It’s summertime, and that means school is out and your church is most likely working on its summer programming. Whether it’s Vacation Bible School or church daycare, there are a few steps you can take so that every child will feel welcomed and included in your summer activities.
Craft a Questionnaire:
Create a questionnaire for parents and guardians to fill out beforehand. This can be a helpful tool to gain information, especially for children you’ve never met. Start by focusing on the positives, such as, “What does your child enjoy?” Or, “What comes easily for your child?” Also ask about specific allergies, difficulties, and any special needs the child may have. Lastly, ask the parents/guardians if it’s okay to share this information with other leaders.
Preview the Setting:
Some children may need to preview the program before attending. You can create a storybook with pictures about the place and people they will encounter. At CLC Network, we offer the Church Welcome Story, which you can personalize for specific children. Another option is to have the child arrive a half hour early to meet their teacher and tour the building.
Use Picture Schedules:
You can help children prepare and transition from one activity to the next by creating a picture schedule. You can use index cards with pictures and place them in consecutive order, or you can put the schedule on a poster in the room. Words can also be included for those who can read. You can find photos for daily activities at Do2Learn.
Offer Break Tickets:
Sometimes all of the people and activity can be overwhelming for a child. Allow him or her to have break tickets. The child can hand you a ticket when he/she feels overwhelmed, or you can give one to the child when it’s apparent that a break is needed.
Modify Craft Time:
You may need to modify your craft slightly, depending on the needs of the child. Try to stick with the same overall theme, but you may need to simplify the coloring, gluing, etc., depending on the child’s abilities.
Provide Worship Options:
If a child is nonverbal and cannot participate in singing, consider having instruments, streamers or flags for him or her to wave.
Identify Confusing Phrases/Words:
The Bible is full of imagery and symbolism, and some children, specifically those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, may take what is said literally. Try to look at the Bible story ahead of time and find what words and/or phrases could be confusing. Try to create a visual of what the word or phrase might mean.
Giving specific job(s) to a child can not only include, but also empower. Jobs could be anything from turning on and off the lights to acting out a Bible Story.
Provide a One-on-One Aid:
Some children may require a one-on-one aid or “buddy.” Be sure to communicate this beforehand with the parents or guardians.
We hope these nine ideas will aid you as you work to include all children in your summer programming.
How about you? Comment in the box below to share how your church includes kids at all levels of ability in your summer programming.
Jacki Sikkema has a background in Special Education and currently serves in the Church Services Division at CLC Network.