Alternate Activity 1: Water Ceremony

Alternate Activity 1: Water Ceremony
Alternate Activity 1: Water Ceremony

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Leader Resource 1, The Flower and Water Ceremonies
  • Pretty tablecloth
  • Attractive, clear vase or pitcher of water
  • Clear plastic cups, one for each child
  • A large bowl
  • Paper towels
  • Materials for a supplementary, sensory activity
  • Optional: Digital camera or smartphone

Preparation for Activity

  • Read Leader Resource 1, The Flower and Water Ceremonies, for background information and terminology regarding the water ceremony.
  • Choose an activity to supplement the water ceremony with a sensory experience (sight, smell, and touch). For example, you could take the children outside and use the water from the ceremony to give a drink to a plant. You could take them on a walk to explore a nearby creek, or engage them in water play or making bubbles. This video suggests a way to incorporate music play into water play. In Session 9, Activity 3 of the Toolbox of Faith Tapestry of Faith program, you will find an alternate water service, designed for children a bit older (grades 4/5). You can also search the Tapestry of Faith online curricula for more ideas (use the search feature and search for "water service" and choose "activity" for "type of resource"). Activities will need to be adapted for preschoolers.
  • Gather materials for a supplementary, sensory activity.
  • Choose a short reading or simple hymn, such as "I've Got Peace Like a River," Hymn 100 in Singing the Living Tradition. Consult the Topical Index of Readings/Hymns in the back of Singing the Living Tradition for other suggestions. You could also use a reading from your own congregation's special worship service resources. If the words of the reading seem too sophisticated for the preschoolers, revise them as needed.
  • Choose a site to hold the water ceremony. Set up a service altar with a pretty cloth, a vase or pitcher of clean water, and a large bowl.

Description of Activity

Children participate in a water ceremony, preschool-style.

Invite the children to join you at the area you've chosen for the ceremony. Have them sit in a circle. Tell them that they are going to role-play a special worship service: the water ceremony. Say, in these words or your own:

Many Unitarian Universalist congregations hold a water ceremony at the end of the summer, where people of all ages bring water from somewhere they traveled this summer or from a place that is special to them. They each pour their special water into one big bowl. The combined water represents our shared faith, which comes from many different sources. [Tell how your congregation uses the water, for example, in child dedication ceremonies, or to water plants in the memorial garden.] We will now have our own water ceremony.

Give each child a plastic cup, and pour some water into it from the pitcher. Ask them to think about a place that is special to them that has some water. Prompt with ideas, if necessary, for example:

  • Do you like to play in the ocean? Do you like to take a bubble bath?
  • What's your favorite place to go swimming?
  • Do you remember some hot, hot days this summer? Did you cool off in a sprinkler or at a water park? Did you have a big glass of really cold water?

Invite them to go up to the altar, one at a time, and pour their water into the bowl. As they pour, ask them to say aloud the name of the place their water came from. Model this for them, if needed. As the children pour their water, read the words or sing the song you've chosen. Optional: Take pictures of the children pouring their water.

Say, in these words or your own:

Now all the water is connected, just as everyone and everything are connected by the Spirit of Life.

Invite the children to the activity area, and lead them in the sensory activity you have planned.

When you are done, invite them to help with clean-up. Have them wipe up any spilled water with paper towels.

Circle Time (Activity 3) Adaptation for Water Ceremony

Introduce the special worship service by saying, in these words or your own:

Today we are going to explore the wonder of water. At [name of congregation], we have a special service called a water ceremony. At the water ceremony, people bring water from somewhere they visited this summer or from a place that is special to them. We all pour our special water into one big bowl.

Share your own feelings to add warmth to the description of the service and convey the enjoyment of the special worship service in your own life, for example:

I remember bringing water from the river by my mother's house. I had such a nice visit with my mother that summer. It was fun to remember walking by the river with her.

Some children may remember participating in a water ceremony. Ask, in these words or your own:

Have you or your family ever brought in some water to church [our congregation]? Where did that water come from?

State in simple terms the connection between a water ceremony and our faith, for example:

At [name of congregation], when we combine everyone's water from all these different places, we also think about the faith we share. Our Unitarian Universalist faith also comes from many different sources.

Introduce the next activities by saying, in these words or your own:

Today we are going to have our own water ceremony, but first let's read a story about water.

Story (Activity 4) Adaptation for Water Ceremony

Choose a story from the following suggestions:

  • Water Dance by Thomas Locker, 2002. How does water dance? From rain, to river, to lake, to sea, to cloud, with half a dozen more sidesteps in the circle. (Note: You may wish to simplify the text; in this book, the pictures will be more important for preschoolers.)
  • The Wonder Thing by Libby Hathorn, 1996. Readers are guided on a journey around the world to a deeper appreciation of "the wonder thing"-water-that is all around us.

You might also consider "singing" a story, such as "Wheel of the Water" by Tom Chapin.

Circle Games (Activity 6) Adaptation for Water Ceremony

A new song-"Five Little Ducks"-appears in this session. Teach the children the song or show it to them in a YouTube video. You might also research additional circle games or songs connected to this special worship service, or make up your own water-related lyrics to a common tune.

Five Little Ducks

Five little ducks went out one day,

Over the hills and far away.

Mother Duck said, "Quack, quack, quack, quack,"

But only four little ducks came back.

(And so on, each time decreasing the number of ducks)

Final verse:

Mother Duck went out one day,

Over the hills and far away.

Mother Duck said, "Quack, quack, quack, quack,"

And all of the five little ducks came back.

Closing Adaptation for Water Ceremony

May we remember: Here at [name of congregation], we celebrate the many different sources of our faith in a special worship service called a water ceremony.

Taking It Home Adaptation for Water Ceremony

Wade in the water, wade in the water, children . . . - "Wade in the Water," Hymn 210 in Singing the Living Tradition

IN TODAY'S SESSION . . . the theme was "At [name of congregation], we have a special worship service called a water ceremony." [Describe what you did, e.g., "We held our own water ceremony and then watered the garden with our special water."]

EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER . . . Read one or more of the books suggested for this session:

  • Water Dance by Thomas Locker, 2002. How does water dance? From rain, to river, to lake, to sea, to cloud, with half a dozen more sidesteps in the circle. (Note: You may wish to simplify the text; the pictures in this book will be more important for preschoolers.)
  • The Wonder Thing by Libby Hathorn, 1996. Readers are guided on a journey around the world to a deeper appreciation of "the wonder thing"-water-that is all around us.

EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Run some tap water into a pitcher and look at it closely. Tell your child that this water has been many places (water molecules are recycled over and over; they never cease to exist). Name some water places your child knows about, and say that the water in your pitcher right now might once have been, for example, part of the Amazon River, a local creek or pond, a rain cloud in the sky, the blood or saliva of a tiger in India, snow on top of a mountain. See if your child can think of more places where a water molecule in the pitcher might once have been.

A Family Adventure. Visit as many different bodies of water as you can think of and get to-a lake, a river, a creek, a swimming pool, a bathtub, a puddle. Collect water from every place in clear containers. Label them, then compare all the different waters you've collected.

A Family Discovery. Explore sermons and information related to water ceremonies on the web page, Celebrating the Water Communion, on the UUA website. In UU World magazine, Sonja L. Cohen published the article, "When You Pour Water Into Your Congregation's Water Communion Bowl, Where Will It Come From?" on May 15, 2013.

A Family Game. See how to incorporate music play into water play with your child, in this video. Sing "Five Little Ducks" with your child.

A Family Ritual. Involve the whole family in collecting water to bring to a water ceremony or water communion at your congregation. Create a family water ceremony to do at home, perhaps at the end of each season.

Including All Participants

If any child has mobility challenges, you can conduct the role-play in a circle of chairs to make it easier to include a wheelchair or for a child to sit while wearing leg braces. If you decide to go outdoors, choose an area accessible to all and make sure the group has adequate adult supervision.

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.

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