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Editor's Note:


Guest Jeri kicked off this subject many years ago, but it's a reoccurring one in most Sunday Schools, even in Rotation!  As has often been noted: "children don't drive themselves."  


Your insights and advice are welcome whether you are using Rotation or not.





Our workshops are supposed to start at 9:30 --but we have children arriving anywhere from 9:15 - 9:30.


Does anyone have any activities or suggestions for the kids when they first get there? We don't like the idea of the children just standing around waiting for their shepherd or teacher, and it doesn't look too inviting for new members and the kids want to start running.


Would you believe we can't find anyone who would like to volunteer as a greeter just to say "hi" to the kids? Any ideas would be appreciated.

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
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We have started offering a very light breakfast before Sunday School starts.


It has encouraged kids and workers to arrive early and spend some fellowship time together. We've found that the parents DO try to make this, and if they are late anyway, they are just in time for class to begin (sneaky huh?).


Maybe this would give your kids (and early arriving parents) a place to land and connect before classtime. 

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

Abingdon Press has a book titled "Arrival Activities from A-Z: Things to Do When the First Child Arrives", by Daphna Flegal and Peg Augustine. 

It has puzzles and activity sheets.


Another suggestion if you have REGULAR early arrivers: create an "early arriver welcome center."


Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
Many of our children have children's choir practice 15 minutes before the start of class. For the ones who are not in the choir, I try to provide our leaders with some activities: puzzles, word searches, coloring pages, etc.based on the unit theme for the early arrivals. Also the children help the leader set up the room - names tags, collection, supplies, etc. Not brilliant ideas but it seems to help.

We adapted this idea from a church in California:

We do not let children into our classroom space until the adults are in place (which is hopefully 15 minutes before official start time). But we also know that having UNSTRUCTURED time can lead to kids going out of control and running loose, ...which affects the beginning of classes in a negative way when we do finally corral them.


So.... we have the children sit with their shepherd and do what we call "Buckets of Fun" time.

The buckets are actually shoebox or bigger Rubbermaid-type storage containers with games, legos, geomags (most popular these days), etc. in them. As preparation for class each week, the Shepherd gets one or two "buckets" off of the shelf in the Children's Ministry closet (their children and other early arrivers get to help choose). When it is time to begin, someone blinks the lights and all the stuff is dumped into the "bucket" and everyone is ready. So you can't play long involved games like Monopoly. And you want to encouraged relaxed non-competitive playing that allows latecomers to add in. (Pick up sticks, Jenga, Kerplunk are games that work well.)

Also during this time, the Shepherd can have informal "how was your week?" and "how did the game/performance go?" type conversations.


We've educated our shepherds to understand this THIS TIME is very valuable shepherding time.

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
We have recently started an activity that has kids coming early just to do!

We have about 8 - 10 games (most are for 2) set up for the kids. They know that these games stay out from 9 - 9:30 (we start at 9:30) and they are then covered by a tarp at 9:30.. in time for our opening.

Games include: basketball shoot with fingers, checkers, bowling (plastic), don't break the ice etc. This is a great time to just "talk" with the kids about their week in an environment that they are comfortable. We started this after visiting another church in our area.. It's been a big hit!


15 minutes is not a very early arrival. It will go by fast, and I don't know a teacher who couldn't use a little extra help in that 15 minutes. Involving the kids in the room preparation can be great personal time with students, and make them feel INVESTED in the class.

Pre-Workshop Activities:

Drama:  Have early arrivers help you sort or create props and staging.

Cooking: Have early arrivers get out cooking supplies and perhaps have them prepare a little pre-class snack, like trail mix.

Computers: Lots of the software you have already used have games in them which you can assign for the kids to go back and play again (which they will gladly do).

Art:  Have the early arriving students make a BIBLE VERSE SIGN for the DAY taken from the lesson.

Video:  Ask them to cue up the video and test the sound volume, and pop the popcorn.

Games:  Arrange and Test the game equipment. Help lay out the game supplies.

For regular early arrivers, turn them into "GO-FERs" ...making copies, gathering supplies, posting signs, etc.

Also invite an early-arriver to FIND THE SCRIPTURE and prepare to read part of it for the class.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen



Excerpts from previous posts:


"ONE or TWO Children Arriving Late"


Karen wrote:

No matter what we say, we always have a few kids showing up 5, 10, 15 minutes late to class. I used to sweat it, until one of the parents told me "we're late for everything." It's just how they roll through life. 


The child of those parents was MORTIFIED by walking in late. And that's when I realized we needed to make sure THE CHILD didn't feel singled out or LEFT out, otherwise, their embarrassment could eventually turn into "I don't want to come."


For that particular child, I found that they responded positively when we made a big "welcoming" deal about them (finally) arriving. Another child might not have appreciated the attention, so be careful. 




"Lots of kids arriving late"  --a lesson plan solution


Ginny wrote:


In our church, late arriving kids had more to do with our early Sunday School time than parents bad habits. We started at 8:30 am!  And I'd say about 1/3 of our kids would show up at 8:40, especially in the winter, --no matter how much we encouraged the parents to arrive on time.


I tried talking to the parents to no avail. Then I started adjusting my lessons to make sure we did an OPENING ACTIVITY related to our topic, but not essential to the lesson, so that late arrivers didn't miss to much.


For example, in Art, we would do a quick drawing or clay-formation project about how they felt about a certain subject/problem/idea ...which was related to the verse for the day.


In Drama, I might do a quick skit about the subject for the day before going into the study.


In our computer lab, we'd preview the software for the first 5 minutes to learn how it worked, or take a quiz about something we taught them earlier in the year.


In Bible Gameland, we would play a quick memory game about the PREVIOUS rotation's lesson content to refresh their memory.


In Video, we often had to start ON-TIME, so I would make sure we have an extra couple bags of popcorn and seating NEAR THE DOOR so that late arrivers wouldn't interrupt the video and class. I would also position myself near the door to quiet people down as they arrived.

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

Brittany Nelson of Deeper Kidmin wrote a great blog post about what to do with children who arrive early for Sunday school: The Chips and Salsa of Sunday Morning: Leveraging Arrival Time to Minimize Chaos. She compares the chips and salsa when you arrive at a Mexican restaurant to the things kids need when they arrive at church: a volunteer and some sort of planned activity to keep them busy (so they don't make up their own "fun" or start gossiping or ....).

Happy early arrival chlidren

Her post lists a number of suggestions for meaningful engagement before the formal start of the lesson, and we have a number of ideas listed above. One point that Brittany makes in the blog is that this is an excellent topic for Teacher Training - all of our volunteers should have a plan for how to fill that extra time.

There are some terrific suggestions in the blog. My list for greeting early arrivers:

  • Have them help you finish setting up for class (if your church is like mine, you know you can count on a few kids of other volunteers being their early because their parents (just like you) need to be there early to get ready. Depending on the lesson, save them jobs such as setting out art, game or drama supplies; rearranging furniture; or cutting stuff out or prepping teaching supplies in some way.
  • Some lesson plans have an open-ended activity that you can do, and people can add in as they arrive. If some students miss it, they will not have missed a key part of the lesson.
  • Take advantage of some small group conversation time with your students. Ask them how their week was, what exciting plans are coming up, what their favorite book or movie is. Even talking about the weather can lead to a more in-depth discussion of what they are interested in and plans and hopes for the upcoming weeks.


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  • Happy early arrival chlidren

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