Tapestry of Faith: Exploring Our Values Through Poetry: A Program for High School Youth

Faith In Action: Poetry Pajama Party

Materials for Activity

  • Books of children's poetry
  • Arts and crafts materials
  • Blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, and/or bean bag chairs
  • Congregational calendar
  • Newsprint or dry erase board and markers
  • Optional: Hand puppets or materials for making simple puppets
  • Optional: Snacks

Preparation for Activity

  • From the congregation's religious educator, seek permission ahead of time to have the pajama party at your place of worship. She/he can tell you the guidelines for hosting such an event, including what space you can use, how many adults need to be present, whether you are allowed to serve food, and whether others in the congregation need to be consulted.

Description of Activity

Host a Poetry Pajama Party for young children in your congregation.

This activity will help youth share their love of poetry with others and build multigenerational connections. When you have permission to hold the event, ask the group if they would like to share their experiences with poetry with younger children in the congregation. Youth who have not had much interaction with the younger children might be pleasantly surprised to see how many youngsters think they are extremely cool.

Use newsprint or the dry erase board to list the party logistics that you must settle. These may include:

  • when the party will be held
  • where the party will be held
  • what ages will be invited
  • how long will the party last
  • which youth can help with the party

If some youth cannot attend the party because of conflicts, invite them to help with prearrangements such as making phone calls, sending e-mails, selecting poems, or planning snacks. If youth have transportation issues, arrange carpools according to your congregation's safety policies.

If you are serving food, be aware of allergies and which foods are off-limits. Decide how you will obtain the food.

Now decide what you will do at the party. A simple party format is best, such as:

1. Children arrive in pajamas and set up blankets and pillows in a large space.

Organize an activity for early arrivers to do while waiting for everyone else to arrive. You might consider having them make simple animal puppets. To do this, provide cartoon-like pictures of the animals that are included in the poems to be read. Have children color the pictures, cut them out (with assistance), and glue them to wooden craft sticks. Instruct them to write their initials on the back and set the puppets aside to dry.

2. When everyone has arrived, play a game. You may need another room or space for the game.

3. Reconvene in the party room. While participants take turns reading poems, children could snack on popcorn or another easy snack. Consider interspersing popular children's songs, riddles, or jokes between the poems. Alternatively, you could read poems for several minutes, stop for a craft activity related to the poetry, and then read a bit more before children collect their crafts and go home.

Decide which poems the group will read and by whom. Youth might have favorite books of poetry from their childhood. If not, search the library, ask a children's librarian, or check out these suggestions:

Other ideas:

  • Consider asking families to bring one of their favorite books of children's poetry and inviting children or their parents to read.
  • Use an instant film camera to take group photographs, one for every child. Attach a photo to the inside covers of the books the families brought or to a small piece of poster board and let all the children and youth sign the memento.
  • For the last poem of the night, choose one that includes many animals. Consider a book by Eric Carle or Bill Martin. Before reading the poem, make sure every child has created a stick puppet, or bring in hand puppets and distribute them. During the reading, invite the children to hold up their puppets and make animal sounds.

With a few adjustments, the Poetry Pajama Party could be held at a local library and include children from the community.

Including All Participants

Check with the congregation's religious educator to see if any of the children who will be attending the party have food allergies or other special needs. Bring these needs to the program participants' attention so they can be prepared to provide whatever each child needs to fully participate in the event's activities. During planning, if anyone proposes an idea that cannot be made accessible for every child who MIGHT attend do not use that idea.