Monday 30 November 2015

Advent Labyrinth - Journey to Christmas

It's been a while since my last blog, after 6 years of running Toddler Praise Mum's and Tot's group, I had to suddenly give up. This was due to my hours at work changing but the Lord leads us on to do other things, so I guess my time was over. My husband with the help of others still runs the group but sadly without the bible crafts that I produced to go with the theme.

There is another reason I haven't blogged for a while, I downloaded Microsoft 10, which wasn't compatible with Blogger. If you are reading this then I guess those issues have now been sorted, otherwise I'm writing this to no avail.

This weekend we  had a joint service for all 8 churches in our cluster of north Scarborough churches.  The guest speakers were the wonderful couple and writers, Adrian and Bridget Plass and singer/songwriter Rob Halligan (check him out he's really good). I found myself on Sunday school duty and needing to prepare something for an unknown number of children and an unknown age range.

As it was Advent Sunday I decided to focus on advent as being a Journey to Christmas, a time of preparing our heads and hearts for the birth of Jesus. A labyrinth seemed an obvious way of presenting a journey, with different simple activities on the way and Jesus being at the centre. The activities were kept simple as they are symbolic, although the suitcase craft does take a bit of time, allowing it to be a good gathering craft, while everyone is arriving.
Station 7- Pipe cleaner 'selfs' in the nativity.


With the nativity at the centre, the labyrinth is set up as a spiral around the room with stations of prayer or craft along the route.

The nativity is at the centre of the room because throughout advent we are preparing for Jesus, it is our focus. The labyrinth is a spiral because day by day in all that we do we are getting closer. The labyrinth needs a distinct path, made in any way, chairs, rope, fairy lights, chalk etc…

Station 1 - My journey

Advent is a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus, preparing our hearts to let Jesus in. It can be considered as a journey, although not a physical one but a journey for our heads and hearts.

Make a person out of pipe cleaners to represent yourself on a Journey to Christmas, carry it with you as you go around the labyrinth.
Station 1 - Make a pipe cleaner 'self'

Station 2 - Preparations for a Journey

Before we go on a journey we need to prepare: where shall we go, what shall we take with us, what are we going to eat, have we got tickets, passports, filled the car with petrol, whose going to look after the pets, are the bills paid, plants watered. So many things to consider. Mary and Joseph also had to prepare for their long journey, what would they be able to carry on their long journey to Bethlehem and what would they need for the baby who was going to be born.

Draw and cut out things we need when we go on a journey and things Mary and Joseph would have needed. On one side of the suitcase (box) stick what we need and on the other, what Mary and Joseph would have needed.

We were given wooden cigar boxes, which we used as suitcases, any box could be used or draw an open suitcase onto A4 paper.
Station 2 - Pack a suitcase for a journey

Station 3 - Prayer Chain

Israel was under occupation by Romans soldiers, all citizens had be called back to their birth towns for the census. The roads were very busy with people travelling and Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem with them.

Prayer paper chain - pray for countries affected by war and natural disasters and all people displaced by them. Write on a strip of paper a situation in the world you want to pray for, then attach it to the chain.

Ready gummed paper chains.
Station 3 - A prayer paper chain

Station 4 - The Journey

It was a journey of 70 miles to Bethlehem from Nazareth, walking all the way, they possibly had a donkey but the bible doesn't mention it. Mary and Joseph would have had to face many obstacles on their journey, mountains to climb, rivers to cross, roadside robbers to avoid, wild animals, where would they sleep. All the time Mary was heavily pregnant.

We have obstacles to negotiate before we arrive at the stable too. Many things we have to do before Christmas arrives; school, work, presents to buy, cards to write, concerts and nativity plays, homework to complete, people to visit.

Continue on your journey through the Labyrinth by negotiating the obstacles.

Build an obstacle course out of whatever you have to hand, chairs, tables, slides, tunnels, anything as long as it's safe.

Station 5 - The Shepherds

The Angels appeared to the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem and proclaimed the good news of Jesus birth. The Shepherds left their sheep in the fields and journeyed into Bethlehem to see the new King, the Good Shepherd who had been born.

Make a little sheep and on it write the name of someone you want to thank God for, someone who has shepherd you, led you, taught you, loved you, shown you the way to go.
Station 5 - Sheep prayers

Station 6 - The Magi

The Magi were star gazers, interpreting the future in the stars. They witnessed the birth of a new star, which heralded the birth of the King of the Jews. The Magi followed the star to Bethlehem, where they found Jesus, they bowed down and worshiped him and gave him gifts worthy of a king; Gold Frankincense and Myrrh.

Decorate a star as a Christmas decoration, a reminder throughout advent and Christmas of Jesus the King of all.
Station 6 - Follow the star to Bethlehem

Station 7 - Baby Jesus

See the tiny baby at the centre of the Nativity, a helpless baby born to be king of all people. Spend a few moments thinking about this remarkable baby.

Place your pipe cleaner self in the nativity as a symbol that you want Jesus at the centre of your Christmas and your life. You can collect your pipe cleaner self after the service if you wish to keep it, maybe put it in your own nativity scene at home.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Water Wall
Evangelism - passing on the love of God to others
My sons with their newly created water wall.
It's been a few weeks since I last posted a blog, due to there being no Toddler Praise because of the school summer break. However I did promise to post something during this time. We all need ideas of how to keep our children entertained, especially when there is seven weeks to entertain them for. Here is a fun and cheap activity that uses those plastic bottles we all end up with tons of and it will keep the kids entertained for the afternoon. This is clearly not something a pre-schooler can make, my nine year old struggled cutting some of the bottles but it would make a fun water play area at a nursery or pre-school. It doesn't have to be made out of plastic bottles either, anything that will allow water to flow through it will work. I got this idea from Pinterest, search for water wall or kids water chutes and allsorts of ideas that maybe more appropriate will come up.

Materials required:

·       An old trellis or something similar

·       Plastic bottles

·       Scissors and craft knife

·       String

·       Garden wire


1.    Cut holes in the plastic bottles, either down the side or cut the bottom off.

2.    Arrange on trellis and fix in place with garden wire or string; wire is best

3.    Check the bottles are positioned right before completing, by pouring water through the bottles.

4.    Attach to wall or hedge or anything else where it can stand up right.

As can be seen from the picture, our water wall pours into a length of guttering and then into the sandpit lid.

There is no particular biblical intention to this activity but if you require one, here's a tenuous connection.

We all come in different shapes and size like the bottles but each of us is required to pass the good news of God's love for us and what Jesus did for us, from one to another. Occasionally the creator may need to reposition us, so we carry on pouring the love of God onto others more efficiently.

There you go, have you ever considered pouring bottles to be symbolic of evangelism before. No, me neither, not before this afternoon.

Have fun

Thursday 16 July 2015

The Lost Sheep - Matthew 18:10-14, Luke 15:1-7

Sheep Biscuits
Jazzy Sheep biscuits
Busy table of decorators
Today was the last Toddler Praise of the academic year, now for 7 weeks off before we start again in September. It's always a sad day, as we have to say goodbye to children who have given so much to our group, we will miss them. At this time of year I always worry, will we get new toddlers and babies next term/year. We are not a big group, afternoons are such a difficult time for tots, as they often sleep then but it's the time we can give. We just have to trust that God will provide in the new term.

This may be the last blog for seven weeks about our weekly crafts but I may well blog during the summer break.

The younger ones having a go
Because it is the last week I wanted to do a great craft to end on and nothing proves more popular than a food craft. We don't have any means of cooking in our church hall, so I pre-baked the biscuits before the day, for the children to decorate them. The recipe made over 40 biscuits, meaning the children could decorate a few each. It's such an easy recipe to do. This does require having a sheep biscuit cutter, I have two, if you don't have one I do recommend getting one if you can because they are very useful, I've baked so many sheep biscuits over the years. Other cutters useful to have when you are doing bible related stories are a fish, an angels and a star, they also appear a lot too.

The story

Jack's sheep
The parable of the lost sheep must be one of the most well known of Jesus' parables. There is no shortage of children's story books based on it. It is such a lovely story of hope, that no one who strays from God is ever forgotten, God will seek them out and will rejoice when they return to him.

Jesus was associating with sinners and the dreaded tax collectors, this caused the Pharisees to mutter, they did not approve of Jesus eating and drink with such unholy people. Jesus told them a parable. A shepherd looked after 100 sheep but one went astray. Making sure the ninety nine sheep were safe, he went out looking for his lost sheep; checking hills and dales, rivers and rock faces, caves and forests, he went all over looking for his sheep. When he found it, he flung it over his shoulders and returned home. He called out to his neighbours, saying "Rejoice with me I have found my lost sheep." Jesus told the Pharisee's that there is more rejoicing in heaven over a sinner who returns to the father, than over those who do not go astray.
Eli's happy with his biscuits

Jesus told many similar parables giving hope to sinners and they flocked to him. At last they were welcome in kingdom of heaven, even if they were not welcome in the synagogue. God loves everyone, no matter what they have done or who they are, all are welcome.


Basic biscuit recipe - makes approx 40

40+ sheep ready to go
100g/4oz/ half cup butter or margarine,

100g/4oz/ half cup caster (superfine) sugar

1 egg beaten

5 ml/1tsp vanilla extract

225g/8oz/2 cups plain (all purpose) flour


·         Wisk together the butter/margarine and the sugar until light and fluffy.

·         Gradually beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

Cut and place on baking tray
·         Fold in the flour and knead into a dough.

·         Wrap in cling film (plastic food wrap) and chill for a hour.

·         Roll out dough fairly thinly and cut with cutter of choice.

·         Place on greased baking try and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200oC/ 400oF/ or gas mark 6 for 10 mins.

Decorations ready
We used chocolate sauce, jam and icing to decorate, topped with sprinkles, smarties and rainbow buttons. Decorate them anyway you wish.

For more photo's of our craft check out our Facebook page, follow the link below.
Have fun

Thursday 9 July 2015

Naaman and Elisha - 2 Kings 5

Washable Naaman

Naaman washes seven times in the river Jordan
Busy colouring Naaman
This week's simple craft is going to be mostly appreciated by those who are keen on recycling and re-using useful things, that many would just throw away. As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm a hoarder, I can't throw out things I know that could be used for something else at a later stage. So, fellow hoarders and recyclers, you are going to like this craft.

This week at Toddler Praise we learnt about Naaman, who is told to wash in the River Jordan. I wanted to make a washable Naaman but this was a problem, waterproof materials that can be washed aren't cheap and the other ideas I came across didn't really fit. How could I make a simple toddler craft that was cheap to produce and allowed the children to wash Naaman clean?

Red paint for skin disease
Pinterest, as ever was a saviour, what can't be found on that site. I put waterproof material into the search box and discovered the most amazing way of making strong, waterproof material, made using only plastic carrier bags. And this material can be used to make all sorts of things like bags and purses, it's easily cut with scissors and sewn with a sewing machine, but is strong. It was perfect for the leprous skin of Naaman. However, though the material is easy to make, this craft does require quite a bit of preparation but it is fun to do.

The story

Doesn't matter what colour they are.
Naaman was a great warrior, he was not from Israel but Damascus in Syria, he was in the Army of King Aram, who were often at war with Israel. Despite being a great warrior, Naaman had a problem, he had a horrid skin disease that could not be cured. Naaman's wife had a servant girl who was from Israel, the girl told the wife that there was a prophet in Israel called Elisha, who could heal Naaman. Naaman asked King Aram if he could visit the prophet, the King wrote a letter to the king of Israel asking him to heal Naaman.

The king of Israel thought King Aram was trying to start a war, he said, "How can I heal this warrior, I'm not God, he is just trying to pick a quarrel with me." The king of Israel tore his robes at the request. Elisha heard of this and said, "Why don't you send him to me, I can heal him."

Wash away the skin disease
Naaman went to see Elisha, Elisha's servant came out and told Naaman to wash in the river Jordan seven times. Naaman was angry, he expected better treatment from Elisha, who had not come out himself to tell Naaman. He did not want to wash in the a dirty river, when there were so many lovely rivers back in Syria that he prefered to wash in.  Naaman's servant said to him, what harm could it do, to do as the prophet had said. If Elisha had told him to do a great heroic act, Naaman would have done so, why not do something so simple. Humbled, Naaman dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, on the seventh time he came out and was completely healed of his skin disease.

Naaman tired to give Elisha great wealth in payment but Elisha was not interested, for he was only doing what God asked of him. Elisha asked Naaman to only worship the true God from now on.

Materials at the ready
Materials required

·         Plastic carrier bags (as plain as possible)

·         Baking paper

·         Iron

·         Person template

·         Biro/pen

·         Sharp scissors

·         Permanent markers (various colours)

·         Red water based paint, palette and brush

·         Water

Preparations before session

Making the waterproof material is very simple and only takes a few minutes. Make sure the bags are clean and empty and as plain as possible. Colour doesn't really matter.

1.    Flatten carrier bag and cut off the seam at the bottom and the handles. If there is a picture or writing on the bag, turn them inside out.

2.    Lay four bags on top of each other (that makes 8 layers of plastic), as flattened as possible.

3.    Put a layer on baking paper under the bags and another layer on top, to cover the plastic completely.

4.    Turn the iron to the hottest setting and iron over the baking paper, take care not to iron any plastic. The plastic bags will shrink and fuse together.

5.    Turnover and iron the other side.

6.    Leave to cool a moment before peeling off the baking paper.

Naaman drawn out on the plastic material
When you have made enough, use a person template, biro/pen and scissors to draw and the cut out as many Naaman's as required. If you haven't got a person template, then check out my blog for Pentecost, posted May 10th 2015, it gives instructions on how best to make a person template. The surface of the plastic material is rough and uneven but so was Naaman skin, so it is perfect. Don't worry if you haven't got white plastic bags, as you can see some of ours were orange, colour doesn't really matter.

Colour in and add red paint for spots

1.    Using permanent markers, colour in Naaman.

2.    Put blobs of red paint on Naaman to make skin sores.

3.    Wash Naaman in water; a brush or fingers might be required to wash the paint off. We used paper towels to finish the last bits off.

Naaman can be reused many times as he is waterproof. This was a popular craft, the children really enjoyed washing away Naamans sore skin disease and then went on to play with them later, and in some cases chew them.

We have more photo's of the craft on our Facebook page, do check it out.

Have fun

Thursday 2 July 2015

Samson - Judges 13-16

Samson grass heads
Our grass-heads with a previously made one.

Sadly I could not attend Toddler Praise this week, due to our 5 year old having chicken pox. These things happen and sometimes we are still able to provide a simple craft and sometimes we can't. Due to the lovely weather we are having in England at the moment, it was decided to have outdoor play. This meant today's craft could go ahead without much supervision, it doesn't matter if the soil goes everywhere. However I don't have any photo's of our toddlers making them, fortunately our chicken poxed 5 year old was keen to have ago one afternoon this week.

Making grass heads is such a lovely activity to do with toddlers and older children, also perfect for our story of Samson; whose hair should never be cut. Toddlers love doing things that are messy; they love the sensory experience of it and the creativity in decorating their own cups. Then they watch in awe as the grass begins to peep through the soil and bit by bit they can see it grow more and more each day. Then there is the fun of cutting the grass, giving the grass heads hair styles. There's lots of fun to had with this craft. Our eldest son made one a few weeks a friends birthday party.

Like so many characters in the bible, Samson was born to a childless couple. God often shows his glory and power in this way. Samson was the son of Manoah and an unnamed woman, although it is the woman that an angel keeps appearing too. The angel tells the woman that she will bear a son and that she is not to eat or drink of the vine or any other fermented drink and not to eat anything unclean. Samson's hair should never be cut, for he is to be a Nazirite, set apart for God's plan in order to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines who rule over them.

Samson becomes a very strong man, the power of the Lord is upon him and he defeats the Philistines on many occasions. He becomes a Judge or ruler over the Israelites, the Philistines fear him. The Philistines dream up many plots to capture Samson but he either defeats or evades them, until Samson, falls in love with the wrong woman, Delilah.

The Philistines pay Delilah to persuade Samson to tell her the source of his great power. Many times she asks him what is the secret of his strength and how can he be subdued but Samson does not tell her, giving her false scenarios, such as tying him up in fresh thongs (bow strings) or new ropes or weaving his hair into fabric. Each time Delilah did these things, then told him the Philistines were coming and each time Samson broke out of his bounds. After constant nagging by Delilah, Samson finally told her the truth, the source of his power was that his hair had never been cut. Delilah informed the Philistines and then cut and shaved his hair off. When he woke Samson's strength had gone, he was captured by the Philistines, taken prisoner and made to do hard labour. They also blinded him.

The Philistine rulers and powerful people all gathered to celebrate and worship their false god. They put Samson on show in the centre of the temple, between two pillars. Samson called upon the Lord to give him great strength one final time, in order to bring down the temple. Samson was filled with the Lords power, he pushed over the two pillars, bringing down the roof of the temple, killing Samson and all the rulers and powerful people of Philistine. The Israelites were finally free from their rule.


Materials at the ready
Materials required:

·         Plastic cups

·         PVA or fast tack glue and spreaders

·         Googly eyes

·         Sequins

·         Red marker pen

·         Compost in container

·         Small trowels or spoons

A decorated cup
·         Grass seed

·         Water


·         Pour compost into easy to access container, I used a seed tray.

·         Water the compost
Filling up with soil


1.    Draw a smiley mouth before gluing.

2.    Glue on googly eyes and sequins.

3.    Using a trowel fill cup near to the edge.

Sprinkle the seeds
4.    Sprinkle on grass seed.

5.    Put light covering of compost over the seeds.


Draw the smiley mouth first with the pen because glue ruins pens and the pen will not work anymore. I watered the compost first, otherwise the children's decorations might get washed away. It's handy if you can make one a few weeks before, so the kids can see what will happen.
A week later they look like this!

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Have fun