Adventures in AWANA
Last Fall I volunteered to teach AWANA for the youngest group of children in our church. My son is in the Puggles class with me, although he could be a level up (he's just not ready to leave Mommy yet), and he gets excited every week to have me come "teach his class". The lessons were fairly easy: God made the sun, God made the sky... but teaching them to children ages 4 and under was not quite so easy. There were 6 children in the class (max) each Sunday and 3 of them are boys around 3-4 years old. They each have such fun personalities, but when you put them together...it gets a little hairy!!
My boy has a laid back, sometimes shy, likes to play alone, but also likes to tell his friends what he is doing, type of personality. He is in the middle of the other two boys. The younger of the 3 is the middle child in his family and he has learned to take what he wants, no matter who is playing with it. He is adorable and has quite a personality, but he lacks a little in the sharing department. :) The older of the 3 is a well-behaved quiet young man, but he is the youngest of 3 boys in his family. He has an excellent vocabulary and his knowledge of the Bible (of most things, really) is pretty impressive!!
There is also a sweet little 2 year old girl and two babies between the ages of 6-12 months (boy and girl) but they are usually preoccupied with whatever they are playing and pay no mind to the boys' shenanigans. I started out the year with a teenage girl helping me and she occupied the babies while I corral the boys.
About three weeks into the AWANA class, our lesson was God made the Sky. We were supposed to take the children outside and look at the clouds and talk about what we see, etc. but we knew that we couldn't take them outside!! Usually, I let the children play for a while and then try my best to get them to sit down for a story or quick lesson then we sing and play again. This particular Sunday was definitely different. The boys were fired up and not convinced that this was the day to share. The youngest had a truck and trailer and that is my boy's favorite thing EVER. My boy asked if he could play with it and I told him that he needed to wait his turn so the second it was put down, he was on it!! The boys started out playing pretty much seperate, but that changed quickly. There is a small playscape in the room with us that the kids can climb in and then slide down...but really, what boy do you know that wants to climb UP the steps and slide DOWN the slide? You have to climb UP the slide!! As soon as one boy wants to slide down, another boy is taunting him by sitting at the bottom of the slide. As soon as one boy has a car/truck, the other boy really wants that one NOW! Depending on the boy's personality type, he may or may not grab the truck, push the other boy, yell at the other boy, tattle...whatever works. :)
It only took about a short time before I looked at my teenage helper and informed her that we would probably be skipping the "God made the Sky" lesson and learning about Sharing and Manners and Big Boy play!!
At this point, the boys were all 3 in the top of the playscape, each had a car except for my boy who somehow sneakily ended up with 2 cars and were driving them around in circles behind each other. I praised them immediately and told them I appreciated their Big Boy play...and then one stopped. Alright, my boy stopped... He caused a traffic jam of sorts and the youngest who was behind him started pushing and my boy stood firm and whined that the youngest was pushing him. So, the lesson started again.
I have very little patience when it comes to my boy misbehaving. I get upset, angry, embarrassed, frustrated...and he gets more mischievious because he sees it's working. He actually thinks it's funny when he's being stubborn. I kept my cool and was surprised at how well I took it all. We learned a lot about manners and sharing and the boys really responded well!! I don't really remember what all I said to them, but it was a lot of praise for the good and some type of redirection and instruction when things were not so good. They started to act proud of being able to play together in that little playscape.
They eventually got down and the teen girl tossed a ball to them to take turns and they loved that!! At some point, someone asked for a snack and the three boys and 2 year old girl all sat politely at the table and ate graham crackers and drank water. I took this opportunity to sneak in the "God made the Sky" lesson...and they listened and interacted and answered questions!!
Toward the end of the time in class, I took them all to the window to look at the sky and we talked about clouds and shapes and how God made all of that and God made EVERYTHING. The youngest of the boys, who is often the most challenging, LOVED this part so much that when everyone else went back to play, he wanted to stay at the window with me and talk about the sky. When his mom came to get him, we had to tap him to get his attention because he was so interested in the clouds moving!!
I feel like this was a turning point in our AWANA adventure Sundays because things really started to shape up after this. After a few weeks, the teen girl stopped coming in (I'm still not sure why, but since things were running smoothly, it was okay with me) and the children looked forward to coming to "class". I'm a little sad that AWANA is coming to an end this year, but I'm very proud of the changes they made this year. I will likely have to un-volunteer for next year because I want my boy to move up and I'm not sure that he will if he knows that I am teaching in the younger class, but this has been such a great learning experience for me and for the children that I am thankful that I was given this opportunity to grow, step out of my comfort zone (extremely shy, here!!), and spend my Sunday mornings with these beautiful little children.
Janet is a full time work outside the home mommy of one fast and furious four year old. She rambles on about life and stuff at GoingCrazy!! WannaGo??!! She also talks some about her passion, Child Safety, as well as reviews family-friendly products and hosts a ton of giveaways.