The session starts with singing "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands" - on each verse after the first one, we sing two of the children's names, e.g. "he's got George and Olivia in his hands," until each of the children have been named. This welcomes the children individually and shows them that they are valued and known by name. The helper has started the session by handing out nametags to all the children, to make this go more smoothly. This is a good way of levelling the playing field between new children and those who have been coming for a while - everyone has a nametag, so there's never a feeling of "everyone else knows everyone's name, I don't know anyone's, and nobody knows mine."
|The altar is visible on the left of this picture. We share our space with a nursery, so this is their carpet and their displays, though the Eucharist poster is ours.|
At the front of the carpet area where the children are sitting, we have a child-sized altar with a cloth over it, and a cross, candles, metal chalice and paten, and an icon of the Madonna and Child. All these materials are non-breakable, and children can play with them during the free choice time.
Then we have our story.
We often use the feltboard, but sometimes we use a sand tray or a book, or even puppets. Here's the sand tray set up for the Parable of the Lost Sheep:
|Even when we're using the sand tray, I still have the feltboard up, with a basket of the "church and people" Beulah Land set, so children can "play church" during the free time if they like.|
After the story, we have wondering time. We tend to stick to very basic wondering questions with this age group:
"I wonder what your favourite part of the story was."
"I wonder if you could take out anything and still have all the story you need."
"I wonder what the most important part of the story was."
"I wonder how _____ felt when ______ happened."
"I wonder if you have any questions about the story."
Then the children have free choice time. There is often a structured activity set up on one of the tables, for example, planting seeds, or decorating money boxes to collect money for charity during Lent, or making a picture of Jesus calming the storm, using streamers, crayons, and craft sticks. This activity, while structured, is not proscriptive - 10 children will make 10 very different pictures, or 10 very different money boxes. There will never be an activity where children assemble identical kits.
On the second table, we have toys. These tend to stay roughly the same during the year, and may or may not relate to that day's story. Here we have the Noah puzzle and an ark with the rainbow block, as well as the Egypt Playmobil set and the Easter sticker set from Alphabet Alley. We also have a variety of Old Testament story 12 or 24-piece puzzles, including Moses in the Bulrushes, David and Goliath, etc. Sometimes the Egypt toy or the harder puzzles will go up to the older Sunday School room for a while.
We also have toys on the carpet, which relate both to story and to liturgy, as well as a book corner with cushions. After free play time, they come back together and pray. Prayer time begins by singing (to the tune of Frere Jacques): "God the Father / God the Father / God the Son / God the Son / God the Holy Spirit / God the Holy Spirit / Three in One / Three in One," while making the sign of the cross. Then they learn another song, which varies by the season, they receive their snack (raisins and/or crackers, to symbolise the Eucharist), receive a blessing ("The Almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you" - while the adult makes a cross on the child's forehead), and return to church.