When your class time is over and the sermon isn’t, what do you do? Make sure kids are bored no more! Try a Plan in a Can!
It’s Sunday morning and you’ve just finished your entire lesson. You check the clock, and while the service should be ending…you hear no music, see no parents coming down the hall, discern no sounds of the benediction. What you do hear is your senior pastor, still excited about the message. And then you quickly begin trying to figure out what you’re going to do with a room full of kids and no lesson left—without letting them see you sweat.
The temptation may be to run; it’s not easy to think of creative and interesting ideas to keep kids engaged when you have extra time on your hands. But don’t run—think of it as an honor that God chose you to have a few extra minutes with your kids.
You might be thinking, Holy buckets! Are you kidding me? I signed up for one hour. It’s been an hour and 20 minutes and these kids are just staring at me. Well, they should be. You’re pretty special. You’re the one person God selected for this moment. Every extra minute kids get with you is his gift to them.
And you? You need a survival kit. A bucket of back up, a plan in a can.
So we’ve created two kits you can build on your own and store in your room. When you have extra time with kids, don’t sweat it—just pull out your plan in a can and get busy! And just in case you’re wondering, Why call it a can? Why not a box or a bin or a bucket? It’s for those times when you’re wondering if you’ll be able to keep kids’ attention and bust their boredom, the name is a sweet reminder that yes, you can!
Plan in a Can: Games Galore!
- Faithful Faces cards (printed photos, poster board, adhesive, and a laminator or clear adhesive vinyl) held together with a rubber band
- Sidewalk chalk
- Christian music CDs for kids
- Blacklight lamp
- Two large happy face images
- Two colors of plastic clothespins (enough for three per child)
Kids love The Memory Game, where you place a bunch of cards face down, shuffle them, and have kids try to find matching cards by turning over two at a time. (If they don’t get a match, they turn the cards back face down and the next person goes. If they do get a match, they get another turn.) So why not capitalize on this fun game model and reinforce the important faith faces in kids’ lives? Just take pictures of the kids in your class, missionaries in your church, Bible friends you’ve been learning about, families you’re praying for, and people in your congregation. Then whip up your own version of the game.
Use photo paper or regular printer paper to print out two of each photo, and mount them on poster board. Run the poster board through a laminator or apply clear adhesive vinyl, and you’ve got a game worth talking about. Kids will love finding their friends. And when they get a match, throw in a little challenge by giving them an extra point if they can remember who’s on the cards and what they know about them.
Sidewalk Chalk of Today’s Talk
Form groups of two to six. You can have as many or as few teams as you have the sidewalk space for. Have your kids work together to draw one picture on concrete that says something about the day’s Bible story. Best of all, when parents pick up their kids, you get a huge blessing: The kids tell their parents what they learned without even being prompted. And for a bonus, take photos of kids and their drawings for a quick recap to start off the following week’s lesson. You can even make a Month-in-Review bulletin board starring your kids as the teachers.
If you think an hour is a long time for you, it’s like dog years to kids. They have wiggles they’ve got to get out. So when you have extra time, turn up the music and let kids be as goofy as they want-until the music stops. Then they have to freeze in place. Add a twist by adding a blacklight. Changing your environment is a great break from every day, and it lets kids know that you always have a few surprises in store.
You can use this game to remind kids that no thief can steal our joy when we go to the Joy Source: God.
Place the happy face images on the floor at opposite ends of a play area. Form two teams, and have each team go to one happy face. Assign each team a color of clothespin. Pin three clothespins to the back of each child’s clothing above the waist. The goal of the game is for each team to try to steal the other team’s clothespins and drop them on their team’s happy face. Play music to signal “go.” Let kids play for one minute or so, and then turn off the music to signal “stop.” After a few starts and stops, end the game, declare the winning team with the most clothespins, and then let kids get more “joy” on their backs and play again. When you’re done, remind kids that they can always find new joy with God.
Plan in a Can: Craft Creations
- Legos in a resealable bag
- Moon Sand sculpting sand
- PlayFoam sculpting material
- Window Crayons and Window Writers
- Whiteboard markers
- Magic Nuudles cornstarch building blocks
- Giant chenille pipe cleaners
- Bendaroos sculpting material
- Mini Marshmallow Blaster and marshmallows
- Alcohol wipes
- One-subject notebook
- Colored pencils
- Glitter Putty
- Construction paper
- Washable markers
- Super Balls
- Christian music CDs for kids
If you have time to burn as kids are arriving, try this activity. Have kids use Legos building blocks, Moon Sand sculpting sand, or PlayFoam sculpting material, Window Writers, or whiteboard markers to create a symbol of something that happened during the week. Then have kids show their creation as they say: “Hi, my name is __________ , and I created this__________ , because last week__________ .”
Choose one person to be the Launcher. The Launcher will use the marshmallow launcher to blast their friends with marshmallows to eat. Have kids stand across the room from the Launcher. They’ll stand ready to catch a marshmallow in their hands (or mouth, if they feel really crazy). Whoever catches a marshmallow introduces him- or herself and has to come up on the spot with a random question for everyone in the group to answer, such as, “What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever eaten?” Use an alcohol wipe to disinfect the blaster after each game.
In this game, you’re the Launcher. Have kids stand ready to catch the marshmallow in their mouth or hands. Whoever catches the marshmallow will answer a question based on what you discussed in class. The Catcher has the option to “pass” one time, giving the question to someone else. Use these questions to spark discussion and get kids to think about the Bible story.
- Who did you relate to most from our Bible story?
- What’s one question you have regarding today’s Bible story?
- What’s one thing you could pray about based on what you learned today?
- What will you do differently this week based on our Bible story?
- When have you experienced something similar to what happened in our Bible story?
- Why is this lesson important?
Let kids use any craft supplies from the can to create a symbol of what the day’s lesson meant to them. For instance, kids can draw a picture or write how they’ll apply the point to life—on the windows, the whiteboard, or paper. Or they might choose to create a symbol using giant chenille pipe cleaners or Bendaroos sculpting material that reminds them of what they learned. Invite kids to share what their creation represents.
Create a class prayer journal with a notebook that kids will write prayer notes in. Have all the kids write their name on the cover because it belongs to all of them. Then take out the journal throughout the year. Encourage kids to take turns writing their prayers or notes using colored pencils. Give kids prayer prompts if they’re stumped, such as “I thank God for…” “I need help with…” and “I pray for….” Close your time with a prayer, including requests from the prayer journal.
Give kids Glitter Putty, Super Balls, or simply space. Play Christian music and let kids just “chill” as they quietly listen to the music. Use these tactile treats to help them focus on the music.
- Squish the Glitter Putty between their fingers.
- Play with Super Balls while listening to Christian music.
- Relax on the floor at least 5 feet from anyone else, close their eyes, and listen to a song.
Cynthia Crane has been a children’s minister for more than 20 years and is a mom to two great kids.
Sharon Stratmoen is a 23-year kidmin veteran. She also leads national workshops.
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