Jenny Jones, Director of One Way UK Creative Ministries
I started helping with our church’s Tots Group after my son David was born. That was thirty years ago now! Sadly, due to work commitments, I had to pass on the leadership in 2010, but in January last year I felt led to start helping with the group again. It was so good to be back and there were some familiar faces there; toddlers who had been coming with their parents years before were now attending with their own children. Some things had changed though. The children who come are younger than before because children now start pre-school at an earlier age. But perhaps the thing that struck me most was how different song time was. It used to be a fantastic time which the children and their parents or carers enjoyed taking part in together, but now it felt as though the adults were more engaged with their phones rather than with the singing of the children.
After seeing an item on the Scramblers Network on Facebook about using a song bag, we decided to trial it ourselves and see just how well it worked. The concept is simple: objects are placed in a bag, each representing a different nursery rhyme or song, and the children take turns to pull out the object for the song they want to sing next. So, for example, a Humpty Dumpty finger puppet to sing Humpty Dumpty and a crown for Who’s the King of the Jungle.
The first time we tried it out it transformed the song time! The children couldn’t wait for their turn to rummage in the bag to find an object, and the parents and grandparents were really engaged, both watching the children and joining in the songs … not a phone in sight! They can’t wait for song time each week now, and it has become a very special part of our afternoon together.
Once we knew the idea worked well as we’d hoped, One Way UK began working to develop and test it further. We selected a list of twelve popular songs, then sourced, designed and 3D-printed some beautiful props and tactile objects in bold colours and a range of textures. Everything was eventually finally brought together into a single ready-to-go kit which includes song lyrics for when your mind goes blank!
We launched the Sing With Me – Nursery Rhyme Bag at the Playtime conference in Wigan in September 2019 and sold out of them on the day. While, of course, it is possible to make a song bag yourself and find your own items, finding the time to do so is often the greatest challenge, so our ready-made kit has been very popular. We’ve had lots of feedback from leaders saying how delighted they are by it because they’ve wanted to do make it but never had the chance.
Following the popularity of the first kit, we conducted a survey to find out which songs were most in demand for an expansion set. This has now also been launched and many people are buying both sets at the same time. It’s wonderful to hear stories of song times being transformed and the excitement and enjoyment experienced by the adults and children participating together!
I have really enjoyed getting back into our toddler group. Although many things have changed, the time spent together with the mums, dads, grandparents or carers is still really special and valuable. The relationships built and the support given mean a great deal to the members of the group and is an important part of the connection the church has with the community.
You can see our promotional video and order your own Sing with Me – Nursery Rhyme Bag on our website at www.onewayuk.com/singwithme or call our team on 01472 362810 to place the order over the phone. We would love to hear about your ministry and are keen to help or support you however we can.