"Rejoice Always!" Back-to-School Party

“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” Joe Fox’s lines in the beginning of You’ve Got Mail, just make my heart happy. (My husband even brought home the aforementioned bouquet last year to surprise me.) 

The fall is a magical time. I love the leaves falling and the idea of a new beginning.Growing up, buying new school supplies and experiencing the meeting of sharp #2 pencils upon crisp lined paper was so exciting….

Yet I cannot deny the pit that resided in my stomach every time the calendar turned to August. The impending school year brought such anxiety for me as a child. I’m not even sure what it was exactly.... the separation from my parents, the fear of rejection from peers, the fear of failure… Probably all of it mixed with the fear of the unknown. Will I like my teacher? Will any of my friends be in my class? Will I do well? What will we eat for lunch? When you think about it, a new school year for your child is like you or I beginning a new job. The transition is common, but it can still evoke powerful emotions. My teaching days showed me I was not alone in my childhood anxiety. Some of my best friends have children battling this same struggle right now. That inspired me to create a “Rejoice Always” Back to School Party for my kids and their closest friends.

You see, the world is overflowing with their emotions. That’s precisely why emojis are so popular! We are celebrating every feeling we have. Is this wrong? No…. depending on how we deal with our emotions. I think it’s important that we teach our kids to take their emotions and handle them in a godly way. Emojis just happen to be the cute inspiration for the lesson.

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: You do NOT have to give your kids a back-to-school party!!! Really, they can become great, Christ-centered adults without ever having had one! This idea was intended to inspire great talks with our kids, not put me in the “Mom Hall of Fame.” :) It is an easy idea to pull together, especially if you ask several moms to pitch in.

Rejoice Always Party Projects:

*Emoji Balloons (20 min prep)
*Emoji Backdrop (1 hour prep)
*Emoji Cookie Pops (20-30 min prep)
*Emoji Game (2 min prep)
*Emoji Craft (10 min prep)
*Back to School Survey (10 min prep)

Emoji Balloons: Part of my inspiration came from some adorable emoji balloons in a pin from Studio DIY. I decided to try my hand at it. Sadly the balloon store only had 4 yellow mylar balloons left. I threw in a few gold, and the effect still came together. Ideally, I’d have gone with at least 9. All I did was print out a page of emoji icons from a Google search, and cut and taped until they looked about right; it really is trial and error. Seriously though, you are making a smiley face--pretty hard to mess that up!

Emoji Backdrop: I created these images using the same trial-and-error method, and adhered them to various sized yellow circles. I cut small white circles and glued them to slightly larger yellow circles for the “Rejoice Always!” banner.

Emoji Cookie Pops: I can’t take credit for this cute idea. I found it here. They also had a great emoji backdrop to inspire me. Their cookies turned out waaaayyyy cuter than mine, but I really wanted to get them done in about 20 minutes, and I did. The directions proved to be pretty reliable. To save a few dollars, I used a tube of black icing gel instead of a food-coloring marker. This worked well, just make sure you keep your cookie pops cold until you serve so the gel doesn’t melt. I used a floral vase with a styrofoam base to attach the sticks to before covering it with a little yellow Easter grass.

Emoji Game: Once the party started, I took four of the balloons (scared, angry, happy, and frustrated) and separated them from the bundle. I put them in four different corners of the room. The kids and I talked about the meaning of each face. Then I read an item from a list of topics, and asked the kids to go to the corner that represented the emoji best expressing their feeling toward the topic. I tailored the list for the kids at the party. I would highly recommend that. Here is my list to get you started: broccoli, people who steal puppies, water slides, Legoes, dragons, princess dress-up, brussels sprouts, puking, donuts, Baymax, roller coasters, dolphins, ice cream, stranger danger, playdates, and going to school. It is important to end with “going to school” because that leads into the craft.

Craft: I cut large yellow circles and gave one to each child. I also gave them squares of white, black, blue, and red construction paper. I told them to create an emoji of how they feel about going back to school. As they worked, I shared a little of my personal story and a few verses in God’s Word about anxiety, disappointment, and fear.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

*Big Idea: We do not have to be anxious or afraid because God is with us! He calls us to rejoice always!

Next, I handed out small yellow circles. I asked the kids to create a new emoji of how God calls them to respond to the start of school. (Some young children may even want to put these little faces in their pockets for the beginning of school.)

Back-to-School Survey: We finished by completing a simple worksheet about the school year. It provides a fun keepsake, and requires the kids to write down the big lesson from the party.

Name ____________________            
Age ______________________
This year I am in _________________________________________.
My favorite food is __________________________________________________.
My favorite color is __________________________________________________.
When I grow up, I want to be a _________________________________________.
Something that makes me sad:    _______________________________________
Something that makes me angry:   ______________________________________
Something that makes me worried:   _____________________________________
Something that makes me happy:    ______________________________________
I can rejoice always because ___________________________________________!!!

My hope is that this party inspires many more conversations about honoring God with our emotions!

Posted on August 12, 2015 and filed under Building Your Faith.