One of my keenest memories of Sunday School teaching is the Saturday night rush—I would quickly read the lesson plan over on Saturday night and realize I was out of some essential ingredient for the craft. My church was relatively well-supplied, so I could always hope the church might have the super glue, markers, or glitter on hand.
But just in case, sometimes I would have to search for a back-up. Just in case you’re in the same boat, here are five simple crafts to choose from. (No “gratefulness turkey” crafts included, because you’re always out of brown construction paper—seriously.) These object lessons on thankfulness work well if you want to switch out the craft in your regular Sunday school lesson, and they’re especially helpful if you’re writing the lessons yourself.
Simple, decorated cards can help guide kids in the importance of expressing thankfulness to friends, neighbors, teachers, or family members:
Step 1 Cut heavy paper or cardstock into postcard-sized rectangles. (see USPS size requirements here), or purchase pre-cut blank cards (sometimes craft stores sell stacks or assorted blank postcards).
*bonus: use decorative scissors on the edges!
Step 2 Assemble stickers, die-cut decorations, glue sticks, crayons, glitter glues, and whatever decorative elements you have on hand (you can theme this for Thanksgiving season if you wish, but it can be used for any lesson on thankfulness!).
Step 3 Let the kids decorate, while helping them decide who will get the card. Ask them to share stories about a recent time when they were thankful for someone. Tell a story yourself, about how someone brought you a cup of coffee, or helped you finish painting your living room!
Step 4 Depending on how old the kids are, you can help them write a thank-you message on the back, along with the recipient’s name. Talk them through asking their parents for the person’s address, or tell them they can deliver the card by hand.
Example text to discuss:
This is the story of Jesus healing 10 lepers, and the one who turned back to thank Jesus. Ask kids about when they say thank you to their moms, their teachers, their dads, their friends, and God. Talk about leprosy a little bit, and explain that the 10 lepers were sick, but they were also kept away from their families and their friends.
- How many of the lepers did Jesus heal?
- Where do you think they went?
- How many of the lepers were grateful for being healed?
- How many SAID thank you to Jesus?
- Why is it important to say thank you to people who help us?
- What does it mean to you when someone says thank you for something you gave, did, or said?
- How did saying thank you help the 10th leper more than just being healed?
Help kids make a list for the good things they can be thankful for:
Step 1 Collect enough plain paper plates for each kid in your class, along with a brad, and construction paper (For Pumpkin pie, use orange, but you can use other colors for other seasons! How about Key Lime, or Strawberry?)
Step 2 Pre-cut rounds from the orange paper that fit the diameter of the flat inner circle of the plate (traditional economy Dixie plates are 9”, so you’ll need about 6” for the center). Mark a dot with a marker or pencil in the center of each circle, and pre-mark the lines for the open wedge. You can cut the wedges yourself if your class is short, or have the kids cut it in class.
Step 3 Have the kids center their “pie” in their plate, and help them poke the brad through. Once the spinners are in place show the kids how they can make six “pieces of thankful pumpkin pie” by writing something they are thankful for, then turning the spinner until they have another blank space, and writing another thing.
Step 4 After the spinners are made, the rest of the lesson is helping kids think up things to be thankful for! If you have a whiteboard, you can help the kids make a big list to start from. If you have extra time, the kids can decorate the pies and pie “crusts”.
Example text and questions:
This is an entire chapter of thankfulness for how God’s love endures forever. You can incorporate that phrase somewhere on the project if you wish, and with your whiteboard or a piece of paper, build a list of all the things the Psalmist is thankful for (God is GOOD, God is LORD, God does great things, God makes great things, God made the earth, the sun, and the moon, and the stars…etc.).
- What kinds of things are you thankful for?
- What reminds you to be thankful?
- What things do you forget to be thankful for sometimes?
- How do you say thanks to your mom/dad/friend/sister/brother/teacher?
- How do you say thanks to God?
A super-speedy craft, this is a decoration that reminds kids to be thankful for everything they have instead of worrying about the “empty spaces” in their lives.
Step 1 Make a paper doughnut template for each child from construction or craft paper.
Step 2 Have your decorating supplies handy for kids to decorate with glitter, stickers, markers, crayons, glue, gluesticks, etc.
Step 3 Talk about being grateful for doughnuts (yum!) AND for the empty spaces in the middle. Give thanks for what IS there instead of worrying about what ISN’T.
*bonus! bring a box of doughnut holes, and make sure the kids say THANK YOU!
Example text and questions:
First Thessalonians 5:16—18
This passage is about being joyful and grateful in ALL circumstances, so don’t avoid asking kids if there are some things in their lives that they CAN’T have—what do they want for Christmas, for their birthday? Are they hoping for a new lego kit, or to go to Starbucks after church?
- What is something you want for your birthday or Christmas?
- Why is it important to you?
- Are there some good things to be grateful for, even though you don’t have that one thing?
- What if you don’t get that one thing, but you get other gifts?
With a few extra (but affordable) supplies, Snow globes in baby food jars can be an object lesson on being grateful for the “kingdom that cannot be shaken” in Hebrews 12:28.
*pro tip: You can get really affordable lots of plastic monopoly houses to represent the “kingdom” on ebay or other thrift/auction sites!
Step 1 Collect baby food jars or other small, very durable jars with threaded lids, so they close securely, enough for each child.
Step 2 Allow the kids to choose water-proof toys (legos, monopoly houses, other small toys or figures) for their lids. Each kid needs to bring their lid to you or a parent-assistant to get the figures superglued!
*note, if this is too time intensive for your program, you can pre-make the lids at home, and let the kids each choose one.
Step 3 Once the figures are secure, have the kids or an assistant fill each jar with water, and add a few drops of glycerin (found in soap-making sections of craft stores) to each jar. Get each jar about 3/4 full, to leave room for the glycerin and glitter.
*glycerin is non-toxic, but you should keep it on you, since it has a sweet taste and is oily.
Step 4 Add a few drops to a tablespoon of glycerin to each jar, depending on the amount of water (you might want to do a test run with your chosen size ahead of time).
Step 5 Allow each child to add a good amount of plastic glitter to their own jars, choosing from the colors you have available, and then stir the glitter, glycerin, and water with a popsicle stick.
Step 6 Top off the jars with water, then tightly screw the lid on. Let the kids help get their lid extra tight—talk about how “this kingdom cannot be shaken!”
Step 7 Shake, shake, shake!
Example text and questions:
This is a difficult text, but there’s a great picture in it; we live now in a place that can be “shaken,” but God is building a kingdom that lasts forever.
- What does it mean to be shaken? What does it mean to NOT be shaken?
- Why is it important that God’s kingdom cannot be shaken?
- What kinds of things last forever?
- What kinds of things don’t last forever?
These pennants can be done super-simply with just a few supplies, and they look great, whether you create mini-pennants or larger banners. This craft is a good opportunity to discuss how reminders help us to be thankful.
Step 1 Collect pretty paper for the flags, and string, ribbon, or twine for the banner. You can theme this for thanksgiving, but it works for other seasons, too!
*note: sticky paper can make this faster if you have it on hand (cut the pennants in diamond shapes, and fold them over the string); otherwise, you can use glue sticks as described below.
Step 2 Lay the flags facedown, one for each letter being spelled, and use a glue stick to make the tops of each flag sticky. Lay your string or twine along the sticky strip, and fold over the top of each flag. Have the kids firmly rub the flags and let them dry a bit before picking them up again.
Step 3 Turn the banners face-up again. If you want the pennant to say something (“Thankful” “Grateful” or “Be Thankful” “Say Thanks”), have stickers on hand, or walk them through hand-writing a letter on each flag. You can use other stickers or decorative items to liven them up.
Step 4 If you’re making mini banners, tie the ends of each string to a lollipop stick.
Example text and questions:
This verse talks about ALWAYS giving thanks. Talk a bit with the kids about remembering and forgetting to be thankful.
- Is it easy to remember to be thankful ALWAYS?
- Do you ever forget to be thankful to God? What about to your mom/dad/sister/brother/teacher/friend?
- What kinds of things do you forget sometimes?
- What helps you to remember them?
- Does anyone ever remind you to be thankful?
- Where can you put this banner to remind you to be grateful?
Crafts are a great opportunity to keep hands busy while you talk about the verses and principles. One of the things I liked to do was to have the kids say the verse with me several times as we did worked on the craft. When the crafts have been discarded, those rich words of scripture remain in their hearts.