Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sensorimotor Worship: Winter Art

Sensorimotor worship can be defined as a spiritual experience that is visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Young children are sensorimotor beings who discover their world with the five senses.   In order to begin to understand a concept as abstract as “God”, they have to be able to explore in the same way.  Almost any spiritual experience can be made sensorimotor with a little thought beforehand. 

In my previous post, I mentioned that in creating spiritual space for our children, we should consider what we and our children are naturally drawn to and use these interests to provide opportunities for our children build a relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  My natural bent is towards art and creativity.  While my children also enjoy being artistic, they are equally passionate about nature.  Unfortunately, nature pedagogy was not at all a part of my own childhood, so I have had to make an effort to engage my children in this way.  However, I am now of the opinion that nature pedagogy is one of the most effective ways to help children learn and experience God as the Creator as well as develop compassion for other living things. It is also sadly one of the most neglected aspects of children’s ministry in the church, although some churches are starting to catch on to this idea.

I want to share with you a recent way that my children and I combined both of these interests to worship God together. It is winter here in Berlin and we have lots of snow. In fact, we have the most snow that the city has had since 1931!  Having grown up in a very warm part of the Southern United States, I am absolutely fascinated by snow.  Taking this as a cue, I began to talk with my children about winter, what happens during this season, and why it is important for animals and vegetation. Then, I suggested that we take a moment to thank God for the different things we like about winter and also thank him for his wisdom in creating this wonderful season.

Afterwards, I explained that we were going to do something together to help us keep thinking about how wonderful God is for coming up with the idea of winter.  We were going to make ice ornaments and I got the idea from this book, Make it Wild, by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield:

 (I actually have the German version called Werkstatt Natur.) This innovative book has tons of great ideas for making art “for the moment” (rather than something to take home and keep) and allows children to connect with nature in a hands-on way.      

Step 1: Making molds for our ice ornaments out of modeling clay.  My 7-year-old easily made his own shapes, but my four-year-old needed help from cookie cutters.

 Step 2: Filling the molds with water and laying string in the water to freeze, so that they can be hung up.

Step 3:  Lay the molds in a cold place and wait.  We had fun guessing how long it would take.  My son said 3 hours and my daughter said 100.  It actually took about 7 hours for them to freeze.

And “Voila!” – ice ornaments!  Here you can see a heart and Baby Jesus in a manger:

Here is a Christmas tree and a star:

We hung our finished ornaments from the table on our balcony. This might seem a strange place to hang them, but the table is right at eye level for the children when looking through the balcony door.: )

This art exercise isn’t so great for children’s church, since it takes a while for the ornaments to freeze and there is generally a week in between sessions of children’s church. However, it is perfect for families or religious schools or kindergartens, where are children able to see the results the next day.

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