1. The Lost Sheep. For the parable of the lost sheep, I hid ten cardboard cutout pictures of sheep around our nursery room. (I left a list of where they were hidden for the nursery teacher, as I figured it would defeat the purpose of the parable if they couldn't find all the sheep!!) Children heard the parable, wondered about it, and were then sent to find the lost sheep. When they found one, the whole class stopped and cheered for the sheep that had been found. Once all the sheep were found, if some children hadn't yet had the chance to find one, the teacher brought everyone back to the carpet and re-hid the sheep. When I checked with the teacher after church, she said, "they LOVED this game. We played it FOUR TIMES." And all the sheep were safely gathered in!
2. Our sessions follow the basic model of Godly Play, but I'm somewhat hampered by the fact that we share our nursery space with a secular nursery, who uses the room from Monday to Friday. So the room is full of secular toys and books, and we can't fill it with Godly Play materials that stay in the same place from week to week. So what I did instead, for more than a year, was give each week a theme, based around the story they were working with that week. There were some structured activities available for the children who wanted them, and free play, linked to that week's theme. For example, the week they were doing Noah's Ark, there would be a water table with toy boats - the week they were doing the parable of the sower, there would be seeds and dirt. But I'm starting to think that this approach is flawed in some ways. When I've been leading the youngest class, they tend not to engage with the sacred objects as much as I hope they would.
I think this is partly because too many of the sacred objects are new and different each week. Too many of them are structured; Rebecca Nye warns of lessons in which the creativity of the leader gets in the way of the creativity of the child, and I think some of my ideas for activities fell into that trap. And I think this is partly because the brightly coloured plastic toys, and the books with familiar characters such as Peter Rabbit, Maisie, Peppa Pig, and so on, distract the child from taking the risk of engaging with something as odd and unfamiliar as a chalice and paten, or an icon, or a baby doll in a baptism dress.
So I'm putting away a lot of the secular toys from now on, and I'm investing in a half dozen or so wicker baskets that can take the place of focal shelves in a Godly Play room. These wicker baskets will have playsets or collections of liturgical objects in them. They will be in the same place in the room, week in and week out, so the children will know where to find them. They will not necessarily have a thematic connection to the week's story, though sometimes there will be an extra basket linked to the story of the day or the season of the year. There will be a child-sized altar, with a coloured cloth, a standing cross, an icon of the Virgin and Child (just like we have on a side table in the main church), and a candle which we light during our meditation time. I will invest in some large cushions for the book corner. And I will stop planning so many structured activities.
And we'll see what happens.