Skip to main content

Our church was in the midst of giving our nursery a fresh, new look and as this project took off, we found ourselves wrestling with ideas of what to include for dramatic play. After visiting a kindergarten classroom and watching the children play “house”, it dawned on me that kids mimic adults in everything they do. We have play kitchens, tool benches, vacuums, and fishing rods. This is how kids learn about the world around them. All of a sudden, I could just imagine how kids could play “church” and experience church in a tactile environment! 

Dramatic play isn’t a new concept by any means. Maria Montessori’s theories about giving children opportunities to learn in a hands-on, sensory way were developed early in the 20th century. That educational idea has now become mainstream, and we accept that children learn and grow through active play.

Pretend play gives children an opportunity to practice adult roles, solve problems, and act out feelings they can’t yet express in words. It occurred to me that we can put this into context on Sundays too, engage children in what they see happening during sanctuary worship…but in a size that is functional for kids to play.

After brainstorming with Mimi Larson (the Children’s Ministry Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries), I discovered that play churches had already been created in some European churches such as the Diocese of Edinburgh, Linköpings Cathedral (Sweden), and St. Catherine’s Play Church in Malmö, Sweden.

Here at Covenant CRC (Edmonton, AB), plans were drawn up and a team put together to build our own version of a play church. We completed the project and set it up in November 2021. Children have been given everything they need to play at church; equipment includes a kid sized pulpit, baptismal font, communion table, pew, and piano. Accessories that children can play with inside are a bible, hymnbook, baby in baptismal gown, pitcher, wine cups, grapes and bread, microphone and seasonal play items like an Advent wreath and Lent manipulatives. There are even “stained glass” windows and colour changes for the liturgical cloth on the cross.

Originally, our Play Church was intended for nursery use (children aged 0-2) but because Covid restrictions inconsistently closed the nursery; we temporarily set it up in the foyer. In this location, it was open to all ages and we noticed kids aged 1-10 playing before, during and after worship services, but also throughout the week with other ministries.

In this visible area the message is clear that children are important and valuable members of our church family. Children can be seen preaching the gospel, baptizing babies and lighting candles during the Advent season in their church. I hope that Play Church will lead to greater amounts of imagination, enhance children’s curiosity about the church they worship in, and grow in their knowledge of how and why we worship. And by extension, I pray that children feel encouraged to be involved and thus grow in their faith and relationship with Jesus.

Jennifer Uitvlugt is the Director of Family Ministries at Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, AB.


This looks like a lot of fun, and it would stimulate good conversations. 
How would it work for churches that have few of the traditional practices. Preachers dressed as for a day of gardening, baby dedications without baptismal font or gown, no pulpit, and a rock concert band? 
And what of the churches that have no children in the service, on purpose?

Each church has different rituals and practices, so a play church needs to reflect your specific context.  How does your church practice communion or baptism?  What musical instruments do you use?  What are the various items utilized in your church that children can play with?  Utilized those items in your play church.  

The last question you ask is a challenging one. This might be a bigger question for you and your team to wrestle with.  If they are not in worship, how do children experience your church?  The whole concept of a play church is for a child to make meaning of their church experience through play - just like they do about their homes when they play house. 

Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post