Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Treasure Hunt Clue in a Shamrock Shake

With St. Patrick's Day less than a week away, I thought this post bore repeating. A few years ago, alright, a lot more than a few years ago – when I used to work with teens, we did a Saint Patty’s Day party. The crux of the party was a treasure hunt.

And the piece de resistance was

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Celebrating Purim with Children


I've written about groggers and Queen Esther before, but with Purim coming up in February in 2021, I wanted to put it all together in one post. Hopefully someone reading this will be able to use some of these ideas in the midst of the pandemic of 2020/21.

In Jewish tradition, children would go to the Synagogue twice in celebration of Purim, where the entire book of Esther would be read. (I trust my readers are familiar with this story, if not, read it in one sitting and get familiar with it.) It is one service where everyone is encouraged to be noisy. As the story is read, every time the name of Haman is mentioned, everyone from young to old, stamp their feet, shake their groggers and make noise to drown out the wicked man's name. I think it is a brilliant way of getting children to engage in the story and become curious to learn who this Haman is. I'm not sure that is why the tradition developed, but it's a great by product. 

Groggers and Church

For starters, if you aren't Jewish, you could ask your pastor if you could do something similar in your church service the Sunday before Purim. It would be similar to doing a children's sermon. Here's the plan:

  1. Pick a section of Esther to read that has Haman's name in it a lot. Or put a few sections together with his name in it.
  2. Have kids make groggers in your kid's program the week before.
  3. Briefly sum up the story in the church service (Bad guy Haman doesn't like it that a Jew won't bow down to him. Bad guy devises plan to get all Jews killed. Good lady Queen Esther risks her life going to the king and begs for the life of her people.) With social distancing kids will need to stay in their seats. Otherwise, we usually let them come to the front and sit on the floor around the leader.
  4. Instruct the adults that as you read, when they hear the name of Haman they can shake their keys if they have some, stomp their feet and shout boo along with the children. Children, of course, can shake their groggers.
  5. Then do it. When you finish reading the portion, recap that Esther prayed and then went to the king and her people were saved.

 Acting Out Esther and the King

Make a throne room, a throne and a scepter. The videos below show you how. Then have the kids take turns being Esther and the King. Esther has to walk in to the throne room. If the King extends his scepter, she is allowed to come before him. If he does not, the "guards" will take Esther away. Help children to understand that Esther was risking her life to do this.

How to Make the Throne Room Wall

 How to Make a Throne

How to Make a Scepter

DIY Groggers

Other Resources

Free Bible Images has excellent pictures for telling the story of Esther. You can print them up or download them into a Power Point presentation. There are ten different sets of images to chose from. 

Final Notes

There are several other traditions that have developed for the celebration of Purim which are beneficial for children to learn to do.

  1. Giving to the needy (caring for the less fortunate). Special emphasis is placed on this the day of Purim. You can take a meal to someone in need, give to a local food bank, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or donate to a charity that helps others. Learning to give is a fundamental Christian principle, and this is a great time to teach it. Because the Jews were almost killed by Haman, they were all endangered together. From that, the teaching is stand together, and that includes helping those among you to stand.
  2. Send gifts of food to friends (people within your Christian circle of friends). This teaches caring within the body of Christ.
  3. For other Jewish traditions, check out this link.
  4. I also made "scepters" for the kids to take home from dowels and wooden dowel endcaps. I got the idea from Debbie Jackson's blog Bible Fun for Kids. Here is the post with her instructions for making the scepters. I left off the wood doll pin stand and used a standard end cap for the "ball" at the end of the scepter.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Angel Breakfast

Ever since I first read about a church that held an Angel Breakfast, I wanted to do an outreach. It was never to be though. So, we held one during Sunday School instead. And now with Covid-19, even a small one probably isn't a good idea. But who's to say you can't adapt this and use it for Christmas breakfast in your home. 

Why not add something different this year. When you can't go to the great events, why not bring one to your home. So here is everything you need to know, including downloadable printables. I hope you have a great family celebration this year.


If you are doing this at home, you can skip the invitations. If you are able to do an event, used pictures of my centerpieces for the invitations. I designed them in Canva, a great online tool that has a free version.


I used paper angels I purchased on Etsy here. I used 20 pound paper rather than card stock so that the tealights would shine through better. I had to enlarge the angels. They are designed for place-cards. I opened it in Adobe PDF and copied the angel by taking a snapshot of it with the snapshot tool. Then I pasted it into a Word doc and enlarged it. You could also use it as intended and make darling place-cards for everyone.

We used Buffalo Snow to make "clouds" down the center of our table. You can use any sort of fiber fill or even cotton batting for this. We added other angel figurines people lent us.


The Meal (Breakfast)

The main part of this breakfast is angel shaped pancakes. We made large round pancakes and cut them with an angel cookie cutter. If you are doing this for a large group, you can make and cut the pancakes ahead of time and then freeze them. When it's time to eat, reheat them in the microwave.

We added a "cloud" of whipped cream under the angel. Syrup, fruit cups and juice rounded out the meal.


You can find plenty of angel crafts online. I have a number on my pinterest board entitled Kid's Events - Christmas Angel Breakfast for Children. We used one from Jesus Without Language. I liked this one because the angel actually looks like it is moving and it came from the Biblical story of the angel that appeared to Joseph in a dream. 

The instructions for this one are here.  You can purchase a huge Christmas pack that will include this craft at Teachers Pay Teachers. You can contact Kate at Jesus Without Language to see if this angel craft can be purchased individually.


What a great opportunity to share with your children some of the truth of Christmas. God used special messengers to help prepare the way for his entrance into this world. The angel appeared to Mary, another to Joseph in a dream, and then to the shepherds. There were other appearances as well, but these are three major ones that occur within the 9 month period of God's entrance. You can find a children's book, or use some of the wonderful, free resources on line. My favorite site for visuals for telling a story is Free Bible Images. The page that has all of their Christmas stories is here.

Above are two sample pictures from one of the many stories you can find at Free Bible Images. They come with story planners if you need help telling the story. I print the pictures on cardstock.

Photo Op

You can make this as fancy or simple as you want. We went with simple. 

Please contact me if you have any questions.


Monday, December 7, 2020

DIY Gaucho Belts


This is a low cost craft to help children learn a little about the culture and geography of Argentina. Long before grass fed beef was being touted in the U.S., thousands of cattle were grazing on the grassy plains of the pampas in Argentina. These prairies extend for almost 300,000 square miles. This seemingly endless, mostly flat land in a humid, temperate climate create perfect conditions for growing cow friendly grass. 

From the mid 18 century to the mid 19th, Gauchos (the equivalent of our cowboys) ruled the pampas. They mustered cattle, chased down runaway livestock, and performed odd jobs for wealthy estancias (rural estates). They were nomadic peoples who wandered from estancias to estancias to find work. 

Gauchos are still in Argentina today. They are skilled horsemen as in days past, but they live more settled lives often as ranch hands on estancias. 

A Gaucho always wore a belt, to tuck their knife in. Like many of our western belts, they may have had a large buckle with their initials on it. This craft is perfect for introducing the Gaucho to children.

You can view the complete instructions in this presentation below. 



  • heavy duty foil
  • hole punch
  • scissors
  • cardboard (from a cereal box or similar)
  • jute 
  • yarn or twine (2 four foot pieces) 
  • double sided tape
  • packing tape (about 2 inches wide)
  • craft stick and or Q-tip


Step by Step Instructions:

  1. Cut out a 4" by 3" oval from cardboard. Use a hole punch to put a hole on each side of the oval.

  2. Draw guidelines on it (see above).
  3. Letter your initials on it in large block letters or script. The key is that is needs to be large, leaving plenty of open space around each letter.
  4. Put 2 pieces of double sided tape and put them on either side of your initials
  5. Tear off a 3" piece of packing tape and adhere it to the double sided tape with the sticky side of the packing tape FACING UP (see picture for #2 and also below).

  6. Lay the jute down along the initials you drew, cutting it at the end of each line (see pictures above). 

  7. When all the initials are outlined in jute place the square of foil over the top and wrap it around the back of the oval as pictured above.

  8. Using a craft stick or a Q-tip tool the foil all around the jute until the letters stand out nicely. Do this slowly and gently trying not to make any tears in the foil.

  9. Use a blunt pencil to push through the foil where you punched the holes in the oval.

  10. Fold each length of yarn in half and push one loop through each hole.

  11. Put the ends of the yarn through its respective loop and pull both sides tight.
  12. If you want to add an antiqued look to the buckle, put black or brown liquid shoe polish over the surface. Let it sit for a minute of two and then gently wipe off with a paper towel. 

This idea came from the book, Around the World Art & Activities. It is no longer in print, but many libraries have it.


 A "real" gaucho belt buckle:


Monday, October 5, 2020

The Secret Ingredient

When I was in college I loved trying out new recipes. There was a cake recipe in my Joy of Cooking cookbook called Mystery Cake. The secret ingredient which gave it a rich flavor and extra moistness? A can of tomato soup. I know, weird, huh? But it was actually pretty good.

As I was thinking back over my posts, I realized that I may be missing the secret ingredient in many of them. Like this one, Keeping God at the Center, which gives us the 4 tools for keeping God at the center of our life. But without the secret ingredient, these tools won't work.

What is that ingredient? The ingredient that makes it all come together? The component that allows the tools to work? The key element that runs throughout the Bible?


What difference does he make?

He purchased/earned/bought us power over sin. Without Jesus, you are going to try to use the tools in your own power. With Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit enters your being, and he helps you to use the tools. He is the difference maker. In fact, he is often referred to as "The Helper" by Jesus himself. But the helper cannot live in us unless we first are reconciled with God. And that is where Jesus comes into the picture.

Jesus paid the price that would reconcile us to God with his own life, so that we could be brought into a relationship with God. It was one of the first things I learned about as a new Christian. I grew up in a church, but I never really heard this good news there. I heard that Jesus died on the cross to show us how to love. That is definitely what he displayed by that act, but the main purpose was not to show us how to love. It was so that we would not have to perish, as Jesus so simply stated it as recorded by John in his gospel. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."


It had always troubled me that Jesus was afraid to die on the cross, that he asked God to get him out of it if it were possible. Why was he so afraid to die if he was such a hero I wondered? Plenty of people put their lives in harms way to save others all the time. Why did Jesus seem to shrink from it?

He shrunk from it because of the cost. He knew the cost. It was the cost he paid for us, so that each and everyone of us could be forgiven of our sins. His death had a purpose I never learned about in the church I attended growing up. 

The purpose was to enable us to come back into relationship with God, the relationship that had been broken by what the Bible terms sin. In order for that purpose to be accomplished, Jesus had to become sinful. Or, more specifically, he had to take on our sin on the cross. God filled him with our sin. (1 Peter 2:24 "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,...") Taking our sin, separated Jesus from God. Sin is what separates us from God, so when Jesus took it on, it separated him from the father. We will never fully understand what this was like, or even how it could actually be done. But the scriptures are clear that it did take place.

What we need to understand to appreciate this, is that Jesus and God the Father are one. God said, let "us" make man in "our" image. He was referring to his tri-une self.  From all of eternity the trinity had never been separated. Ever. Until that moment on the cross when God laid our sin on Jesus and he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 

When Jesus and the Father were separated, it didn't matter if it were for a nano second or years...all that mattered was that it happened, and it was terrible...for both of them. That is why John 3:16 says that God loved the world SO much that he GAVE his only son. It is a love we will never be able to fully appreciate this side of heaven. Any decent father could attest to you how difficult it is to lose a child. How much more difficult to do it willingly. They were separated. It was excruciating for both of them. So much so, that Jesus begged if there were any other way to do this, then don't make me drink this cup (i.e. - the sins of man).

Agonizing for the Father and son, but blissful for us because of what it purchased for us. Forgiveness of sin, making us holy even though we are not holy, so that we could enter into fellowship with the Father and his Spirit could enter into us. And that is the secret ingredient that is missing in many of my posts, so here it is front and center.

Want to make the cake? 


For the cake:

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 10 3/4-ounce can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Confectioners sugar, optional
  • Cooking-oil spray for greasing pan

For the frosting (optional):

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • Grated lemon or orange zest, ground
  • cinnamon or any liqueur to taste, optional


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until well-combined, 3 to 5 minutes. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the tomato soup in 2 parts. Fold in the nuts and raisins. Spread the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack.
  3. If you choose to make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and mix until just smooth and creamy. If the frosting is too stiff, beat for a few seconds longer, being careful not to overbeat it. If you choose, stir in the zest, cinnamon or liqueur.
  4. To serve, remove the cake from the pan and either sprinkle with powdered sugar or cover with the frosting.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Christmas on a Sunday

Every once in awhile Christmas falls on a Sunday. Over the years we have approached it various ways. My most memorable Christmas Sunday was a few years back. That year we gathered the Sunday School teachers in November and asked if they wanted to cancel Sunday School for Christmas morning and just have a church service, since Christmas is also a huge family holiday. One teacher was very vocal that Christmas was the whole reason we had church to begin with and it being the celebration of the entrance of our Savior into the world we should absolutely have Sunday School.

So we planned an Intergenerational Breakfast and it was the highest attendance we had all year.

We set up a continental style breakfast. The pièce de résistance were the homemade cinnamon rolls one of our ladies made. We had fruit salad, juice, hot chocolate and coffee as well. 

We used cloth tablecloths and simple centerpieces to make things a little special. It was simple, yet classy. I found everything for the centerpieces in our resource room. Polyester fiber fill, plastic snowflakes and battery operated votive candles. The little snowflakes were made from white paper and a snowflake punch. Walmart and Michael's carry these.

We played several games. 

  1. One was drawing a Christmas tree and fireplace on a paper plate on top of your head. 

  2. The other was piling up snowballs (marshmallows) on a wide wooden Popsicle stick. 


We met in the children's area instead of the fellowship hall, and I think this helped the event to be more incorporating of the generations. Some children were there with their families, but there was at least one who came without parents. Adults intermingled and played games with the children whether or not they were related. We even had people come to this that did not normally come for Sunday School. The best thing was that this could be an all-inclusive event. Those with disabilities could be incorporated as well.

My favorite moment came when one of the boys let out a huge yawn, and without missing a beat I asked, "Are we boring you?" What was special was that he was non-verbal. He rarely attended church because while non-verbal, he was not non-noiseful. I am not aware of the level of his handicaps, but at that moment, in the warmth of everyone joined together in one big class area, I interacted with him like any other child, which of course he was, but we so often forget that. It flowed naturally, effortlessly in the atmosphere of the gathering. 

There is a time and place for intergenerational programs and there is also a need for age appropriate teaching. If your church regularly has a Sunday School, an event like this would be great once a quarter, or even 3 times a year. It helps the children to connect with the rest of the church, and helps the church connect with them too. And it is an opportunity for an all-inclusive gathering of everyone in your church.

Monday, September 21, 2020

DIY Scroll

I wonder if Andrew Clements ever dreamed that there would be so many new words in the English language when he wrote the children's book, Frindle published in 1996. It was a book about how a new word gets acknowledged as a new word. Today we have words and terms that my computer's dictionary doesn't even recognize. Terms like DIY and words like repurpose. I looked it up, and repurpose really is a word. According to the online etymolgy dictionary, it became a word in 1983, long before google became a word.


But I digress. This is about repurposing that packing paper that comes in all the online stuff we order today. (I wonder when online became a word.) I left file drawers full of this paper at our old church. The first time I unwrapped something wrapped in yards of it, I thought, "This can surely be useful for something." I smoothed out the 10 foot length of it and rolled it up. Sure enough, I found uses for it. 


It works great for making a scroll because it is already wrinkled when you get it. All I had to do was cut it in half to make my scroll the height I wanted. You could add dowels at each end, but I didn't bother for this lesson. We just rolled it up from each end, and viola!...a scroll. 


I let the children write the Bible verse on the scroll for this particular lesson. It was when Jesus unrolled the scroll and read from Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth. Letting them write it themselves, copying it from a Bible, helped them to connect with the story. When we acted it out and "Jesus" read from the scroll, they knew what he was reading had come from the book of Isaiah because they had copied it themselves.

You can check out the whole lesson on rejection at Nazareth here.


I have also used this packing paper to make a cave. Full instructions for that are here.

I could have even made this tree from that packing paper, but I repurposed this black paper from a road we made for a VBS. You can search this blog with the word repupose to see what else we have repurposed. And by the way, in the book Frindle, frindle becomes a word for pen.

By the way, if you are still reading this, instead of getting a new church building, we repurposed these walls for about $500. So instead of a tree today, you will find these themed walls in our kidmin place. Here's what it looks like now:

You can read about our remodel project in several posts I wrote. Click here for one of them.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Missions, Missions, Missions


One summer, back when most churches had VBS's, we were not able to hold one. So my pastor husband said we should do a big fall outreach for children, and he asked me to be in charge. I love that kind of thing, so I was psyched to plan a children's outreach. Then we had our Sunday School teacher's meeting to plan for the fall classes, pick a date for the outreach and discuss the upcoming mission's conference later that fall. One of the teachers thought it would be a great thing to do something for the kids with the missionary since the one coming was especially good in relating to children. 

So that became our children's outreach to replace VBS, and of course, since I was supposed to be in charge of the outreach event, I was put in charge. I was a little ticked off. It was not what I had envisioned, and it certainly was not what I had agreed to do. Ever felt that way? It seems to happen to me a lot. But in hindsight, it was God's plan. So I encourage you to be sensitive to God when plans don't go as you had planned. What follows is the inter-generational event we came up with before we had ever even heard of the word inter-generational.

I always work with a planning committee for events. Some people hate committees, but I love them because you get so many good ideas and you develop things together. That is what the church (body) is all about, working together to do more than we can do alone. I try to look for a lot of ideas and bring them to the meeting and then let the team go crazy. Usually that means they tell me to keep my feet on the ground. But I love the process of working through plans with other and seeing our dreams come to life together.

Since I am writing this during the pandemic of 2020, most of this event could not be done as we did it. However, I encourage you to be creative and figure out ways to adapt some of it. Check out the adaptation article I wrote for lots of ideas as to how to make this festival "pandemic friendly."


PASSPORTS: We created "passports" for the children. They were required to visit each booth once before they went back to a booth a second time. They got little international stickers at each site. Here is the PDF we used. We ran the covers off on card stock. 


TAKE HOME BAGS: We purchased balloons that looked like a globe (earth day balloons) and ordered a helium tank from a local welding supply company. The plan was to bag up leftover odds and ends from previous carnivals and attach them to the inflated balloons as an anchor. The balloons were displayed in the sanctuary on both sides of the platform. This was for a photo opp of the whole group at the end of the event which we submitted to the local paper. 

DOOR PRIZES: We had some large items donated, so we decided to offer some door prizes. You got tickets for registering at the front door and kids could put them in the prize bucket of their choice. We awarded the prizes in the closing assembly, which encouraged people to stay. You had to be present to win.


FOOD: We wrote to the missionary that would be coming and asked for some recipes. We chose empanadas for Argentina, and then added a few other countries with recipes we already had. The internet is a great source, as is your local library.

Here are the categories of what we planned:

  1. Food - we had empanadas (Argentine style), Brigadeiros (a Brazilian sweet), alfajores (a Peruvian cookie) and pizza.

  2. Argentinian Experience - this one wasn't listed in their passport, but our missionary brought items from Argentina and clothing. He explained the different items to children and let them try on the clothing. It was a big hit.

  3. Service Activities - since this festival was missions themed, we included some activities that taught the children to give to others. 
    1. Card Making - we made cards for a local nursing home. We got a list that had the name of every resident on it, and made sure that cards were made for every single one. Even our adult helpers made cards when they had a chance. The residents loved getting them. Children not only made the card, but many wrote a little note in their card.

    2. Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes - we had a whole room set up with items they could fill boxes with. This project took a lot of preparation. Our youth group had a bottle drive to raise money for it. Then the youth went shopping on a Saturday morning at the Dollar Tree and each one was given about $25 and some guidelines for what to buy. We also used some of the money they raised for postage to help mail the boxes. The congregation brought in items as well and also plastic shoe boxes for the event. As children filled a shoe box, they brought it into the sanctuary where we made a big pyramid of them for a photo op at the end of the event.

  4. Craft - I found a book at the public library (every frugal children's workers favorite place) called Around the World Art & Activities: Visiting the 7 Continents Through Craft Fun. Children made a Gaucho Belt. The kids loved these. It took a lot of prep work, but we had youth help one night, and we also sent some home with our older women who liked to cut things for us. I will give a separate post as to how to make them. This book is out of print now, and very expensive to buy used. I suggest the library. Most libraries can borrow it from another library if they don't have it in their collection. I have included detailed instructions in the Gaucho Belt post. (coming soon)

  5. Games - we used two games from South America and then included some regular carnival games. 
    1. Brazil - Hit the Coin. You had a dowel with a coin on top of it and children threw a small rock to try and hit the dowel and knock the coin off. We have flag stands for small flags, so we stuck a dowel in this to make it stand upright. You could also use a bucket of sand.

    2. Brazil - Peteca. This used a Brazillian shuttlecock we purchased online. You just had to toss it into a basket, but it was a piece of equipment the kids had never seen or handled.

    3. Duck Races - this was a fun one. We had a kiddie pool full of water and ducks floating in it. Each child got a water pistol and had to squirt their duck across the pool against other ducks.

    4. Face Painting
    5. Bean Bag Toss
    6. Open Doors - This is another fun one. Someone made a little cabinet with a door on it that had a real doorknob on it. Kids were given a ring of keys and two or three chances to try and find the right key to open the door. If they got it open, they got a small prize that was inside. Otherwise they got a consolation prize. 

      Children visited the booths for 90 minutes (this was actually longer than necessary). Then everyone gathered in our sanctuary and the missionary dressed a few children up and then spoke to the group about Jesus.

 After our missionary shared with the group we had a couple of drawings (this encouraged people to stay for the whole event), we took a picture of the children with the OCC boxes and then all of the children took home a helium filled balloon with a bag of goodies attached to the ribbon, acting as a weight.


I had a lot more pictures from the event, so I made the video below to give you an idea of how it went.

Pirate Themed Trunk & Treat

Shiver me timbers and batton down the hatch, it's trunk and treat time and have we got a theme for you. Be sure to check the video out a...