Sacred Pauses with Preschoolers

One of the delights of my life as a semi-retired, young senior is caring for and leading two hours of “programming” for a group of 4-5 year old children on Thursday mornings while their mom’s enjoy a “Morning Out for Moms” in one of our local Mennonite churches.

Seven or more children arrive shortly after nine and keep two caregivers quite busy. Two are my grandchildren, one of whom is just turning two, but won’t stay in the preschool group.

We greet the children with a variety of toys and the option of hearing stories, including Bible stories. For the first hour we go with the flow, and let their interests determine what happens.

Then, just before snack time, we gather in a circle and practice silence.  I pull out my simple chime, a metal bar that is suspended above a wooden bar, and ask them to hold hands and form a circle. I am amazed how easily they have moved into the rhythm of practising short periods of guided silence before singing grace for our snack time. The two-year-old sometimes sits on my lap, sometimes weaves in and out, but never disrupts us or misses his chance to ring the chime.

We begin by each ringing my barred chime and listening silently to its reverberations. It was the first practice I introduced, and they immediately loved ringing it; enjoyed listening to its reverberations, tucking the little hammer in under the bar, and passing it on to the next person.

After ringing the chime I read Jennifer Howard’s book, When I Make Silence, (Parent Child Press, 2009, 2012) to them. The simple text and pictures of the booklet are right at their level. When we get to the page of pretending we are a caterpillars slowly changing into butterflies inside our cocoons, several children gently spread their wings. As we imagine we are unique snowflakes floating down we allow God’s peace to embrace us.  We close our eyes and imagine we are all alone in God’s great big heart. We imagine everyone else who is in there with us. Finally, we open our eyes and see our beautiful friends; see God’s love shining out of their eyes, and sing our song of thanks for snack.

Several weeks ago I added singing and signing the song “Be still and know that I am God” to the beginning of our quiet time. The children took to it like fish take to water.

This week I will add the pretzel prayer at the end.   We will remember the monk who invented the pretzel by shaping and baking dough to resemble arms folded in prayer so he could give them to hungry children. Then we’ll each eat   our pretzels while we think about how much God loves us and we love God.

I can hardly wait for this “sacred pause”* in my week, hoping and trusting that it will also be a sacred pause in the lives of my young friends at the Morning out for Mom’s Program.

*My friend, April Yamasaki, just released her newest book, Sacred Pauses, which includes many different life experiences that can help us take the sacred pauses we need to stay grounded in life and faith. Learn about it on her blog, Spiritual practice, faith, and life,


About Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel

As a young senior whose life could easily have ended in a nasty car crash in 2012 I live with an extra dose of gratitude to God, humanity, and the wonders of our human bodies. I am a passionate advocate for ministry WITH children and seniors in the life and ministry of the church. I started working in Faith Formation with Mennonite Church Canada in 2002. Thinking and writing about faith helps me see God at work in all kinds of surprising places. I'd like to be remembered as one who encourages others to live into God's good dream for our world. My book, Please Pass the Faith: The Spiritual Art of Grandparenting, is one big way I'm trying to share that encouragement with my peers. This blog is another way I'd like to engage people who care about growing in faith across the generations.
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7 Responses to Sacred Pauses with Preschoolers

  1. Arlyn says:

    Thanks for your post, Elsie. Your readers can borrow or buy April’s book from the Resource Centre here –

  2. kschroeder2012 says:

    Thanks for the posts Elsie. i so enjoy your blog. The children are very fortunate to have you as their teacher.

  3. Marlene Harder Bogard says:

    Love it Elsie! I will look into the book you suggested and not be afraid to try out these practices with young ones.

  4. Dave Bergen says:

    Your reflections are shared in a way that inspires others to try similar spiritually formative practices w/ young children

  5. Hi Elsie – This wonderful post was linked to my blog, and I don’t know how I missed commenting on it when it first appeared. Now that I’ve joined Pinterest, I wanted to let you know that I’m sharing it there too. Thanks again for your faithful and creative work with children, and for your service to the wider church. May God continue to bless and use you.

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