Jonah: Footsteps Summer Picnic

The summer picnic evolved from our annual Teddy Bears' picnic which had been aimed at pre-school and Key Stage 1 children (under 7s). Over the years we had added to the picnic with a greater focus on a Bible story and a theme and offered a greater variety of crafts. This year we added a prayer station at the back of the church to bring it more in line with one of the aims of our Footsteps project to offer time and space for prayer.

We pitched a couple of gazebos in the churchyard and began with the picnic.

Although in previous years we had tried doing singing and story first we had (at last!) realised that the children could not concentrate on anything until they had eaten.

After the picnic we sang a few boat related songs (Row, row, row the boat and I love to sail my big blue boat.)


We told the story dramatically, moving around the churchyard from one scene to the next...

A child was chosen to take the role of Jonah and given a robe to wear.

The story was based on the Godly Play story and began with Jonah sitting beside a sign showing the way to Ninevah.

When God told Jonah to arise and go to Ninevah and cry out against the people there, Jonah ran away as fast as possible and boarded a ship sailing to Tarshish at the other end of the Mediterranean.

The rough boat shape was made by tying chairs together with shoe laces and covering them with black cloths. Other cloths were laid around to create a "sea" effect.

When the storm came, the children picked up the "sea" cloths and used them to create the waves. The captain and crew were terrified but Jonah was asleep in the bottom of the boat...

The captain shook Jonah awake whereupon Jonah told the sailors that he was the cause of their troubles and asked them to throw him into the sea.

As Jonah sank into the sea the storm died down and the sailors knelt on the deck to worship God...

We used the parachute to represent the whale. We lifted it high, stepped in and sat down with the parachute behind us, creating a small dome for the whale's tummy.

A small gap was made for the mouth and Jonah was swallowed into the whale's tummy... until unable to bear it any longer the whale vomited him out again...

Jonah at last set off for Ninevah where two children dressed in cloaks and crowns and sitting on purple thrones awaited him. Jonah urged them to turn from their wicked ways and worship God... which they did, removing their rich clothes and crowns and kneeling down to pray. We left the story with Jonah, unable to cope, sitting sulkily under a tree, expressing his anger to God...


Jonah inside the whale was made from paper plates. We pre-cut a circle from one plate and the children then stuck blue cellophane over the circle.

On the other plate they drew a picture of Jonah inside the whale (one child drew Jonah asleep!) Fins, tail and features were added to the whale and a spout was made using blue parcel ribbon. The two plates were then stuck together.

The idea was adapted from here

The little cork boats were surprisingly easy to make. Three corks were held together by one or two elastic bands.

A lolly stick was wedged between two of the corks. (We chose lolly sticks to avoid the sharp ends of cocktail sticks with the smaller children.)

A sail was cut out of card and a couple of slits cut in the card which was then slotted over the lolly stick.

The boats were then sailed in a shallow tray of water. Some children experimented with different shaped sails and double, triple and quadruple masts...

We always try to include some food related craft as children of all ages enjoy doing this.

We considered making savoury boats but in the end opted for decorating biscuits with icing, jelly beans and sprinkles.

The biscuits were cut into a variety of shapes - Jonah, boats and whales.

We were unsure how many children we were likely to get so we decided to add in a fourth craft to avoid overcrowding at the other tables.

We went for simple sea creature prinitng with a variety of mini shapes and colours as it was easy to set up and could be run by one person.

Prayer Station

We set up the prayer station at the back of the church, away from the craft activities.

The church had a wooden stall that had been used to sell cakes at various events. The base was covered with hessian and a pointed bit added at the front to form the boat.

The mast was made from the hanging rail used by the church choir! Cloths were arranged around the boat to give a sea effect.

The end result wasn't hugely successful as the proportions looked wrong and there were too many random bits sticking up that needed to be covered with cloths.


When God told Jonah to go to Ninevah, Jonah ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction... He even got on board a ship that was sailing as far away as possible!

Prayer Activity:

Do you ever feel like running away from something? You may like to pray one of these prayers and ask God to give you courage and help you when things are difficult...

A selection of short prayers were included on the board. People were also offered the opportunity to write or draw a prayer for someone going through a difficult time and tie it to the net.

We finished the event with some parachute games and a short prayer.

How well did it work?

As this event had originally been the annual Teddy Bears' Picnic we found it was still geared more towards younger children.

The dramatic story telling worked well but as the main organiser I was too keen to keep the momentum going and left out the reflective questions that would have added more depth.

It would have been relatively easy for everyone to sit down at the end of the story and do this, especially as many of the children were used to Godly Play from school.

The prayer station was more or less ignored by the children, although some adults visited it.

We were in a different church from our usual one and after they had finished the crafts the children were keen to run around and explore the space - both inside and out (the nature of the event meant we were quite laid back about this!) I think another time we might suggest visiting the prayer station on arrival or just before leaving...

Although the older children enjoyed the boat making and biscuit decorating, it would have been good to have included some more mature crafts/activities.


(with thanks to Rowena Berridge, Margaret Jackson and the rest of the Footsteps team)