I did this activity for the under 5s at Church, so I’ll write it up like that, but obviously, if you’re just doing this at home, pick the bits you want. Noah’s Big Boat is a great rhythmic telling of the story of Noah. You could use any retelling of Noah though.
Begin by giving the children instruments to make rain sounds. We used rainmakers, shakers and an emergency blanket to crinkle. Explain to them the repeated pattern that comes up on every page of the book “Rain and rain and rain and pour” and say to make rain noises with the instruments as they say it.
Read the story, making the rain at the appropriate points.
We then got out several toy Noah’s arks (a plastic one, wooden one and a soft toy one) for the children to play with, they re-enacted the story. Ideally I would have got water play out as well at this point, but I’d done water play a couple of weeks previously and whilst it had gone well, none of the children had spare clothes, and ended up soaked, so I thought I’d better not do it again without pre-warning the parents.
My focus for the story of Noah was on God’s promise not to flood the world again and His sign of that promise: The rainbow. Rainbow activities are fantastic, here’s what we did:
Rainbow salt tray – I taped together 2 sheets of card to cover the bottom of one of my cat litter trays (I don’t have a cat, but bought some trays years ago, when teaching, as they’re great for messy play and crafts) then I coloured the card in in bright coloured stripes. The stripes didn’t look that neat, which I was disappointed about, but actually, once you poured the salt in and drew patterns, that wasn’t noticeable at all. It looked really effective. I wouldn’t use a salt tray with under 2s as they might eat it, so I kept it up high and the older children knelt on a chair to use it. I provided paintbrushes, though fear that was a mistake and sticking to just letting them use a finger to draw in the salt might have been better as the paintbrushes encouraged flicking of the salt all over the table.
Rainbow rice – rainbow rice is amazing. It looks so inviting when you first make it and set it up with stripes of each separate colour, then as soon as the kids get into it (and Bean literally does, she climbed straight into the box, monopolising it for most of the session) it gets mixed into a beautiful combination. To make rainbow rice, you basically need dry rice, food colouring and lots of shaking. I put the rice in batches into an old ice cream tub, on this occasion I added kool aid powder and a drop of water (because I wanted to make it smell nice too) and then shake vigorously. Once the rice is dyed, spread it out to dry overnight (just put it in the box the children will be playing with). I put a bit too much water in the red batch, it was still wet in the morning when we were due to take it to church. However, a quick blast with the hair dryer sorted that.
On previous occassions, before I discovered the joys of Kool Aid, and forced my parents to export it to me in large quantities, I dyed rice using food colouring, this does work just as well, do it in the same way as described above, but using drops of food colouring instead of the Kool Aid powder, but you don’t get the added bonus of the scent. You could consider adding spices if you want a nice smell.
With the rainbow rice, I provided spoons and jugs. A note on safety. Whilst coloured rice is edible, it would be very bad for children to eat much dry rice, so please do monitor children to ensure they don’t eat it. Oddly, Bean has never tried to eat it. I remember Jumbles did when he was about 2, but spat it straight out.
If you are still concerned about your child eating uncooked rice, an edible alternative is coloured breadcrumbs. Which takes a lot more preparation, but is just as much fun. I have a batch that we’ve had for the last 11 months, the kids still love playing with it. It keeps well. To make coloured breadcrumbs, get a loaf or 2 of the cheapest white bread you can find (or if you’re like us and no one likes crusts, save all of your crusts in the freezer till you have loads) lightly toast the bread, blend it in batches in a food processer (or in my case a smoothie maker as we got one free once and use this for all blending) blend with a couple of drops of gel food colouring and a tiny amount of milk (I don’t know why milk not water, I keep meaning to try again with water to see if it works, the site I saw it on said to use milk, so I obeyed) then spread the crumbs out on a baking tray and toast under the grill, but be careful not to burn (though actually, I burnt some a bit and it was ok).
Paper Plate rainbows – I saw this idea somewhere, but the link was broken, it looked simple though, I just decided to make it double sided instead of identical on both sides. Draw an ark in the middle of the plate, cut out, but leave the edge of the plate to make a rainbow over the top, repeat with a second plate. On one plate stick tissue paper, or colour to make a rainbow at the top, draw a hill under the ark etc. On the other stick clouds on the top and colour blue under and around the ark to represent water. Glue the bottom and sides of the two plates together to make a basket. Fill with animal biscuits.
Rainbow ribbons – This was just an extra that I did with my kids at home. Tie long strips of ribbon to a wooden curtain ring, or one of those plastic links for babies. It is best if you use very long pieces of ribbon, double them over pulling themselves through so that they can’t come off, but my ribbon wasn’t long enough, so I just tied the ends on. Use the ribbons to dance to music.
Drat, I just realised that I missed off this one. This definitely requires a lot of supervision as it involves giving the kids cocktail sticks. Again, I did this with just my kids at home, I wouldn’t do it with a large group. Anyway, poking cocktail sticks into polystyrene is great fun for toddlers and preschoolers. I drew basic rainbow lines and then Jumbles and Bean did some colouring on it, then poked cocktail sticks in and threaded coloured bottle tops (I save the ones off baby food pouches, actually, I don’t even use baby food pouches, but I make a friend save hers!) We also tried pushing tissue paper into the polystyrene – you tear off a tiny bit, poke it in with the stick, then pull the stick out, leaving the tissue paper in. I must confess, I ended up doing a lot of the threading here, and certainly all of the tissue paper, I think it would work nicely with older children, but mine were a bit little, they did enjoy putting the sticks in and stacking lids on though.
I have so many more rainbow things I want to try, that I may well have to do Noah’s ark again soon, but for now I think I’d better stop.
After the activities, sing “The Arky Arky song” or “Mr Noah” plus other water songs like Row Row Row your boat.
In fact, I think I’ll use this opportunity to list as many verses of Row, Row as I can think of, to help you with inspiration, as there seems to be a growing number:
Row Row Row your boat, Gently down the stream
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, life is but a dream
Row Row Row your boat, Gently down the stream
If you see a crocodile, don’t forget to scream
Row Row Row your boat, gently to the shore
If you see a lion, don’t forget to roar
Row Row Row your boat, Gently down the river
If you see a polar bear, don’t forget to shiver
Row Row Row your boat, out across a puddle
If you see a teddy bear, don’t forget to cuddle
Row Row Row your boat, Gently down the Nile
If you see your Mummy there, don’t forget to smile
Row Row Row your boat, out across the creek,
If you see a tiny mouse, don’t forget to squeak
Row Row Row your boat, out across the bay
If you see a pirate ship, sail the other way (Arrrr)
Row Row Row your boat, quickly to the shop
If you see a kangaroo, don’t forget to hop
Rock rock rock your boat, gently to and fro
Watch out, give a shout (or, I have also heard wibbledy wobbledy, wibbledy wobbledy), into the water we go
(There’s also a verse about a rowing over a bump, seeing a monkey and not forgetting to jump, but I can’t quite think how it goes)
Now, those of you who have seen me lead story and rhyme times might understand why I don’t sing all of the verses I know!
Buy “Noah’s Big Boat”
Borrow “Noah’s Big Boat” from your local library