We have been on a Godly Play journey for about a year and I am loving it. But I still have this sense that I have SO FAR to go in truly understanding how to create a space where Godly Play actually happens. I knew that even though I had read extensively on the Godly Play approach that I needed to go to a training to fill in the gaps between my understanding and best practices in Godly Play.
Each time a training near me came around, I had conflicts and couldn’t make it, but just this month I was able to attend the CORE training. The training in storytelling and the art of wondering will continue to drive us toward doing Godly Play better with our children.
One of the most practical helps for me personally was to see a fully functioning Godly Play space “live” and up close.
One of the first things I did upon returning home was rearrange and reorganize our classroom. Yup…the whole room. Today I want to focus on how I set up our art materials to better serve the children.
Godly Play Art Shelves
Here are a few pictures of our art materials after reorganizing them. The area I was having the most difficulty knowing how to manage.
What I learned:
Before, it was taking a long time for the children to get all the materials they needed for using watercolor paints. I had at least 10 sets of paints, lots of brushes. I reduced the number of paint sets available to five and have several size brushes available.
Have materials ready for the children to grab and go…
We don’t have a sink in the classroom so I was pouring water each time a child chose water colors for their work. I now have five small jars of water (they are empty glitter containers from our craft closet) next to the paints so the children can get their water when they get their paint.
It’s ok to not have enough for everyone…
For painting we also have do-a-dot paint markers available. There are two baskets available with a variety of colors so that two separate children may choose this for their work. That’s it. So, if more than two people want to use these paints, then they third child needs to choose something else.
Once the children know that the materials will be there week to week, then they are better able to choose something else. Some children plan what they will do next week and take this plan very seriously. I try to make sure these particular children aren’t disappointed week after week by not being able to pursue their first choice.
Organize Basic Supplies for individual use…
Set out basic supplies where they are easily accessible and each child can grab what they need to work individually. I have attempted to make it simple for each child to quickly select items for their personal use. So they can grab one box of crayons, one jar of colored pencils/markers, etc.
Children still need to be shown how to use some materials…
I keep the glue sticks separate from the regular glue because I work with young children and like to keep a closer eye on who has the glue bottles. They still need instruction about dotting the glue instead of puddling it.
They also haven’t used some of the materials before and just haven’t been exposed to the amazing-ness of oil pastels or using chalk on anything other than the sidewalk which leads me to my next point.
Be patient…let the children take their time discovering the materials…
For several months I thought the children may never use anything but play-dough and watercolors. They tend to copy what others are doing if they aren’t sure what they want to do and so if the first couple of kids say play-dough…well everyone thinks that a good idea.
I have started to intentionally bring out some of our overlooked materials outside of Godly Play time when I have more time to show the children how to use new art mediums. For instance, we used chalk to make these drawings for our lesson on Jesus calms the storm and we have used loose parts to create pictures like these for our Elijah on Mt. Carmel lesson.
One child has recently fallen in love with oil pastels and now those get used almost every week instead of sitting forlornly on the shelf.
Find containers with dividers for collage materials…
I put together containers with collage materials so they would have many choices, but not tons of each item. For the one in the picture below, I put several small jars into a basket, but I also have a couple of Tupperware type containers I found at a thrift store filled with collage materials. I LOVE these because they have a lid that helps when the kids are transporting materials around the room.
Help the children make a plan for what they get out…
At the training, they had us name what we chose for our work. So, if you knew you wanted to do art, you would need to say, I choose crayons or markers or paints, etc., not just art. This was a pretty easy switch to make and over time, the children have developed a broader understanding of what choices are available.
This also helps us instruct the children in what they need to get out for the work they have chosen. For example, If a child chooses play-dough, I have been instructing him or her to choose one color of play-dough and if they would like to use the cookie cutters or play-dough mats available they can take a couple at a time and exchange them during the work period of they wish.
Organization is a work in progress…
For paper, I have white drawing paper and thicker paper for painting and then I have lots of scraps of colored paper in these magazine holders from IKEA. We also have a few journals available so if a child wants to use a journal from week to week they can choose that.
The paper is still too hard to get to and the children aren’t sure what to do with the scraps. I am keeping the scraps in hopes that a better idea will come to me.
The yarn in the jars is also a work in process. The children (especially the three year-olds) like to get it out and just cut it into smaller pieces. So far though, I haven’t seen anyone include the yarn in their worship masterpieces.
The children have quickly adjusted to the new art shelves and there is a noticeable difference in their ability to put things away. We still have to prompt them and remind those who forget to put away something before moving on to something different, but when it is time to clean up and return to the circle, all the children know what to do and we just help keep things orderly.
How do you organize art materials to encourage the children in your church to use them independently? I would love to see pictures! What types of art materials have you seen children really enjoy using?