Happy St. Nicholas' Feast Day!
I realized last night that I never shared about our Sensing the Saints: St. Nicholas Learn-and-Play Date we enjoyed last year and thought now might be a prime time to do so. For, if, like me, you're a last-minute Mom (Dad or Teacher) when it comes to celebrating the saints at times, perhaps you can pull a few quick ideas from what we did.
The kids played and browsed books after Mass while I set up for our playdate quickly at a friends' home. Then, we gatherted together to chat about St. Nicholas and his feast day. Among other things, we:
- prayed the Sign of the Cross followed by a short prayer found in Prayers to My Favorite Saints (which sells used at Amazon for just a penny right now!), echo-style with the children echoing words and actions.
Saint Nicholas, you were a kind and generous man (gesture with hands over heart on “kind” and hands outstretched on “generous”)
and a special friend of children (do ASL sign for “friend” on “friend”)
I pray that I may always show my gratitude (do prayer hands on “pray”)
to people who are good to me. (hands outstretched to indicate everyone else on people)
May I return their kindness with love(hands on heart) and may I never hesitate to share their care with others. (hands outstretched again)
- reviewed the names of the months, days of the week, and
counting to six for the littles when finding St. Nicholas' feast day on a
- Drew attention to the different images of Saint Nicholas on picture book covers from the books which follow and asked children what they might share about St. Nicholas based on their prior knowledge and guesses after viewing the book covers.
Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale (15th Anniversary Edition, with
Bonus Cookie Recipe and Pattern for St. Nicholas Christmas Cookies)
- discussed where St. Nicholas was from (Turkey) and located the country on a globe.
- chatted about what a saint is and expanded on kids' ideas with the thoughts that:
- We are saints on earth when we love Jesus Christ and follow his teachings.
- There are also saints in heaven, some of whom are named, like St. Nicholas.
- The saints are saints that are canonized. One thing that happens before a saint is canonized is a miracle – or two.
We then chatted about how St. Nicholas was known to have been involved in many miracles and read The Legend of St. Nicholas, having children listen for miracles for examples of kind acts. As we read, we paused to discuss images, text and the children’s reactions to the story and, after the story, we discussed what a virtue is (a habit for good), what some virtues that St. Nicholas demonstrated were (generosity, kindness, faith, etc.), and how we might live such virtues.
Of course, if you're super last-minute, you may not be able to get any books about St. Nicholas in time for today. Never fear! The Saint Nicholas Center has lots of free stories and information online!
After storytime, it was onto choice activities.
I explained that the stories about St. Nicholas’ kindnesses and miracles which we had just heard about in the book are only a small portion of the ones attributed to St. Nicholas and that they are what inspired our activities for the day, which were:
Toss the Coin Like St. Nicholas, where children could get proprioceptive, tactile and visual input, in particular as they built a house with Duplos, like the one the poor nobleman’s daughters lived in – leaving windows – and then acted as Saint Nicholas by tossing coins through the windows.
(You could build the houses with just about anything if you don't have Duplos!)
Color the Bishop St. Nicholas, where children could exercise fine motor skills as they identified the symbols of a bishop and color pictures of St. Nicholas and recalled one thing St. Nicholas is patron to (children). For this activity, we used markers and color sticks, which are one our favorite coloring tools and so much better than crayons for one of my kiddoes, to color this image from the St. Nicholas Center.
Be the Patron Saint of Sailors, where children thoroughly enjoyed the tactile input of sensory play while remembering another thing Saint Nicholas is a patron to (sailors!) We used waterbeads like these and the baot and a few figurines from our Tales of Glory playset (on sale at Amazon now for 32% off), but you could use any play boat and figurines.
Prepare to Give Grain Like St. Nicholas, where children again exercised fine motor skills while making snowflakes of their own design or using printables from First Palette. They also were encouraged to take printable from the St. Nicholas Center home so they could use the snowflakes to make a secret gift for their neighbors, thereby showing kindness and generosity like St. Nicholas.
Roll the Cup, where children could enjoy proprioceptive and vestibular fun while recalling one of the miracles attributed to St. Nicholas. (We used golden goblets from a mini Mass kit we own, but I forgot to take pictures.)
Write a Letter, where children could do as children in Bavaria do and write letters to the Christ Child in Heaven.
After all that fun, of course, there was clean up and free play.
Later, at home, my children put together a basket which we secretly dropped off at a neighbor's home.
I know one of the other families that attended did the same.
Free Printable Plans
I hope some of our activities inspire your own. In case you'd like to use all of them, I am sharing the FREE Sensing the Saints: St. Nicholas lesson plan I created, which has materials lists, objectives, assessments, etc. included. Please feel free to download and use it in your own homes, co-ops, or classrooms and to point others to this post to do the same.
Have a most wonderful St. Nicholas Day! I'd love to hear how you play and learn about this inspiring saint. Do leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.