20 Activities for Early Arrivers

20 Activities for Early Arrivers
February 23, 2017 Ali Thompson

How can you engage early birds in meaningful activities that show you’re prepared? Try some of these ideas. Keep the same stations set up for a while, and kids who attend regularly will know what to do at each one. Then new kids can follow their lead.

Connect With God

  • Start a sticky note prayer wall. Keep a pad of sticky notes and several pens near a wall. Kids can post their prayer requests on sticky notes and remove other kids’ sticky notes as they pray for them. At the end of your time together, you can take home any extras and pray for your kids all week.
  • Start a God Sightings wall. Similar to a prayer wall, a God Sightings wall can be made using sticky notes or a whiteboard or poster board. Encourage kids to look for ways God is at work in their lives and write their God Sightings on the wall!
  • Make a worship corner. Cut triangles out of construction paper, and have kids write words of praise to create a string pennant.
  • Allow space to confess. Cut a cross out of poster board, and set some red markers nearby. Kids can write or draw about sins they’d like to say they’re sorry for. Kids could simply make red X’s, too—Jesus knows what they mean.
  • Sing! You may have a singing time as part of your class, but there’s no problem starting early. Set some music videos to run as kids arrive, and encourage them to sing along.
  • Look out the window. God’s created so many wonderful things around us. Allow space for kids to look out the window and notice what God has made.
  • Make bookmarks. Set up an area where kids can make bookmarks with Bible verses to keep for themselves or give to others.

Connect With Each Other

  • Make a questions cup. Write fun questions on craft sticks and stick them in a cup. Kids can pull one or two out each week and answer the question with other kids.
  • Make a get-to-know-you mat. Using a poster board, mark 12 squares and name 12 different categories of favorites such as color, dinner, dessert, friend, song, TV show, and so on. Let kids toss beanbags and share their favorite based on where the beanbag lands. If it lands off the board, they get to pick what to share.
  • Use the Gabbit app or a Throw-and-Tell Ball. These two tools help kids connect by answering fun, random questions about each other. Click here for the Gabbit app or here for the Throw-and-Tell Balls.
  • Draw. Kids love to draw on whiteboards. Structure the activity by preparing Pictionary cards that will help them gear up for the day’s lesson. Don’t form teams—just let everyone guess what the artist is drawing. That way, kids can join in at any point.

Connect With the Church

  • Do a service project. Do a little checking around to find out what simple service projects your kids could do. Maybe the church needs some papers folded or something cut out. Let your kids help.
  • Assemble snacks. Have kids assemble snacks to serve during your lesson or serve to others in the church—an adult Sunday school class, for example.

 Connect With the Community 

  • Write letters. Set out some paper and pens, and let kids write letters or draw pictures to send to missionary kids affiliated with your church or kids who would benefit from your children’s offering.
  • Make cards. If you have a connection to a local children’s hospital, set up a station where kids can make cards to send to kids who are in the hospital.
  • Make jewelry or blankets. These items can be donated, or you can sell them to raise money for missions. Check out Pinterest for easy, inexpensive ideas.
  • Pray for your city. This will require buying an actual hard copy of a newspaper. Pick up a local paper, and let kids pray for the needs in your city based on what’s going on in the news.
  • Pray for your city…again. Get a printed map of your city. Have kids pray for one neighborhood at a time, highlighting when they’ve prayed for one until the whole map is covered with prayer.
  • Pray for local nonprofits. Collect brochures for local nonprofits, and bring them to church. Have kids look through the brochures and pray for the organizations.

Get Active

  • Hold a “boot camp.” Let kids burn off some energy by doing jumping jacks, push-ups, and so on. Remind them that we need to exercise spiritually, too…and that’s what Sunday school is all about.
Ali Thompson is the managing editor for Group’s children’s ministry curriculum. She lives in Loveland, Colorado with two dogs and a cat. Ali loves teaching 4th & 5th graders every Sunday morning.


  1. Jean Hastings 6 years ago

    These suggestions for early arrivals are marvelous. I am always am at a loss as to how to engage them as I complete preparation for the day’s encounter. I shall be trying some of them eg. the ‘God sightings’ wall, ‘prayer wall’. I thik they’ll love it

    Thank you very much!

  2. Judy Sims 6 years ago

    I would appreciate more “early arrival activities” suited to young children who do not yet read or write at all, or well enough to independently complete many of the activities listed.

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