Activity play – wot so funee?

Gone are the days that I have time to blog loads of funees from every week. But as we’ve had an early morning, I thought I’d blog one from each boy that we’ve had a giggle at this week…..

Andrew is looking forward to Christmas already. The build up has started at nursery, and he’s getting very involved in the festivities. Every day that he goes, he comes home and tells us all about which songs he’s been learning, and even gives us a quick rendition at the dinner table. These songs are all for the play that they’ll be putting on the week before Christmas. It’s one of the traditional plays for the time of year, where the children act out the happenings of the first Christmas – Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, animals, stable, shepherds, angels – you know what I mean. In Andrew’s mind they are practising the “activity play”. No matter how many times I say that it’s actually a nativity play, he insists on calling it the activity play. So this is what it shall henceforth be called in our house!

Joel’s best funee from this week also involves singing. Both boys are very into singing, and their musical Daddy says they are very good at it (I know, he’s biased). Joel still doesn’t say much, but he makes himself understood, and one day this week he made himself quite clear through the medium of song. He was getting under my feet in the kitchen while I was trying to make some lunch for us all, so Daddy decided to take him upstairs to the living room and let him watch a DVD for 5 minutes (that’s about as long as he’ll watch anything for). On the way up, Daddy asked him what he’d like to watch, not really expecting a reply, but it was something to say when Joel wasn’t too happy about being removed from the kitchen. However, Joel immediately started singing (in la-la-las) the Fireman Sam theme tune. Daddy put that on, asked him if that was what he wanted, and Joel let out a big resounding YES! Who says I need to talk?!

Wot So Funee?

We will rock you, rock you, rock you – Nativity play

No this post is nothing to do with the song by Queen! The title refers to the lullaby that Andrew and his friends sang in the nativity play at church on Sunday. This is the second year that the 18 months to 3 years group in Children’s Church has taken part in the annual spectacular that is the HT nativity play (HT = Holy Trinity, Cambridge). They were stable animals, who came on stage just after baby Jesus was born, and sang him a gentle song, the traditional lullaby of Little Jesus Sweetly sleep…

Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir
We will lend a coat of fur
We will rock you, rock you, rock you
We will rock you, rock you, rock you
See the fur to keep you warm
Snugly round your tiny form.

They’d been practising it in their Sunday morning sessions, and also at the Wednesday afternoon group that we go to at church. Most of them were a little stage struck, but it was very cute to see them all dressed as animals gathered around the manger whilst the music was playing. Andrew did do the rocking action with his arms, and uttered the odd word. I have a video, but as I don’t know whether all parents want their children online, I won’t post it here, nor photos with more than just my boys in.

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As parents, we’d simply been told that they would be stable animals, so it was up to us to choose their costume. It was funny how most ended up being a sheep – all those white/cream knitted wooly jumpers and fleece jackets came out, with various items of headgear to represent the sheepish ears and facial features! My attempt at a sheep head was to take a white knitted wooly bobble hat that we already had, and hand stitch some black ears on. These were made out of an old pair of tights – I cut the two feet off and stuffed them with the rest of the length of the leg on each side. So a bargain and simple to make sheep costume.

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After the play, there was a short talk given by one of the pastors, Diana, explaining more about the meaning of Christmas. She gave an illustration that I thought was very clever, so I thought I’d share it here. Jesus was born into the world as a gift to us from God, and there are three ways that we as humans tend to respond to this gift, which Diana illustrated by offering a beautifully wrapped-up gift to one of the other pastors, Matt…

1. We ignore Jesus (the gift) and get on with life without Him – this is like when Diana offered Matt the gift but he just stood there, silent and with arms crossed, and didn’t reply to any of her “here you go, here’s a present for you” offers.

2. We learn about who Jesus is and what he did when he was alive, but don’t go any further than this superficial understanding – this is like when Diana offered Matt the gift, and he acknowledged it, but was happy just to look at the wrapping paper, say how lovely and shiny it was, how pretty all the different colours were, and thank her for this nice wrapping paper.

3. We get to know Jesus as a personal Saviour, and believe that through His death and rising again we can draw near to God – this is like when Diana offered Matt the gift, he acknowledged it, and ripped open the wrapping paper, thanked her so much for the amazing gift, tried it on straight away (an adult-sized reindeer onesie!!), and showed much joy and appreciation of this kind present.

This Christmas, as we’re opening presents, I will remember this illustration, which reminds us why we give presents at this time of year – to celebrate the biggest gift that we have ever been given. How will you respond – 1, 2 or 3?

A starry role

At less than 2 years old, Andrew took part in his first nativity play this year. For our church (Holy Trinity, Cambridge), the children’s nativity play is an annual tradition. Since we started going there over 6 years ago, Tom and I have always enjoyed watching the play and seeing how excited the children are to take part and reinact how Jesus came into this world as a baby. We hoped that the day would come when our own children would be involved too, though I thought it would be a couple more years yet.

My little star! (after the play had finished - it wasn't a solo)

Until last year, the youngest children taking part were about 3 years old, as that was the age when toddlers graduated from the creche on Sundays to the youngest Children’s Church group, where they learn about Jesus through reading the Bible, making crafty things and singing kids’ worship songs. Recently, however, the creche has split into two, because there are so many young families with babies and toddlers at the church now that the room was getting overcrowded and toddlers couldn’t play as freely as we’d like because there were young babies playing on the floor too. Now there is a group for 18-month olds to 3-year olds (and the creche is just for babies up to 18 months old); it’s mainly a group for play, just like creche but with toddler-specific toys, but they also sing songs and read simple Bible stories together. This is a great transition from creche to the older Children’s Church groups.

This year is the first Christmas that the 18-month plus group has been in existence, and the leaders decided they were brave enough to include these little ones in the annual nativity play. Their role was to be a chorus of stars, and they sang a version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star which was adapted with an extra verse which describes how it was a star that guided visitors to Jesus after he was born.

Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky

But there was no pressure, they didn’t have to do it, and could go up to the front with a parent if they liked. Andrew was happy to go up on his own and sat just in front of a leader, looking at us in the congregation. He was unaware that Granny and Grandad were also in the congregation, up on the balcony, just in case he caught a glimpse ans would have rather gone and sit with them than sing.

So, to make my little star into a real good looking star, I set to and made my very first costume for a nativity play. It’s been an easy start, easing myself in gently to the world of kids’ costume making; I’m sure future years will bring times of more complicated animal and people costumes that will require more imagination and trips to scour various charity and craft shops. Have you made any nativity play costumes? I’d love to hear from anyone who has, especially if it was a bit unusual or complicated.

Here’s a quick guide to how I made the costume. I bought a long-sleeved white t-shirt from our local supermarket (in fact it came as a pack of three, with bright green and blue ones too). I made a star stencil by printing from my computer a star shape drawn from the shapes available in LibreOffice word processing software, and cutting out the star to leave the A4 card with a star shape in the middle. Using this stencil and some yellow fabric paint that came in a set of 6 colours from a craft shop, I painted a star onto the t-shirt. A quick iron to make it colour-fast… et voila, a simple star costume! He wore it with some plain black trousers (he doesn’t have any light coloured trousers – who would put such a thing on their toddler other than someone who likes doing laundry?!)

Star printed out on card, ready to cut out the grey bit from the middle
Stencil held in place on fabric with selotape at each corner. Also there's a scrap piece of card undreneath the fabric where the star is, in case the paint leaked through, but it didn't.
Painting with the stencil to get a nice clean line around the star
The finished costume