Thursday, December 6, 2012

Church with little kids: Betty Lukens Felt Books

If you've been following along, you know that I've been working on our Mass bag for SuperSam and the Sisters. We take this bag along to church so we have items at hand to help occupy and engage our squirmy brood.

This past weekend at church, the family behind us had two young children and an infant. Somehow, their children were perfectly still and quiet despite not having "stuff" along to keep them that way. Because I was occupied with wrestling the Belle to thwart her pre-walking pew escape skills and preventing SuperSam from rolling his crayons across the floor, I was unable to discover those parents' secret for managing their family (and looking so serene while doing it). Maybe they bribed the kids with the promise of Happy Meals after Mass. Maybe the mother had a taser in her purse. Maybe their kids are just further along the path to sainthood.

It doesn't really matter - handling my children requires serious energy during church. I need some resources to keep everyone reasonably happy and engaged, and I'm willing to incur judgment from people blessed with less wiggly children if necessary.

On my search for appropriate items for our church bag, I came across these felt books from Betty Lukens. Remember Betty Lukens? Her company designed the felt board stories we used to do in Sunday School when we were children.

I was the girl that loved Sunday School...the paste, the little metal scissors, the wooden chairs arranged in a half-circle. I loved it all (at least until I started asking the types of questions that frustrated my teachers and got me sent out to talk with the Minister of Education in his office). The only thing more thrilling to me than winning the Bible drills (where we flipped frantically through the tissue-thin pages of the Bible to find the verse before anyone else did) was being asked to put one of the felt pieces up on the board during the story. The felt grass was so green, and the felt sky was so blue...and the little sheep on the hillside looked so white and fluffy.

I loved those sheep. And I loved, loved, loved those stories.

Now a grown-up, mama version of my goody-goody Sunday School-loving self, I was really excited to find that Betty Lukens has started making portable felt activity books with the same kinds of stories that were on the big felt boards. They have several different ones available and were kind enough to send me the Old Testament Bible Stories to try out for our Mass bag.

There was some work to do to assemble the book. The kit arrived with everything but the scissors and glue. The pieces and pages were arranged in a single, big sheet of felt to be cut out.


Scraps!
Two pages of directions contained everything I needed to know to put the book together. After the cutting was done, pages were glued together on three sides with the top left open to form a pocket. This allows for storage of the pieces for each page inside the pocket, keeping everything together. (Due to the odd number of pages, the last page does not have a back, so there is no pocket for these pieces. I solved this by making a cover for the book and gluing the final page to the back of the cover.) The cutting and assembly took about an hour from start to finish and left quite a pile of felt scraps. I used hot glue for everything that needed to be put together, which worked very well.


There is a slit in the fish's mouth so he can swallow Jonah.
The book is a great addition to our Mass bag. SuperSam likes taking all the pieces out and arranging them on the pew in rows before putting them into the book. I like that this is a quiet activity that occupies his fingers without raising his decibel level. I also like that he is learning some stories in a hands-on way that engages his imagination.





One joy of parenting is passing on to my children things that I loved when I was their age. I'm pleased to find that these felt stories are as interesting and enjoyable for my little boy as they were for me when I was little.


(It will be okay, though, if he's not quite the Sunday School nerd that I was.)


Disclosure: Betty Lukens provided me with a felt activity book to review for this post. I was not compensated for this review.