Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How to plan a Noah's Ark VBS for 4s and 5s

For the past two years, I’ve taught the 4s and 5s class during our week-long Vacation Bible School. It is a lot of fun, and a lot of work! We don’t purchase curriculum for this event, it is up to me to provide the material for my class. The little kids do almost everything independently from the big kids, so that is roughly two hours of time I have to fill up.

Sound a little scary? It really isn’t bad...but like I said, it is a lot of work!

Today I am going to share how I put materials and resources together to make my “curriculum” for the week, as well as my online sources and how I plan the week out. {Warning, its a novel!} Hopefully this will be a help to someone else faced with this situation in the future!

This was our nursery-turned-classroom...excuse the lovely "ark"

This week our VBS theme was Noah’s ark...a pretty simple theme, great for the 4s and 5s! All of my kids this year were unchurched, so that made it challenging...I started to realize about the second night in that they pretty much had no concept of God, the Bible, etc. That made it a bit more interesting!

When planning for the week, I find the first thing to do is plan a rough schedule for each night. Mine looked like this:


--Washroom --
Take attendance - put stickers on chart

Sing theme song

Explain rules + prizes

Song  - deep & wide, fishers of men



Song - the joy of the Lord

Extra info - dinos

Learn verse - Genesis 6:8

Song - theme song, fishers of men

How to draw a dino

Announcements - tomorrow is colour a rainbow night, say verse

Candy, quiet seat prize

It is a vague schedule that probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but it is a starting point! Then, I just have to prepare each aspect of the night. This includes planning the lessons, making song and verse posters, making an attendance chart, etc.

We started each night in a general assembly with the other kids for about 15 minutes. Once we were dismissed to our class, we always stopped by the washroom first thing! I don’t want any have-to-go moments in the middle of a lesson, and with this preventative step that doesn't usually happen.

Once down in our classroom, they got stickers on the attendance chart for attendance, bringing a Bible, bringing a visitor, and saying their verse.

This was the attendance chart.

Our theme song this year was “Wide, Wide as the Ocean.” We also sang, “Fishers of Men,” “Deep + Wide,” and “The Joy of the Lord.” Most of those are action songs, so I don’t make a poster for them. My hands need to be free to teach the motions, and besides, these kids can’t read anyway! I only had a poster for “The Joy of the Lord,” and that was actually left over from last year. This song is a hit with kids, one girl requested the “happy” song in the middle of the week. :)

My rules for any kids class of any age are always the following:

Sit up
Look up
Zip up

That pretty much covers everything and keeps it simple to remember!

A landing place for everything I might need throughout the week.

For the lesson time, I always open my Bible and read one or two verses straight from the text. Do they understand it? Not much. But I want them to know that I’m not making this stuff up, it comes straight from God’s word. Then with this age group, I proceed to tell the story in my own words.

My lessons each night were quite short - I just broke up the story of Noah into 5 parts - but they are little! I heard once that kids have an attention span about as long as their age. So my overall attention span was 4 minutes! My lessons weren’t that short….but I did try to keep things moving.

I typed out a general outline of what I wanted to say, and made sure I was very familiar with the text and story. I tried to give them specific things to remember, certain things I emphasized and asked them over and over throughout the week. With the Noah story I tried to emphasize that sin caused the flood, and sin has consequences in our lives, too. One girl told me she never did anything to make her parents sad. She’ll learn! =)

This year I tried something new and brought in some “extra info” each night. I figured the story of Noah was a good time to plant seeds in their minds that would contradict with the evolution they will be taught once they start school. I obviously kept it super simple - we didn’t actually talk about evolution or anything - but I gave them some info about different things from Noah’s day or the effects of the flood.

During the week we talked about Dinosaurs, Sharks and large fish, and fossils. I also was prepared to talk about the Grand Canyon, but we ran out of time. (plus I am not sure these Canadian kids would have even known what that was!) They especially loved the Dinos and Sharks. I gained most of my info from the Answers in Genesis website, including the How to Draw a Dino we did as an activity on Monday. I did the drawing with the narration first, and then let them try it. I printed off little veggies and leaves (from Microsoft Office Clip Art - what would we do without it?) and they glued those in the thought bubble to show what the dino’s ate. It was a fun activity that taught them a little bit of truth about Dinos!

I already talked about how I taught verses throughout the week, but here are all the specific verses we used:

Genesis 6:8 “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (this was the theme verse, and all of my kids learned this one!)

Genesis 7:5 “And Noah did...all that the LORD commanded him.”

Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah...prepared an ark…”

Hebrews 11:6a “Without faith, it is impossible to please him…”

Nehemiah 8:10b “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Each night I gave out a coloring sheet with their verse printed on it so they could review it at home. I used coloring sheets from here and wrote the verses on myself.

I like to give out lots of candy during the week. When I ask review questions, I give a small piece of candy (tootsie rolls are perfect) for each attempted answer. Plus I sometimes just randomly reward good behavior throughout the night. This helps to keep them alert to what they should be doing! At the end of the night, each child gets a piece of candy for each sticker he has on his chart that night. And one gets picked each night for a quiet seat...that person gets to take a handful of candy from my bucket!

I have found the best way to handle all the rewards is to start the night by giving each child a paper bag with their name on it. Candy goes directly into the bag when it is received, they are not allowed to hold it, play with it, or eat it! If necessary, I don’t even give them the bag, but set it all aside until the end. I haven’t had any issues with this method!

I have also tried to do other small incentives each night. One night they could bring in a stuffed animal to show the class, one night they were supposed to wear clothing with an animal on it, etc. However, this age group rarely remembers to do any of that. So I’m thinking next year I’ll skip that...it might be perfect for older kids, however!

At the end of the week, I give out a larger prize for the child with the most stickers on the chart, the one who said the most verses, and the one who brought the most visitors. Again, these kids didn’t really seem to understand that they could be working towards those prizes; however they did enjoy getting them. That is why I think giving the small candy rewards is important for this age. It is an instant reward, they understand what they are being rewarded for. They don’t seem to understand that all those good things add up throughout the week. This too would depend on the age!

The prizes sat there tempting them all week! Whenever I allow them to go look at the prize table, I make them put their hands behind their back. No touching the prizes until Friday night!

Well, this has been an extremely long post...if you’re still reading, kudos to you! I think I’ve covered all the basics, but there are a lot more details to consider. If you have any questions or would like more explanations about anything, just leave a comment or shoot me an email, I’d love to help you out!

I’d also love for you to share tips or suggestions for working with the younger age groups. I’m sure some of you have been doing it longer than I have and have more wisdom to share! Please do, I’m looking forward to learning from you!


  1. Wow...I love what you did! For college we had to write our own vbs curriculum and I've always hoped to be able to use it some day. I taught a kid's club one year for a church outside of Halifax and I wrote my own curriculum for that as well. Well, I think it would have worked out to more than one, lol. I didn't want the church to have to pay for a curriculum for me to use when I'm so used to making up most of my own stuff anyway. I had so much with it. The final term we did the armour of the Lord. I really encouraged the kids to memorize the books of the Bible (they were pretty much un-churched) and three of them did! Their prize was a Bible of their own. It worked with a small group but could get expensive. =)

    1. Thanks Amanda! Love your suggestions as well. Sounds like you did a great job!


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