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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Teachers appreciation gift - starring Chick Fil-a :)

Teacher's Appreciation bags for my church teachers - 

(with a little help from Chick Fil-a!)

For teacher's appreciation this year I decided I wanted to give them something "practical" that they would actually use (and like!).  So, I talked to a local Chick fil-a and told them my budget. They worked with me so that all my teachers (around 45) would get a $5 gift certificate or a free meal :)
I attached the gift certificate (with the above tag - a"moo"-sing huh? ;)  I traveled around pinterest for a little help with the pun but ended up with "Thank "moo" very much for sharing your gifts with Highland - we are "udderly" grateful" :) Then I hung it on the gift bag which we filled with a HEALTHY breakfast - including an apple, orange juice, yogurt, granola bar and a napkin and spoon. I got a lot of thank you's for both -especially the breakfast!  
I then attached a home made "thank you teachers" chick fil a card (using a pic from the internet and a photo editing program :) which you can print for free off my teacherspayteachers site :) The idea was to write a quick personal thank you on the back of the cow card...or have the kids do it - but I ran out of time. They still liked it :) 

On the other side of the bag I attached a "thank you" poem called "Why God Made Teachers" that you can find here

I love Pinterest and getting ideas-but I prefer my gifts to be useful-especially if I'm going to be spending a lot of money :) ...and not just cutesy :)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

How to run a tear-free, fun Easter Egg hunt!

When I was little - maybe 1st-2nd grade - my mom took me to a city-wide Easter egg hunt.  You know, one of those hunts with 100s of kids and the eggs are thrown on the ground (which, may I interject, is not a HUNT...that's just an Easter Egg Pick Up).  Well, I was extremely shy at that age and when someone yelled go and all the kids raced out to get the eggs, I naturally hung back with my mom.  She encouraged me to run out there and I picked up one egg.  One. Egg...that had been stepped on.  It was awful!  I was scarred for life! lol  No more Easter Egg hunts for me :)  I left with nothing and we never went back.  I don't get these events.  They aren't designed for younger kids, for shy kids or special needs kids.  They are great for energetic, outgoing and confident kids who aren't afraid of running over someone to get an egg :)  So, needless to say, I've never taken my kids to one.  Instead, I've worked in a church since my oldest was born, so they've always participated in my Easter Egg hunts.  I've organized them for 8 years...this will be my 9th.  My first few hunts I had around 20 kids, at another church I had 100s of kids, and this year I'm expecting around 50.  I've never had a tear shed at one of my hunts and every child - from 1 to 5th grade - has gone home with a basket of eggs.  The secret?  Here are my surefire ways of running a religious, large, multi-age, successful and FUN Easter Egg hunt at your church or wherever...(I'll add more pictures after our hunt this weekend :)

1.  Prepping:
First you need to estimate how many kids you are going to have. Overestimate.  This year, I'm thinking we'll have around 50 so I'm estimating 75.  Plan on 10 filled eggs for each child.  Since you're over-estimating, they'll probably get more.  Estimate how many in each age group (see #4 below).  Get 3 big boxes/containers for each group.  Divide the eggs into grocery bags in groups of 25.  This makes counting verrrry easy.  As you'll read below, I divide the kids into 3 groups.  One reason I do this is because I don't want 2 year olds trampled by 4th graders, but also because I can put age appropriate candy/toys in the ages.  For the older kids I've put neat little things like tiny fingernail polishes or squinkies (when they were a big deal) and you wouldn't want littles to get those.  And of course, that goes both ways :)
If someone is helping fill the eggs, this also helps with organization.  *one side note, if the youth at the church are helping you fill the eggs, give them a few extra bags of candy just for them to eat...otherwise you'll be short on candy ;) I learned this the hard way! lol  Once you have your eggs, put an extra 1-2 bags (or 25 eggs) in each box/container empty.  When you read/tell the story (see number 3) emphasize how the tomb was empty.  Tell them some of the eggs will also be empty!  If they get an empty egg, they get to bring it to the leader of the group (see #4) and they can get something from the "prize box".  This is awesome for 2 reasons - one, you get to use all the donations that were too big for the eggs! and two, your volunteers can do a quick count at the beginning and during the story (number 3) and see if you need any extra or less in a group.  It's easy to take out or add empty eggs!  
2.  The day of, meet inside at a central location.  Have a few crafts sitting out (something simple, don't go crazy) for those that arrive on time.  Give the stragglers 5-10 minutes to get there.  Face it, these are parents with little kids and there are going to be diaper explosions, tantrums and things forgotten and some families will be a bit late.  Don't hold it against them :)  Give them a chance to get there.

3.  When you are ready to start, this is when you make it religious.  
I avoid Santa Claus in church at Christmas and I never speak of the Easter bunny.  The only reason I do egg hunts is because I can make it a community event and spread some Jesus love to kids that may never have heard of him :)  I do something quick and simple (because you have toddlers up to 5th grade waiting for a sugar don't go nuts here).  I have a book I've used many times that goes through many questions of "what is Easter"? Is Easter about bunnies? NO! Is Easter about eggs? NO! Is Easter about decorating eggs? NO!  you get the point :) The kids enjoy shouting NO! on every page and at the end we finally hear about Jesus and how he died for us.  The whole thing takes maybe 5 minutes but it's very effective.  Another idea is to hide the resurrection eggs around the meeting room and tell everyone to go find one (you'll need enough eggs for everyone...luckily we have 7 sets are our church so we're good :).  Then, go through each egg - not quickly, but don't dawdle either.  Say, "Stand up if you got the YELLOW egg!  What's inside?  That's right!  And that's the part of the story when"...etc.  

4.  Give specific instructions.  This is the part where you need to be concise, specific and efficient.  This part will make or break your hunt!  No pressure :)  There are rules to be followed and the kids and parents need to know them.  Make it fun!  Usually, my first instruction is this, "Everyone count to 10" - count up together.  Then tell them - that's how many eggs you will pick up!  Once you have gotten 10, sit down wherever you are, and see what's in them!  (cause you know they're dying to anyway).  This gives the other children time to catch up.  Do you think any of the kids get upset by this?  Not. at. all.  In fact, it's wonderful to see the kids sitting down helping the kids still looking - "look under there!" "I saw one over there!"  It's very sweet.  When everyone is sitting down - then yell GO! again and they can finish the hunt.  Boom.  Everyone has at least 10.  Believe it or not, some kids stop there :) They'd rather see what's inside :)  Instruction number 2, let them all know that there will be 3 groups hunting: toddlers to prek, K-2nd grade and 3rd-5th.  (you could change the groups to fit your church, but I recommend three).  If a parent has a child in two different groups, tell them to just pick one.  Our three groups are very close, so the older kids could actually go by themselves if they wanted to and the parents could still keep an eye on them. Call them to line up by groups.  Let the first group go, then call the next.  Have a leader (someone noticeable...with a sign or wearing bunny ears :) take them to their spot and yell GO!  Make sure they know their parameters.  Instruction number 3 deserves its own number...
the youngest group hunting in a nice, secure, closed in space :)

trading in their empty eggs for prizes!


5.  The "Cry" or "No Tears" Bag - 
Whatever you want to call it, have each leader take one with them.  Inside the bag, keep a few extras of all the main items you put in the eggs (maybe little bubbles, chalk, certain special candies, etc).  When you are inside, let the parents (and kids) know, that if their child doesn't receive something and has a meltdown (and don't judge...all of our kids have had them...and to have them happen on what should be a happy occasion like this just ruins it) that they can ask their leader if there is an extra in the "no tears bag".  In 8 years I have had to use it once...most kids are happy with what they get.  But the fact that I made that one kid happy when he would've had a meltdown is reason enough for me to do it every year.

Last, but not least, a little tip for next year - put out an empty bin either in a central location or put out 2-3 with a big sign that says, "DON'T WANT YOUR EGGS? DONATE THEM FOR NEXT YEAR!"  You'll have a lot of parents thanking you because they don't want to take them home ;)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Worship Bag Ideas

I've been reading a lot of posts about ideas for worship bags, and at a recent conference of Christian Educators I attended a workshop where we discussed the topic as well. So, in order to remember everything I've read and learned I decided to write a blog with all the ideas!!  This is a compilation from different educators from different facebook groups, my conversations and the Internet. Lots of great ideas out there! Enjoy! I hope you find something new you can use to liven up your bags :)

If you aren't familiar with worship bags, different churches use them in different ways.  Mainly, they are used in churches where the young children stay in the same worship service as the parents.  I'm a proponent of this :)  The bags are a great supplement to the sermon.  It is amazing to me how children can be engrossed in one activity (like coloring, doing a word search, etc) and still hear the sermon.  In fact, I think it helps them concentrate even more!  Just like adults, some kids listen better when they are fidgeting or using their hands (have you seen adults sewing in church?  I have!  Same concept :)  Anyway, I use them in our "prayground" (click to see pictures of our prayground) which is a comfortable, quiet place where the kids can sit and read/color or do what's in the worship bag during the sermon.  I'm sure other churches have found other uses for them though...please share if you have!

Just one thing - do me a favor - as a parent of a child with a severe allergy, a child with multiple intolerances and the Aunt of a special needs child who is on a strict diet...please refrain from putting candy/snacks in your bag.  If a child can't make it an hour without a snack, let the parents take care of it.  This will help all the other parents whose children can't have the snacks from having to restrict their children while others are enjoying the food.  Thanks!

Worship Bag Ideas!

1.  The basics: pencil, crayons/colored pencils, paper, book, Bible, clipboard, worship bulletin ( is a great resource) to supplement the sermon.  Coloring pages - those adult coloring pages are a huge hit with my older elementary kids!

2.  A popular one many people mentioned is pipe cleaners/chenille stems! Neat idea...and now they make animal striped, bumpy, name it! Endless possibilities :)  (these are from Michael's)

Caryko Fuzzy Bump Chenille Stems Pipe Cleaners, Pack of 100 (Mix)Fun Animal Stripe Chenille Stems, 12", 50 Count

3.  Kleenex...cause, ya know, kids are snotty 😉

4.  Scratch shapes - Oriental Trading has many different types - crosses, butterflies, hearts, animals, etc. 
Magic Color Scratch Cross OrnamentsColorful Magic Color Scratch Fall LeavesMagic Color Scratch Butterfly Ornaments
5.  Lacing cards - homemade or bought

from Oriental Trading...
Nativity Lacing CardsBible Story Lacing Cards

or make your own!         

7.  Bookmarks if you have hymns or Bible verses the kids can mark. 

8.  Fidget sticks! This is one I'm definitely going to get! Wonderful idea - and not just for the worship bags - but for Sunday school!  i've had a number of ADD/ADHD and autistic children and these are wonderful for them...youth and adults as well!!  I bite my nails, and something like this would've been (and is!) great for me!
Product Details
These are called "bendeez" and you can actually go to another website (this link takes you to amazon) and get them customized.  But, you have to buy over 100 and it costs over $300.  cool, but pricey.
Fidgets & Stress Balls
tangle jr. from National Autism Resources
9.  Popsicle stick puzzles.  You can make your own - any theme you want!


popsicle stick photo puzzles - the photos are all the same size so you can mix them and match them into kooky pics also - hilarious for kids...:

An easy storage idea is a plastic baggy.  These puzzles would be great to put in a diaper bag or purse to pull-out when you’re on-the-go and need a quiet activity!:

or your own!

Craft Stick Name Puzzle could have kids make for name puzzles in literacy centers:

10.  Page that says "my artistic offering to God" for the kids to put in the offering plate. 

11.  Take pictures of symbols around the room (cross, baptismal font, pulpit, instruments, any symbols in the room, etc), then print them out and put them in page covers to make an I Spy book! Great and creative idea!  Add to that a description of each item and it's also educational 😉

12.  Magnetic prayers or Bible verses - $1 tree cookie sheets and laminate words with magnetic tape on the back!

14. Small dry erase board (or white paper in a page protector) and a dry erase marker. 

15.  Worship bulletin you could make or print from  I've also created a few things that I've used during the sermon - you can find them at my teacherspayteachers store.  

16.  Lego Bible story tin.  This is too cute :)  I'm thinking little tins for Jesus and Zachaeus, Moses in the basket or the burning bush, Adam and Eve, Jesus calms the storm, so many possibilities!

Fine motor on the go!  Perfect for purse when your little needs a distraction. Fine motor on the go! LEGO in a tin, with a base on top!:

17.  Magnetic Bible story books:  

Beginners Bible Miracles of Jesus Felt Figures for Flannel Board Stories Precut

19.  Wikki Stix:  
Wikki Stix 8" 48/Pkg Molding and Sculpting Stick, Assorted, Natural

20.  Lastly, oriental trading has great Bible story sticker scenes that are pretty cheap!  
Make An Easter “He Lives!” Sticker Scenes
This is Easter, but they also have Noah's Ark, Joseph, Moses, Last Supper, Christmas, and more!  Just search "religious sticker scenes".  
21.  Almost forgot this one!  Someone else put little puzzles in our bags.  I didn't think they'd be worth anything or that the kids would like them...but they're one of their favorite things!  They are mini-puzzles and come in a little box.  I thought they were bought from Dollar Tree or Oriental trading but I can't find them!  They are all religious - would love to know if anyone finds them!  They'd be best kept in a ziploc baggie.

22.  Another thing I forgot that someone reminded me of - special holiday items.  Valentine's at Valentine's Day, Nativity ornament at Christmas, Thanksgiving craft at Thanksgiving, etc.  Best time to get this stuff...after the holiday!! :)

23.  Someone just shared another idea and I love it so I have to pass it on :) One educator says she makes a Bible Bingo for her readers.  Each square contains a word they should hear in the sermon - love, joy, faith, maybe the book of the bible of the Scripture you're reading, etc.  They can see how many they hear!  What an awesome idea!

If you have something that works well in your worship bag let me know and we'll add it to the list!!

Have fun worshiping :)

Apps you can use in church
VBS Ideas and supplies
Lesson plans for Ipad apps
And a compilation of all my children's ministry blogposts!