Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Chalice Children: A Program about Our Unitarian Universalist Community for Preschoolers

Activity 5: Memorial Service

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • A music player and a recording of "Pachelbel's Canon" or other solemn music
  • Battery-operated tea lights, one for each child
  • Paper towels, moistened
  • For flower collages: Pictures of flowers, cut-out from magazines; child-friendly scissors, including left-handed scissors; construction paper (one sheet for each child); and glue sticks
  • For tissue paper flowers: Tissue paper, pipe cleaners, and (optional) pictures of loved ones or mementos that children have brought
  • "Generic" mementos such as stuffed animals, pictures of nature scenes, or toy plastic food items
  • Optional: Script from a memorial service at your congregation
  • Optional: Digital camera or smartphone

Preparation for Activity

  • Decide whether to have children make flower collages or tissue paper flowers. For the flower collage, cut out pictures of flowers from magazines. For the tissue paper flowers, this video shows you how to make them.
  • Find a recording of "Pachelbel's Canon" or choose other solemn music to play during this activity.
  • Find out how your congregation offers memorial services. Ask a minister or congregational leader or minister for a sample script or order of service. Decide which elements, if any, you will incorporate into your special Memorial Service.
  • Decide whether to hold your Memorial Service outdoors, weather permitting. If your congregation has a Memorial Garden, it might be especially meaningful to hold your service there. Make sure an outdoor location is accessible to everyone who will join you and arrange to have adequate supervision to bring the children outside. If you will play music, make sure your music player does not require an electric outlet.
  • It may take a while for some preschool children to articulate their sad feelings. Plan to speak in a slow and gentle voice, and leave lots of space for the children to share their feelings. By waiting and taking breaths between times when you speak, you will invite shy or quiet children to say something.

Description of Activity

Children create either flower collages or tissue paper flowers and participate in a special Memorial Service.

Invite the children to gather around the activity table to make flower collages or tissue paper flowers. Play the music you've chosen. Distribute the supplies, and tell them that they are going to make something beautiful to add to the memorial service. Either have them glue flower pictures to a piece of construction paper, or demonstrate how to make a tissue paper flower. Optional: Take a picture of the children's completed collages or flowers.

Invite the children to bring their collages or flowers, and any family mementos or photos they brought with them, and join you in the circle. Give each child a tea light. Say, in these words your own:

We are now going to have our own Memorial Service for all the people, pets, or sad things that we named earlier, in our circle. First, we will light candles and place our flowers.

Have each child "light" their candle, place it in the middle of the circle, and place their flower pictures or flowers around them. As the children light their candles, you can encourage them to say the name of the person or pet they named during Circle Time, for example, "I light this candle for Grandpa Jerry" or "I place this flower for my cat, Audrey." Say, in these words or your own:

Sometimes at a memorial service, family members share their stories. Sometimes there is a book that everyone signs, where people can leave a loving note for the family. Sometimes there are pictures of the person who has died. People also might share mementos-objects or things that make you think of and remember the person. Did anyone bring a picture or a memento of a loved one who has died?

Invite the children to share their photo or memento and tell the group about it.

Say, in these words or your own:

If you didn't bring a picture or memento today, would you still like to share something about a loved one who has died?

If you have generic mementos, you can offer them at this time.

Say, in these words or your own:

It makes us sad to remember sad things. But it makes us feel loved when we are able to share our sad feelings together, and that helps us feel better.

Have the children give one another a big group hug!

Invite the children to clean up the activity area. They can wipe up glue from the table with moistened paper towels, put away the art supplies, put the tea lights in a bin, and put the photos and mementos in a safe place.

Including All Participants

If any child has mobility problems, you could hold the Memorial Service in a circle of chairs to make it easier to include a wheelchair or for a child to sit while wearing leg braces. If any children are not able to come forward to light a tea candle, have all the children participate from where they are seated or pre-arrange for a co-leader to assist any of the children who need help.