Growing Kids Ministry - Sharing ideas, resources, and stories. Let's..
I’m Lindsey Whitney and it’s great to meet you! As the Children’s Ministry Director at East Lake Road Alliance Church. Thanks for stopping by Growing Kids Ministry! I hope this site is a help to you and your ministry, whether that ministry is in the home, in church, in a school, or some other venue. Browse around to find some lesson ideas, games, inspiration for class decorations and more!
It’s no secret that our sons and daughters are digital natives. They are the first generation of kids who cannot remember a time before wireless Internet, Smart devices, and digital gadgets that don’t require a massive desk or mess of wires to operate. While these advancements have opened our children up to a world of information and means of communication, they have also flooded our homes and schools with screens. Unfortunately, initial research is showing that too much time in front of screens may cause serious behavioral, physical, and emotional consequences to develop.
Too Much of A Good Thing?
It used to be that in our homes the only screens that could be found was a television in our family’s living room. Fast forward a decade or two and now we can find countless screens in every room of our homes. We have multiple television sets, computers, tablets, Smartphones, handheld gaming systems, laptops, and more. This has led to a sharp increase in the amount of time our boys and girls are spending in front of some kind of screen.
Whether it is texting, watching a movie, playing a video game, or researching their homework, the average teen spends 9 hours a day consuming media in some form. If this isn’t alarming enough, children under the age of 8 spend close to two and a half hours in front of a screen. We also need to consider almost one third of toddlers under the age of 2 even have a T.V. set in their rooms.
The Downside of Too Much Technology on Kids
Screens and devices are doing more to our children than just occupying their time. In fact, the fast paced stimuli of today’s technology can change the hard-wiring of our kids’ brains which affects a variety of life skills, such as: patience, school performance, ability to work, read emotional cues, how to handle downtime, and so much more.
Too much screen time has also been linked to an increase in stress, anxiety, and depression levels. This can happen for many reasons, but the consensus is there is a strong correlation between the higher number of hours a child uses screens and an uptick in stress. And, we all know that technology has the potential to expose our sons and daughters to inappropriate and dangerous content.
Besides emotional health, all of this connectivity is linked to a whole slew of physical medical conditions. These conditions include everything from eye strain, blurred vision, carpal tunnel syndrome, texting thumb, elbow problems, and even neck pains. To top it all off, we need to consider how this sedentary lifestyle is affecting a child’s activity levels which can lead to weight gain and the health risks that accompany obesity.
Helping Children Strike a Balance Between Screens
Obviously, screens do have a time and place in our lives. However, we can pretty much agree that our sons and daughters spend way too much time looking at them. If left unchecked, we are setting our boys and girls up for a bleak future. Thankfully, with some proactive parenting and a few mindful choices we can help our kids strike a healthy balance with technology.
Check out the following digital detox tips:
Limit screens to common living areas. Find balance with technology by keeping devices in living rooms, dens, game rooms, etc. Power down all electronics during family dinners, activities, and exile devices from bedrooms. This will provide kids much needed downtime from the constant connectivity screens provide.
Restrict the amount of data available on Smartphones and other technologies. This will ensure kids are more deliberate with their usage by keeping overuse in check.
Reconnect as a family. Provide fun alternatives to occupy their time by doing things together.
Develop a family technology contract. Sit down together and outline all expectations and consequences for using screens.
Implement a technology curfew. At a set time every night, power down all screens.
Playing outdoors, completing chores, reading, etc. will allow kids to earn screen time. This will help kids strike a balance between screens and the other interests in their lives.
Teach children how to relax. Due to the strong association of stress and anxiety with too much screen time, make sure kids have healthy ways to unwind. Help them learn breathing techniques, meditation tricks, and more.
Begin an ongoing discussion about balancing technology in our lives. Honestly address the role technology should play in our lives to empower kids so they can make smart choices about how to embrace screen time.
How does your family help kids strike a balance between screens or take a digital detox?
Around here, we start counting down the days till the glorious season of summer months in advance. As we take down the Valentine’s Day decorations, we start dreaming about ice cream cones, flip flops, walking by the lake, and being able to go outside without 4 layers of clothes on (we’re a snowy city!).
Yet, even though we pine for summer and anticipate it’s coming for weeks on end, it always seem to float away like a dandelion in the wind. We’ve tried various methods to hang onto the sunny sweetness — including the ever famous “pack every single day to the brim”. However, I think the thing that was actually missing in all our methods was meaning. Sure, we were doing a lot of things, but the things didn’t pack much meaning to us as a family. The activities that really stood out to us as we reflected back on the summer months were the ones we did together and the ones that connected us to God in a meaningful way.
This realization got me thinking about how we spend out time in these care-free summer days. This year, I wanted a way to easily share our faith with our kids through the activities that we would already be doing. I didn’t want to pack more into our days, but I did want to make sure our days and activities were meaningful.
So I sat down with my journal and a cup of coffee and did a little writing. What developed are twenty activities, typically down during the warmer months of summer (sorry Australia, I know things are a little opposite for you!). They are simple things that require little prep, can easily be done as a family, and start discussions about God, faith, and the Bible. Activities include:
Going for a swim
Playing hide and seek
Going for a bike ride
Each activity includes a coordinating Scripture you can read (or memorize) as a family and a few simple questions to get each family member thinking more about God and the Bible. It’s perfect for a family who is just starting with faith talks and will also serve as a great resource for anyone who wants to try something a little new and more breezy during the summer months.
More details will be coming soon about where you can find it and how to use Scripture in the Summer! In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your favorite summer activities and how you keep the season from slipping away!
This past Sunday, we took a closer look at the story of Cain and Abel from Genesis 4. Currently, I’m teaching the ages 5-8 Sunday School class and they are very active, so we have to keep things very engaging and hands-on. The curriculum we’re using (church-wide) is the Answers Bible Curriculum from Answers in Genesis. I have to say, I’m not impressed. I use a few things out of the book, but most of my prep time is spent coming up with more hands-on, sensory rich activities. Here’s some of the activities we used to learn about Cain and Abel. For this age group, we talked about how everyone feels angry at times (and that’s okay), but we have to make good choices even when we are angry.
Welcome (how was your week)
Have you ever been so mad?
Read Story from Kids Bible
Choices Choices – what would have happened if…. ?
Bubbles Self Control
Drawing picture (I was so mad, but….)
If you’d like to use some of the same stuff, I wrote out the schedule as a lesson below!
Begin class by asking children how their week was. Be sure to ask about high points and low points. Allow children to share prayer requests with each other and take time to pray for each of the requests presented. If possible, go around the table and have each child pray a little. It may be awkward at first, but practicing out loud each week will help build their confidence.
Select a children’s Bible and read the story of Cain and Abel to the children. If you have trouble finding a children’s Bible with this account in it (I sure did), you might want to read the first few pages from the Jesus Storybook Bible to set the stage about sin entering the world. (Just for reference — I haven’t quite made up my mind on this book. It’s very vivid, but it does take a lot of liberties with the text). Tell the story of Cain and Abel in your own words, using your own Bible as reference.
After introduction, pass out balloons to the kids. Instruct them to hold their balloons and not blow them up just yet. Talk about a time that you were very mad. Blow up the balloon a little bit each time you add to the story.
Ask: Does it ever seem like anger seems to grow inside of you? Just like the air is building up in this balloon (blow a little more in), anger can feel like it’s getting bigger and bigger inside of us too!
Ask: What do you think we should do when we feel this angry? (Allow kids to answer). Yes! We need to let some of the anger out. We can do this by taking a few deep breaths. Or sometimes we can count to ten. Or sometimes even walk away and take a deep breath. When we do things like this, it can help us get rid of our anger (let out some of the air from the balloon).
Warning: When I did this, it made a ridiculous noise and sent the class into fits of laughter. You’ve been warned.
Allow kids to blow up their balloons and “practice letting out the anger“. This was a super fun activity for the kids, though a few kids did have trouble getting their balloons started. After practicing “letting go of anger” a few times, instruct the kids to blow up the balloons and tie them (they will probably need help tying. Get the hand sanitizer out). Allow them to draw an angry face on the balloons to remind them what happens when we hold onto our anger.
Take a group picture with the balloons and then set them in the corner for later (we made a corral out of chairs to keep our balloons contained). Have the kids sit at the table and write the word “Choices” on the board.
Say: Cain had some choices to my in the true story we read about today. His first choice was what kind of sacrifice to bring.
Write: Sheep and Fruit on the board (see picture below).
Say: He could have brought a lamb like God asked, or he could choose to bring the fruits of his soil to God.
Ask: What do you think would happen if Cain chose sheep? (Write down the kids answers as they same them)
Ask: What do you think would happen if Cain chose fruit of the soil? (Write down the kids answers as they same them)
Say: Good answers. Cain chose to bring fruit and God was not please. Now Cain was faced with a new choice. God was not happy. What could Cain do? (Write down the kids answers as they same them)
Talk through the choices and consequences in this way as long as kids continue to stay engaged, writing down answers as you go (see picture below). Conclude by saying: Cain had a lot of choices in this true story. He continued to make bad choices, but it didn’t have to be this way! He could have repented at any time and chose to do the right thing instead. We can make good choices too. Even if we do something wrong, we don’t have to keep on making bad choices. We can deal with our consequences, repent, and keep moving forward!
Don’t Pop That Bubble!
Gather kids together and have them sit cross-legged on the floor. Explain that you are going to blow bubbles and they must sit very still. They must use self-control and not pop the bubbles. Encourage kids to watch the bubbles fall, but they must not pop them or even move!
Blow bubbles for a few minutes, praising the kids that are using self-control.
Say: It’s not easy to sit there and just let the bubbles fall. However, the more we practice self-control, the easier it becomes. Who could have used some self-control in our story today? (Allow kids to answer).
I Was So Mad….
Pass out paper to the kids and have them draw a line down the middle. On one side of the page, have kids draw a picture of a time when they were very mad. On the other side of the page, have them draw a picture of themselves doing the right thing even when they were mad. Have kids show each other their pictures and talk about what is happening in them.
Cain and Abel Drawing Sheet
Finish out the class with a closing prayer.
Hope you enjoyed this! For more lessons complete with games, crafts, and object lessons — check out my books:
Once any child reaches school age, parents start to wonder if they’re making the best decisions regarding their education. The severity of this decision is multiplied if we’re talking about a child on the autistic spectrum.
Some parents try changing the school system and adjust it to their child, and some choose to go the homeschooling route and design a system that works for them.
Whether or not homeschooling is right for your family is a big decision and should not be taken lightly, but if you have already made it, let’s go over some useful tips I find work well for me:
Let Your Child Show You the Way
Part of the reason parents choose to home school their children is the fact that there is no one who knows them better. You know your child and you can read how they’re feeling and what they’re up for.
Getting into a routine is important, but not essential.
Be flexible and let your child learn when, where and how it’s most effective for them.
If they find visual learning stimulating, leave room in a schedule for a video about the topic at hand; if they’re a kinesthetic learner incorporate as many hands-on activities for them, let them try things out and see them flourish under the specialized approach.
Routine can be comforting for some children and if that is true for your child be sure to create one that allows for stability and security in what will happen next, while also leaving some time for flexibility should the need arise.
Don’t Rush Anything
If you’re anything like me, any new decision you make comes with a rush of adrenaline and a wish to get started YESTERDAY. Even though that can be a tough instinct to overcome, I strongly suggest you try to tame it and let everything fall into place in its own time.
Now, I’m not saying to stay completely passive, but it is essential to leave room and time for you and your child to figure out what works best for you.
That means no creating curriculums, no buying materials and no traditional lessons – avoiding all that and putting your child in an environment they can thrive in was the whole point.
Incorporate Learning Tools
Technology is wonderful and it allows many to express themselves. This is especially true for children of today, who feel most at home with some gadget or device in their hands. Children on the spectrum are no different and incorporating technology can really help them with learning and their verbal skills in particular.
Whether you’re using apps by the name of “visual scene displays”, which are designed to help children struggling with expressing themselves or simple apps that help your child learn their letters and spelling, it’s good to explore the multitude of learning tools technology allows for.
Schools are incorporating more technology in their curriculums every year – why shouldn’t you?
Work Socialization into the Day
One of the biggest criticisms aimed at homeschooling is the apparent lack of socialization of the homeschooled child.
I am of the opposite opinion: not only do children have the opportunity to socialize, but they can do it in the way that fits them.
If they enjoy singing or music, music classes could be the answer.
Homeschooled children are actually socializing in more selective and natural settings than those who attend school and are prompted to socialize solely with their own age group.
Make School Work for You
Explore your curriculum by topic instead of by subject. When you notice your child expressing interest in a specific topic, for example dinosaurs, try using this newly discovered interest to peak your child’s interest in your lessons.
Focus on what they want to learn: teach them history of the world with help of the dinosaurs and move to exploring the ocean with help of Plesiosaurus. Be creative and encourage interest in learning.
Homeschooling a child on the spectrum is a challenging, yet highly rewarding experience. Look at it this way: you’re actively helping your child reach their full potential and setting up an environment in which they can thrive.
Use these tips as a guideline and remember to take time to relax with your child, outside
Getting a new kitten is a joyful experience. Not only are you about to experience the magic of having a tiny kitten around, but you’re starting a journey with a pet that you will have in your life for years to come. Everyone looks back fondly on when their cat was a kitten, so enjoy this precious time with your new pet. In order to make the most of your new kitten’s arrival, here are some tips to make sure that everything is ready and perfect for your new fluffy companion.
Get Your House In Order
If you’re a renter, make absolutely sure that you have cleared your new pet with your landlord. Too many new cat owners have found themselves in the tragic situation of getting a new kitten only to find out that their landlord won’t permit it. You don’t want to find yourself attached to an animal that you later have to part with after finding out it isn’t allowed.
In addition to clearing things with your landlord, make sure that your house is ready for a small kitten. If you have any points of entry where a kitten could easily escape, make sure they’re sealed up before your new critter arrives. Anything that looks like it could be dangerous or breakable should be put into storage where your kitten can’t access it. Kittens are curious and mischievous, so it’s a good idea to lock up your grandmother’s precious vase before your new little buddy comes home.
Buy The Right Supplies
Kittens require special food and litter, so make sure anything you purchase is specifically designated for kittens and not adult cats. Furthermore, kittens get bored quite easily, so it’s a good idea to invest in lots of toys for them to play with when you’re not around to give them attention. Furthermore, kittens’ nails can be as sharp as sewing needles. To keep them from scratching your furniture, invest in a scratching post and perhaps rubber nail coverings. If you don’t have time to visit the local pet store, then visit Vet Products Direct for cat products.
Have A Vet
Don’t wait until after you’ve brought your new kitty home to find a veterinarian. It’s a good idea to already have one lined up, especially in case there’s a medical emergency. While some kittens are placed with homes after their neutering procedure and shots, some are given away without any of the appropriate medical procedures. Make sure that you know your new cat’s current medical status and have any necessary procedures lined up and booked. A happy kitten is a healthy kitten, so it’s crucial that all medical procedures are scheduled and in order.
Prepare Your Kids
Children are always excited about the arrival of a new pet. However, it’s important that you educate your children about cat safety before your new kitten comes home. Remind your kids that kittens are playful, but delicate. This is why it’s important that they’re gentle with their new pet. Also remind them that while kittens like to be held, they like to be released as soon as they start to jerk away. This advice can prevent your child from being scratched or bit by a cat that felt trapped.
With this advice, you’re officially ready to bring your new cute kitten home.
Arts and crafts used to be part of every school curriculum, and a prominent one at that. Nowadays, an increased number of schools are cutting it from their program, to the disappointment of parents and children everywhere.
Not only are arts fun, but they also bring a number of health benefits with them and help early childhood development immensely. Luckily, it’s possible to utilize arts as a learning tool at home, with simple art and crafts projects, with a number of benefits for your child.
Here is a quick overview of the developmental benefits of arts and crafts:
Your child needs to develop fine motor skills in order to eat, dress, tie their shoes or write. Fine motor skills are skills which require refined use of the small muscles controlling the hand and the fingers. To develop them, your child needs to do tasks that develop their dexterity and strength. This is where cutting patterns, drawing shapes, holding a paintbrush and coloring within the lines come in.
Bilateral Coordination Development
A lot of everyday tasks involve bilateral coordination – the ability to use both sides of the body to perform a task. It’s important to help strengthen the links between the left and right side of the brain, ensuring their communication. Most arts and crafts will require your child to use both hands: if they need to cut a pattern, they will need to hold and move the paper with the other hand. This will increase their brain performance and prepare them for more complex tasks later on.
One of the first things we teach toddlers is to tell different colors, shapes and actions apart. Arts and crafts are of great help tolanguage development because parents, and later teachers, can use them as a tool for expanding the child’s vocabulary. The goal is for the child to develop their vocabulary enough to be able to describe artwork styles.
Perseverance and Focus
Focusing on the step-by-step instructions and learning to follow them will be very helpful later on, when the child needs to focus on studying. The combination of perseverance and focus being though here is unique, and we shouldn’t pass this opportunity to teach them.
Even when planned to tiny details, crafts can go wrong – making us start all over again. As parents, we can use this as a tool to develop flexibility, patience and perseverance in a child. Arts and crafts give us the opportunity to showcase the saying ‘practice makes perfect’.
Increasing Self- Esteem
A healthy child is confident in their abilities. Choose arts and crafts according to the skill level of your child, and increase them as you go through the simpler ones. A sense of accomplishment will be present every time a new craft is completed and it becomes a great source of pride. It will instill the habit of seeing things through in children, which is something every parent wants.
Doing arts and crafts teaches your child to go from point A to point B, helping them learn how to independently reach the result they want. From simple choices in color and shape, their experimentation will lead them to more complex decision of designing a path while considering all the things that can go wrong, developing their critical thinking.
The importance of visual learning is far greater today than it was 30 years ago, thanks to the development to technology. An art education will teach your child to interpret, criticize and use visual information, using it as a basis for their choices.
Creativity and Accountability
Art and crafts will provide an outlet for self-expression for your child, developing a sense of innovation and creativity. Crafts also foster a sense of accountability, as children realize their role in the creation process.
If you were to do a simple sewing project with your child – embroidering their name onto the fabric or adding stickers of their initials, your child will ideally have control of the color and fabric choices, as well as the placement. This will help them to understand who they are better, in addition to understanding their contribution and showing them what it feels like to create something of their own.
Arts and crafts can help your child achieve the developmental milestones lined out by National Institute of Health, while bonding with you and having fun in the process. Take advantage of the benefits they provide for your child and start designing simple project today.
When the weather gets too cold to play outside, it can be a challenge to keep the kids entertained. This is especially difficult for kids with a sensory processing disorder, who may not be receiving the range of sensory input they usually find outdoors.
Sensory processing disorder refers to a neurological condition, which affects the way kids experience sensations. Some kids may be unable to feel sensations as intensely, or they may feel them more intensely than other children. This can manifest in a number of ways, such as meltdowns, clumsiness, fussy eating and sleeping habits, and a poor attention span.
Sensory crafts and activities can help kids with sensory processing issues experience sensory input in a fun and safe way to help them become more accustomed to sensations. But, sensory play isn’t only beneficial for kids with SPD; sensory play can also enhance learning, and allow kids to enjoy using their senses to explore the world.
To help you keep your kids engaged this winter, here are 12 cold-weather crafts and sensory play ideas.
Get the kids in the holiday mood with their own Christmas tree to decorate again and again. This activity is all about proprioceptive input.
Reaching and stretching, as well as the fine motor manipulation needed to peel the sticky ornaments off the tree, allow kids to be aware of their body position. This helps them to understand boundaries and personal space, allowing them to modify their movements to play safely.
Imaginative play is essential for healthy child development. It will enable them to experience different perspectives and develop empathy, as well as navigate challenging social interaction, which can be difficult for kids with SPD.
Get the kids’ imaginations going with this wintery Frosty the Snowman costume. All you need is a blank kids t-shirt and some fabric dye, and you have the perfect seasonal addition for their dress-up box.
Turn your kids’ room into a winter wonderland by decorating their windows and walls with these beautiful paper snowflakes. This is a great activity for improving fine motor skills and developing proprioceptive input in the hands. Use heavier cardstock, or stack a couple of sheets of paper on top of each other to provide an additional sensory challenge.
You can’t beat the cold crunch of real snow, but this edible fake snow can be just as fun for when you can’t get outdoors. It is safe for young toddlers through to older preschoolers who like to explore the world using their sense of taste, and best of all, it’s made with one ingredient that you are almost certain to always have in your pantry.
Slime is always a fun material to have in any sensory bin, and this chilly winter version takes slimy sensory fun to the next level. You can use any winter-themed glitter or confetti to create your slime. The tutorial combines three different slimes to create a tundra and add a little STEM fun to their sensory play.
Let the kids create their wintery world with a basic sensory bin. White rice and a container are all you need to create the foundation for this tactile sensory bin, and you can add any other winter-themed items you like, such as pom poms for snowballs, or plastic winter animals. Include scoops and small containers for the kids to transfer the rice to enhance their sensory experience.
Cloud dough is an unusual material that provides a unique tactile sensation for kids, as it’s light and fluffy, but can also be squeezed and hold its shape. Add an olfactory element to play, such as hot chocolate powder to the dough.
Bring the icy outdoors inside with this winter rescue activity and get ready for some frosty fun. Watch as your child uses warm water to slowly melt the ice to reveal the toys hidden inside, in need of rescuing.
You will need to prepare this activity the night before. However, it is a great way not only to provide some interesting tactile and visual input, but is also an excellent opportunity to incorporate some STEM activity into your child’s play.
Baking soda is always a hit for sensory play, and these frozen baking soda snowmen fizz and melt delightfully when your kids drip vinegar on them. Use various utensils to melt the snowmen for enhanced fine motor skills practice, and add glitter to the soda or food dye to the vinegar for an added “wow” factor and visual stimulation.
Visual input is about more than just observation. The visual sensory system is responsible for tracking, scanning and discriminating among other things, and directly contributes to essential skills like letter and number recognition, reading, hand-eye coordination and focus.
An overloaded or under-stimulated visual system can make even simple daily tasks a chore for kids, so an activity that gives gentle visual input like these snow globes is a wonderful addition to your child’s sensory diet.
Use familiar objects like some of your kids’ plastic figurines, and colorful food dye to create a magical slow-moving winter wonderland.
For a real olfactory treat, try these scented gingerbread men. The kids can practice their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination by selecting and arranging patterns in the gingerbread man cut-out, then enjoy the sweet, spicy smell of ginger, cinnamon and cloves as they sprinkle the spices over their artwork.
Sensory processing is a complex developmental issue and is experienced differently by each child. Some sensations may be more challenging than others, and it is important not to push your child into an activity that is far beyond their comfort level.
Try some of these fun seasonal crafts and activities with your child, and give them some sensory fun this winter.
This has been a guest post by Jordan Smith. Jordan Smith loves glitter, glue guns, and spending time with her family. Creating crafts and memories is a family tradition she is instilling in her daughters. Sharing her crafts by blogging is new to her but something she is really enjoying!!!
I love reading books. I have an entire shelf in my living room dedicated to books checked out from the library. However, last year I realized that I spend a lot of time reading through pointless books (check out some of the books I read in 2017) I pick a book, it looks good, and away I go. Within 3 chapters, it’s clear that it’s not for me — yet, I keep on trudging through. What if there is some life changing nugget of truth hidden within chapter seven? What if I need this information 6 months from now and I just don’t know it yet?
Anyone else suffer the same fate?
This year, I want to read less in quantity and more of quality. I’ve picked out a few books to read based on recommendations, but I’d love to hear about your favorite books.
What are you reading right now?
What have you read in the past that has really stuck with you?
Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone (though, I have to say — 2017 was pretty intense) and I’ll be spending the next few days reflecting on goals and plans for 2018 (I’d love to hear yours too!). In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you the top 10 posts of 2017. Is your favorite on the list?