15 June 2012

more on Play and Pray

As promised, somewhat belatedly, here's more on the launch of our Play and Pray area. This post will tell you what the set-up was like, including some initial reflections on what worked and what didn't.

We chose our space to gave a good vantage point for any child who wanted to see what was going on. The space felt enormous as we were moving twelve chairs to make room for it, but didn't feel so large once three children were inside it. As soon as one lay stomach-down to do some drawing I began to be thankful that more children hadn't come!

The floor was lined with a thin comforter / padded blanket. Each corner was covered with a mat (and sometimes a strategically-positioned chair leg) to help keep it in place. Spare mats were available by the "entrance", but they weren't really made use of this week.

I realized that my idea of putting all the materials around the edges was perhaps ill-conceived when I watched the smallest child labor to get past the other two to reach the colored pencils. (I praised him for carefully avoiding stepping on any artwork in doing so.) I then moved the pencils, explaining in hushed tones that it would be better to put them where everybody could reach them.

  • For an embarrassingly long time, I've had the materials for the Godly Play Jonah story on loan from a neighboring parish (fortunately, they had two sets). But I never put it into our classroom because I have trouble with that story. (Why? That's for another post!) But I brought it out for the Play and Pray area, along with an odd assortment of tiny stuffed animals in a basket - I couldn't find an ark at the flea market!

  • Our book basket included a storybook about Jonah and the Whale in English and a book in Finnish with a huge fold-out poster of  (a cartoon painting of) Noah's ark. When a child first bored of drawing, I silently drew his attention to the correspondences between the illustrations and our 3D materials.
  • Two very different sheep, both  found at the flea market for super-cheap (the cheap sheep?), stood alongside the book basket.

  • The pastor was very leery of bringing clay / plasticine / play-dough to the service, feeling that then children would need to wash their hands before coming to the altar and that would just be impracticable. Similarly, I wasn't convinced we'd be able to clean glitter glue off the blanket we were using. But we did have paper and card in various sizes, colored pencils, two kinds of crayons, and some stickers left over from Easter egg decorating.

  • On the chair closest to the altar I laid a green cloth (flea market place-mat), the Christ candle, and a basket of half-assembled cardboard Nativity pieces. As it turned out, nobody took any notice of this activity this week.

  • Also available but not used were the flip-book guides to the liturgy (I might place at least one of these into the book basket next time).
  • Because we were having baptisms that first week (a whole family was baptized), I had also brought along my own Godly Play baptism materials. But at the start of the service they were accidentally covered up. Just as the youngest's patience and attention was wearing thin and I was getting ready to bring them out... I recognized the strains of Jesus, Lamb of God and announced that it was time for communion. So we did fine without them.

When the time came for the baptisms themselves, I stood up and walked right up to the front of our space, encouraging the children to do the same. It was rather a long process, as each adult knelt to be baptized and was then robed in an alb by their godparent before the next baptism. As you can see, by the time the family father was being robed, only one child was really still interested. But when the baby was finally baptized and began to cry that got everyone's attention again.

thoughts for the future: One member of the church has already told me she owns a Noah's ark puzzle that she'd like to donate to us. Hooray!

It feels paradoxical to think that two or three children at a table will take less space than the same children coloring on the floor, but if we can figure out how to store them I'd like to consider getting a child-sized table and chairs. (Last year we tried having the children kneel in front of the pew-chairs and use them as desks, but this was disastrous because these wooden seats make extremely loud percussion instruments. A mere dab of a glue stick  reverberates around the chapel like a gun-shot.)


  1. Hi Storyteller! I'm way behind on blog reading but just enjoyed seeing this post so much! This looks so wonderful. Come and make it at my Church?!?!?! I had one thought about clay - did you see the beeswax modeling clay I blogged about awhile ago? It is waxy, clean, and smells great. No problems with messy hands. Very satisfying to touch. You may want to check it out! Here is a link in case you haven't seen it: http://www.amazon.com/Stockmar-Modeling-Beeswax-Assorted-Sheets/dp/B000SUXQVC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342135892&sr=8-1&keywords=beeswax+modeling+clay

    1. Belated thanks for this hint, Leslie. I'm thrilled to discover that there ARE some Finnish stockists who carry this, and plan to seek them out.


Thanks for conversing with me about Godly Play®! I do moderate some comments for the sake of the children I write about. Please be polite: to quote the Velveteen Rabbi, Whatever you're going to say in response to my posts, consider whether it's the sort of thing you would say to your host or their children if you'd been invited to someone's home for tea. If it isn't, then please don't say it here.

If you're new to commenting on blogs, I recommend that you "Comment as" Name/URL. You can use your real first name or a nickname. URL is the address of a website that you want to be linked with your name - feel free to leave it blank. Before your comment is accepted, you have to pass a spam filter. After clicking on 'post comment' or 'preview', just type in the sequence of letters you will then see (or click on the wheelchair for a recording of characters to type). Thanks for reading and commenting!