HeartShaper is a Sunday school curriculum available for toddlers through preteens. When you visit the website, you’re immediately struck by this curriculum’s biblical literacy aspect. If a child has gone through this curriculum from beginning to end, she will have gone through the Bible five times!
The tagline for HeartShaper curriculum says it all, “A heart that is shaped. A life that is changed.” As you comb through their lessons, you can see that it’s more than empty verbiage. HeartShaper is committed to molding children’s hearts.
Another aspect we’ll discuss at length is the inclusion of elements that adapt the lesson to children with special needs. This is an extremely forward-thinking idea, and it’s wonderful to have publishers including this important element.
(By the way, if you are looking at this review because you’re trying to choose your next Sunday school curriculum, you might want to check out my complete guide to making that decision.)
What makes HeartShaper great
Heartshaper’s early elementary is ideal for kids aged 7–8. Each lesson is broken into four sections:
1. Focus In introduces kids to the focus of the lesson.
2. Bible Exploration allows kids to dig into God’s Word.
3. Make It Real helps kids discover how the Scripture applies to their lives.
4. Live It Out encourages kids to practice the biblical principles they’ve learned.
It’s more than Bible stories
Teaching children is about more than telling them what to think. It’s about teaching them how to think. Even at 7 and 8 years old, children are equipped to do more than learn the specific elements of any particular Bible story. They’re learning to ask themselves why a story is important and what these stories reveal about God. This is significant because it equips children with the tools and confidence to interact with Scripture on their own.
It helps teachers minister to special-needs kids
Throughout the lesson prep, there are tips to help teachers think through any elements that might be difficult for kids with various special needs. In one craft where the kids will be doing a lot of cutting, teachers are reminded: “Be aware that fine motor activities can be frustrating for many students. Consider doing some of the cutting ahead of time to increase the likelihood of success.”
When a teacher is working hard to get a lesson prepared, it’s easy for considerations like this to fall through the cracks. These extremely helpful tips, found throughout each lesson, call needs ranging from cognitive impairment to allergies and hyperactivity to a teacher’s attention. It’s truly a helpful feature.
It includes helpful online resources for families
The HeartShaper website has a ton of great material that helps users understand the assets of HeartShaper curriculum. It also includes downloads for families who want to stay up-to-date on their child’s lessons. These downloads include crafts and discussion prompts to help families build upon these lessons at home.
I love that parents can download these materials straight from the website. Most of the time, when my kids were asked to give us materials, they were mysteriously lost before we even got home! I would have loved to have had access to materials like this from home.
The HeartShaper lesson I will be walking through for middle elementary tells the story of Joseph being sold by his brothers in Genesis 37.
Creating your ideal Sunday school curriculum
The first thing I notice when I look at the lesson prep is the abundance of material at my disposal. Filling an hour with hard-hitting content would be a cinch. If I were to use everything in this lesson, I could potentially fill three hours (maybe more). This means I can use the material I know will resonate with my kids best. I can literally build the perfect curriculum!
Serving your children
The Sunday school lesson starts with some class discussion about contentment, and there’s a note in the teacher’s sheet that says, “If you have kids who struggle with anxiety and social interaction, you may want to make this activity more teacher-led.”
Not only is that great advice, but it prompts teachers to think about how to cater the lesson to the kids in their care. This gets teachers constantly thinking, “Does this work with my kids or will I have to make adjustments to meet their specific needs?” Training teachers to think this way is a huge win!
To that end, Standard’s inclusion of suggestions for kids with special needs puts HeartShaper on a short list of Sunday school curriculum I would suggest to most churches. It’s refreshing to have a major publisher considering the fact that classes are unique and require teachers to serve children with various abilities and needs.
As I pointed out earlier, this lesson talks a lot about contentment. The special needs supplement offers a suggested story to help make this concept more concrete for kids who might be struggling. Good stuff.
Middle elementary-aged kids present unique challenges to teachers. They’re able to understand abstract ideas and make connections between concepts, but they are also pretty squirrely and hard to keep focused.
HeartShaper lessons find that sweet spot between being thoughtful and silly. As the teacher talks through the story of Joseph when he is sold by his brothers, the kids are encouraged to make faces that represent the feelings of different characters throughout the story. It’s really a smart idea because the kids get to be goofy while listening to the story empathetically.
One of the notes alongside the lessons says, “Look for ways to help kids be successful.” This would be a strong tagline for HeartShaper itself. The whole curriculum seems set up to help kids be successful in their understanding of the Word, and ultimately their relationship with God.
What you need to know
HeartShaper is best for:
Age range: Toddler—Preteen
Bible translation: NIV and KJV
Publisher: Standard Publishing
Cost: Starts at $149.99 on Disciplr
Format and media:
Class format: Classroom
Material format: Disciplr, print, or downloadable Microsoft® Word docs
Includes video? No
Scope and sequence duration: 1 year for toddler, 2 years for all others
Average lesson time: Flexible
Lectionary: Does not follow lectionary
Includes Mid-Week/Supplementals: Yes. Online resources, newsletter, take-home activities
Want more? Browse and sample HeartShaper lessons on Disciplr.
This review is based on HeartShaper lessons for early and middle elementary.