01 March 2011

Advent - a third child

[I've travelled back in time, to tell about our first Godly Play sessions, last December, in my own house.]

By the fourth Sunday in Advent (our third session in my house), I was confident enough to invite another young child from church to join us for Junior Church at my house while the adults had grown-up church elsewhere. There was never any feeling that I had missed church - this was church for me those Sundays.

Once again, we began by carefully replacing my nativity set with the one belonging to one of the children. During the lesson it was easy to change the words of the story from the original, See how the Christ Child is holding out his arms to give you a hug into something more appropriate for these figures: See how the Christ Child is smiling at you. And I suddenly realized that just as I had used the angel to remember the shepherds' experience, so I could use the star to represent the journey of the Magi.

Haba nativity set
I had a certain amount of control as the leader, but not complete control. Towards the end of the lesson I said, Let's enjoy the light, fully prepared to sit for a minute in silence, watching the candles. Snuff them out! Snuff them out! was the immediate, excited cry from one of the children. Oh well! I guess that's the give and take of community.*

Again, all of us wound up "playing with clay" (plasticine) during the response time, but once Junior Church was over and we were waiting for the parents to come back, one child chose to work with the Advent materials and, as in the previous week, was quietly insistent that I want to work alone. The third child, who had opted to go back to the clay, also ended up working alone.

But unexpectedly (to me), this child was unhappy to be alone. At the time I interpreted it as a personality thing (introvert vs extrovert), and maybe that was part of it, but I've now read that it might also be a developmental thing. If I understood right, children under 4-5 are more likely to play individually or in parallel (together but separately), whereas over the age of 4-5 they want to have playmates. Anyway, my response was, When the others are done with what they're doing, you can invite them to come play with you. And that seemed satisfactory.

*Maybe I should add / explain that in Godly Play the "changing of the light" (snuffing out the candles) is a big deal. The children are encouraged to pay special attention to that part, so it's no wonder the Snuff them out child was looking forward to that part of the lesson.

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