Once you and/or the RE Committee have decided you want to use Spirit Play, it’s time to get serious. At this point, you need to secure funding for supplies, choose stories, and create the story baskets.
- Present Proposal to Board: Work with the RE Committee on presenting a proposal to the Board or Parish Committee to fund the project in one classroom. We started with 4 to 6 year-olds and then added another classroom as they grew. Some churches have converted preschool through 8th grade to Spirit Play. Costs vary; some people have started programs in shared spaces using as little as $100 and others as much as $4000, depending on the materials used and whether or not they had furniture already available.
- Get Parents Interested: Get the parents interested through workshops or more stories at events. Have an open meeting for members of the congregation to present this method, and find out who is interested in training and making materials.
- Choose Stories: With your curriculum team, entire committee or congregation (depending on its size), brainstorm stories that they feel are important for the children in your community and what concepts they feel the children should spend time with. The more people are involved, the more they feel ownership and connection to the program. Even if all you do to include the congregation is put an index card in the order of service on Sunday morning and ask the participants to write down one or two stories that they felt were important spiritual ones in their lives, it will give you a great deal to choose from. After you complete training you will receive access to around 1000 stories already written that you can use for your program.
When choosing stories, find those that are simple enough to have limited pieces; too many pieces can get confusing for the storyteller as well as the children. Sometimes we made more pieces but cut them out later when we realized the essence of the story could be told without them. If you decide to write your own stories, make sure that they are authentic to the original story (i.e., don't change the original intent of the story to make a point or to make it a cute story for children). Stay true to the cultural identity of the story when you choose pieces for it. For contemporary stories, use multicultural figures for pieces. Try to color code the underlay to the story’s theme.
- Create Story Baskets: Put together a group to make materials for the stories. Make sure that anyone making stories knows the method behind it if they are making stories from scratch. Make your stories using the most attractive materials you can find. They last longer this way and the children use them more readily. If all you can afford are laminated tagboard pieces, then start anyway and replace the materials as you can. Garage sales, eBay, toy stores and catalogs, craft stores, and fabric stores are places to look for items. Cut underlays only slightly larger than you need to accommodate the materials so that there is a frame around the story.
- Put Together Work Time Activities: Your work time activity choices are as important as your story baskets. You will want to have a variety of activities to meet different children’s needs. Some general categories are open-ended art materials (e.g., markers, paint, paper, glue, Playdoh or clay, beads, pipe cleaners), books, meditative practices (e.g., finger labyrinth, zen garden, yoga cards), altar table decorations, and story-specific activities if desired.