April 30, 2012

Bringing Spring to the Chernobyl Children

Please begin with the literacy lesson for How Mama Brought the Spring written by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Holly Berry.

This happy story is set in early to mid-twentieth century Minsk, Belarus, a small country in northeastern Europe near Russia.  Not knowing much about Belarus -or history for that matter, I looked to the internet to research how children here could connect with children there.  I thought I might find a way to incorporate their beautiful textile patterns into an art project perhaps.  What I found challenged me in ways I was not expecting.  A few decades later brought a new era for Belarus.

Belarus is in the area of the world still suffering intense damage from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.  The children have been particularly effected, especially by birth defects.  You can learn more about the reality of life in Belarus at Chernobyl Children International.  Please preview this information and the accompanying photography before considering sharing it with the children in your care.  It must be handled with sensitivity.

Let's see if we can help our children help the Chernobyl Children by offering encouragement, compassion, and hope through this study of Culture, Art, and Faith.

Show the children in your care where Belarus is located on a map or a globe.  Put it into perspective by pointing out where you live, as well, and perhaps other countries they are familiar with.

Picture walk through How Mama Brought the Spring, and pay careful attention to the clothing, homes, furniture, hair styles, food, names of people and places, etc.  What do they notice that is different from themselves or their own families?  After fully exploring the differences, investigate what they think is the same between the people who live in Belarus and people where they live.  {You may notice similarities such as the presence of seasons, they live in families, they have a dog, they live in houses, they have cold winters and warm summers, they make sweet treats, etc.}

Image by Free-extras.com

Art:  When Mama brought the spring, the land warmed, the animals came out, and everyone smiled.  Their hearts were filled with the hope of new life and joy in spring time.  Encourage children to paint a portrait of spring.  The beautiful spring illustrations near the end of the story may serve as inspiration if they like.

Remind children that the beauties of spring are blessings, for which we should be thankful.  Not everyone has the same blessings.  Some people don't have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.  We should be grateful to God that he has given us these gifts.

Attempt to explain in a developmentally appropriate way why children in Belarus need encouragement, compassion, and hope.  The book Children in Crisis: Living After Chernobyl - Ira's Story (though I have not read it yet) looks like it might be a good one for this topic.  Be sure to preview it before sharing with children.  What you say might go like this:

"Remember yesterday when we learned about Belarus?  The pictures in our story, How Mama Brought the Spring, are of what Belarus used to look like a long time ago.  Some places in Belarus might look the same today, but most of Belarus looks newer.  It's just like how our city doesn't look the same as when your grandparents were boys and girls; it looks newer.

Another part of Belarus, however, doesn't look like the story or like a new city.  In that part of Belarus, spring doesn't look like spring anymore because nothing grows there and no people or animals live there.  {Pause to answer questions and/or check for understanding.}

This part of Belarus looks different because there was a big nuclear disaster nearby.  There was an accident that made a huge explosion and put lots and lots of radioactive chemicals into the air.  The chemicals are really bad for living things.  What are living things?  {Answer: people, animals, plants, etc.}

The chemicals killed people, animals, and plants.  It also caused them to be sick, and made the water dangerous to drink.  This happened before I was born -which was a long time ago- but still causes problems for living things in Belarus.  Even kids who are born now, kids as old as you, are sick because of the chemicals.  This makes them hurt and be sad.  {Pause to answer questions and/or check for understanding.}

Things happen all the time that change our world.  Some of them are good and some of them are bad.  Sometimes we have control over them and sometimes we don't.  You can only control whether you choose to do good or bad.  We can choose to do good for the children in Belarus by encouraging them with hope and reaching out to them with compassion.

Yesterday we painted the spring time.  Would you like to give your painting to the children in Belarus?  If not, would you like to make another painting to give to the children in Belarus?  We can also write messages to them.  What would you like to tell the children in Belarus?  {Phonetic writing is fine.  There are likely to be people at Chernobyl Children International who can translate the messages.  Even without a perfect translation, they will understand the hope offered in the children's colorful paintings and heartfelt, hand-written messages.}"

Spend time today creating drawings, paintings, and written messages for the children with Chernobyl Children International in Belarus.  Be available to answer questions, engage in discussions, and offer age-appropriate explanations.  Be aware of the dynamics between the children in your care.  Are any of them particularly touched by today's lesson?  They may need support to understand the children did not do anything to deserve this, and yet we cannot explain why it was allowed to happen.  Sometimes bad things happen to provide us with the opportunity to bless others.  

Gather the items from the children into an envelope.  All items should be flat to clear customs.  Use the contact information online at Chernobyl Children International to determine the appropriate current address to mail the gifts.

Next Time
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."  Psalm 139: 13-15

Read:  All God's Children by Ken Ham

We are all children of God.  He has made each one of us, and he knows us completely.  He knows how many hairs are on our heads and which thoughts are in our minds.  He loves every one of us.

Have you ever made a prayer picture?

There is a way of journaling prayer that is active, visual, and meditative.  This idea has been coined by Sybil and Andy MacBeth.  Their book Praying in Color and, more recently, Praying in Color Kids' Edition are excellent tools for beginning this artful practice.  PrayingInColor.com offers great reasons for praying in color, which also represent why this practice is particularly good for busy body children.

Image by Sodahead.com

Use the examples in the website for inspiration or go out and find the book.  Get started with a sheet of blank white paper (thick art paper is lovely for this) and a pack of markers.  Doodle your prayers on high!

April 27, 2012

Wonderful Spring

Spring is the time for beautiful new beginnings!  On this gorgeous spring day -my Mother's birthday- I dedicate, this, my newest article to you, Mom.  Thank you for being a fantastic mom, my Mom.  Thank you for loving me, hoping for me, believing in me, supporting me.  In celebration of your birthday today, I announce the beginning of Joy Before You.  I hope it can offer for teachers, parents, and caregivers the encouragement you offer me always.  
I love you!

Image by Enwikipedia.org

Read:  The Wonderful Happens written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Coco Dowley

There are many wonderful things in our world.  Ask the children, "What do you think is wonderful?"

Tell the children we are going to learn about something wonderful this week.

{Ahead of time, fill a box with a few items characteristic of spring time.  Ideas are a feather, a flower, a packet of seeds, a small rabbit figurine.}

Holding the box higher than the child's height but within reach, allow each child to "blindly" choose an item from the box.  Encourage them to identify the item.  This item has to do with the something wonderful we are going to learn about.  Can they guess what it is?  This method engages inductive reasoning, which gives children practice drawing conclusions in new ways.

Help children as necessary to come to the conclusion that the lessons this week will be about spring.  Get excited with them about all this beautiful new season offers us.  Use the objects from the box to open their minds to an understanding of the spring season.

Dramatic Play:  Do you spring clean at your home or in your classroom?  Many people "spring clean" to make a fresh start by cleaning, organizing, rearranging, and letting in the fresh spring air.  Allowing and encouraging children to participate (both in the home/classroom and in the home play center, if you have one) shows them that they can make an impact on the places where they spend time.  It also encourages them to appreciate the value of work and a clean space to play.

-Of course you should never give young children actual cleaning products.  They will, however, be thrilled to help with a baby wipe, a rag, and/or maybe even a small spray bottle filled with water.

-Children can also help sort items that need to be organized or given away.  They can help find matches for items with a missing piece, as well.

-This is a great time to help children learn life skills such as sweeping, dusting, wiping, taking care of our things, and so forth.  Enjoy the extra hands!

Read:  How Mama Brought the Spring written by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Holly Berry

This story is fairly long for young children.  Reading it will probably be enough for one sitting.  Throughout the day, however, you can ask children about the book:

-How does Mama make spring come?
-Can making blintzes really make spring come?
-What did making blintzes do for the family?

This is a great story.  Look for extension projects from this book in the Cooking, Culture, Art, and Faith labels.

Next Time
Read:  Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes

This is a fun read with great pictures.  The extension projects from How Mama Brought the Spring are real and valid and can be empowering, but they are also heavy on the heart.  Let this book cheer your heart that you and your child are loved.  Abide in that love, and always seek ways to share it with the world.  A little goes a long way!

Image by Bunny-rabbits.com

Movement:  Re-read the story and encourage children to act out the scenes they see and hear.  Surely, they can hop!  Can they also be tall?  Can they be still like a rock?  Can they flutter through the air?

April 16, 2012

Make Like a Chick and Hatch

Dramatic play is an important activity for young children.  Recreating events they see or read about helps children develop greater understanding of the event.

Encourage children to pretend to be a hatching egg.  Remind them about the beginning, middle, and end of this process.  Supply them with large boxes (that they can fit in) to hatch out of.

Image by Edenparadigm.com

What words can they use to describe their behavior?
-Break through
-Crack open
-See the light
-Cheep, cheep
-Breathe fresh air

What tools do chicks have at their disposal to help them hatch?
-Beaks to peck holes in the shell
-Feet to claw at and push open the shell
-Wings to poke and prod the shell away

Many other animals hatch from eggs as well.  How does that look different or the same as chicks hatching?

Making Egg Toast

Cooking is a fun edible way to do science!  Today, let's make Egg Toast!

Image by Slices-of-life.com

1 slice bread
1 egg
1/2 T. butter

1.  Spread butter onto bread.  Cut bread with round 2 inch biscuit cutter.

2.  Place cut bread in pan.  Put the circle cut next to it.  Help child crack egg into the circle cut out in the bread.

3.  Turn heat to medium low.  Allow bread to toast and egg to cook.  When egg is set, flip it over and cook briefly.  When egg is done, transfer to a plate.  Let cool slightly and enjoy!

As you eat, compare how the bread and raw egg looked before they were cooked to how they look now that they are cooked.

What is different?  What is the same?

The egg was raw before.  Was the bread raw before?

Eggs and Jelly Beans are Ovals

Image by Dineanddish.net

Create a matching game using the following materials:
-1 Egg carton
-6 plastic eggs
-2 each of 6 small objects (for a total of 12 objects) such as penny, pencil eraser, bottle cap, cotton ball, paper clip, bingo token, etc.

Separate egg halves.  Glue one half egg shell in each of the spots in the top row (towards the fold) on the egg carton.

Insert a different object into each of the six spots in the top row.  Snap on coordinating egg shell half.

Gather remaining objects.  Open one plastic egg, locate its match, and put the match in the empty egg spot below the plastic egg.  Repeat with remaining objects.

Alternatively, play Plastic Egg Memory.  Mix twelve objects up on the floor.  Cover each object with half of a plastic egg.  Gently mix up the eggs/objects by sliding them on the floor yet containing the object inside.  It is helpful to arrange them in rows.

The first person picks up an egg shell half, sets it aside, and identifies the object underneath.  He then repeats with a second egg shelf half.  If they are the same, he wins!  He gets to pick up the objects he uncovered and set them aside next to him.

If they are not the same, simply replace the egg shell halves, and the second person plays in the same way.

When you get a match, you get to keep playing until you do not get another match.  Then it is the other person's turn.

Define oval:  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an oval is "having the shape of an egg, also broadly elliptical".

There are many, many kinds of eggs.  Some of them look like a traditional oval, but some of them do not.

Read:  An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston

There are so many sizes of eggs:  small, medium, large and every place between.  Use measuring cups to demonstrate how smaller objects fit into larger ones.  Allow the child to explore taking the set of cups apart and putting them back together in order.

What else can you find in your home for which the sizes "nest" in this same way?

Measuring spoons?  Nesting bowls?  What kinds of toys have this task built in?

Little Ones Additional Read:  Disney's Big Egg, Little Egg by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

Next Time
Fill your hand with jelly beans.  Encourage the child to estimate -or guess- how many jelly beans are in your hand.  Write down the guesses.

Empty jelly beans from your hand to a towel (so they won't roll away).  Allow your child to count the jelly beans.

Were your estimates right?  Or did you guess too high or too low?  Try again.  Did you get closer this time?

Encourage the child to fill his or her hand with jelly beans.  Repeat as above.  How was the number different?

Fill a jar with jelly beans.  Repeat as above.  How close or far was your guess?

How many jelly beans would be too little to eat?  How many would be too much?  Choose the number that would be just right, observe your child as she counts them out.  If the number counted is correct, she gets to eat all her jelly beans!

Eggs are Changing, Cracking and Green

Image by Coffeebreakwithlizandkate.com

What does your child know about old and new?  Brainstorm items that are old and the items similar to them that are new.

-Egg shell, Chick that has just hatched.
-Molted snake skin, Snake with fresh skin.
-Caterpillar or its chrysalis, Butterfly.
-Dead in sin, Alive in Jesus.
-Jesus on cross, Jesus resurrected.

You can think of inanimate objects as well:
-Dirty flat tire, Clean tire full of air.
-Broken down tree house, Repaired tree house.
-Old large box-style TV, New flat screen TV.

When something old goes away and something new takes its place, CHANGE occurs.  Change is how we grow.  Change is how we become better people.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"  2 Corinthians 5:17

Read:  First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.

Hard boil eggs together allowing kids to observe the steps, or hard boil them ahead of time before this lesson.  (Eggs will need to chill for two hours prior to peeling).

Show children how to carefully crack and peel an egg.  Talk about what is happening in descriptive language.

Talk about: 
-The amount of pressure to use to start the cracking.
-The twisty little lines that are the cracks.
-Can they hear it cracking?
-Touch the cracks carefully.
-How do you peel the shell off carefully?
-Is there a way to get all the little pieces off?
-Is there a way to get the whole shell off in one piece?

When you are done cracking the egg shell and peeling the egg, ask your children if there is a way to change it back.  Can the egg shell go back on how it was?  Try as they might, it can't go back!

Read the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty by Annie Kubler (board book version without traditional illustrations)
Humpty Dumpty by Kin Eagle
The True Story of Humpty Dumpty by Sarah Hayes (a twist from the original)

Act out the story with props.

Color your cracked egg shells with a bit of food coloring.  Cut an egg shape out of paper.  Glue egg shell pieces to egg shape to make Humpty Dumpty.  Consider adding pipe cleaner arms and legs.

Next Time
Read: Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss

Follow this link to cook green eggs and ham of your own with your children!  There are also many other recipes on the internet if this one is not your style.

As you cook and observe, remind your kids of the questions we've asked this week about change (see above).  What changed about the green eggs and ham?  Can they change back?  When you eat the green eggs and ham, compare it to regular eggs and ham.  Do they taste the same or different?

Enjoy this one!

Have a HEALTHY Easter

During the week of Easter, we also study health.  We consider concepts of doctors, medicine, the measurements the doctor takes, healing, and how you know someone is sick or healthy.

Image by Marketinghomeproducts.com

Ask what your child knows about medicine and going to the doctor.  Do they have the right idea?

Read:  The Berenstain Bears Go To the Doctor by Stan & Jan Berenstain

What happened with the bears went to the doctor?  If someone is sick, how do they get well again?

Doctors take many measurements.  Together with your child, take measurements of your bodies, and record them on a homemade chart.  Measure your height and waist dimensions.  Take your temperature.  Determine how much your body weighs.  These are some of the tools a doctor uses to understand your health.

Doctors help sick people get well, but there is a lot people can do to stay well so they don't have to go to the doctor.  Ask your child how he knows someone is sick.  Ask your child how he knows someone is healthy.  Can someone look healthy, but actually be sick?  Is it possible to look sick, but actually be healthy?  This is why it's important to get check-ups at the doctor.


Next Time
During your child's life, it will be very important for him or her to choose healthy habits.  The three habits we interact with every day are food, exercise, and sleep.  Brainstorm ways to be healthy with food, exercise, and sleep.  How much do you need of each?

Read: Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

This is an adorable story about a family of peas that eat only candy for dinner.  The little pea "child" hates eating candy for dinner, but endures it for his favorite dessert -spinach!  Laugh along with your little ones, because this one is definitely a keeper.  Similarly hilarious topsy turvy tales are Little Hoot and Little Oink.

Fold a piece of paper in half.  Encourage your child to color one food they don't like on the left and one food they really like on the right.  Are they willing to eat the one on the left to get the one on the right?

April 11, 2012

Egg Coloring and More

Image by Puttiprapancha.com

We study eggs this week in addition to the Resurrection of Christ as a way to make more concrete the concept of new life.

It's time to color Easter eggs!

Thorough preparation helps this activity to go smoothly.

1.  Hard boil eggs.  I have had great success with this recipe.  Do not skip or skimp on cooling the eggs for at least two hours (speaking from experience here)!    Three eggs per child should be enough.

2.  You can use whatever type of dye you prefer.  I am a big fan of using liquid watercolor.  The colors are beautifully vivid, and there is no mixing required.  You may already have these at home, and if you choose water colors then you don't have to buy the whole Easter egg kit.  I found I never used half of what they put in there anyway.

3.  Prepare the area for the egg dyeing.  If at all possible do this outside, and definitely over a hard -possibly stain resistant- floor.  If inside, you may wish to cover the floor with newspaper.

-Old clothes for children (and yourself) and/or paint smocks
-Wipes for colored hands after dyeing is complete (there is just too much that can be touched by a three-year-old on the way to the sink!)
-Newspaper for floor
-Paper towels and cookie sheet to set eggs on while they dry
-Cookie sheet to set dyeing cups on
-Clear plastic or glass cups for various colors of dye (preferably something with a wide-ish base and no more than 5-6 inches tall)
-Slotted spoon instead of that silly metal egg dipper (that is, unless you are going to attempt the two or three colored egg)
-A good attitude.  Expect this to go well, but not perfectly:)

4.  Enjoy the process.  There is so much good conversation and vocabulary you can include during this time:  colors, changing color, combining colors (red + yellow = orange), dark versus light colors, what do they think is inside the egg?, will the inside change color, too?, favorite colors, what else is this color, etc.


Cut out large egg shapes from white construction paper.

Have the children sharpen crayons with a hand held sharpener (great for fine motor development), and reserve all the shavings.  Keep colors separate.

Paint glue onto paper egg.  Sprinkle with colored crayon shavings as desired.  Let dry.

Laminate the crayon shaving egg for a marbled effect.  Many education and/or craft supply stores have laminating machines you can use.  The cost is usually per food and quite reasonable.  You may even consider asking if your local library has a laminating machine you could use for a fee.  Is this service available at Kinko's or the UPS/FedEx stores?

Next Time
Cut an egg shape from a piece of foam board or plastic.  Anything that will not absorb paint and that can be easily picked up from a painted surface will do.  This is your printing plate or matrix.

Obtain white paper that is larger than the egg printing plate.

Allow children to paint the matrix any way they choose.  Have available a variety of colors of tempera or acrylic paint.  You may even include glitter paint.

Apply the printing plate to the paper.  The created image is called an impression.  If your child creates multiple impressions of the egg -in other colors or the same- the resulting group of impressions is called an edition.  These would be lovely displayed together.

This print-making art activity comes from The School for Little People "Play"-Book: A Curriculum for 4's.

New Life in Jesus!

Image by Couponscode-discountcode.blogspot.com

There are so many great reads for Easter.  Why not spend the week enjoying them, asking questions, re-reading, and seeing where the Spirit takes you?

Today, Tomorrow, & Next Time
The Berenstain Bears and the Real Easter Eggs by Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Easter Story by Patricia A. Pingry
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
From Egg to Chicken by Anita Ganeri
Chickens Aren't the Only Ones by Ruth Heller
Benjamin's Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs by Melody Carlson

When I taught school, it was mostly the secular meaning of Easter that was emphasized.  At the time, resources and time for me to find great books about the real meaning of Easter were scarce.  It's one of those things we talked about, but just didn't have much opportunity to read about.  As a result, while the books listed above appear to be good and true, I have not read them myself so I can not vouch for them 100%.  According to their descriptions and reviews, however, I believe them to be a good starting place to teach and explore the real meaning of Easter with the children in your care.

The same holds true for the books about eggs.  Eggs are an engaging topic for young children to learn about.  Exploring them now allows Easter's message of New Life to remain stage center, while giving you freedom to participate in the simple joys of egg dyeing and egg hunts -from an educational and fun rather than purely commercial perspective- as well.

{I have traditionally done the egg dyeing and hunting before Easter, but in my writing here decided I much prefer it to occur on and after Easter.  In my opinion, this allows for us to fully examine pre-Easter events (triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the last supper, the crucifixion, the anticipation on Saturday) and make them my focus during the week before Easter.  We feel their full weight and give them deep thought.  Likewise, reserving the delight of egg dyeing and hunting for after Easter -to me- extends the joy, hope, and wonderful fullness of Easter throughout the week after Easter and beyond.  It helps me to remember Easter joy is not over on Easter Sunday, but rather is intended to be my new way of living.}

New Life Cakes

Image by Hatcheu.blogspot.com

On the third day Jesus rose from the dead to new life.
On the first day he died on the cross, sacrificed himself so we could have new life.

What about the second day?  What about Holy Saturday?  What to do with the day of waiting, wondering, what if this is all very real?

May I suggest cooking New Life Cakes?  I discovered this idea at A Holy Experience, but I cannot seem to find the original article for you now.  She tells a story about waiting on Saturday.  What must the disciples have been thinking with all this waiting.  Did they remember Jesus would rebuild his Temple in three days?  Were they on alert?  Were they even breathing or were they numb, anxious, hopeful?

Best to spend time today baking, combining ingredients that are nothing separately.  Put them together and beauty bakes delicious.

Image by Homestoriesatoz.com

Obtain small terra cotta pots, one for each person.  Line the pots carefully with parchment paper, allowing the edges to fold over the rim of the pot.  Secure with scotch tape.

Prepare chocolate cake batter, brown like dirt to remind us that we have come from dust, and to dust we shall return.

Pour batter into pots and bake until perfection.  When cool, frost with chocolate icing.

Insert a sprig of fresh mint to remind us of how Jesus brings life out of dirt and makes us grow.

Line the pots on the counter, ready and waiting for Easter dessert!

Understanding Jesus' Passion

Image by Abstract-thoughts.com

Read the Passion story in your favorite children's bible.  It is important to share Jesus' Passion with children in a way that is developmentally appropriate in content, vocabulary, and length.  It's important to be honest with children, but it's not necessary to include every detail when they are young.  Jesus' Passion is so complex and mysterious.  Children will glean additional knowledge and wisdom about Easter as they mature.

The following verses are the approximate places to read about the Passion in each of the four gospels.

Matthew 26-28
Mark 14-16
Luke 22-24
John 12-13, 18-21

Find pictures like the ones above to depict the important events leading to the cross and resurrection.  These are the events I would choose (from):

1.  Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem
2.  The Last Supper*
3.  Jesus washes his disciples feet*
4.  Jesus predicts Peter's denial
5.  Jesus prays at Gethsemane
6.  Jesus is arrested*
7.  Jesus is judged before the sanhedrin
8.  Peter disowns Jesus
9.  Jesus is judged before Pilate and condemned by the crowd*, Barabbas is freed
10.  The soldiers mock Jesus
11.  Jesus is crucified on the cross
12.  Jesus dies on the cross*
13.  Jesus is buried*
14.  Jesus rises from the dead*
15.  The great commission

It is such a complex, mysterious, really important chain of events.  So much of Jesus' Passion I am just now beginning to comprehend.  Do not be alarmed or frustrated if/when your child does not understand!

Depending on the developmental level of your child, you may feel it is appropriate to describe/study/gather pictures for each of these fifteen events.  For many children, however, this will be way too much.  This is perfectly okay and normal!  You can still share the entire story with them as you read, but for additional study you may wish to downsize the amount of content.  If you choose to go with the biggies, I would stick with the events marked with *.

Seven events.  Now that seems more manageable even for me!

After reading the story, lay out the pictures in order.  Picture walk with your children (discuss what you see).   This will help with their understanding and recall.  Talk about what happened at the beginning, middle and end.  They may take note only of the Last Supper, Jesus' death on the cross, and Jesus' resurrection from the dead.  This is a fantastic way to begin!

Together, write simple sentences to describe the pictures.  Encourage your child to match the sentence to the picture.  Note that this is called a caption.

Reread the part of Jesus' Passion where he washes his disciples feet.  This can be found in John 13: 1-17.

Teach your child that Jesus was showing the disciples how to be humble, also called humility.  Humility (in biblical terms, as opposed to how we normally use the word) is not the same as being humiliated or embarrassed.

Humility is not thinking less of ourselves.
Humility is thinking of ourselves less often.

(Note: I did not come up with this eloquent description.  I have simply heard it before and wish I knew its author.)

Image by Worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com

Washing feet was a dirty job that servants did.  Jesus washed his disciples feet to put them first.  He did it so they would learn to put others before themselves.

Re-enact Holy Thursday by allowing your child to wash the feet of the other members of your family.

Next Time
It's hard for children (and adults, too) to understand why we call the Friday before Easter "Good" Friday. What is good about Jesus dying on the cross?  The good part about Jesus dying on the cross is that he takes our sins away and gives us new vibrant life in him!!

Make the cross real.  Use some scrap wood or some branches to build a simple cross.  You just need two pieces nailed together where they intersect.  It doesn't need to stand up; it can just lay on the ground.

Do your children know about sin?  Tell them about how sin hurts our hearts.  It makes us feel bad inside.  We know we did something wrong that hurt someone.  Sin is so bad for us because, at the time that we are sinning, we are not showing love to God, whom we should love above all things.

On small pieces of paper, write or draw your confessions of sin.  In what ways have you and the children in your care fallen short, messed up, put God somewhere besides first?

Using finishing nails, nail the confession papers to the cross.  Tell your children that we confess our sins to Jesus.  Instead of the carrying around our sins in our hearts, Jesus takes them for us.  Then he makes us better, healthy again!

Wondering what to do with Saturday?  Try making New Life Cakes to eat on Easter Sunday!

Jesus Makes Hearts Healthy

Image by Terawarner.com
Easter is an excellent time to engage children in a study of the difference between being sick and being healthy.  Children surely have experiences of themselves or others being sick or healthy in their bodies.  Easter is an ideal time to also reveal to them more personally how people can also be sick or healthy in their spirits.  Sin separates us from God and makes us spiritually sick.  Jesus heals us through his death and resurrection.  He takes away the sin, the sickness, so we can be healthy again!

Consider the ways your body can be sick.  What does it look like?
Consider the ways your body can be healthy.  What does it look like?

Consider the ways your heart (spiritual and emotional self) can be sick.  What does it look like?
Consider the ways your heart can be healthy.  What does it look like?

Next Time
How does Jesus heal us and others so that we are changed from having sick hearts to having healthy hearts?

Easter Truths Through Art

Image by Crafts-for-all-seasons.com
The study of Easter is a good time to learn about the difference between sickness and health, both physically and spiritually.  Other areas of this unit explore these concepts in depth.  We extend this to our art study in the following ways.

Paint a person who is sick physically or spiritually.  Children may choose someone they know or do not know.  Help them to think about how we know someone is sick and how to portray this in their painting.  Maybe they paint a person in bed or with a thermometer in his mouth.  Maybe they paint someone crying or with bandaids on his knees.  Maybe they paint someone who is sad or mad because she has hurt someone else.  Perhaps they even paint Jesus whose body was so badly hurt at the crucifixion.   This may be too much for them.  It depends on the child.  Thinking about hurting physically or spiritually though, helps prepare our minds to thinking about physical and spiritual healing.

Use popsicle sticks and hot glue to create a cross.  Paint it as desired.  Display it in a window after it dries.  Leave the cross displayed in the window.  On Easter, color and cut out paper flowers.  Maybe you can reuse some colorful candy wrappers or boxes to make flowers.  Tape them to the window with the cross.  Consider adding Easter grass.

Next Time
Have you ever wondered what will Jesus look like after the resurrection? The bible tells us his disciples didn't even recognize him.  Imagine the risen Lord aloud with your child.  Consider all the aspects of his appearance.

Have your child illustrate the resurrected Christ with markers or oil pastels.  When the illustration is complete, encourage your child to dictate to you (and you write in down) his or her description of the image.  Display both together in your home.
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