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Sunday, September 13, 2015

A New Year in the Atrium





Today we welcomed back some old friends and also some new ones to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at St. Mary's. We had 16 children between the ages of 3 and 6. Some were excited to enter the room and others were not so sure they wanted to leave mom and dad but I think by the end of the morning, everyone had found something they enjoyed working with.

Today was a day we introduce the new children to some of the rules of the classroom (use a small rug to work on the floor, carry a tray with two hands, walk around another person's rug, etc.) I also introduced the children to flower arranging, which is one of the most favorite activities in the classroom. Just like in church, we adorn the classroom and our prayer table with God's beauty. The only problem is that we never have enough vases!

At the end of the day I also introduced the children to our prayer table. The children can choose to set up the table any time during class or we often set it up as a group at the end of our session. Throughout the year the items we place on the table vary. We always start with a cloth in the color of the liturgical year (green today for Ordinary time), our little Good Shepherd statue, a candle, a prayer card and a lovely flower. 

We do use real candles in the Atrium (the name of our classroom) but are very careful to insure the safety of the children. We remind them to sit away from the candle and to be very still while it is lit. When the table is set up we can look at how beautiful the table looks and tell Jesus anything we'd like. Sometimes we sing a song and sometimes we practice being very quiet.

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What you can do at home: Set aside a small prayer space in your home. It could be in a common area like the living room (on the coffee table or mantle) or in your child's bedroom. You could even make it from a shoe box and store the items inside. Make it an area that your child can easily reach and allow them to place things and rearrange things on the space. It should be hands-on! Cover the area with the liturgical color of the season (green, white, purple or red). Use colored construction paper if you don't have fabric. Include a small cross or crucifix, a photo of a saint or the holy family in a small frame (print them from the internet), ask if grandma and grandpa have some old statues they would donate to the cause or maybe even some old religious medals. There are electric candles that your child can use on his or her own or perhaps under your supervision you could have a lit candle during family time at the prayer table. Spend time with your child at this table talking about the items, about how Jesus loves them and how we can speak to him about anything. Make it a quiet time together.