Sunday, December 18, 2011

Honoring the Saints: Celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe through the Senses as a Way of Training Happy Hearts

As I reflect on the past week, I am grateful for the opportunity that Saints Days provide for engaging children in physical and spiritual exploration of faith.

Earlier in this A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children series, I suggested Creating a Sacred (but Touchable) Space and Making Story Baskets in conjunction with Saints Days.  Today, I would like to share how we honor the saints through all of our senses sometimes.
Like many Catholic families, our family celebrated Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day this past Monday.  In doing so, we keyed into many of our senses.

Luke "Juan Diego" gets in some heavy work on his way to see the bishop.

A Feast for the Senses with a Saints “Tea” Breakfast

We began the day with a simple GFCF breakfast “tea”, replete with sensory input. 

Ready to Awaken Mouth and Nose
 Mexican hot cocoa, made with cocoa, agave, water, salt, cinnamon and almond milk, added a sweet and spicy aroma to our morning.  Our Lady’s “Roses” provided a chance for the children to use their pincer grasps while popping firm, juicy raspberries onto their tongues.  Mexican Wedding Cookies looked a bit off since my adaptation of a gluten-full recipe did not result in delightfully round delicacies, but the children did not mind at all.  They simply enjoyed the sugar-sprinkled crunch of the treats.

Note to self on the menu, though: Expand it for next year’s tea.  The simple fare I prepared for our Lady of Guadalupe breakfast went quickly, and though it provided some wonderful olfactory, tactile and gustatory input, it did not fill the children’s bellies.  They seemed to have woken up in ravenous moods.  So, we supplemented our themed-tea with leftover turkey, some nuts and a few rice cakes.

As the children satiated their physical hunger, we tended to our thirst for spiritual growth (and some added visual input) with a reading of Tomie de Paola’s The Lady of Guadalupe, followed by some prayer and discussion.

Then, the children enjoyed more fine motor work while coloring pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego with thanks to Waltzing Matilda, Coloring Saints and Domestic Church.

Intent on Fine Motor Fun
Getting in Some Saintly Heavy Work with an Obstacle Course

After breakfast, the children helped me set up an Our Lady of Guadalupe-based obstacle course.  It included:

Jaun Diego’s hut
(an infant gym toy with a blanket over it 
to encourage getting in a low-level prone-extension position
with tactile input, too)

 mountains and hills
(cushions and pillows to encourage balance and gross motor muscle work)

Our Lady atop the mountain
(Nina’s coloring taped to the wall, 
which offered opportunities for both control of movement – 
through providing a place for the children to stop traversing the hills – 
and visual focus and imagination – when they stopped to talk with Our Lady)

 and the bishop’s room 
(a blanket rigged up between door knobs and a mini-desk, 
which required the children to get down on a low level again to crawl under)

Just building this course offered opportunities for the children to engage in bending, lifting and carrying – all great vestibular and proprioceptive input.  Then, making our way through the course multiple times as we acted out the story of The Lady of Guadalupe provided the mornings full dose of heavy work.

"Juan Diego" picks winter roses...

and presents them to the "bishop"...
who is amazed by the image discovered on Juan Diego's tilma.

Fine Motor Fun with a Self-Designed Saint Story Play Set

Once our gross motor dramatic play was done, my two older children came up with their own fine motor activity.  The only help they asked me for was twist them some chenille strip people and to help them tape wings onto some.  These, they used to design their own Saints Day Story Set.

 They shaped a representation out of tinfoil of a church, 
complete with a cross on it, 
built to honor Our Lady's requests.  

 Near the church, they competed their playset.

The set included:

  • a hut made a tinfoil for Jaun Diego to live in next to the church.
  • a vision of Our Lady, cut out of one of the coloring pages they had completed at breakfast
  • figurines of Juan Diego, his family and his friends, represented by the chenille strip people they asked me to make, which they clothed tin foil bits
  • angels, made using the chenille people and tinfoil with wings fashioned from cut paper p
  • fish and food to feed all of the people flocking to the church, represented by rolled up bits of tin foil.
With fingers fast at work, my children developed their play set.  With imaginations ignited, they dramatized their own version of what may have happened after the bishop witnessed the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Best of all, they cooperated while they did so.

Continuing On

Throughout the day, whenever it seemed “natural” to do so, we revisited the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady through further reading, conversation and play.  We noted some of Juan’s character traits (faith-filled, caring, loving, dedicated, persistent, obedience…) and tried to model our own real-life and pretend-play behaviors after these.  We also enjoyed Mexican-inspired snack and dinner menus.  Plus, of course, we offered extra prayers to Our Lady from wake up time to bedtime.

 How did you observe the feast day?  Do you add sensory-based activities into your liturgical year celebrations?    Do you have any other ideas to share about training young children up with happy hearts for God? I’d love to hear them in a comment, or to have you link your own posts up below.


Dandelion Wishes said...

My son needs to live in your house! He really needs the sensory diet you are providing, and I'm just not doing a good job of it. You inspire me to try harder.

Martianne said...

Trust me. My son does not always get the sensory diet I should be providing opportunities for him to have either. Not every day is as good as Our Lady of Guadalupe's day was and some days, even if I start out well, I neglect to offer heavy work every few hours...

We all do what we can with God's grace. Thankfully, he offers endless grace.

Do what you can as you can and offer the res to Him!


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