Saturday, 30 March 2013

Messy Church Craft Share - Easter

Image used with kind permission

It's Easter crafts galore in this edition of Messy Church craft share. I realise that for many the Easter crafting season may be over already but just in case you wanted to do some more then here are some ideas! 

As you can imagine, Easter is a very special and important time in the church calendar. It is a time of hope, new life, repentance and joy. We celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the new life which that can bring. And of course, we celebrate the new life shown in Spring warmth (ha!) and new growth. We tried to convey some of these messages in our Messy Church crafts. Some are specifically Christian, others are more general. Please feel free to use any of these ideas with your family or children's work.

Edible Easter Garden
This is far and away our most popular craft. I got this idea from my lovely friend Tina from uni, and I don't know where she got it from! 

 There are a lot of components, but some you may already have in your house and if you are doing it for a crowd then get a conveyor belt production line system going! The garden is assembled inside a large takeaway container (I bought mine in Bookers) and is made up of:

  • Rice, put in a lidded box with a squirt of green food colouring, then shaken to coat all the rice. Obviously this bit isn't edible!
  • A Coco-Pops path
  • Iced Gem flowers
  • A muffin hill
  • Matchmaker cross - glued with edible glue bought in a craft shop
  • A brownie tomb - using mini brownies cut in half
  • Fondant icing grave clothes
  • Cookie stone...rolled away!
Add caption

Each one looks a bit different but that's the beauty of it!
I believe this is a wonderful way for children to remember the Easter story in a multi sensory way.

Painted Eggs (taken from Messy Church)
In order to make life a bit easier for myself I bought some polystyrene eggs from Yellow Moon for the children to paint. They used normal ready mix paint in a variety of colours and different paint brushes to use. We found it handy to rest the eggs on milk bottle tops for both painting and drying. We made sure each child's name was on the bottom of the lid because inevitably some get left behind and we have to reunite them with their owners!

Decorated crosses (from Messy Church 2)
As I was buying the eggs I spotted some wooden crosses on sale and decided to snap those up instead of cutting out 50 or so from card....! The children decorated them with felt tips, tissue paper and sequins and then wore them round their necks with pride for the rest of the session!

Tissue Paper Flowers (taken from Messy Church 2)
This is such a simple and easy task. Just take a few squares of tissue paper, pinch them in the middle to make a point and stick the point in the end of a straw. Secure with some sellotape, then tease the "petals" of the flower out a bit. A nice way to celebrate the colour Spring flowers bring after a deary winter.

Big Picture - Lambs
Each month we try to do a big picture that can go up on display in our hall for church folks and visitors to see. It is a nice way of showing families that we value their creations as well!

First of all an amazing lady called Rosie painted a wonderful background on lining paper for us, then we filled it with sheep! We drew around our hands on black sugar paper, then stuck on cotton wool and wobbly eyes. Our thumbs made the sheep's head and our fingers the legs. I think this might be one of my favourite crafts, it looks so effective!

Unfortunately I didn't manage to get any pictures of the children doing their sheep but you can make out their little handprints clearly. I also encouraged them to look at their handprint in amongst the "flock" and remember that they are part of the Messy Church family.

When the crafts were over and the queue to do the Easter garden died down we went into the church for the celebration. It is always difficult to do the Easter story sensitively with children without glossing over the key elements of the story. I used pictures to bring the story some meaning and I hope I was able to help them understand the message of hope, happiness and new life in Jesus that Easter can bring.

We also gave the children a gift. You may have seen the "Real Easter Eggs" in supermarkets this year. They are from the Meaningful Chocolate Company and aim to celebrate the Easter story along with the joy of eating chocolate! Each child who came today got one of these eggs, which also comes with a story board and stickers so they can remember the Easter story. It was a real blessing to be able to give them this gift and I hope it has a positive impact on them to receive it.

What Easter crafts have you done this year? I'd love to see some.... I can store up ideas for next year ;-)

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Saturday, 2 March 2013

Doing Free Play at KidZone!

In case you are wondering, KidZone is the youth club I run for primary school kids! It is great fun and as it was the first thing I set up when I started the job, it's kind of my "baby" and I am really proud of how it has developed and the great team I have in place to make it all possible.

Free Play is something I brought in last year as a result of a Playwork module I did for my degree. In it we learnt that play is a form of learning and "work" for children, and can reach its best potential when the children have as much choice as possible. This is naturally within certain boundaries, and rather than being a crazy free for all, it is actually carefully managed. A good playworker is one who can create the best atmosphere for children to play and learn safely and effectively. Play of this sort is child-led but adult managed, the adult creates the play environment but the children decide how it is to be used.

Normal nights at KidZone involve some free time at the start of the session where they get tuck, can play board games or the Wii, watch cartoons, colour in or just chat and chill. This works well for the most part. Then they split into 2 groups - games or craft. "Or" being the operative word here. Because we have a limited amount of leaders and a rabbit warren of corridors the children chose and activity and that is what they do for the evening, no wandering around in between, for their own safety more than anything but also so that they are doing something productive. This works and the children enjoy it but I wanted to bring in these Free Play nights to give them a different experience and a bit more choice.

I put more leaders than normal on the rota so that we could use more rooms in the church and children could be properly supervised. Here's a rundown of the different activities on offer:

Physical Play
The hall was filled with large empty cardboard boxes (courtesy of the Christian Aid book sale in half term!), balls, uni hoc sticks, skipping ropes, space spots, hoops, beanbags, cones, mini netball hoop and blankets. These were laid out in a way that didn't suggest they had to be used for any particular game - children could chose what they wanted to do.

Obstacle course
Above you can see that a couple of the girls created an obstacle course with the hoops and space spots, having to skip through them using the ropes. Not pictured is another group of children who engaged the leaders in a game of netball. I emphasised to the leaders that they must be led by the children and it is interesting to note a mix of those happy to do their own thing, and those wanting to play a structured game.

Messy Play
This was the room I was in charge of! I set up tables with painting, water beads, cloud dough, and "gloop"... and of course a basin and towels to wash their hands. I was pleasantly surprised at how much they engaged with this. The water beads, gloop and cloud dough were all ideas I had got from Pinterest and parent bloggers and had been used with pre-schoolers. But even my top end primary kids enjoyed these tactile activities.

Getting the hands gloopy!

Cloud dough - 4 cups plain flour to half a cup of baby oil - reminded the children of baby powder. 
Cloud dough is soft and silky but can be moulded into solid shapes.

Water beads - a great tip from The Boy and Me - start off minuscule and gradually get bigger in the water

Still not at their full size!
 There were some great comments as they were playing:
"It feels like rotten milk" (gloop)  
"It's all hard at the bottom but water on top" (gloop) 
"You can't pick it up!" (gloop) 
"I'm going to make it freeze" (cloud dough) 
"It feels soft in my hands. Is that why you call it a cloud?" (cloud dough) 
"I found the biggest blue one. Did it go in first?" (water beads) 
"They feel like berries!" (water beads)

One of the children, who attends Sunday morning worship with her family, asked me to keep the beads in the water so she could see how big they get and show her younger brother and sister.

Creative Play and Junk Modelling
A great way to get rid of (clean!) recycling ;-) This is the "making" room - 2 tables piled high with cardboard boxes, plastic tubs, LOTS of masking tape, card, paper and various collage materials like tissue paper, pasta, ribbon, sequins, feathers etc. I have a couple of kids who would happily spend their entire lives creating beautiful things from junk and adding sparkly glitter and sequins to anything., so they were in their element here. Rather than a specific craft, they were able to make whatever they wanted and proved themselves to be creative and imaginative.

Making a kite
Chill Out Zone
This was a place where they could just sit and chat, play quiet board games, watch cartoons and grab a drink if they wanted. Often the kids came and went from this room, but one little boy stayed the whole evening watching cartoons. I wanted to encourage him to go and try some other activities, but held back. If after a busy week this was what he wanted to do, then I wasn't going to stop him!

Board games - can you spot the retro Mr Pop? One of mine from the 80s! 

Enjoying Looney Tunes!

So that was our Free Play night, and it went down a treat. They just loved it - "Can we do this every week?!" Well, considering I was on my hands and knees for 20 minutes scrubbing cornflour gloop off the carpet afterwards....perhaps not ;-) But we will definitely do it once a term I think. It's well worth the extra effort.

Do you have any ideas you can share for my next Free Play session?!

I've linked this post up to Edspire's Messy Play blog hop, in memory of the beautiful Matilda Mae x

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