Category Archives: kid-friendly devotion

Devotion Based on 2 Artworks by Mary Cassatt

In Mary Cassatt’s painting, A Young Mother Sewing, a little girl is leaning on her mother’s lap. Do you think her mother is working on a dress for her? We can imagine though, that she’d really like her mother to stop and come play.

Have you ever had to wait for an adult to finish something before helping you or playing a game? It’s hard to be patient at those times.

A second artwork by Mary Cassatt, called The Fitting, reminds me of a time like that for me.

The Fitting by Mary Cassatt, The Brooklyn Museum, public domain

When I was young one of the hardest times for me to be patient was when my mother hemmed my dresses. She began by measuring up from the floor with a wooden yardstick. I had to stand straight, with no drooping to the right or left as she placed pins at the right place. As she went round and round, checking, re-pinning, and checking again, Soon I’d start feeling wiggly, because I wanted to go play.

Have you ever had to be fitted for or shopped for clothes for a special event and thought the adults took too long? Did you feel wiggly and want to play?

Now I’m grown up, I know my mother was being careful because she loved me and wanted me to look my best. And when I look at The Fitting, I’m reminded of these verses from Psalm 139

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. (Psalm 139:1-5 NIV)

We are God’s children, and He uses the Bible as His yardstick to show us how to become more like Him, our loving heavenly Father.

Can you think of a time when the Bible helped you see a change you needed to make in how you treated friends or family?

Pinning is only part of the hemming process. In A Young Mother Sewing we see that hemming is done by hand and takes time and skill. It’s important not to get the stitches so tight they cause the cloth to pucker or so loose they fall out.

A Young Mother Sewing by Mary Cassatt,1900, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, public domain

In the painting, I can imagine the mother laying her hand on her daughter’s head, encouraging her to be patient so the dress will turn out beautiful.

God has laid His hand upon us and encourages us to learn from Him. He knows us and doesn’t push us so hard that we get frustrated, but He also loves us enough to keep helping us make our lives more beautiful to glorify Him in the world.

Think of one lesson from your Bible that you can put into practice this week. Do you need to use kinder words? Do you need to be less impatient and wiggly when you have to wait for Mom or Dad to come play?

Let’s pray: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for knowing and loving me. You are always with me. Please help me become more like Jesus. In His name, amen.

Before You Go

Go here to learn about the painting, A Young Mother Sewing and how to enjoy it with your children. Go here if you’d like directions for a children’s art project based on Mary Cassatt’s paintings.

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

And be sure to visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids, and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed this devotion based on art by Mary Cassatt. If you’ve signed up for my newsletter, you’ll soon receive our May newsletter with more fun things to do.

in this photo Molly is learning to sit inside a hula hoop and wait patiently for me to say she can get up.

 

 

 

 

Devotion based on John J. Audubon’s Paintings from Birds of America

John J. Audubon studied and became an expert to paint birds for his book, Birds of America. We can study them, too, but often we’re in a hurry and don’t notice the birds flying around our own yards gobbling up insects.

In my previous post I said the encounter with those cliff swallows building nests on a West Texas hotel began my fascination with them. I started researching, and learned it was also cliff swallows that returned every year to the old mission of San Juan Capistrano in California.

Mission San Juan Capistrano, CA, author photo

Only they weren’t returning anymore, so the mission consulted a cliff swallow expert for help. For many years Dr. Charles R. Brown of the University of Tulsa has been studying cliff swallows along the Platte River in Nebraska, where thousands return each year to build or rebuild nests.

One spring I traveled to Nebraska and spent a day studying cliff swallow colonies with Dr. Brown and his assistant. The swallows still build nests on the cliffs that in places overlook the river (part of the Oregon Trail included crossing the Platte River, and some pioneers mentioned the swallows and their nests in diaries and letters).

But today many swallows take advantage of man made structures, so we had to tramp across fields to enter huge culverts while trains rumbled overhead and put on tall wading boots to get to nests under bridges.

I had learned a lot from my research, but it was exciting and fun to see them up close with someone who’s been studying them for years. When we walked under a bridge hundreds of swallows rushed out the other side, but soon they returned, swooping by us, and slipped back into their nests. They’d immediately turn around and poke their heads back out, the white spot on their foreheads shining in the dim light and letting everyone know they’re home.

I got to poke a long handled dental mirror into nests, while shining a flashlight just so, to see the eggs inside (not as easy as it sounds!). And we spent several hours baking in the sun while quietly observing the behavior of the swallows as they came and went from their nests.

Here’s some of what I learned that day about how God feeds just one of His many types of birds!

  • Cliff swallows winter in South America, so they fly thousands of miles to return each spring to the western prairies of the United States and Canada for breeding.
  • This kind of swallow lives in colonies that range in size from a few dozen nests to thousands honeycombing a cliff or under a bridge.
  • Cliff swallows like to return to the same places each year, but will periodically abandon some sites when these become too infested with parasites.
  • They eat insects, scooping them from the sky as they fly.
  • Cliff swallows need open fields and farmland where warm updrafts stir up insects for them to catch.
  • Snakes sometimes invade nest sites to feast on eggs and baby birds.
  • Cliff swallows will sometimes sneak into others’ nests to steal nesting material or even lay eggs.

One of the most fascinating ways God feeds cliff swallows is that the colony serves as a way for swallows to find those updrafts of insects. Dr. Brown has discovered that when a swallow returns with a mouthful of insects for its babies, other swallows will follow it when it leaves again so they can join the feast. The colony works a little like a computer clearing house for information.

And one thing Dr. Brown said that day has stayed with me. He believes that though many people go long distances to study various creatures, many of us can find and study amazing creatures close to home, even in our own back yards!

Birds are everywhere, and this time of year they are returning to build nests and raise families. Just today I saw a house finch gathering nesting materials in my back yard.

Take time to see the work of the first and best Artist! How many different types of birds share your backyard? Notice the patterns on their wings. Has God made their beak for seeds or worms?

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” Psalm 111:2

If you can, get outside with your children. Take along a field guide and learn more about the birds in your neighborhood.

When we look carefully to “study” how God has designed each bird, we see that He gave each bird just the right beak, feet, body, tail, and wings to be able to gather its food in the environment He designed it for.

All birds have beaks and wings, but… God gave hummingbirds wings that beat super fast so they can hover and stick their long beaks deep into flowers to sip nectar. And He gave cliff swallows just the right beak and streamlined shape to be able to gather mud pellets for a nest and swoop through the sky to grab tasty insects.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Matt. 6:26

Jesus used God’s care of the birds to teach us that our heavenly Father knows our needs and provides for us just as He does the birds.

Jesus didn’t mean we shouldn’t pray about our needs. He tells us to do just that in the Lord’s Prayer, (Matthew 6:9-13). But He also wants us to realize we don’t have to keep worrying; we can pray and leave our worries about our daily needs with our heavenly Father. Jesus wants us to soar on to scoop up more important things—heavenly treasures from our Bibles that teach us how to love God and our neighbors.

Prayer: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for providing for our daily needs. When we look at the birds of the air, help us learn from them to trust You with every part of our lives! In Jesus’ name, amen.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up above for my newsletter and receive a free guide to 5 Ways Art Benefits Children’s Cognitive, Physical, Spiritual, and Social Development, with a Few Fun and Easy Activities for each Benefit

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed learning more about how God feeds the cliff swallows, and you’ll get out and enjoy learning about the birds in your own backyard! Come back next week for a fun art project about birds and to learn if swallows have returned to San Juan Capistrano.

Set Your Thanksgiving Table with a Devotion and Art Activity Based on Saying Grace by Jean-Simeon Chardin

Let’s set our Thanksgiving table with a cute children’s art activity and devotion that will encourage your family to thank God for all their blessings. 

As always, there’s a cute Molly the Artsy Corgi picture at the end with more things you can do.

The Devotion

Let’s look again at Chardin’s painting, Saying Grace, the moment when the children are thanking God for their meal.

Saying Grace, Jean-Simeon Chardin, 1744, The Hermitage, public domain

Do you think this is a special day or a normal one when the mother has called the children from their play for lunch or supper?

What food has the mother cooked?

That’s right–just a normal day with a simple meal of soup, but the mother and children are taking time to fold their hands and thank God for providing for their daily needs, as Jesus teaches us to do in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:11).

You may need to explain that in the Lord’s Prayer, “our daily bread” symbolizes all our daily needs.

Read James 1:17 and ask children to list some of the daily needs and blessings God provides for them.

Read Luke 18:15-17 and point out that, like the people in the Bible, the mother in the painting is teaching her children that they can go to Jesus to talk with Him and thank Him for His care. They don’t have to wait until they’re older.

Invite your children to tell about a time they went to Jesus with a prayer.

Chardin could have shown the mother saying grace before the meal, but his focus is on the children, perhaps to emphasize that we are all like children, dependent on God, who made us. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture, and we must come humbly into His presence with thanksgiving and praise for His loving care.

Read Psalm 100 together.

We know we don’t need to fold our hands or close our eyes to talk to God, but the mother has taught her children to sometimes fold their hands like this for prayer.

We see this same position in the iconic Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer. It’s as if our hands become a church steeple pointing to God, which may just remind us that we can always look up to our heavenly Father who is good and whose love endures forever (Psalm 100:5).

Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer, public domain

Prayer: We praise you, Lord, that we are the sheep of your pasture. Thank you that we can bring every need to you, and you love and provide for us each day. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

The Art Project, Praying Hands

Praying hands for thanksgiving table

This simple project will remind your children that their praying hands can be like a steeple pointing to God as we bring our praises and requests to Him.

It can be done with crayons in about 15 minutes, so could be a simple project to engage children as they wait for dinner on Thanksgiving Day. But I’ll also explain an extra step you can do if you have time and don’t mind a little mess.

 At the Thanksgiving table guests may write prayer requests or praises on slips of paper and put these in the bottom of the bag under the praying hands.

Supplies:

  • brown, white, or Thanksgiving-motif paper lunch bags
  • scissors
  • pencils
  • glue
  • crayons or markers
  • Tempera paint, a largish brush, and paper towels if you want to do the extra step

Directions

  1. Place a folded paper bag flat on the table with the folded bottom of the bag facing up
  2. Have child place his or her hand flat on the bag with finger tips pointed toward the top of the bag and their wrist at the upper edge of the folded bag bottom
  3. With a pencil, trace around the child’s hand
  4. Keeping the bag folded, cut in from the sides of the bag (just above the folded bag bottom) to the child’s wrist line. Then cut up and around the traced hand (through both thicknesses of the bag) and out to the bag’s other edge on the other side of the hand
  5. The child may then decorate or color the hands. Most want to add rings, fingernails, watches, etc.
  6. Open the bag
  7. To form the praying hands, glue the tips of the fingers together. (just a little glue so you can still put things into the bottom of the bag)

The extra step:

  1. Before opening the bag, fold the two hands away from each other and the bag bottom
  2. Spread a thin layer of paint on the child’s hands and help them make hand prints on what will be the inside or palm of their praying hands
  3. They need to hold their hand still, fingers together, and just press down gently
  4. They will also need to do each hand separately so thumbs and fingers match

Helpful Hints

  • When tracing the child’s hand, have them keep their fingers mostly together, although you’ll want to draw the lines between their fingers.
  • If you’re not sure how much paint to use for the hand prints, have some scrap paper handy and do a couple trial prints

Cleanup tips

If you decide to do the hand prints, as you finish printing with each of the child’s hands, fold a paper towel into their hand to hold until you get them to wherever you’ll wash up

Before You Go

Are you looking for a kid’s devotion for fall that’s all about God’s care for butterflies and us? Visit Devokids for a children’s devotion I wrote. It’s called, Get Ready, Butterflies! Winter’s Coming!.

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for you whole family!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Molly and I hope this devotion and activity based on Saying Grace has been a blessing as you prepare for Thanksgiving. We put them together so you and your children would have plenty of time to go through the devotion and make the craft before Thanksgiving.  

We hope you’ll come back next time for an interview with Nancy Sanders about her new children’s book, Bedtime with Mommy.

Devotion based on Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings

One of my children’s art classes once began a sunflower project based on Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. They looked at the flowers up-close, and saw that sunflowers have huge round centers and large petals. The children decided they should use curvy lines to draw the petals, and that some had rounded ends, while others came to a point.

Sunflowers, 1889, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, public domain

 

While the children drew large sunflowers, they chattered about the bright yellows and oranges they’d add next time.

 

But then we missed class for 2 weeks. And in those two weeks, all the sunflowers lining our roads and looming tall over gardens had mostly disappeared and those that were left looked like this painting of sunflowers done by Van Gogh.

Sunflowers, 1887, by Vincent van Gogh, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, public domain

Have you ever started an art project but for some reason, couldn’t finish it right away?

Do you sometimes wish summer and the colorful flowers God has created could last a little longer?

Isaiah may have wished that, too, but the changing seasons reminded Him of something that doesn’t change and will stand forever—God’s Word. He wrote, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, NIV)

Even though we had to use photos to finish the pictures, they turned out beautiful. God has made flowers beautiful to look at. They satisfy our love of color, but a flower’s beauty does fade. The beauty of the Word of God never fades, though, because it teaches us about the Lord and leads us to the living Word, Jesus Christ, and His love and forgiveness.

Match the following verses to what they tell us about God’s Word:

Psalm 18:30                                    We must correctly handle God’s Word

2 Timothy 2:15                                Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Psalm 119:11                                  God’s Word is a light for our path

Psalm 119:105                                God’s word is flawless (perfect)

Matthew 4:4                                     We must hide God’s Word in our hearts

Discuss why we need God’s word even more than bread (food) and how:

  • To correctly handle God’s Word
  • To hide it in our hearts
  • It is a light to our path.

Activity: choose one of the verses to hide in your heart this week. To help you memorize it, write it out and decorate it with bright colors.

Prayer: We thank you, Lord for Your Word that lights our path and tells us of the hope we have in Jesus, the Living Word. In His name we pray, amen

Van Gogh’s father was a minister and not long after his death, Vincent painted this still life of his father’s Bible.  Vincent, himself had once ministered to poor coal mining families in the Netherlands.

Still Life with Bible, 1885, by Vincent Van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, public domain

Before You Go

My fall newsletter is all about a time when beautiful copies of God’s Word were threatened, and a courageous man and woman rescued one book, the Codex Aureus. Over a thousand years later, we can still see the Codex Aureus! Sign up above for my newsletter, and I’ll see that you not only get the free guide to help make museum visits a fun masterpiece for the whole family, but also my fall newsletter.

You may also want to visit the kids’ corner page on my website to download a template for writing and decorating a Bible verse.

Molly and I hope you enjoyed this devotion based on Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. We hope you’ll come back next week for a fun art project also based on the paintings. Better yet, subscribe to our blog and never miss another post!

Devotion based on Winslow Homer’s The Country School

No colorful posters cover the walls of Winslow Homer’s painting, The Country School.  No bright backpacks lean against the benches. Two of the boys are barefoot, and most of the children probably walked to and from school.

There are many ways this school room is different from yours. But in the big ways that matter, these children are no different from you.

Their books may have few pictures, but they’re interested in what they’re reading. They may play crack the whip at recess instead of four square, but as soon as the bell rings, they’ll rush out the door to run and jump and yell.

Sometimes they may have had trouble sleeping and be tired, just like you. They have best friends who share their interests, and little brothers and sisters who try their patience. One of them may have gotten in trouble that morning for not doing his or her chores.

And they’re just like you in another super important way. They’re in school to learn and prepare for their futures.

  • What are some things these children may have wanted to do when they grew up?
  • What do you dream about becoming when you grow up?

God has given you a unique combination of skills and interests to use for good in His world. He may call you to be a teacher to help people learn or a health care worker to help people heal. Perhaps He’ll use your interest in the ocean to do research about coral reefs, or an interest in insects to restore habitats for bumblebees.

Most important of all, these children also had someone who read the Bible to them, so they knew that, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1, NIV).

They also learned from the scriptures that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7, NIV).

Even if you’re not in a situation where the Bible is read, you can read it yourself or go to church and Sunday school, to hear and learn more about the Lord, who “will guide you always” (Isaiah 58:11 NIV).

Whatever gifts and talents God has given you, school is a great place to discover your interests and develop skills for doing good now and in the future for God and His world and all those who live in it.

Even Jesus, God’s very own Son, went to school to learn, just like you. When Jesus was twelve, He and His family went to Jerusalem for the Passover, as they were accustomed to do. While there, Jesus went to the Temple where He sat with the teachers, listening and asking questions (Luke 2:41-52). That was like going to school. And like other Hebrew boys, Jesus would also have learned in a synagogue school in his village of Nazareth.

We know Jesus worked hard and learned all He could about God, His Word, and His world, because Jesus used that knowledge about birds, rocks, and trees, and all kinds of things from God’s creation to later teach people important lessons about God’s love and care for us.

At the end of Luke’s account of Jesus as a child we learn that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” Luke 2:52, NIV).

Prayer: Thank You, Lord for giving me skills and interests. Help me work with all my heart to learn how to use Your gifts for Your glory in the world.

Some things you can do this week to work with all your heart :

  • learn this verse:  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men ” (Colossians 3:23 NIV)
  • Think of 2 things that will help you become a better listener
  • Reorganize your assignment book so you can keep better track of and finish your homework on time
  • Help another student or a younger brother or sister in a subject you know and enjoy

Molly also has lessons to learn. She has learned to sit and lie down and even to stay on her mat in the kitchen when we make dinner (unless there’s cheese involved). She also loves recess when she can chase her ball.

I pray that whether you are in school in person, or online, or homeschooling, you get off to a wonderful new school year where you’ll learn about lots of exciting things and enjoy friendships and good snacks. (Molly made me put in the bit about snacks!!)

If you’d like to enjoy making  an art project related to The Country School, be sure to join Molly and me for next week’s art project! You can subscribe above and never miss the fun!

And Before You Go, here are some other ways you can enjoy great art from a Christian perspective, as well as get related devotions and art activities.

  • If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!
  • Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.