As many of you know, we hosted our third annual children's retreat back in March. It was an amazing day, and I have had a few people request a bit more information about what we did. I've put together some practical highlights for other people looking to do the same.
Our parish can not afford to do a week long "vacation Bible school," so we have made it a habit each Great Lent to have one day for a children's retreat. This year, our theme was the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary. I think it was our best retreat yet!
The curriculum we used was from this Greek Orthodox website. The catalog can be found here. I ordered the following items for about $100:
V21 Volume 1 Master Tool kit
v21-5Prayer service booklet
v22-6 Student classroom booklet
v21-7 Theotokos Stamp
CB301 Illustrated Life of the Theotokos
They are well-done and I was very happy to have the guidance of a pre-planned program. In the past, I have created the retreat from scratch which is very difficult! I did have to edit the material in some places, namely, it is created to be a week-long program and we had just one day! I also thought that the music provided was not impressive, but the content was excellent.
You can print out our schedule for the day here. Basically, instead of four days of classes, we ended up with four stations which the children rotated through. Each station lasted about 45 minutes. We had a snack in the morning and also served lunch.
We started the day by checking in all the children for their "trip:"
They had to stamp their "passports" first. We made basic salt dough in four different colors, then we used the Theotokos medal (dipped in a LOT of flour) to stamp into the dough. While the children participated in the retreat, our kitchen staff baked them so they would be hard. We gave them to the children at the end of the day to take home and hang up in their prayer space. You can find a recipe for simple bake clay online, or use the recipe I found here.
The children also picked up their "luggage," which was a gift bag labeled with their group name on it. Inside the bag, I put inexpensive gifts and sea-travel themed games and activities. I also had coloring pages out for the children to have something to do while everyone arrived and we got them all checked in. Throughout the day, children had things to add to their luggage at each station.
Next, we broke into our groups (by age) and started out to our stations. I had treasure maps for everyone to follow. They are very cute, check them out!
The station curriculum was from the pre-planned retreat, then a few adds from each of the teachers to personalize the station. We taught the children about the Nativity of the Theotokos, the Annunciation, her presentation in the Temple, and her Dormition. If you are interested in more details about our "adds" to the curriculum, message me, and I will get the information to you!
We made an effort at each station to have a lesson, craft/hands on activity, and something active. We had children as young as 3 and old as 16, so it can be challenging to accommodate this large of a group. We also gave the children journals. I used the student booklet from the pre-made retreat as a template, but made our own journals. I included a coloring page for each station in the books for our pre-readers, as well as plenty of writing and drawing space for older children. They decorated their own covers and I think the journals turned out fantastic!
Here are a few highlights of the day.
I hope that this helps you to put on a retreat at your own parish! Please feel free to contact me if you would like more guidance!
P.S. I picked pictures that you can't see the kiddos' faces since they don't all belong to me. So, I know they're a bit generic, but at least you get the idea! :-)