 

Happy Easter!

Have fun looking out for signs of new life in the natural world when you are out and about with your toddler.

Colour in the leaf, caterpillar and butterfly and then cut them out. Use them to tell and play the story of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly together. Use a stripy sock or the cardboard cylinder inside a toilet roll as the cocoon or chrysalis.

 

a/w simple caterpillar with about 6 sections to colour, smiley face and antennae, and simple cutting-out line around it

 

a/w simple nettle leaf (with tiny egg on it and piece bitten out of leaf) to colour and with simple cutting out line around it

 

a/w simple butterfly with simple pattern on wings to colour in, same smiley face and antennae as caterpillar, with simple cutting out line around it.

 

Mime being a caterpillar curled up in a cocoon, then wriggling out of your hairy body, growing long legs and silky wings and BURSTING out of the cocoon as a butterfly. Dry your wings then fly gently around the room or garden!

Vicki Howie

Toddler group Mother’s Day Celebration!

Ready: Decorate a table with a jug of flowers and plates of homemade biscuits (such as gingerbread people!) and cake as a treat for Mums and other carers. Slices of simnel cake would be traditional.

When they arrive, let the children play with any toys that represent the things Mums do (for instance a doctor’s set, toy computer, shopping trolley, household items, etc).

Teddy: Bring Teddy, plus a bigger Teddy to represent his Mum/Granny/ carer! Teddy could be holding a “thank you” card or other gift that you are going to make as a craft.

Go: You’re ready to help the children think about all the things their mums/carers do for them and to say “thank you”.

Story-telling tips: There are lots of actions in this story (based on the boy Jesus in the temple in Luke 2) to keep everyone engaged. You might like to ask them to practise these beforehand and then to listen carefully for the cue to join in.

The story involves everyone walking to another area of your meeting place (the temple), or perhaps going from a hall into church and back again. You might like to invite your minister to be a “teacher” in the temple and to say the prayer. You could use a boy doll to be Jesus and to leave in “the temple”. Divide the story between as many storytellers as you like.

 . . .

Welcome everybody! Introduce Teddy and his Mum/carer. Explain that as it is nearly Mothering Sunday, Teddy wants to thank her for all the things that she does to look after him. Ask the children what their Mums/carers do for them and mime any actions from the story.

 Storyteller: When Jesus was a baby, his mother Mary was very busy looking after him and taking care of Joseph, too. I wonder what she did? Perhaps she cooked delicious food . . . (all mime stirring) Perhaps she swept the floor . . . (all mime sweeping) And I’m sure that she rocked baby Jesus to sleep in her arms . . . (all mime rocking)

Storyteller: Mary watched Jesus grow from a baby into a toddler and then into a small boy. Perhaps she measured him each birthday – to see how much he had grown.

Storyteller: “Wow! You’ll soon be taller than me!” said Mary when Jesus was twelve years old. But what pleased her the most was that Jesus was so kind and helpful.

Storyteller: One spring day, Mary began to pack a basket with some food and clothes. “Where are we going, Mum?” asked Jesus. “It’s time to go to Jerusalem,” said Mary. “We’re going to visit the temple – God’s house – to thank him for looking after us.”

Storyteller: On the way there, Jesus always met all his aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, who were all going to Jerusalem too! Come on everyone, let’s pretend that we’re all going to Jerusalem. Let’s have all the Mums at the front of the line and all the Dads at the back, just like they used to travel! Right, are you ready? We’ll sing a song to help us along!

SONG: To the tune “The Grand Old Duke of York”

It’s a grand day for a walk,

In sunshine or in rain,

Let’s walk all the way to Jerusalem,

Then we’ll walk back home again.

And when we are there we will say,

And when we are there we will say,

And when we are there we will say a prayer,

For the ones we love, hooray! (Repeat as necessary)

Storyteller: Ah, here we are in Jerusalem at last, at the temple – God’s house. It’s like a very big church. Shall we say a prayer to thank God for the people who look after us?

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the people/our Mums who love us and look after us. They do so much for us! Thank you for loving us too! Amen

Storyteller: When everyone in the story had finished saying “thank you”, it was time to go home again. Mary walked at the front with all the Mums and babies. And Joseph walked at the back with all the Dads and the big boys. Come on everyone, can you line up again? Ready? Then off we go . . . (stop after a short distance)

Storyteller: Wait a minute everyone! On the way home, Joseph came to the front and asked Mary, “Where’s Jesus?” Mary stared at him. “I thought he was with you!” she cried. “No!” said Joseph. “I thought he was with you!”

Storyteller: Oh no! Mary and Joseph looked all around for Jesus . . . (all shield eyes with hands). Where could he be? They asked the uncles and aunts, “Have you seen Jesus?” But they shook their heads and said . . .

All: No!

Storyteller: They asked the cousins, “Have you seen Jesus?” But they shook their heads and said . . .

All: No!

Storyteller: They asked all their friends, “Have you seen Jesus?” But they shook their heads too and said . . .
All: No!

Storyteller: Oh dear! Poor Mary and Joseph were so worried. Let’s sing, “Where, oh where has my Jesus gone?”

SONG: To the tune, “Where, oh where has my little dog gone?”

Where, oh where has my Jesus gone,

Oh where, oh where can he be?

With his eyes so bright,

And his smile so warm,

Oh where, oh where can he be? (Repeat)

Storyteller: So Mary and Joseph went all the way back to Jerusalem to look for him . . . They looked for him in the streets . . . and in the market place . . . but they couldn’t see him anywhere. Can anyone guess where they found him . . ?

Storyteller: Yes! They went back into the temple – and there was Jesus! He was sitting with the teachers, learning about God. He listened to the teachers . . . Ssh! Can you keep very quiet and listen like Jesus? And he talked to the teachers . . . Can you make your hands talk to each other? And everyone was amazed at the sensible things that he said, especially as he was only twelve years old!

Storyteller: But Mary couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “Jesus, we’ve been searching everywhere for you!” she said. “Have you?” said Jesus. “ I thought you would guess that I was in my Father’s house!”

Storyteller: “Come on!” said Joseph kindly. “It’s time to go home.” So Jesus did as he was told and waved “Goodbye” to the temple . . . (all wave) Goodbye until the next year . . . Is everyone ready for our travelling song again?

SONG:

It’s a grand day for a walk,

In sunshine or in rain,

We walked all the way to Jerusalem,

Now we’re walking home again.

And when we are there we will say,

And when we are there we will say,

And when we are there we will say a prayer,

For the ones we love, hooray!

 

Storyteller: Well, I’m sure that became a family story, don’t you? And I’m sure that Mary never forgot the time when she looked everywhere for Jesus and found him in the Temple – God’s house! I wonder why she found him there?

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