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This thread is for posting ideas and instructions for creating Jonah's "Whale."

See more pictures of this project at

There have been many versions of "how-to" over the years.

All essentially involved the same idea:  Lots of plastic, packing tape, and a strong fan.

The size depends upon your needs.

There are different types and weights of black plastic that you can buy (look online or at your local construction supply store). The heavier your plastic and larger your whale, the stronger the fan needed. Strong blower fans, such as those used to dry carpeting, work well. They can be rented, but you might ask your church's carpet cleaning company for a loaner.

At least one post below includes an Instruction Document.

There's also a post to a science teacher's "whale net" website with pictures.

Time = about 3-4 hours by some estimates.

Results = Awesome! the posts below will tell you.

If you have photos, please ATTACH THEM to a post here for all to enjoy.

(Try not to link to them at your church site, as eventually the pic gets moved and the link will go dead).

Here is one church's quite elaborate whale and the ocean room they built around it for their VBS.



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Original Post

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Making a whale:


We made a whale to sit inside about 5 - 6 years ago - the directions were found in Group's Vacation Bible Ship VBS kit. We just took two large pieces of black plastic (about 20' x 20', I think and taped them together around all four edges. An opening was left on one side (centered on that side) to accomodate one box fan, and we just duct taped the fan to the opening (so that it blows into the whale). On the opposite side, we cut a slit with scissors vertically (cut through both layers of plastic in a cut perpendicular to the edge - about 3' long).


When the fan is turned on, the whole thing inflates, and people can step through the mouth (vertical slit). For eyes, we put a black circle on the center of each of two white paper plates, and taped them to where it looks like they should go when the thing is inflated.


We were able to fit 8-10 people inside comfortably, and it was great fun!

Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer
We've just begun our Jonah rotation. One of our "senior" adult classes took on the project of building "Wessie the Whale" and had a blast. And the kids love it!
As it was being built in our Fellowship Hall (and it fills the Fellowship Hall when inflated) lines of kindergarten children would be walking down the hallways...literally gasping at the sight of Wessie.
What a neat addition to our children's program.

We are currently doing Jonah. I made a whale last month -- lots of duct tape and plastic sheeting but it is worth it!!

Jonah Message in a Bottle Lesson Idea:

The whale is used for the Marketplace workshop, but is set up in Fellowship hall once the kids are off in their rooms. In Marketplace they meet one of the sailors from the boat that threw Jonah overboard. The sailor then takes the kids a few at a time to sit in the whale for a few minutes to discuss what it was like, and what could have been going through Jonah's mind. Then they come out and write a "message in a bottle" - what message they think Jonah would have said. Remember, he didn't know he was going to get out!! The younger kids just say "Help!" but the older kids are really showing some great insight!! The notes are photocopied so one goes in their journal and one goes in an empty soda bottle to take home and share with their parents.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Making Jonah's Whale Instructions

Here is Kristi's whale. She figured out how to make it on her own.

She also noted at the end of her directions, that she found "whale" shaped cracker's by Stauffer's at Walmart that the kids loved.


Last edited by Luanne Payne

Whale Net at Wheelock has pictures of the blow up whale, it's construction, and a link to a $10 'how-to' booklet


This info was originally provided by Gloria Van Houten, Belleville IL

<>< Neil

Moderator's note: the whalenet link is dead. Kristi's notes above have good detail along with diagrams for building a whale.


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More info on building a whale...moved here to consolidate the topic...

Posted by DianaZ

For any of you out there that have built the large blow-up whale...about how long does it take to put together? Say with around 6 to 8 people working on it?

Posted by mabethea

We made it this summer and it took us two nights, probably 5 hours or so all together. The hardest part was interpreting the directions, and we used 10' wide black and white plastic, but it is all well worth the time and effort. A couple of ideas that might help you:

  • It helps to have several folks that can crawl around on the floor for a long time to do the taping!
  • We had to scale ours down as we only had about 42 feet available.
  • You should also have your fan there as you make it. It helps to see what needs to be re-taped, etc.

We got lots of coverage in our local newspapers. I just emailed the religion editor and told her what we were doing for VBS and she came right out with a photographer. I am now known city-wide as the "whale lady!" We used ours as a storytelling center for the Jonah story. We have a Bible Story teller in our congregation and she did a great job.

  • We also made a sort of frame from pvc pipe for the inside to maximize sitting space.
Last edited by Luanne Payne

Adding Black Lights Idea

We have made a whale many times. The first time we used backdrop frames from a Christmas play. After that we built a PVC frame and covered it with black plastic. MUCH faster than the blow up, because you do not have to seal every seam. We put blacklights inside, fluorescent fish and sea stuff, opened sardines (smell), let kids taste sardines, and edible seaweed (and goldfish crackers)sprayed water, etc. Very multi sensory.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

We used the plans downloaded from this website and they worked great! Our whale has been a lot of fun for the whole congregation and created a great deal of interest in Children's ministry. We are even having a contest to name it.

Warning about using your Whale outside:

One bit of advice. We had our whale outside so everyone in the church would have to walk right past it. This was fine until our whale overheated. The duct tape stickum got soft and we split a seam. It was no problem to fix, but a word of warning for those who might expose their whales to prolonged direct sunlight.

Last edited by Luanne Payne
Well, we did it. We just made a whale. Wasn't as bad as we thought. I took myself and two others to costruct it and took approx. 4.5 hours. It would have taken longer, but husband constructed a small version out of trashbags prior to the large one, so when it was time, we knew what we were doing. We constructed it out of the instructions from "Lucy" but those instructions are complicated and found some errors in them. If anyone is interested, I would be glad to send them my copy of instructions with notes on it. Email me at WOW, it's amazing, worth the time and cant wait to see the kids faces tomorrow in Sunday School

We did the whale for our Summer VBS. It was a HUGE hit. We did not reveal that the kids could go inside until the last night. Jonah was waiting for them inside when they got there. It was Awesome, I have included a picture of our fellowship hall so you can see how it fit with the rest of the underwater decorations. The red thing is a giant squid by the way.



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Make the Whale out of Tarps

SmileOur whale turned out great, we blew it up for all 4 weeks of the rotation about Jonah, we let each class have a Sunday inside the whale. This created interest and excitement for all the children. We did put our whale together on 2-20'x12' tarps (this made it easier to roll up and put away during the week).

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Prayer inside the Belly of the Whale

Memory Verse: 

“You are a loving and merciful God, always patient, always kind, and always ready to change your mind, and not punish.” Job 4:2b


  • Volunteer to be “Jonah”
  • Inflatable Whale created beforehand with Jonah’s prayer from Jonah 2:2-9 printed inside (large sheet plastic, duck tape, box fans, black lights, power strip, prayer printed via glow-in-the-dark markers on paper tapes to inner walls of whale, velcro to seal mouth entrance shut) 
  • CDs with Whale and storm sounds (digital downloads available from
  • CD player
  • Index cards
  • glow-in-the-dark markers
  • DVD “Jonah: a Veggie Tales Movie” disc 2 “In the Belly of the Whale” music video (special features disc)
  • TV, DVD player

Teacher preparation:

  • Read the Scripture passages prayerfully, asking God to show you what He has to say to you and to those He’s given you to teach.
  • Read the Biblical Explanation and Background, and think about what concepts you need to teach.
  • Prepare the necessary materials.


Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:

[Have CD playing outside room with storm sounds playing]

Meet the kids outside of the Discovery Destination room.  Welcome them and tell them that this month they’ll be exploring the story of Jonah & the Whale. If it is past the first Sunday of this rotation, first ask the children to relate what they’ve already learned about Jonah in other workshops.

Say: Well we’ve heard about the story of Jonah and the Whale, but I think it would be pretty cool to experience the story of Jonah & the Whale from inside the belly of the whale! [Open door and encourage kids to enter the mouth of the whale.

Dig-Main Content and Reflection:

Jonah Monologue

[As kids enter the whale have CD with whale sounds playing in the background on the CD player]

Hi kids, I’m Jonah, a prophet of God. Can someone tell me what a prophet is? (Someone who tells the future, a person who speak God’s message)

Very good. I see you all got swallowed by this whale too. The last time I was in here, I was here for 3 days! It’s pretty dark in here, so be careful, you never know what you might find inside the belly of a whale.

Let me tell you my story, the story of how I ended up in this whale in the first place.

One day, I was minding my own business, doing my daily chores and the Word of the Lord came to me. God said,” Go to the great city of Ninevah and preach against it, because of its wickedness.”

I got scared. I thought if I ran as far away as I possibly could, I wouldn’t have to preach to Ninevah. So I ran down to Joppa where I bought a ticket to get on a boat heading to Tarshish. Once we got out to sea, God sent a big wind and storm that nearly broke the ship. The sailors on board were scared and threw all the supplies off the ship, hoping it wouldn’t sink.

I had gone below deck and had fallen asleep, that was until the captain woke me up and told to call upon my God to save them.

The sailors wanted to know who was responsible for all the trouble the ship was in and they casted lots, which is like drawing straws, to see who was responsible. Of course, I drew the short straw. I explained to them that I was a Hebrew and my God, the God of the sea and the land, was mad at me for not doing as He told me.  I told them, the only way to save the ship was to throw me overboard.

However, they didn’t want to throw me into the sea. They tried rowing back to shore, but the winds were too strong. They finally realized they needed to throw me into the sea. They said they were sorry and they prayed to God not to punish them for doing so.

God saved the sailors, but He also saved me. Once I was in the waters, God sent this whale and it swallowed me. I was in the whale’s belly for 3 days and 3 nights! I had a lot of time to think about what I had done. I realized that God was giving me a second chance. I prayed and prayed and thanked the Lord, God. I knew that if God saved me, I would go right to Ninevah and speak God’s word. So God had this whale throw me up on the beach.

God sent His word to me again, and I spoke it to the people of Ninevah. I told them that God was going to destroy them in 40 days because they were doing bad things. The people of Ninevah believed the message of God. The King told all the people to wear sackcloth and put ashes on their foreheads and to fast. The people did these things and stopped doing the evil things that they were doing. And God noticed.

At the end of the 40 days, God had compassion upon the people and did not destroy them. I was mad! I went through so much to tell them that they were going to be destroyed, then God didn’t destroy them. I was so upset, that I wanted to just give up. God, however, showed me that I didn’t have the right to be angry and that He loves His people enough to take care of them, have compassion and forgiveness, and to help them grow.

That’s my story. It took God’s love and patience to teach me how He loves all of His people, that He can be slow to anger and show forgiveness and not destroy His people.

Prayer in the Belly of the Whale

  1. Do you think it was kind of scary for Jonah to be thrown overboard into the stormy seas?
  2. How do you think Jonah felt when he was swallowed by the whale?  Would you have been scared if you had been in Jonah’s shoes? Why or why not?
  3. Have you ever been in a scary situation before?  Tell me about it?  What was it like?  What did you do?
  4. Jonah was in a scary situation when he was tossed into the stormy sea and swallowed by the whale. The Bible says that while Jonah was in the belly of the whale, he prayed to God.  Jonah’s prayer is recorded in Jonah 2:2-9, but we have his words surrounding us right here in the belly of the whale. [Lead the class in reading Jonah’s prayer together.]
  5. When Jonah was scared in the belly of the whale, he prayed to God for help.  Have you ever prayed to God for help?  [Let kids respond, then briefly tell of a time when you, the teacher, prayed to God in a difficult situation.]
  6. What are some things that Jonah said in his prayer to God? 
    • Jonah talks about his feelings of nearly drowning.
    • Vs. 6 Jonah proclaims that God brought his life up out of the pit i.e. God saved him.
    • Jonah affirms that God heard his prayer.
    • Jonah says that following other gods/”idols” will not help, but that God alone saves.

Say: Jonah teaches us that even when we are in a scary place, like the belly of a whale, we can turn to God in prayer, and that God will be with us, strengthen us, and bring us through the tough times.

Today, I want to give you a chance to pray to God.  You can either ask God for help with a tough situation that you or your family are going through right now, or say prayer of thanks to God.  I’m going to give you glow-in-the-dark markers and paper, and you’ll have time, just like Jonah did, to pray to God right here in the belly of the whale. [Distribute index cards and markers.  Give kids a chance to write their own prayers to God.]

[After kids are finished, share with them what prayer you’ve written down and ask if anyone wants to share their prayers.   Allow kids a chance to share if they want to. Return to Jonah’s prayer and re-read the first verse with them. ]

Music Video

As a fun interlude activity, watch the Newsboys music video “In the Belly of the Whale” which is included on the special features disc of the Veggie Tales "Jonah" DVD.


End class by reviewing this month’s Bible memory verse and then close with prayer.


A lesson written by Rev. Ron Shifley from: Scotland UCC
cotland, SD

 A representative of reformatted this post to improve readability.





Jonah Prayer



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Clever grey "whale" created by placing a tarp over a pop-up tent


Blue background with backlighting and sea critters.





Pleasant Hill Congregational

Musella GA



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I have made a Big Fish many times --making adaptations and adjustments each time.  Basically I make a long tube of plastic, tape one end to the box fan and then partially close the other end so that the participants enter through the mouth.  Attached is a photo of my latest iteration, which is actually slightly too long for the size fan.  My daughter made the eyes and fins this time.


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Last edited by Luanne Payne

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 7.40.49 PMWe constructed our first whale five years ago which means we are about to do it again! Our whale  is built on our 60 foot entrance ramp into our Sunday School area. We build it with PVC pipe frame (like a rib cage) and black sheeting. The children walk through the whale to get to Sunday School. For reasons that anyone who works with little boys will understand, we also made the exit end a whale's mouth. They were spit out in "Ninevah". We use black lights and glow in the dark fish and netting inside along with sound effects. We also put a bubble machine inside the mouth entrance so bubbles are coming out of the mouth. I've attached a video from 2011 that we made at the end of our rotation that shows the outside and inside.

[A volunteer moderator has edited this post to include the video and a screen shot of the constructed whale.]


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Would love ideas that show how Jonah's attitude about God's request for him to go to Ninevah created a timeline of events including ending up in the GREAT FISH and what followed thereafter.

How we dramatized the Jonah story each week

I can offer how we tried to explain Jonah's story in order of occurrence during our Gathering Time.

Week 1: Jonah in the Whale

The first week when the children enter, it is very dim. We show a short video we found on YouTube of the scripture being read from Jonah up until the time he is thrown overboard. A spotlight then comes on to the corner of the room where we have created a "belly" (a sheet on a hoop) and Jonah begins to speak from inside the belly of the whale. He explains his running from God etc.

Jonah in the Belly

Week 2: Jonah on the Beach

The next week when the children enter, Jonah is laying face down on a beach at the front of the room (completely still). It's funny to watch them as they realize a man is laying at the front of the room. We stick a sardine soaked rag in his pocket so they see how bad he smells. He rouses and tells them his story. ( This last time we did it, our character had stashed a can of silly string behind him and kept telling them how bad the fish smelled and that he felt like he was going to throw up. He would cough, they would shrink back, and the next time he coughed he shot silly string into the crowd. ) This week we also sang the song "I think I'm going to throw up."

Jonah on the beach

Video of Jonah on the Beach Week 2

Moderator adds: Song "I Think I'm Gonna Throw Up" is  from Crazy Praize Vol. 3 by Bentwood Kids Music. Below is a video found on YouTube with lyrics

Week 3: Jonah in Nineveh, Ninevites Repent

The third week, Jonah enters and tells about marching through Nineveh despite his reservations. He invites three children to come sit on black circles in front of the room and wrap themselves in burlap and chooses one of the adults to sit in a king's chair. He tells them of the people's repentance and sprinkles them with ashes (baby powder). There is some interaction with the king also.

Jonah in Ninevah and the people repent

Week 4: Jonah's Anger with God

The fourth week, we have a large vine hanging with a bright spotlight on it. Jonah tells them of his anger about the Ninevites being spared. We also reference Elijah's despair and the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, as we have recently done these units.

Jonah under the vine


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Jonah on the beach
Last edited by Luanne Payne

Young ones love to connect to the Bible Ideas. In a preview session we let them chat about what they think.  Ideas added by them included:  what Jonah experienced in the belly. We included a bag filled with cooked noodles, slime, and smelly fish which they handled with plastic gloves to let them experience that mess Jonah got into!  ...God still loving him through the yuck!

A vine plant, fan for wind, and plastic fishing worms were also suggested. Despite all the glitches in Jonah's relationship with God, God still was there through it all the way to love Jonah and save Nineveh.  

Students will construct the Great Fish with a Jonah figure. Props to be included as object lessons - details to be worked out!


  • What do you know about Ninevah?  Why would God be interested in this city?
  • Why did Jonah a prophet not feel God could/would enable not  him to reach Ninevah? 
  • Who was at the root of his fear, doubt, disappointment?
  • How sure was Jonah that the storm was from God and why?
  • Who was being save besides the people of Ninevah?
  • What does being vomited up mean to you in your life today?
  • What is inside of you that comes up and out and is putrid?
  • How did the sailors know it was safer to trust God?

Their ideas could go on forever!!!!  So will work on the implementation and heighten their ideas with more activity.

Am wanting to see what they feel is THE MOST important concept learned from this Bible account!  What we see as obvious may not be for them at their age.

This lesson is on them so they need to be ready for additional guests coming!  Thanks for your informative post on your work through this Scripture!  Will share your thoughts.

Formatting and readability improved by Exchange Editor


Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Hi everyone,

It's great to see all of your ideas here and amazing that so many people have shared ideas on how to create these fantastic whales for the re-telling of the story of Jonah. I am running a Christian holiday club on the 8th of August in a Church in Oxford, England. The club is for 30 children aged 5-11 and having one of these inflatable whales for our  Jonah story would be amazing. Before we attempt to make one I was just wondering if anyone on here has one that we could borrow? We are happy to pick it up or pay for postage or rental. Please let me know if this is a possibility!

Thanks all and God bless,


Hi, @Georgina Fensom! Welcome to 

I have also shared your request on our Facebook page. If you are on Facebook, you might want to like our page and comment on the post to increase its visibility.

I made a whale years ago at a different church. I imagine the big black tarp has disappeared in a supply closet clean out. But it was pretty simple version with lots of tape and a borrowed box fan  (and a can of open tuna for “smell effects”).  The kids loved it  


Hi @Amy Crane,

Thanks so much for your message and for sharing this request on the Rotation Facebook page. I've been on and liked the paged and commented on the post. Fingers crossed someone has an inflatable whale lying around! If not the fantastic instruction on here should help us make one!

Thanks again and best wishes,


Jonah's Whale Appears!

We left our Jonah whale deflated and covered with a blue tarp, then when we turned on the fan inside the whale, and the whale inflated, the blue tarp fell off, and the kids loved it!

See the next post below of Jonah being swallowed up and complaining.

(Videos from the Goodwood Church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA)


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen