October 4th is St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day. Of course, this day provides inherent fun for children with the Blessing of the Animals (and stuffed animals!), which is done in some homes and at many churches. Because traditions, legends and inspiration regarding St. Francis is so prolific, it is also a day that offers an array of other ways to celebrate.
For younger children, Whether you would like to host a full-day St. Francis Play Date or simply spend a bit of time tying a few multi-sensory activities into your existing readings and plans for the day, these ideas might help:
Arts and Crafts
1. Make a Zoo: Among other things, St. Francis is the patron saint of zoos and animals. Using your favorite media – paint, playdough and accessories, wire or simply a box of recyclable odds and ends – have children create their own animals. Then, recite the Prayer of St. Francis for Animals and Pets:
Good St. Francis, you loved all of God’s creatures.
To you they were your brothers and sisters.
Help us to follow your example
of treating every living thing with kindness.
St. Francis, Patron Saint of animals,
watch over my pet
and keep my companion safe and healthy.
2. Popsicle Stick Puppets: After sharing some stories about St. Francis and animals such as birds, wolves, fish, rabbits and monkeys, set out popsicle sticks, glue, scissors, paper, markers or crayons and any other bits and pieces of art supplies you might have handy, such as cloths craps, feathers, brown paper bags, googly eyes and yarn. Have children craft puppets to retell the stories. (Some of the stories can be found at American Catholic.)
3. Make and Eat Honey-Almond Cakes: Although St. Francis ate an austere diet, he is said to have indulged with Lady Jacoba’s Honey-Almond Cakes. Make a batch together. You may also want to make a batch to serve right away, since there is a “wait time” with these cookies that might be too long, unless you are planning a full day’s events. (One recipe version can be found at ChowHound.)
4. St. Francis Symbols Hunt: Draw sketches of the symbols of St. Francis (birds and animals, bag of gold and rich raiment at his feet, winged crucifix with five rays, stigmata, crown of thorns, lighted lamp, fiery chariot, birds, deer, fish, skull, wolf and fire), use clip art to make them, or, better still, have children draw their own representations of them. Then, hide these around the house. Have children try to find them.
5. St. Francis and the Wolf Tag: After sharing a version of St. Francis and the Wolf (from the books listed below or from American Catholic), play a game of tag. One child is the Wolf. One is St. Francis. The rest are the villagers of Gubbio. On “go”, the Wolf tries to tag the villagers. If he does, they must freeze or lay down. Meanwhile Francis tries to catch the Wolf. If he does, he says, “In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, let there be peace between you and the people.” That round of tag ends.
6. Build a Church: It is said that when St. Francis first heard his call to religious life, he was told, “Rebuild my church.” He took this command literally, thinking he was to rebuild the church of San Damiano in Assisi. Thus, he began to do so, stone by stone. In honor of his obedience and hard work, gather as many rocks as you can find and then construct your own mini-churches. Get creative. Use twigs as a cross to decorate it.
7. Classical Music Dance Freeze: It is said that St. Francis loved to dance. Try putting on any of the music listed on this page to play Dance Freeze. When the music is on, children move their bodies to it. When it gets turned down, they freeze.
8. Prayer of Saint Francis: Listen to or sing the Prayer of St. Francis (Make Me a Channel for Your Peace. (YouTube has many versions.)
10. Franciscan Prayers: Share any of the less familiar Franciscan Prayers.
Plus Read Aloud Suggestions
- Saint Francis by Brian Wildsmith
- Saint Francis of Assissi: A Life of Joy by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
- Brother Sun, Sister Moon: The Life and Stories of St. Francis by Margaret Mayo
- The Song of Saint Francis by Tomie dePaola
- Saint Francis and the Wolf by Richard Egielski
- Francis, the Poor Man of Assisi by Tomie dePaola
- Brother Juniper by Diane Gibfried
- Brother Wolf of Gubbio: A Legend of Saint Francis by Colony Elliott Santangelo
- The Good Man of Assisi by Mary Joslin and Alison Wisenfeld
- Song of the Sun: Canticle of the Sun by St. Francis, illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones
- (Online) St. Francis of Assisi by Amy Steedman
- (Online) God’s Troubadour – The Story of Saint Francis of Assisi by Sophie Jewett
Of course, in the spirit of St. Francis, who valued simplicity, there is no need to do all of these activities. Choose a few your children would most enjoy, relax and let the celebration begin.
Also, please feel free to share comments and links to your favorite St. Francis stories, crafts and activities so all can benefit from them!
Martianne writes about faith, family and homeschooling at Training Happy Hearts, where she has begun a weekly Sunday series on Faith Formation for Young Children. She also is a voluntary contributing editor at Our Journey THRU Autism.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.