Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lessons involving balloons.


I have been sharing teaching ideas with children's ministers through my monthly Newsletters and on my 'Blog' sites since 2002. In these 'Special Blogs', I have grouped together some of my ideas into some of the major Biblical teaching areas. In this way it is hoped that readers will be able to go directly to a particular subject to view some ideas - object lessons, teaching tips, stories etc., or even to prepare a complete children's lesson (or lessons) on that subject.

Maurice Sweetsur
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Contents - All 'Special Blogs'.

1. Creation.
2. Christmas.
3. Easter.
4. The Bible.
5. Prayer.
6. Hearing from God.
7. The Ten Commandments.
8. John 3.16.
9. Teaching Memory verses.
10. Gospel Illusions.
11. Object Lessons (using natural laws).
12. Lessons involving balloons.
13. Lessons involving fire.

Other Blog sites from Maurice Sweetsur :-

Children's ministry -
All teaching material (All Newsletters) -
Object lessons / Illusions -
Bible lessons and Teaching tips -
Stories, skits and puppet plays -
Bible answers for kids -
Kidzone (Children's site) -
Kidzone - Archives. -

To find out more about my ministry to children, go to my main 'Blog' -

Introduction (Balloons).

Maurice Sweetsur's photo.

Children love balloons, especially if they end up being "popped". In this Blog, I have drawn together all my different teaching ideas that involve balloons.


Teaching tip - Use of balloon modelling in Children's ministry.
O.L. - Creation.
O.L. - Jumping on balloons.
O.L. - God's guidance.
O.L. - Little sins grow bigger.
O.L. - Needle through a balloon.
O.L. - Facing trials and troubles.
Game - Forgiving others.
Balloon game.
Teaching memory verses.

Teaching tip - Use of Balloon modelling in Children's ministry.

Maurice Sweetsur's photo.

Being able to make simple balloon models is, I believe, a very useful technique to have at your disposal for enhancing your lessons. Younger children, in particular, are always thrilled to see someone make a balloon model.

The main reasons why most teachers do not do balloon modelling is because they think it a hard (or expensive) thing to do, or because they don't know how they could use it in their classes. I will endeavour to answer both these points.

A. With just a little practice, most people find it easy to make basic balloon models - personally I find it a lot easier to make a balloon giraffe (for example) than to draw a picture of one! There are lots of booklets available on balloon modelling, but I think the best way to start is simply to get some balloons and try it yourself. Here are some tips :-

1. Probably the most used modelling balloons are Qualatex 260Q. If you buy in bulk, these are very inexpensive, and would probably cost (depending on what country you are in) about U.S. 10c. each - less than the price of the cheapest Bookmark, for example. You will almost certainly need a balloon pump (unless you have very strong lungs!), but again these are fairly cheap.

2. When you blow up a balloon, leave about 3 or 4cm. uninflated at the end - this is for the air to expand into as you begin your twisting. Then let a little air out before you tie the end of the balloon. This should ensure that the balloon doesn't burst as you are shaping it.

3. Basic balloon animals have the same shape. They differ only in their dimensions. Thus, for all of them, you twist a head, two ears, a neck, two front legs, a body, and two back legs - leaving a little over for the tail. Each animal will simply have a different 'long' section. For example, Rabbit - ears. Giraffe - neck. Dog - body (a 'sausage' dog). Cat - tail. Practice a little, and you will soon see how easy it is.

4. The Children's Ministry Today web site ( ) has an extensive section on Balloon modelling tips - well worth a visit, especially if you are contemplating making more complex models.

B. Balloon models can be used in many different ways in your class. Here are a few suggestions :-

1. As an inexpensive prize. e.g. Best behaved child, or as a reward for remembering a Memory verse.

2. To illustrate any story (Biblical or otherwise) involving an animal.

3. As props for a play or skit. e.g. a sword or a crown (both very easy to make).

4. To have a 'fun' competition among the children. Choose two teams of three or four each. Give each member an inflated balloon, and keep one for yourself. Make a simple balloon animal, and get the children to try and copy you as you are doing so. On completion, get someone to give marks (e.g. out of 10) for each model. Total up the marks to see which team is the winner.

5. My Object Lesson 8 (Newsletter 3) illustrates how we must receive God's gift of Jesus. You could use a balloon model to demonstrate this.

O.L. - Creation.

When introducing the topic of Creation, I usually start by emphasizing the point that there are two things that only God can do.

Firstly, although people are very clever, and can do such things like land a man on the moon, invent televisions or computers, they cannot make something out of nothing. Given starting materials, people can often change their properties - size, shape, colour, texture etc., but they cannot make something out of nothing - only God can do that.

Secondly, people cannot make something that is living out of something that is not living. Again, only God can do that.

I then proceed by stating that I am now going to re-create two of the creatures that God first created on the fifth and sixth days of the Creation week. I then make a balloon bird (or fish) and a balloon animal, continuing my talk as I do so. ( If you don't do balloon modelling, you can still get your point across by simply cutting out appropriate shapes from pieces of paper).

As you make the shapes, emphasize that you are starting with something that already exists e,g. your uninflated balloon and some air. Then state that for anybody to make anything ( whether it be a watchmaker, a car-maker, a shoe-maker, or a balloon animal maker) only two things are needed - Know-how ( or intelligence ) and Power ( or energy ). Without power, your idea will remain only in your head, and without know-how (or an intelligent plan), you will just make a big mess!

As your models near completion, ask "If I had more know-how, do you think I would make a better or worse model?" The children will respond "better." Then ask "The Bible tells us that God has all know-how (He knows everything and is super-intelligent), so how good do you think God could make things?" The children should respond "very good" or "perfect." Then state " That's exactly right. The Bible tells us that in the beginning, God created a perfect world."

Then ask "If I had more power, do you think I could make these models faster or slower than I can now?" The response will be "faster." Then ask "All the power in the Universe belongs to God, so how fast do you think He could make things?" The children should respond "in a split second" or "instantly." State "That's exactly right. The Bible tells us that God not only created a perfect world, but He also made everything in it instantly - just by speaking."

Alternatively (for a younger class) you could simply produce a balloon animal which has already been made, and ask "How do you think this model was made? Do you think it could have been made by accident? Perhaps someone left an uninflated balloon in this room last night, and left the window open. Overnight, the wind blew through the window and into the balloon. The balloon then began twisting itself round and round until it formed the shape of this animal which you see here now. Finally, the end of the balloon managed to tie itself in a knot to stop the air escaping. Do you think that really happened, or do you think that there is a balloon model maker somewhere who made this animal on purpose?" The children should see the absurdity of the model being able to make itself by accident, and respond "There is a balloon model maker somewhere." Emphasise the point that everything the children see around them has to have a maker. Watches need watchmakers, shoes need shoemakers, chairs need chairmakers etc. Nothing can make itself.

You will then be able to apply the above argument to the creation of the Universe and everything in it. State "There are some people who believe that the Universe made itself by accident. But the Universe is far more wonderful and complex than a balloon animal, and if even that couldn't make itself, then how likely is it that the whole Universe made itself? No, the Bible teaches us that we have wonderful Creator who made the Universe and everything in it on purpose. And the good news is :- He made it all for our benefit.

O.L. - Jumping on balloons.

A miracle occurs when God overrules or suspends one of the natural laws of the universe. In this illustration you are able to show how one of these laws can be overcome. Alternatively, you could use this lesson to teach on faith.

If you jump on a normal round balloon it will usually burst because of the pressure of your weight. However, if you are able to distribute your weight over a larger area than that of your shoes, the balloon (or balloons) should not burst.

Get a large cardboard box, and cut it down so that it's sides are only about 15 cm. high. Fill the box with inflated balloons, and place a peace of board on the top. Note. The tops of the balloons should still be clearly visible to your class.

Firstly demonstrate to your class what happens if you jump on a single balloon - it bursts! Then stand on top of the board (you may need some assistance in doing this without losing your balance) and then proceed to jump up and down. Because your weight is now distributed over a large area, the balloons should not burst.

O.L. - God's Guidance.

"We are all on a journey through life, and God has given us two things to help us - His Word, the Bible and the Holy Spirit. If, however, we try and travel through life on our own - without calling on God to Guide us - we will make mistakes, and go off in directions that are not part of God’s plan for us."

Produce an ordinary (round) balloon. Blow it up, but do not tie it. Choose a volunteer to be your target. Have him/her stand about 6 meters away. " This balloon represents a person trying to go through life on their own. Most people do want to go the right way. Their intentions are good. Therefore I am starting off by pointing the balloon at the target, but let's see what will happen when I let go!" It will almost certainly miss the target. Repeat a few times. You may be able to obtain "Rocket" balloons. These are long, and buzz as they travel through the air. Children love them, but they will still miss their targets!

"What this balloon needs is a Guidance system - something to help it hit its target. I have one right here. Produce a 6 or 7 meter piece of string, and thread one end through a drinking straw. Have a second volunteer stand just behind the target, holding the other end. Blow up your balloon and tape it under the straw. (See Diagram below). Let the balloon go, and watch it hit its target. "That balloon kept right on target, because it had something to guide it. In the same way, we will stay on target in our journey through life - If we let the Bible and the Holy Spirit guide us."

O.L. - Little sins grow bigger.

This is a simple but effective illustration to show that "little" sins, if left unchecked, grow and grow until eventually they can cause destruction.

Preparation. Take a round balloon, inflate it, and write the word "sin" on it with a marker. Deflate the balloon.

Lesson. Show your group the balloon, and while you are explaining that "little sins grow bigger", begin to demonstrate this by slowly inflating the balloon (and consequently the word "sin"). It is better to use a balloon pump for this, because eventually you will have inflated the balloon so much that it explodes! - a reminder that sin is very destructive.

O.L. - Needle through a balloon.

Punctuating an inflated balloon with a pin or needle, without it bursting, will always fascinate children. There are two ways you can achieve this :-

1. Place a small piece if clear sticking tape on the inflated balloon. You can then pierce this without the balloon bursting.

2. Pierce the balloon where the rubber is thickest i.e. near the hole and at the opposite end. In fact, by using these two locations, you should be able to pass your needle right through the balloon. Hints. Don't inflate the balloon too much. Use a sharp needle. Smear a little grease on the end of your needle.

I have used this illustration in two ways. You may be able to think of others.

1. Miracles. State that normally when you prick a balloon with a needle it will burst - Give an illustration. (If appropriate you could tell the children why it bursts, by talking about air pressure, rapid flow of air to the hole etc.). State that God can overcome or suspend the natural physical laws of the Universe. He can do miracles. Proceed with your demonstration.

2. Sharing your testimony. Inflate about four or five balloons, and write on them things which you (or others) once thought would give lasting satisfaction e.g. Sport, Job, Money, etc. On the last one write "Jesus." Keep the balloons (or at least the words) out of sight until required. Produce the balloons one at a time, and talk about how you once thought that Sport etc. would really satisfy you for life, but that in the end you found it wasn't really what you were searching for. It let you down. Burst the balloon with your pin or needle. Proceed until you are left with the "Jesus" balloon. Explain that this is what you have always been searching for, and that you have found that He will never let you down. Prick the balloon in the appropriate place to demonstrate!

O.L. - Facing trials and troubles.

Children particularly enjoy any lessons involving fire, water or balloons. The following object lesson involves all three, so should be a big hit!

Everyone faces trials and troubles at sometime in their life, but if we have put our trust in Jesus then He has promised to always be with us and help us through all our troubles.

1. Light a candle - the flame represents our trials and troubles.

2. Produce an inflated balloon - this represents the person who doesn't have Jesus in their life, and is therefore facing the trouble on their own. Let's see what happens when I put the balloon over the flame - BANG.

3. Produce an inflated balloon about one third full of water - this represents the person who has Jesus in their life (c.f. the water). Let's see what happens when I put this balloon over the flame - THE BALLOON IS UNHARMED.

Although both balloons faced the same trial (i.e. flame), the second one came through unharmed - because the water took away the heat before it could do any damage. In much the same way, Jesus is able to see us through our trials and troubles unharmed.

Game - Forgiving others.

The father in the lost son story was eager to forgive, but the older brother was not. Explain that if we want God to forgive us when we do wrong, we must forgive others that have done wrong to us (Matthew 6. v. 14, 15). (For more on this, see Teaching tip 12 - The Lord's prayer, Newsletter 24). Forgiving others usually seems an easy thing to do - if we actually have nobody we need to forgive! However, if we do have somebody we need to forgive, we usually find it is a hard thing to do.

In much the same way the following game sounds very easy to do, but when they actually try it out, most children find it hard.

Give each volunteer two round inflated balloons. All they have to do is keep the balloons up in the air for 30 seconds. (They are not allowed to hold on to the balloons or let them rest on their hands, but must keep them bouncing). If one of the balloons hits the floor - or any other object - within the 30 seconds, they have failed.

You will probably find that most children are unable to do this 'simple' task.

Balloon game.

This is very simple, but probably the most hilarious game I have ever seen. You will need about 40 round balloons, inflated and tied, two large (adult) jumpers, and two large (adult) sets of pants.

Choose two volunteers, and get them to put on the large jumpers and pants over their own clothes. Choose two helpers for each volunteer, and then see which team can stuff the most balloons inside the outer cloths in (say) 3 minutes. (I have known teams manage over 20!). The winner is decided by the leader "counting" the balloons used by popping them, one at a time and while still in place, with a pin.

Teaching Memory verses.

(A full list of methods is given in my Blog ).

1. Balloon race.

Take two pieces of paper, and write out your verse on each one. Cut each paper into small pieces, with two or three words on each. Put each set of papers into two uninflated balloons. Choose two teams. One member of each team has to race to the other end of the room, blow up their balloon, tie it, burst it, retrieve the pieces of paper, and get the other members of the team to help to arrange the verse in the correct way. For larger classes you could, of course, have more teams.

2. Elimination methods.

Show the verse in full, and then gradually eliminate the words until they have all gone. Test the children after each step to see if they can still say the verse. There are a number of different ways you could do this.

a. Write the words out on a number of different cards (e.g. 1 or 2 words per card), Get a line of children to hold them up for all to see, and then simply remove the cards 1, 2, or 3 at a time – depending on the length of the verse.

b. The same as above, but write the words out on inflated balloons. Get volunteers to gradually ‘pop’ the balloons with a pin. (This is a popular method!).

c. Write the complete verse out on a large piece of cardboard. Then get volunteers to gradually tear pieces off it, until it has nearly all gone. By the time this is complete, the children should have said the verse the targeted 7 or 8 times.