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Monday, February 23, 2015

Tired of winter? A little laugh to get you through :) Thank you Bill Waterson...

SEE!!  Snow can be fun :)  Just gotta be as creative as Calvin and Hobbes (the best comic strip ever). Hope it makes you smile as you shovel your walk, drive slowly on the ice, or if you're in Canada - dig your way out of your house...and maybe you'll even get an idea to do at home :)  Hope this helps you make it til spring!

 I could've kept going and going (there are 100s out there!) but this is a start :)






Calvin and Hobbes snow forts




















Calvin and Hobbes - Modern Craftsmen


Calvin and Hobbes - X-Chromosomes






Thursday, February 19, 2015

Apps in church?...





YES!!  Times have changed...schools have changed, church has changed, worship has changed, technology in church has changed...so why is Sunday school STILL the SAME?!?!  I don't get it and I won't stand for it :)  I love to write and I'm trying to write my own curriculum that is different from anything else out there that is not read word for word (kids don't like that and neither do I) and simpler.  This is my new mantra...simplify, simplify, simplify!!  There is no reason that Sunday school teachers should have to plan for 1-2 hours per week to teach their class about God.  It can be easier and still be meaningful!  While I'm working on that however, I am enjoying learning about different ways to use technology in our sunday school rooms and I love the idea of using tablets and apps...maybe every Sunday during some part of our class or maybe a special rotation once a month.  Like I said, I'm still working out exactly how this will work, but thought I'd go ahead and start compiling cool apps that I have heard about or used.  I've joined a facebook group called children's pastors only and there have been some really good suggestions.  So this is my "running" list that I will hopefully keep adding to as I find more :)

     Of course we have our well-known "givens" - facebook, pandora, pinterest, the Bible app and dropbox has become popular (and useful).  So I'll start my list with others you may not have heard of (I hadn't heard of many of these!).  After some reading I've divided my list into 3 parts - games/education appsorganizational and classroom tool apps (including check in) and creative/media apps for things like making flyers.

GAMES/EDUCATIONAL APPS to use in church, Sunday school, at home, mid-week activities, etc.


1.  Bible App for kids by Youversion - from the website - "Through interactive adventures and beautiful animations, kids explore the big stories of the Bible. The Bible App for Kids is a delight-filled experience designed to encourage kids to return again and again. It’s the beginning of a lifelong love of God’s Word.
* Easy, kid-friendly navigation
* Colorful illustrations
* Touch-activated animations
* Engaging, interactive content that brings the Bible to life
* Fun facts and activities designed to help kids remember what they learn

* Special challenges that let kids earn rewards
The app is free and available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Brazilian Portuguese.  It is available for Apple products, Kindle and Android!  Why don't I already have this for my kids on their ipad?!

And I just found out that there is a new FREE curriculum (two year plan) that goes along with this app!  Here's the link.

2. NIV Adventure Bible Game App - I got this for my kids and it is awesome!!  It has games like jeopardy and who wants to be a millionaire and also has games that help you learn places in the Bible (maps), the books of the Bible and memory verses. Says for ages 6-8 but you could go older.  It's free (!) but I think it's only available for Apple products.
iPad Screenshot 1

3.  Kidblog - I love the idea of kids blogging.  I know not all of them want to do something like this, but those that want to, should be given the chance.  I haven't used this app, but it looks pretty self-explanatory.  I have a second grader and his class blogs every other week or so and it's really neat to see what they have written - even if it's just a paragraph :) They can comment on an activity they did in class, a story they learned, or anything that's on their minds.  What a great way for parents to know what they are learning!  It's free but only for iphone/ipad.  *update* this has recently changed - it is no longer free.  There is a monthly charge.  Although I like this app, I have changed my church blog to google.  


iPhone Screenshot 1             iPhone Screenshot 2

4.  Bible Trivia.  (link goes to itunes, go here for Android) There are a lot of Bible trivia apps out there but this is by FAR the most popular and is ranked 5 stars.  It's free and available on ipad, iphone and a similar one by the same company on Android.  Seems like a no brainer :)  Gotta get it!
iPhone Screenshot 1


5.  Have you seen the American Bible Challenge Game Show on the GSN?  It's a pretty neat show and they also have an App!  It's free, in all different languages and available for apple and Android products.  The only thing I'm not sure of is the difficulty.  It does say it has levels but I don't know what age level it is recommended for.  It's free so you can always try it out :)
iPhone Screenshot 1

6.  The Superbook Bible App is a fun app with games for preschoolers and older.  It's available for kindle, android and apple plus it's free!  
Superbook Bible, Videos and Games App


7.  Show Me - My second grader's teacher also uses this free app and finds it very helpful.  She says that it serves as a recordable, interactive whiteboard. Her words, "I can display the iPad screen through the projector and either work through a problem for the students, or pass the iPad and have the students work through a problem. I've also used this to record students as they explain how they are working through a math problem. I post these videos on our blog as helpful “how to” videos for parents.  I've also emailed the recorded videos to the students’ parents to show off how well they’re doing!"  I can already picture how we could use this in our Sunday school rooms!!  I think it is only available for apple products.
iPad Screenshot 1

8.  My story  for Ipad/iphone and Storymaker for Android.  My story description ($4.99):     "* Create and share ebooks and stories by adding drawings, photos, and stickers. 
* Record your voice on every page and share your story with friends, family and classmates!
* Choose from dozens of fun stickers already included in the app, no extra downloads needed.
* No in-app purchases, hidden ads, or additional costs.
* Share your storybooks to the web, on Facebook and Twitter, and standard ePub format to be viewed in 3rd party apps or edited in iBooks Author. Or export as a movie to Mp4 format straight to YouTube!
* Teacher friendly: allows for multiple authors and syncing across multiple iPhones and iPads through Dropbox!

Sounds great - I'd definitely make this a "must have" app for Sunday school!

Organizational and classroom tool apps (including child check-in)

1.  Remind - This is a very popular App and I have it on my phone and want to use it with my Sunday school class as well as the entire children's ed department!  You can keep in touch with parents about class activities, upcoming events, etc. without them having to know your phone number or vice versa.

2.  Classdojo - My child's teacher uses this in the public school.  It's mainly a behavior tool to let parents know how your child is doing in the classroom, but you can also communicate with everyone as a whole group, individually...even send pictures and links.  I'm thinking this would be a great tool for classes at church, and remind would be great for the entire children's department...

3.  If you lead a small group, this app was recommended - Leadsmall.  From the website: 
 "It helps Small Group Leaders stay in touch with their group by keeping everyone's photos, info and prayer requests all in one place. You can also send group texts, too!  It is packed with daily tips and ideas to help Small Group Leaders be more awesome at it.  And, small Group Leaders get a guide for their weekly conversation, and a devotional for themselves delivered straight to their phones every week!"  It's free and available for Apple and Android.
4.  Pages:  
From the webpage - "Pages is the most beautiful word processor you’ve ever seen on a mobile device. This powerful word processor helps you create gorgeous reports, resumes, and documents in minutes. Pages has been designed exclusively for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch with support for Multi-Touch gestures and Smart Zoom."  It's $9.99.

5.  Bitstrips  for schools: This is a fun alternative to do in response to a story or lesson instead of blogging :)  Basically, you create your own comic strip...and you can star in it! The opportunities for this are endless and the kids would love it...however, it is $10 a month. Unless you plan on using this alot it may not be worth it. Be careful that you don't get the Bitstrips app...it is for 12 years and older and has inappropriate content.  Available for Apple and Android. 

6.  Quite a few educators recommended Edutecher.  I downloaded it on my phone but it has frozen on me a number of times.  Not sure why.  It's a free app availbable for iphone/ipad and android and helps you search through all the apps according to subject or functionality.  It's just a great way to find and learn about other apps that are out there.

7.  Vittle is a good app for story-telling.  This would be fun to use when telling or retelling a story that you can illustrate as you tell...or the children can illustrate :)  Click on the link and check out the video.  It's free but you can only get one page and one minute recordings with the free version.  You can upgrade to get more for $8.99.  It is only compatible with ipad.  



8.  Explain Everything sounds like a really neat app if you have the equipment in your classrooms to show presentations, videos, etc.  I would love to get to this point in Sunday School!  I'm already picturing all the cool things we could do :)  On the app store for the iphone it says it costs $2.99 and on the website it says it is also available for Android devices.


9.  Whiteboard.  I'm not sure how this is different than Explain Everything.  It seems like this wouldn't be necessary if you had the Explain Everything app.  The reviews say that it is "ok" but that it has too many ads.  It's made for apple products and is free.

There are a lot of apps out there for check in - for Sunday school or nursery.  I'll list them, but here's my two cents.  For something this important I wouldn't rely on technology.  Way too many things could go wrong.  Some of these rely on wireless and we all know how often that stops working.  Parents could forget their phones, have them on mute, your system could be down, etc.  Another person commented that they spent $800 on a check in system and the internet tended to run slow because the server was being flooded with all the churches that were using the system at the same time.  The church I just started with has a sign in sheet for the nursery and the restaurant type buzzers.  We have the cell phone numbers just in case.  I'm not completely happy with it because there needs to be name tags for visitors and their belongings...but I like the check in process.  Simple!  But, if you are looking for something different, here are some apps that were recommended...

10.  nursery alert - available for android and apple. Apple has it listed as $3.99.
11.  Check in easy - Android and Apple.  Free to check in up to 50 people.
12.  Kidddo Kiosk - Android, Apple and Kindle.  Free up to 20 people then $10 a month.
13.  Lambslist - this is a $50 a month program or $500 a year to check in, acquire data,           keep track of volunteers, members, etc.  I didn't see anything on the website about an app.
14.  Planning Center is also an online program that oversees check in, registration and many other things.  It also has an app.  It's more expensive than Lambslist at $126 a month for a medium church.  
15.  Real Time can be used for your entire church as well as ministries and check in.  For a 300 person church it is $50 a month.  It also has an app for Apple.
16.  Sonblest Technologies is another program for the entire church to use.

Creative/media apps and websites

1.  Glogster - I had no idea what this was...or what a glog was, so I watched a video on youtube :) Basically, it's a way to create an interactive poster.  Pretty cool actually.  I could see using this in our children's ministry.  Pricing can be found here.  Elementary schools cost $39 a year...

2.  Print Artist - $38 on amazon...but read the reviews - the majority are not good.

3.  picmonkey.com - collages, touch ups, editing...

4.  publisher - link takes you to amazon.  by far this is the most recommended from the facebook group on how to edit pics, make posters, etc.  However, if you have a tight budget $100 may be too much to spend...

5.  Phoster - $1.99 - that price sounds more doable, right? :) This app creates posters and invitations.  Available on apple products.  But Android has a similar one called Photo Editor pro that has great reviews and is free.


6.  Canva - free.  There may be a catch but it looks like a great website and the ipad app is free. 

7.  Smilebox - another website that creates slides, invites, collages and more supposedly for free.  



Well that's it!  So many good ideas out there - this is just a start!  If you have any great apps or websites you want to share that make your kid ministry better than please share!  It's fun too keep up with the latest apps and programs but also very difficult without sharing!  So share away! :)

In Christ,
Laurie

Thursday, February 5, 2015

10 Fun ways to Celebrate Children's birthdays in the Church...(that don't include food)!


I've joined this really neat facebook group for Children Christian Educators.  There are thousands of members from all over the world.  Every hour (or less) someone posts another question or request for ideas.  Some are obviously more helpful to me than others - we all have specific issues, events, ideas that occur at our own churches - but I found myself having a hard time figuring out how to remember all the great things I was reading!  So, I decided that when one question/request catches my attention, I'd turn it into a blog.  Then I'd have the info forever :)  Of course, this is based on the idea that I would also have time to write the blog :)  The first one I'm going to write about is
  "How do you celebrate the kids' birthdays in your church?"  
Great question!  At my current church we do it during Sunday school and we just have a birthday bulletin board and they get to add their names when it's their month.  At one church I worked in the Sunday school teacher sent cards.  After reading some of these ideas I'm ready to try something different! (just to reiterate, the 10 ideas below are NOT my ideas...)

As you may already know from previous posts, I'm not a fan of having food in the classroom - at school or church - unless absolutely necessary.  Too many issues surrounding food and not worth it.  Plus, we are trying to teach children to eat healthy and giving them junk food every Sunday (or even once a month) isn't something I want to do...but to each his own.  I'm not judging!  Just my opinion. Too many allergies and special needs to think about.  Anyway, some of the suggestions and ideas (that didn't center around food) really caught my eye, so I wanted to write them down.  Here they are!!

First off, you have to decide WHEN you are going to celebrate the birthdays - there are many options out there...the Sunday after their birthday, once a month or once a quarter.  One suggestion was one birthday bash for everyone just one time a year and then send a little something in the mail ON their birthday.  Once you have the WHEN taken care of, then you can decide on the WHAT :)


1.  Send/give child a card with a $5 gift certificate to the Dollar tree or Five Below.  I love this idea...but with a lot of children it would be expensive.

2.  Give them a fun yet simple gift - this is a really cute idea.  Even my 8 year-old loves the straws at Friendly's that bend every which way!
3.  I love this idea!  One teacher bought a big inflatable that she brings out on birthdays and the children take their picture with it!  I went to oriental trading to see if there are any biblical ones and only one popped up...
Giant Inflatable Whale
click image to go to link
...but I see so many possibilities with this :) Like a speech bubble, party hat, bling...very cute idea.  Of course, they also have a giant flamingo which is not Biblical but so darn cute :)

4.  One person shared how her youth took it upon themselves to find a way to celebrate people's birthdays in the church by handing out balloons on their special day!
5.  Use your office supplies!  Give out church pencils, balloons, pens, etc.  We buy these in bulk anyway - Good time to use them! :)  You could even make a goodie bag!

6.  This idea is very clever.  I read the description and didn't quite understand so I went to pinterest.  Pinterest to the rescue :)  I learned the correct term for this - whipple cream...or the more common term - puffy paint!  You make it out of glue and shaving cream to make a "pretend cake" that will last you a very long time.  The educator that suggested this said she puts real candles on the "cake" (she covered a cake pan with whipple cream) and lets them blow them out - which is the best part!  Here are a few pics...click on the pink cake to see the recipe and instructions.  The cake with 5 candles is whipple cream on a sponge!  so cute!  I really like this idea...somebody make me a whipple cake :)
Whipple Cream Tutorial For Decoden      Doll Cake made from a sponge.  The scale for this one is too small for AG dolls, so I cut it about 3 inches in diameter, cut from a pack of 3 pink and yellow sponges from Dollar Tree.  I made puffy paint with shaving cream and white glue and frosted it once, let it dry and added another coat.   Birthday Cake ~ in honor of my birthday later this week.  This is shaving cream and I think we'll make something like this Messy Class this week!  Fun :-)

7.  Simple but effective - if you have a group gathering of all the children on Sundays (children's church, worship...) call up children that had birthdays that week, sing to them and give them a birthday sticker.  Hey, if it works for Disneyworld it can work in church ;)  Give them a little extra special attention - that's all they really want, right? :)

8.  Cool...and hot idea :) If your church has a cafe, mail them a birthday card and give them a coupon for a free smoothie or hot chocolate inside!  Even if you don't, we all know how great Chick Fil a is and they sell $1 ice cream cones!  I bet they would give you a deal if you ask them for $1 coupons to hand out to the children at your church on their birthdays!  And maybe hot chocolate in winter...

9.  Mail a card during their birthday month and then on the Sunday after their birthday they get to pick from the "birthday treasure box".  I'm sure oriental trading could help with this box...as well as parents.  Neat idea, and lots of non-candy things you could put in it :) 
10.  I think a consensus was made with everyone that an old fashioned card works best...especially since now a days it's so rare!  If you slip a little something personal in it as well, that makes it even better :) 

11.  Listing their (first) name on your facebook and/or webpage.

12.  I really would like to do this one - if you have a time when  you all meet together, play a silly happy birthday song from youtube and make all the birthday children (from the month/week) stand up front).  You could give them a little card or something to take away with them as well...Here are some neat youtube birthday videos...
Have fun celebrating those birthdays!!  Now I just have to decide which one(s) I want to do... :)
In Christ,
Laurie