Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Learning Through Play: The Mass


Children have different learning styles- some learn through listening, some through seeing, some through music, and some through movement.  Even with specific strengths like these, I think we can agree that all children benefit from skills learned through doing, practicing, modeling, and acting out- in essence, through play.  Even though my students are 10 and 11, this is no less true for them as it is for their younger peers.  As I tweak things in my classroom over the summer and make room through growth in student centered instruction plans, I am on the look out for Catholic resources that allow for hands-on interaction and learning.

Meeting all of my expectations, I have fallen in love with these Mass play sets from Wee Believers.  Part of the Wee Discover series of faith filled toys, the My Little Church Magnet Set* and My Pop Out Mass Kit* have both received a Seal of Ecclesiastical Approval and are wonderful faith centered toys that help kids play, pray, and learn.  The Wee Believers Sr. Mary Clara and Fr. Juan Pablo dolls and Vocation books were among some of my first purchases as a new DRE years ago and they remain a favorite addition to my Faith Corner in our classroom, so I am excited to add these to our collection of resources.

After trying out these play sets (lots of pictures and details below), I can easily see how these could become a favorite toy for kids at home.  I wanted to think about some practical classroom adaptations as to how these sets could also be used as a resource in Catholic schools and CCD programs.  I love how they are child friendly while still being uniquely Catholic, accurate, and beautifully made.  Here are a few ideas:

For Younger Students (5-8 years old):
  • Practice setting up the church  or altar for Mass (maybe limiting the number of Mass articles at the beginning)
  • Playing Mass by moving the priest/people/Mass articles for each main part of the liturgy
  • Pray the parts of the Mass alone or with a "congregation" using a Mass book like this or this. (affiliate links)
  • Practice the steps and prayers during Mass, especially in preparation for receiving First Holy Communion 
  • Work on memorizing and using the correct names for the Mass articles and their use
For Older Students (9-11 years old):
  • Practice correctly setting up the church and altar
  • Know the names of each Mass article and their purpose
  • Match objects to name cards 
  • Understand the difference between setting up for Mass or Adoration or another liturgical celebration
  • Note differences inside the church during various liturgical seasons
  • Talk through the Mass parts and movement of people and things in the church 
  • Discuss prayers and responses from Mass and Adoration and their meanings
  • Tour church Sacristy or invite a Sacristan or Priest to join the class and show the students the parish's real Mass articles
I plan to use both of these sets in my classroom with some of the the above ideas during our Sacrament unit on the Eucharist.  They'll work great along with other content activities for stations as well as enrichment and choice work.  Wee Believers even offers lots of matching printables and activities for free download on their website here.

Here are some close up views of these two play sets along with what I like about each:

First up, the My Little Church Magnet Set- It comes with a tri-fold magnetic church interior, 38 magnetic pieces, and an instructional booklet:

The church tri-fold stands on its own and the magnets can be arranged in tons of different ways:

Different magnets feature the priest sitting and standing (and facing backwards for Latin Mass) as well as different colored chasubles.

It includes Mass articles:

And Sanctuary furniture:

And people for the congregation:

I love this little booklet that has pictures that match the magnets and great explanations about the Mass articles and their uses.


All the pieces of the magnetic set stick easily to the trifold board even when standing (no sliding!) and even with the pieces in place, it still folds easily for storage.  Everything fits perfectly in the clear storage pouch so no little magnets are lost for next time.


Next up, the Pop Out Mass Kit:

It comes with a heavy weight "altar", 14 Mass articles, and an explanation/set up sheet:

I popped out all the pieces and am super impressed with the heavy cardboard and sturdy stands that can be removed easily for storage and then reused again and again:



The set comes with an info sheet with instructions for how to set up for Mass:

And Adoration:

I really like how each item is clearly labeled on the back:

The other side of the info sheet also has matching pictures and short descriptions of the purpose and use of each item.  I'll definitely be laminating this sheet for longevity and keeping it with the set for student use:

All of the pieces easily store back in the clear storage case, or they fit well in  shoe box sized container which is how I'll store them in my classroom, eliminating the need to un-assemble and assemble each time.

While for younger children this set would be great for pretending and playing Mass, for my intermediate students this set will be very useful for emphasizing the names and purposes of Mass articles.  Instead of using just pictures, the students have the advantage of touching and interacting with the objects first, and then could use the same objects for an assessment.  I could definitely see setting up a table like this where the student have to match each number with the name of the Mass article and what it is used for, either on a recording sheet or using vocab cards.

I really love both the My Little Church Magnet Set and My Pop Out Mass Kit and know that they will make a great addition to my Sacrament focused curriculum.  My students will benefit from the hands-on method of these learning toys and the examples and explanations they can relate to.  I know that they would be a wonderful toy for any Catholic kid- whether at home or in a classroom.

Have you ever tried these products or other play Mass sets?  How have you used them with your children or students?


*Wee Believers provided me with a free set of My Little Church and My Pop Out Mass Kit in exchange for an honest review.  I only recommend things that I have used and love, and these opinions are entirely my own.

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