The Maker Fun Factory curriculum is my favorite in YEARS.  I think the message speaks to the identity confusion that most (if not all) kids experience at some point or another.  The points shared through this curriculum are ones that we ALL will benefit from hearing and sharing!  I love that the Imagination Station activities reinforce the daily bible points, but I am a strong proponent of more old-school crafts rather than the gimmicky science gizmos that Group suggests using.  I’ve come up with a master list of alternative craft ideas that still mesh with the Maker Fun Factory theme.  I’d love to share a tutorial for every one of these, but my sweet new baby has other plans for me some days!  I’ll link to the full tutorials when available.  Most of these ideas can be adapted to use for preschoolers!  I’ve also added zero-prep options (kits that have everything you need for each craft) when I can find them.

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DAY 1: Group sciency gizmo: GUTSY Bears
—Key lesson: God made you unique and wonderful inside and out.
—Alternative craft should: be personalized by each student and unique from each other.

Tin Can Robots
-Use tin cans, decorate with embellishments (think Googly eyesPipe cleanersButtonsSequinsBottle capsParty toothpicksWashi tapeWashers, Flat back rhinestones or beadsFeathersPom pom balls)

Scrappy Robots (*great for preschoolers*)
-Print a robot outline on white or colored paper; let kids decorate paper with self-adhesive foam shapes (You know how you always have those little scraps of foam left that you save but don’t know what to do with? Grab all of those and use ’em up!)

Robots To Go (*great for preschoolers*)
-Line the lid of a small plastic box (like a soap box) with a piece of felt.  Cut lots of shapes from felt (squares, triangles, etc), draw faces on some of the felt pieces.  Use felt shapes to build a robot inside the box lid.  The felt sticks to itself, so you can build robots over and over again!

Wood Block Robots (*great for preschoolers*)
-Cut 2×4 lumber into smaller pieces (4-6″ tall) and sand pieces.  Let kids each decorate a block of wood as a robot face using embellishments (I’m not kidding when I say you can clean out odds and ends from your craft closet!  Think Googly eyesPipe cleanersButtonsSequinsBottle capsWashi tapeWashers, Flat back rhinestones or beadsFeathersPom pom balls, Paperclips, etc).  Tacky glue works well to attach embellishments to the wood block.

Pool Noodle Robots
-I’ve seen this idea several places online.  Cut a pool noodle into smaller pieces.  Buy electric toothbrushes from Dollar Tree.  Put the toothbrush inside the pool noodle to make the robot move.  Decorate the pool noodle as a robot.

Slime
-Homemade slime is super popular right now!  Avoid recipes that use borax, as it can burn your skin.  Try mixing equal parts liquid starch and school glue, then add food coloring.  Once the slime is made, each student can personalize theirs (remember – we’re all unique on the inside) with embellishments (googly eyes, pom pom balls, etc).  You’ll want a small container for each student to take their slime home… sandwich bags work well.  There are also edible recipes online if you’re worried about preschoolers getting a little in their mouths (not that it would EVER happen – ha!).

DAY 2: Group sciency gizmo: Connect-a-gears
—Key lesson: God supports you and builds you up.
—Alternative craft should: be anything building-related.

Lower-cost connect-a-gears
-If you like the connect-a-gears, you can find them for about 2 cents per flake on Amazon.

DIY Jenga
-Purchase 1″x2″x8′ boards from your building supply store.  Cut each 8′ board into 21 pieces that are 4.5″ long each then sand the pieces.  The original Jenga comes with 54 pieces, but we’re keeping costs in check by giving each student 21 pieces.  Students can decorate blocks with permanent markers (the blocks are super cute with the ends colored).  You can also print conversation starter questions on return address labels, so that this craft also replaces the take home conversation cards!

DAY 3: Group sciency gizmo: WhirlyGigs
—Key lesson: God is always with you, even when you cannot see him.
—Alternative craft should: use wind, gravity or another force you cannot see.

Marble Paintings (*great for preschoolers*)
-Put a piece of construction paper or cardstock paper (colored or white) in a cardboard box (copy paper box lids work great!).  Squirt paint in a few spots inside the box beside the piece of paper.  Put 2-3 marbles in the box and tilt the box to roll the marbles through the paint and onto the paper.  If you’re using this method, I’d highly suggest covering your floor with tarps or plastic in case any marbles happen to jump out of the boxes.  You can also use the same supplies, but instead of tilting the box, use a straw to blow the marble through the paint and around the box.

Pinwheels
-Make your own pinwheels using colored paper, straws and paper fasteners (tutorial at Instructables).  You can also get a no-prep pinwheel kit at Oriental Trading.

DAY 4: Group sciency gizmo: GoBots
—Key lesson: God’s love for you will never stop.
—Alternative craft should: be something with no end OR tell the Jesus story.

Cross Craft
-We typically do a cross craft on this night because it’s the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  I’m doing wooden crosses this year with a spare parts mosaic idea (attaching washers, nuts, gems, etc using tacky glue).

Slime (God’s love may change and look different to you over time, but it is always there.)
-Homemade slime is super popular right now!  Avoid recipes that use borax, as it can burn your skin.  Try mixing equal parts liquid starch and school glue, then add food coloring.  Once the slime is made, each student can personalize theirs (remember – we’re all unique on the inside) with embellishments (googly eyes, pom pom balls, etc).  You’ll want a small container for each student to take their slime home… sandwich bags work well.  There are also edible recipes online if you’re worried about preschoolers getting a little in their mouths (not that it would EVER happen – ha!).

DAY 5: Group sciency gizmo: Perplexinator Puzzles
—Key lesson: God made you for a reason, even if that is confusing or you don’t know what your purpose is yet.
—Alternative craft should: be confusing or difficult to figure out OR focus on the fact that everyone has a purpose.

Foam Picture Frames (*great for preschoolers*)
-Since night 5 is the last night, we sometimes do a photo craft using pictures I’ve taken of the kids throughout the week.  The easiest way to do this is to purchase the pre-cut smaller size foam sheets.  Each student can glue their photo to the piece of foam, then add the VBS theme, church name or bible verse with permanent markers.  You can also decorate them with foam stickers (you could use foam pieces and glue, but the foam stickers are fast and easy).  For a no-prep option, you can also purchase foam picture frame kits from Oriental Trading.

Whiteboard Pictures
-To do this activity, you’ll need a large whiteboard.  If you don’t have a whiteboard, you could also hang a light-colored disposable tablecover on the wall (and hang a fresh one for each group of the evening).  Have bibles available for the students.  After each crew arrives, ask them “who does God say we are?”… let them use the bibles to find words in the bible that God uses to describe us (ie fearfully and wonderfully made, etc).  Write any phrases the kids come up with on the whiteboard/tablecover, but leave the center of the board clear.  After you’ve written lots of phrases/words on the board, have one student at a time stand in the center of the board (where you left the blank space).  Take individual photos of each student with the words their crew came up with.  You can use an instant camera to take the photos so each student gets to take their picture home that night.  You could also use a cell phone or digital camera, then print each student’s picture and mail it to them with a note thanking them for attending this year’s VBS (and include a blurb about next year!).

CRAFTS TO USE ANY DAY

Foam Picture Frames (*great for preschoolers*)
-Foam picture frames are a fast, easy craft that is great for any age. The easiest way to do this is to purchase the pre-cut smaller size foam sheets.  Each student can glue their photo to the piece of foam, then add the VBS theme, church name or bible verse with permanent markers.  You can also decorate them with foam stickers (you could use foam pieces and glue, but the foam stickers are fast and easy).  For a no-prep option, you can also purchase foam picture frame kits from Oriental Trading.

Painting with Objects (*great for preschoolers*)
-Use objects that relate to the theme as stamps to paint with!  Paint stampers could include washers, gears, gear-shaped toys, nuts/bolts, etc.  Dip these shapes in washable paint, then stamp them on cardstock paper.  You can also use these pieces of painted paper to make the picture frames described above.

Dyed Wagon Wheel Necklaces (*great for preschoolers*)
Wagon wheel pasta looks a lot like gears, so it is perfect for Maker Fun Factory!  Dye the pasta ahead of time using rubbing alcohol and food coloring.  Have string pre-cut so students can make their own necklace.  You could also use the dyed wagon wheel pasta as a play station for preschool students!  Add cups, bowls, etc to a large tub of dyed pasta and let them explore.

Squeegee Art
-Squirt small dots of paint on watercolor paper (could be cut in a robot shape, gear shape, cross shape, etc).  Use a window squeegee to smear the paint across the paper in all directions.  The end result is a neat watercolor/tie dye effect!

Tin Can Wind Chimes
-Drill two holes at the bottom of a tin can (one on each side of the can).  Flip the can upside down and tie a string through these holes to make a hanger for the wind chime.  Drill holes around the bottom of the can (the open end).  Tie string through these holes, then attach noise makers to the string.  The noise makers could be spoons, metal washers, metal lids, large beads, etc.  You could also paint the tin can if you wanted to.  Since this craft involves drilling, you’ll either want to drill all of the holes ahead of time or have extra helpers around so the kids don’t get crazy with power tools!  You can also buy zero-prep wind chime kits.

Tin Can Windsocks
-Drill two holes at the bottom of a tin can (one on each side of the can).  Flip the can upside down and tie a string through these holes to make a hanger for the windchime.  Drill holes around the bottom of the can (the open end).  Tie 1-3 foot long pieces of ribbon through these holes.  You could also paint the tin can if you wanted to.  Since this craft involves drilling, you’ll either want to drill all of the holes ahead of time or have extra helpers around so the kids don’t get crazy with power tools!

Tin Can Silhouettes
-Drill holes in the side of a tin can to make a shape (robot, gears, cross, etc).  Add a candle (preferably the battery-operated kind) to the inside of the tin can to light up the silhouette shape you drilled.  You could also paint the tin can if you wanted to.  Since this craft involves drilling, you’ll either want to drill all of the holes ahead of time or have extra helpers around so the kids don’t get crazy with power tools!

Washer Jewelry
-Buy metal washers, then use permanent markers or nail polish to decorate them.  Use string to make the decorated washers into necklaces, bracelets or keychains.

Robot Masks
-Use cardstock paper, foam or felt to cut and decorate robot masks.  If you have a Sizzix machine, there is a robot mask die available.  Use string to make a headband or just purchase the pre-made stretchy bands.  You can buy zero-prep mask kits here.

Robot Vests (*great for preschoolers*)
-Cut brown paper grocery bags into a vest shape (by cutting arm holes, a neck hole and a slit opening up the front).  Let each student decorate their robot vest using markers, adhesive foam, glitter, etc.

Robot Hats (*great for preschoolers*)
-Spray paint party hats silver (or purchase plain silver party hats).  Use a silver pipe cleaner to make an antenna for the top of the robot hat.  Let each student decorate their robot hat using permanent markers, adhesive foam, etc.

Memory Game
-Cut colored cardstock into small squares.  Give each student 20 pieces that are all the same color (you could use more or less pieces, depending on student age).  You could have pre-made matching pieces cut (2 of each of the bible verse, pictures of robots, etc).  Let each student choose which pictures they like, then glue the pictures to their cardstock squares.  Make sure they have 2 of each picture to play the matching game!  It’s also handy to have ziploc bags for each student to put all of their pieces in.

Robot Bean Bag Toss (*great for preschoolers*)
-Gather 2 large cardboard boxes.  Cut a similarly sized round or square hole in each box, then decorate the box as a robot.  Lay each box so the hole side is facing up.  Let students toss bean bags into the holes.  If you have plenty of time, kids could form teams and use the robot boxes to play cornhole.

Gear-Shaped Lacing Activity (*great for preschoolers*)
-Cut foam, cardboard or cardstock paper into Fun Factory themed shapes (gears, robots, crosses, etc).  Give each student a piece of string and let them lace around the edges of the shape.  This activity is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers!  You can also purchase zero-prep lacing cards.

Ornaments/Bookmarks (*great for preschoolers*)
-Cut foam or cardstock paper into Fun Factory themed shapes (gears, crosses, etc).  Let each student decorate their foam piece with the bible verse, Maker slogan, etc.  Punch a hole at the top of the shape and tie a string/ribbon through it.  These can be hung up as oraments or used as bookmarks!  Instead of the ribbon at the top, you could add a small magnet to the back and the shape could be fridge decor.  This activity is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, or is an easy time-filler for kids who finish their regular crafts early!  You can also buy a zero-prep ornament kit or bookmark kit here.

Magnets (*great for preschoolers*)
-Cut foam or cardstock paper into Fun Factory themed shapes (gears, crosses, etc).  Let each student decorate their foam piece with the bible verse, Maker slogan, etc.  These are made just like the ornaments/bookmarks above.  However, instead of the ribbon at the top, you could add a small magnet to the back and the shape could be fridge decor.  This activity is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, or is an easy time-filler for kids who finish their regular crafts early!  You can also buy a zero-prep magnet kit here.

Activity Books
-Using Microsoft Word or Publisher, design activity pages that relate to the Maker Fun Factory theme (preferably 1/2 page per activity).  Print and staple these pages with a piece of colored cardstock as the cover.  You can also buy zero-prep kits here.

Conversation Sticks
-Group has take home conversation cards for sale.  Instead of purchasing them, kids could make conversation sticks during craft time one day.  Print conversation starter questions on paper.  Students can choose which questions they like, then glue them to large popsicle sticks and decorate the sticks.  Have sandwich bags on hand to send the conversation sticks home in.  If your kids made a tin can robot on night 1, the conversation sticks could be stored in the tin can robot!  Make sure you have lots of different questions so families with several kids don’t end up with a bunch of duplicate questions.

Keychains
-Use nylon string, pony beads, key rings and washers to make keychains.  You can also buy a zero-prep kit here.

I am a long-time Vacation Bible School lover.  I’ve lead in several capacities throughout the VBS world and am currently our church’s VBS director.  It is a joy for me to be able to share VBS ideas and resources with others!  I will continue to share ideas here as we prepare for Maker Fun Factory VBS .  Follow the blog to see more of our ideas and planning!  Please let me know if there are any specific VBS items or ideas you need help with.

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This article has 6 comments

  1. nancie Reply

    Hello! I love this post! I’m am trying to find your link to the printable Bible Buddie Tags that can be printed onto cardstock. Thanks!

  2. Jana Reply

    I love your post too! I’m in charge of imagination/craft station and I like including some old-school type crafts each year. I am always looking for fun and affordable cross craft ideas for Day 4. I love the idea of mosaic/spare parts cross. Where do you get your wooden crosses? What size approx?
    Thanks!

  3. Chrissy Reply

    Thank you so much, Kara. Great info here! I love the flakes and the crosses. Do you think the flakes are ok size-wise for preschoolers? Are they smaller than Group’s gears? I’m smacking my forehead here, because we were googling for cheap plastic gears like crazy…and all this time, they were out there, but were called flakes!! Thanks for somehow unearthing the flakes.

    • Borrowed Blessings {Kara}

      Chrissy, You’re most welcome! The Amazon options are smaller than the Group brand, but our preschoolers (3-5 years old) were able to use the Amazon flakes.

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