Teaching Toddlers Psalm 23, A free activity

Psalm 23 is such a precious passage of Scripture, but the metaphors are a little allusive to young children in a culture distant from raising sheep and other animals. Talking about sheep and shepherds is a great way to learn more about the world, and eventually open up the truths of Psalm 23 (and several other key Bible passages) to our children. Below are photos of my little roll-up Psalm 23 take-a-long. Its a pretty simple little set for teaching toddlers and preschoolers. If you are interested in making similar felt pieces, I would encourage you to check out our Advent Patterns. Complete the pattern for Joseph (using gray hair) and one Sheep pattern from our Advent set, cut some triangles for the mountains, a pool of water, a strip of grass, a curvy path, and Wha-Lah! I decided to make a simple pipe cleaner staff for this shepherd instead of cutting a felt staff from the set. To do so simply fold brown pipe cleaner in half and twisting it. I also added a beard to the shepherd. You can glue the pieces on to a strip of felt, use them on a felt board, or just play with them on the floor.

(*On the side bar you can subscribe to our blog for other great activities from Heart FELT Truths!)

Some key things….

  1.  Focus at first on teaching kids what a shepherd does (feeding and protecting the sheep)
  2. Move through the first part of Psalm 23 with your story set, allowing the children to move the sheep past each element of the verses. (As you say “leads me in paths of righteousness” walk the lamb down the path, and so forth.)
  3. Help children make connections for the Lord’s shepherd-like actions toward us in everyday situations. (Let’s thank God for our food! Just like a shepherd provides food for his sheep, God provides food for us.)

Just add a piece of velcro to the back to roll up the felt display.

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A Yummy Compliment to your Easter Sunday Breakfast

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Sunday mornings are very busy at my house and we do not do special breakfasts. However, I got ambitious and tried these Empty Tomb Rolls last year on Easter Sunday. I knew I was asking for trouble when we had the Easter Banner to do as a family and the extra fancies of dressing for a holiday, but it went so well that I had to recommend it to you! Here is what we did:

When the kids woke up, the Easter Banner and the ingredients for the Empty Tomb Rolls were all laid out (Very low prep: prepackaged crescent rolls, butter, sugar and cinnamon). First we went in the kitchen and reviewed how Jesus was crucified and buried in the tomb as we made the rolls together. My boys were 2 and 4 and were able to help.IMG_1636We talked through the things listed in the link above and popped the rolls into the oven. While the rolls cooked, we then went over to our Easter Banner. There we celebrated the good news that Jesus is Risen! After reading and singing together we went back into the kitchen and had an immediate review with our breakfast: What happened when the disciples came to find Jesus’ body? He wasn’t there! He was alive! And our yummy breakfast was a beautiful picture of this truth.

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It was such a fun and easy compliment to our time together that morning. And sugar, after all, has a powerful affect on a child’s memory. The first day we did our Easter Banner this year my oldest son asked, “And are we going to get the dough and roll the marshmallows and cover it with sugar and then the marshmallow is gone just like Jesus’ body!” He had remembered it so well.

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Picking a song with your Easter Banner

Music not only helps us express our emotions surrounding a given topic but also helps us remember truths! Take advantage of music to reinforce the ideas you are teaching about Easter with an appropriate song. This year we are learning an old hymn called “Man of Sorrows.” We have a wonderful little book (the devotions in it are a bit advanced for my children) that is called Easter Hymns for A Kids Heart. The CD that is included with the book has great hymns and my kids enjoy listening to it throughout the day during the weeks leading up to Easter. What songs will you be singing with your family in the coming week?

 

From the “Risen” Album by Sovereign Grace Music.

Family Devotionals and your Easter Banner

So, you received your banner in the mail and are waiting for Palm Sunday to arrive. Have you set a time aside each day for your family to gather around the Word and learn together? Let me encourage you to use your Easter Banner as a stepping stone to regular family devotional times. As you set aside a time each day during Holy Week to read and discuss Scripture, it is a great platform to establishing a regular habit for your family.

Family worship time doesn’t have to have a fancy Banner or visual aid each day! It can be very simple, just 15 minutes! Sing a hymn together, read a passage of Scripture and briefly discuss its meaning with the children. Then pray together for one another and for others. This is something you can do year round that has great benefits for all family members.  Check this out for thoughts on overcoming obstacles to regular family worship time.

Using the Easter Banner with toddlers and preschoolers

Many of you will be using the Heart FELT Truths Easter Banner with children under the age of five. I would highly recommend pulling your banner out today and starting it with your family in the next few days! By using a schedule like the one below, you can repeat each of the stories twice. Also, if you started it early, it gives you some wiggle room if you miss a day. This greatly helps reinforce the key ideas and familiarize your child with new words and events that might be new. As you probably know, repetition is key at these young ages! So get ready, get set, and go EARLY!IMG_1592

*Also, don’t miss out on our current special: Order the Christian Family Traditions Gift Set which contains both our Advent Calendar and Easter Banner with an additional $10.00 off… coupon code MERRYCHRISTMAS

Easter Banner Repetition Schedule

March 19-Day 1
March 20-Day 1
March 21-Day 2
March 22-Day 2
March 23-Day 3
March 24-Day 3
March 25-Day 4
March 26-Day 4
March 27-Day 5
March 28-Day 5
March 29-Day 6
March 30-Day 7
March 31-Day 8

Heart FELT Truths Easter Update

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Here in Kansas City life may have appeared to come to a screeching hault with the double snow storms we took last month, but tucked away in our warm home things have been BUSY! BUSY! BUSY! I have found myself a bit behind on Easter Banner preparations this year and have not posted any updates to the blog since Christmas time! Thank you all for your business, and the sweet memories you share with me about your children as you use our products in your home! It is a blessing to be a part of sharing Christ with your children in this small way! I love it when you e-mail me (standlea @ gmail dot come) to share these things.

The Heart FELT Truths Easter Banner had a successful debut sale last Easter Season with a great response from those who used it. This year, due to time restrictions, I am only able to make about as many banner as I sold last year. Please order before we sell out! To start using the Banner by Palm Sunday, I have set the order deadline for MONDAY, MARCH 18 for guaranteed arrival by 23 of March.

We currently have five DIY Easter Banner Kits remaining. These are a great way to save a little money. All sewing is completed for you. It is your responsibility to make the symbols and glue on the letters. Order now so you have time to finish it before it sneaks up on you!

Thank you for sharing about our products with your friends via Pinterest and Facebook. Many of our sales and traffic come from our customers like you who share about our products with those you love-and that means a lot! Please always be in touch with us if you have ideas for new items you would like for us to offer that will help you as you teach your children about the Word of God.

Laying out your Advent Calendar: What to do with the pieces

I received a question from a customer today that I thought others might have. She asked…

Do you put all of the pieces on the felt at one time and let the kids find the right one when you’re reading each day’s verse? Just wondered how this part worked or how you found it to work the best. … When you say start from the beginning of the story, do you mean to take off all the pieces or just start reading from the beginning?

Son placing pieces on Advent Calendar

Son placing pieces on Advent Calendar

These are great questions, and the simple answer is “Yes!” There are many ways to do the Advent Calendar. Here are the options we have used in the past:

  1. Place all pieces across the top and bottom of the calendar. The first year we used our calendar, our oldest son was only two. We didn’t want him to be able to mess with the pieces during the day so we hung the calendar high enough on the wall that he couldn’t reach it. Then we took all of the pieces and lined them across the bottom and top of the banner. As we read the line from the story each day, we would take the piece out of the row and place it on the “Correct” spot on the banner. The pieces that we’ve already used stay on the banner and the nativity scene gradually fills in each day.
  2. Keep all the pieces in the folder. Last year we took a more interactive approach with our 2 year-old and 3.5 year old. We put the backdrop within reach of the children and kept all of the pieces in a folder with our story and song lyrics. We would put them up at the end of each time at the calendar to avoid losing them. Each day we pulled out all the pieces we had used up until that point and divided them between the two kids. As we retold the story (up to whatever day we were on) we would have the boys place their pieces on the calendar to recreate the scene.
  3. Traditional pockets: This year we are taking a new approach. I sewed pockets on my Advent Calendar and put all the pieces inside. The kids will take turns getting to take the new piece out of the pocket and adding it to the display. I plan to offer a pocket calendar backdrop next year in the store if this trial goes well.

*I think its good to be flexible too. My husband likes to put the stable and houses on one side of the banner for the first week or so, and we “act out” in a sense Mary and Joseph going across the calendar to Bethlehem. If you really want to, you can even pull the angels out early and have them on the display to declare the news to Mary & Joseph. But I’m a stickler for following procedure so we don’t use the angels until its time :).

*The pieces are not designed to be played with by young children as they do present a choking hazard! However, I do let my older kids play with the pieces that are already out on the calendar if they are supervised.

***If your friends are wanting to do an Advent Calendar too, I have several completed calendars ready to ship. It usually takes 2-4 days to arrive USPS Priority Mail so orders placed by early Monday morning can arrive by the end of the week. Order in our Etsy Shop.

Selecting Christmas Music for Family Worship/Advent Calendar Use

In my last post on “Where to Begin” with your Advent Calendar, I mentioned music as an important component of family worship and time together around your Advent Calendar. Let’s look at a few things to consider when selecting Christmas music for your children to use during Advent. We will look at the content, style,  act-ability, depth, and quantity.

Content

First, when selecting Christmas music, you will want to select music for your children that accurately reflects the truth of Scripture. Christian music, and especially Christmas music, can be prone to speaking things with excessive artistic license. Read through the lyrics of your song carefully and make sure that it is not teaching your child something that you do not wan to “unteach” later on.  You can ask yourself questions like “Does this music have clear Scriptural thoughts and events interwoven in it?” or “Are there phrases and concepts in this song that are foreign to my understanding of God’s Word?” Some favorite theologically rich Christmas songs of mine are “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” & “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

Style

Be sure to pick a song that can be easily sung by your family. If no one in your family sings well, some melody lines will be too cumbersome to stay in key. In our family, we always sing a capella. Some of our favorite contemporary music does not work well a capella  so we forgo using it family worship.

Act-ability

I always try to make sure one or two of our songs is act-able…that is, one can sing it with hand motions. This is fun for the kids, and it also helps them remember the words to the song. Our favorite “act-able” hymns are “Go! Tell it on the Mountain” and “Away in a Manger” (We omit some verses from the latter that we don’t like as much.)

Depth

When selecting music for especially young children (ours are 4, 3, and 1) you may get caught up in selecting songs that are right at their level. When considering the depth of the music we sing, I always like to have a song or two that is easily understood by my children, right at their level. These are often the same songs that work well with actions. However, I do not steer away from “heavy” songs with advanced words and concepts. Why? Their little minds are easily able to memorize these songs now, and I am delighted to store up these things in their minds to draw from later on.

Quantity

How many songs do you need for Advent? That depends on your time, your family, and the ages of your children. For our season in life we pick FOUR Christmas songs: two with actions and simple words, and two that are especially meaningful and rich for Mom and Dad. We try to sing two of the four songs every evening unless we are in a hurry. And we don’t always worry about mastering ALL the verses.

I hope these are helpful tools for selecting music for your family this Christmas season, and for any other time of the year.

Setting the Stage: First Thoughts on Using your Advent Calendar

Some of you may be wondering where to begin when introducing the Heart FELT Truth’s Advent Calendar into your home this Christmas season. Let’s talk a little about introducing the calendar into daily family life.

In our home, our Advent Calendar is part of our family worship time. (Most) every evening throughout year we have a short time with our young children called “Family Worship.” We sit together on the couch and Daddy prays. Then we read a short passage of Scripture and the rest of the family members pray. Afterward we sing a song or two. It takes about 10-15 minutes. At Christmas time we start using our Advent Calendar in addition to these things. For our Scripture reading, we will often read the Scripture passages that correspond to whatever is mentioned in the Advent Calendar, and we select Christmas songs to sing for the month (more on that coming soon!).

If your family currently has a time of Bible reading and prayer together, you will find it easy to incorporate the Advent Calendar. If this is new to your family, you will find the Advent Calendar a great way to establish this beneficial habit in your family year round. Even with the business of the holiday season, your children will help you remember “Family Worship Time” because they will be very eager to add the next piece to the calendar. Here are some thoughts:

  • Pick a consistent time when everyone is usually home (right after dinner or right before bed work well in our family)
  • Pick a comfy place without too many distractions. Make sure your Advent Banner is hung nearby
  • Don’t worry if you miss a day! You can catch up tomorrow.
  • If your kids are especially little like ours (4, 3, 1), keep prayers and Scripture reading short.
  • Children may be wiggly at first, but they will learn quickly if you are consistent.

I would encourage you to go ahead and hang the plain backdrop of your Advent Banner up. If your child is older, their curiosity can build leading up to December 1 when you begin using it!

More helpful posts coming soon! If you have questions, please send them my way (standlea@gmail.com) and I will try to answer them.

A Favorite Thanksgiving Tradition for Singles, Couples, and Families with Kids

I have to admit, I have a family tradition that I love even more than the Easter Banner or Advent Calendar we sell here at Heart FELT Truths. Our family’s Thanksgiving tradition is my most cherished tradition out of all the ones that my husband and I have established together since our marriage began. I still remember that first Thanksgiving we spent together….it was our first major holiday since our wedding in May. I wanted it to be special, with something unique we could do year after year. And I wanted it to set our eyes on the Savior.

So here is our simple Thanksgiving Box. If you are a newlywed looking for a special tradition to start your marriage off, I think you’ll find this especially fitting for you! But I also think that it is easily adaptable for singles, and for families with older children. All you need is an archival photo box (at your craft store for $1.99-$3.99) a sheet of letter stickers (or great handwriting and a marker or paints), and a few pages of printer paper or stationary. Let’s just say you can pull this one off for well under $10.00.

Here’s our box:

And here’s what we do: Every Thanksgiving (often a few days after the business of family visits is over) my husband and I sit down together with a sheet from the box and write down what we would like to thank God for from the entire past year. When we are finished, we close our letters and DO NOT READ THEM TO EACH OTHER. Then we pull out the letters from all of the past years and read them together and reflect on all of the amazing and gracious things the Lord has done for us. We each especially look forward to hearing what the other person chose to right about from last Thanksgiving since we do not share it with each other at that time. It is a very special and intimate time. We hope to introduce our children gradually into this tradition as each one of them becomes old enough to write and express his or her own thoughts on paper. But for now, we cherish these moments together as a couple.

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
(Psalm 105:1-6 ESV, emphasis added)