You probably have some point in your ministry program that requires a bit of independent work on the kids’ part. Maybe it’s at the beginning of the Sunday School hour as kids are trickling in. Maybe, like us, it’s at the end of the night when you’re waiting for parents to come pick up the kids.
Crazy or Controlled?
We used to let the kids run around like crazy people in the gym until parents came to pick them up, but that presented two problems:
- It took a little time to locate a kid when the parents arrived (they move so fast!)
- The kids were very reluctant to leave because they were having so much fun, leaving the parents waiting (and frustrated) at the Kidcheck station.
So, we’ve instituted Table Time — kids sit around tables for the last five minutes of the program while we wait for parents to arrive. It’s made things much calmer and has helped a lot in the area of pick-up. However, when you put 40 kids at tables, you need to give them something to do. At first, some coloring pages related to the lesson were good enough, but alas, they have lost their magic. So, I went looking for a few more options! If you’re looking for some quieter independent activities for the kids in your church (or home or school), read on!
Now, I know I just said that this wasn’t much fun anymore, but if you through a little twist into the mix, suddenly things get a little more interesting. For our group, we covered the tables in brown paper and laid out crayons for some “free-style” drawing. I just used the brown paper that comes in the Amazon boxes I get every day.
One of my superstar volunteers made up a few batches of the classic borax slime (picture from Paging Fun Mums) for last night and it was a huge hit for young and old alike! If you feel nervous about using Borax with kids, you can also check out this Borax free galaxy slime!
This was a much bigger hit with the younger kids than with the older kids, especially since we were using the Dollar Tree puzzles (usually 25-50 pieces), but I did have a few super sized puzzles with large puzzles that the kids enjoyed for a few weeks.
If you want to use some paints, but don’t want to worry about staining clothing, break out the water colors! You can find them at the Dollar Tree or buy them in bulk from places like Discount School Supply. They generally dry quickly, but be prepared to set up a “display table” in case kids want to wait until the next week to take them home.
Interlocking blocks are a great way to keep kids occupied for a few minutes during Table Time. Avoid wooden blocks, because there is always the temptation to destroy a tower by propelling it across the room. Not a good idea for anyone. Before you rush out and buy legos, put up a post on facebook or in your church bulletin and see if anyone would like to donate a few old sets. Want to get a little more complicated? Check out this fun board game using Legos from Teach with Laughter.
#6 Cardboard Tube Projects
Speaking of donations, it seems congregation members are always more than willing to donate their paper towel rolls to the cause. Check out this post from Happy Hooligans for 22 quick and easy projects you can do with the kids involving this cardboard cylinders of delight.
I don’t know what it is about stickers, but they seem to make every project more fun. This is also a great thing to ask for from your congregation. You can also find bulk stickers at places like Oriental Trading.
#8 Beads and Bracelets
The female population will especially like this station, but many of the younger boys will too. Pony beads can be managed even by four year olds, especially if you use the plastic string to make bracelets and necklaces.
This station could be as simple as gluing buttons on a page (see Tinkerlab for an example) or as complex as the button trees that are rampant on Pinterest. You might want to make a few sample crafts to get the ideas rolling and let kids know they can save the project till the next week and continue working if they need to. Younger kids might even enjoy sorting them into an egg carton.
This is another one of those “magical” tools in Children’s Ministry. Kids seem to flock to stamps. I would recommend the self-inking ones to avoid the whole stamp pad mixing color situation, but use whatever you have on hand! If you don’t have any stamps, you could cut potatoes into a few shapes as well.
Those are some of the basics that we’ve tried already, but stay tuned for even more ideas to come!
Get it Ready to Go!
Table time is most successful when the supplies are all set up and ready to go for the kids as soon as they sit down. If you’re doing puzzles, have 3-4 puzzles at each table for kids to immediately choose from. If you’re giving water colors a try, put a white piece of paper at every chair along with paint brush and water. As you probably know, dead time in Children’s Ministry equals chaos and if you’re trying to get kids to settle down, being prepared is the way to go!
Make sure it’s not too complicated a task (it’s a tricky balance). We don’t want kids lingering to “just finish one more thing!” while their parents are waiting to go. The idea is to keep them occupied just until they need to go.