Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Last Supper Experience For Children- A Progression from Our Home to Our Church

2010- Last Supper Experience in our home.

2015- Last Supper for Children at our church parish 

5 years ago in the month of March, my second child/daughter was born,  Easter was about 2 and 1/2 weeks away from that time and I knew I was going to unfortunately miss attending the Tridduum weekend.  My church here in San Antonio, St. Francis of Assisi, has extremely beautiful ceremonies that are a wonderful experience. This particular year though, I was not up for taking my 2 week old and my almost 3 yr old out late at night. 

That school year, I had gotten into doing "Tot School" at home with my 2 1/2 year old son who would turn 3 a month after his sister was born. We had our daily routine with a weekly theme for crafts, music, and activities most weeks. The week of Holy Week that year, I decided to do some things that would teach him about holy week and the Tridduum at home and still give him a good experience even though we were missing out on attending with the church community.  

On Holy Thursdsay, my mom and I put out special meal decorations on the dining room table, set up a foot washing station and the plate in the above picture.  We read a kid friendly version of the readings and acted out The Washing of the Feet from the Gospel of John and The Lord's Supper from Luke. It was very sweet watching Zac participate in this hands-on, pre-school friendly way. He had a great experience and remembered it. 

The next year in 2011, we did our special Holy Thursday again.  My daughter had just turned a year and was even able to participate while sitting on the table with us. 

The following year we extended our experience and invited friends to join us.  Our family friends offered to host at their house on the afternoon of Holy Thursday before we headed over for The Mass of the Lord's Supper. There were four families who attended. We had a special meal as Jesus did at his last supper, washed the feet of our own family members (although the kids helped with many of the families), and then broke the bread and grape juice. It was special doing it as a community as the apostles did in Acts of the Apostles "devoting themselves to the communal life." Right after this experience the kids got to apply their experience as a church community at Holy Thursday Mass/The Mass of the Lord's Supper.  

A side note:
This same year I also wanted the kids to experience stations of the cross in a way that would be meaningful to them and on their level. I came up with a way for them to walk from station to station, stop at each one, and collect something that they put in their Easter baskets.  Our first experience can be found here.  Stations of the Cross 

The families that participated in our Last Supper decided that it would be nice to open up our experience to members of our church.  We started mainly with the St. Francis Moms Ministry.  We had about 8 families join us from the ministry and a couple that were not in the ministry, but were parishioners at our church. We were able to reserve our youth room which has a table area and a carpet area where we set up several foot washing stations. 




The Moms Ministry decided to continue hosting this event each year at St. Francis. We thought the teaching behind it was important to emphasize to the kids.  Our pastoral associate thought it was a great idea too and liked the theology. We had planned to use our youth room again, but it turned out to be taken the night we asked for it.  This was fortunate because we instead got to use the parish hall and it turned out that we needed it!   We had about 20 families join us! 

To prepare and get this great turnout, we had a great team of moms help in many ways for our event including publicity, supplies coordinating, set up and decorating, photographing, and food coordinating!  We also had a few people provide live music with a guitar player and vocalists. My role was to lead the night.  I was extremely nervous about it. I'm not great speaking in front of large crowds, but I do enjoy teaching and working with kids.  I did some preparing to make sure this was going to be on an appropriate level for a variety of ages. Most of the children were about age 2- 9.  

To make things run as smoothly as possible and not take more than 2 hours we had the schedule go as follows.

  • Welcome and opening prayer
  • Interactive discussion and questions for Children about Last Supper
  • Foot washing reading from the Gospel of John
  • Washing of the feet opportunity and dinner
  • Experience sharing
  • Breaking of the Bread reading from the Gospel of Luke
  • Closing prayer- Whole group made a large circle and started off singing We Are One Body

The tables had paper across them for the kids to color on. Each table also had bread and grapes for the center. Live music started off the night.  Dinner was really like a feast. I imagine that Jesus's last supper with his apostles was a special feast. Each attending family brought something to share. There were two semi circles on each side of our stage with 3 foot washing stations in each semi circle. The children got to sit in front of the tables in an open area with pillows and carpets spread out. Before each reading I asked questions to the kids to engage them in the facts of the Last Supper.  After hearing a reading, I gave instructions on the hands-on participation they would get to do with the foot washing and dinner.  We had a large chunk of time designated for families wash to wash their feet at the stations and share a meal. After the foot washing and dinner time, I invited the children to share their experience of having their feet washed and also washing someone else's foot.  We then read the reading from Luke and had each table share the bread and grape juice. I thought the closing prayer with the entire group making a circle was beautiful, as it showed that we were really one body, united in Christ. 

I was fortunate to host this event with a wonderful team of ladies.  One person doing all of the work would have been extremely difficult. Each of them did a beautiful job taking charge of their role and putting forward great ideas to make the night special. I thank them for sharing their efforts and ideas and also for making this event a priority. 

I definitely wanted this tradition to continue at our parish. I felt like it was a great way to help children learn about Holy Thursday and prepare for that Mass of the Lord's Supper that we celebrate that day. At St. Francis the assembly is invited to wash the foot of someone else at the Mass.  It's beautiful to see the service to other members of our church family in such a way that we do not see ordinarily. Our Last Supper for Children can be a great way to encourage kids to do this at the Mass.

I invited moms to sign up to help on the team and had a whole new team of ladies who wanted to participate in a leadership type role.  This year we had

  • 2 supplies coordinators
  • Food coordinator
  • 5 Set up team members on the day of the event
  • Laisson for set up (coordinated with the office)
  • Photographer
  • Choir and music laisson
  • Opening prayer and foot washing demonstrator by one of our priests!
  • 2 readers (one adult, one child)
  • Go to assistant or go-for
We had our same schedule, but I added a few more interactive ways of teaching. For instance, I showed the kids the picture of the Last Supper, and showed them an analogy for what "we are one body" means. I also used a calendar and had kids put icons in the calendar slots for Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday so that they would know when each was coming, 

  • Welcome and opening prayer
  • Interactive discussion and questions for Children about Last Supper
  • Sang and did motions for This Little Light of Mine and We Are One Body by Dana Scallon
  • Foot washing reading from the Gospel of John
  • Washing of the feet opportunity and dinner
  • Experience sharing
  • Breaking of the Bread reading from the Gospel of Luke
  • Closing prayer- Whole group made a large circle and started off singing We Are One Body

This was a great experience for the family as a whole.  Whether families had a baby, toddler, or adolescent, it was something special that families and/or friends got to share together. It also taught the young children to have courage to do something kind for someone, even if it means washing their foot. We hope that it helped to prepare them for Holy Thursday Mass as well.   Looking forward to next year!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Teaching Children Ways to Express Their Feelings with Words

Children naturally give us an idea of when they are experiencing negative emotions. We can see it in their facial expression and actions. If 3 yr old Timmy is frustrated with a toy he is trying to operate that is not working, you might suddenly see him chunk it across the room if he gets frustrated enough. Another instance might be where Jimmy is not happy when Susie takes most of the blocks they are both using for building so he knocks her structure over when she does not share more with him. 

My children's initial response to getting frustrated with the other sibling is to run off of course and say, "Mom, she has the cars I was using" or "Mom, he called me a slowpoke."  "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom!!!" They of course want me to fix it or solve the problem for them.  Sometimes it's easier to just do that and tell them what needs to happen or what the other child needs from the first, but we come to realize that, this is not teaching them the independence they need as they grow older to solve their own problems. I am not at school with them.  They will have to learn to express their feelings and needs and if they cannot do it themselves, they will 

  1. Likely act on instinct and hit someone or throw something when upset/frustrated/etc.
  2. Not have the confidence they need to know what to do and be successful in all kinds of situations whether social, academic, or other. 

I was fortunate enough to attend a facilitation training last April for the Nurturing Parenting Program. I found great resources during the training that we are implementing here at home, although some have taken practice and time. 

One resource that has significantly helped our kids express their feelings to each other and help with the problem solving process, are the phrases below. 

I feel _______________________



I need you to ________________________.

Putting it into an example situation my kids have been in:

Adelyn says:

I feel ____upset________

when ___you call me a slowpoke___

because ____I don't like being called that____.

I need you to ___please stop calling me names____.\

Learning the Words
Yes, she and Zac have needed a lot of help learning the phrases and thinking up the right feelings to use when she is feeling something negative.  They both tend to resort to saying, "mad" when they are experiencing something negative.

Something we try to do as parents is:

  1. Model, label and express our own feelings appropriately as parents so they can expand their vocabulary for feelings. I have found these guidelines very useful myself. 
  2. Ask them if they are feeling certain feelings based on the situation if they have a hard time coming up with something such as "frustrated" or "upset."

My kids, almost 8 yrs and 5 yrs, are still working on this. I am still giving them many reminders to use it, but less on the words and order of the phrases. As I mentioned earlier...it has been useful for me to when expressing my own frustrations to the kids. If anyone needs help remembering to use it in the first place, post it in various places around the house. Kids that can read will benefit and the parents can remember to set the example!

Learning Our Alphabet Sounds

Adelyn and I came up with a way to learn alphabet sounds while using all of our sensory systems.  Kids practicing this way get to be active and moving while learning letter recognition and sounds. Quite honestly, it was more fun for me as the teacher as well! When I wasn't taking pictures and videoing, I joined in with her which she loved.

I think, the best way to do this, especially if the child is still a beginner in recognizing the letters, is to try it following these steps.

  • Sing the alphabet song SLOWLY (most recordings go much to fast for little ones processing the new information) while having your child hop on each letter you call out. 
  • When you pause or the music stops, have them tell you what letter it is and what sound it makes. 
  • If the child is having trouble ith a sound, I like to sing the song on the Leap Frog alphabet products.  We have it on our Fridge Phonics. 

To the tune of The Farmer in the Dell

A says ahhhh
A says ahhhh
A for _________, ah ah ah.

In our video below, I did not sing the alphabet song as she hopped around the circle, nor did we listen to it. We just picked some fun dancing music for her to hop around to. I paused the music on random letters and she told me what letter it was and what sound it made.

Making learning fun!