Here’s a brand new Pray and Play corner from St Albans Church in Warner’s End, in the Hemel Hempstead Deanery.
This corner was the work of a few dedicated lay volunteers, with support from their incumbent, and was funded with a small grant from the Diocesan Children’s Ministry budget – if you’re planning something similar, do get in touch and see if we can help you.
I love this display board. It’s interactive (lift the flaps! Asks a question!), includes a link to Scripture (the text from Isaiah 9 on the right), and introduces children to the liturgical year in a relatable way. If you have an ex-teacher in your congregation, this might be the sort of thing they could take charge of in your space.
Note that they’ve covered the table in an easy-to-clean cloth – a very practical idea.
An overview of the general space. A few things I’ve noticed:
- The mat is a landscape and can be used for so much imaginative play.
- The Happyland church!
- Cushions on the floor are useful for older children to lie on, or if you ever plan to have structured sessions in this space – having a cushion for each toddler to sit on can help limit the wiggles.
- The toy storage is clearly labelled, which can help parents find what their child is looking for, and allow them fewer excuses for why they haven’t tidied your space at the end of the service.
Below you can see an overview of the whole space. The sightlines to the altar are clear, and there’s adult seating to allow parents to worship with their children in this space. The colours are cheerful and work with the general feel of the existing architecture of the church.
Starting with the most easy-to-find and familiar toys can be a good way of beginning your Pray and Play area. Parents and children will recognise them, and you can often get bargains on eBay or in charity shops, which is tougher with specialist items.
Here, the church has started with a Noah’s Ark, a toy church, and a Nativity set. They have books for a variety of ages, all of which are Bible stories or prayers. Some puzzles in the toy cupboard show other stories, such as David and Creation.
Below, you can see how they’ve displayed one of their wooden arks, next to books telling the story. This can also be a useful way of identifying toys whose Bible links might not be as easily recognisable (eg a story book of the parable of the lost sheep put in with a toy set of a shepherd and sheep).
Here you can see the table, which is aimed at slightly older children. Some ideas for a table and marker/pencil space can include:
- Meditative colouring of Bible story pictures or passages from the psalms.
- Crosswords (you can make your own – one site can be found here.)
- Word searches (again, you can make your own – try here.)
- Blank paper.
- Drawing prompts, like, “draw what you think God’s Kingdom is like” or “draw your favourite part of worship.” These can vary with the seasons – and you could even include a place for children to leave their drawings if they’d like them to be included in a display.
- Lined paper for budding poets.
- Black paper and chalk.
- Anything else you can think of!
If you have a space in your church for imaginative spiritual play, I’d love to see photos! Do send them in.