Kick-off craft

In this kick-off craft, you’ll help your children make a joy seekers shadow box and an optional accompanying spyglass. The shadow box illustrates our tendency to look for joy in all the wrong places. Four small compartments in the shadow box will contain items illustrating wrong places to find joy. The largest compartment will house Jesus as a baby in a manger scene as a reminder that true joy can only be found in Jesus.

Joy seekers shadow box


You will need the following supplies:

a craft knife or scissors
a shoebox (with a lid)
a cereal box (to make cardboard dividers)
a small carton or box (to serve as a “manger”)
four ice pop sticks
a glue gun or tape
a tiny doll or figure wrapped in white cloth or a napkin
some yellow construction paper and/or tissue paper
various trinkets from around your home
toilet paper tubes (optional).

  • Before enlisting your children’s help, prepare the shoebox to serve as your shadow box. This will involve cutting dividing walls from the cereal box and assembling them in the shoebox, then cutting peepholes into different sections of the shoebox. The diagram below shows a suggested final arrangement for the dividing walls and peepholes.
  • First, cut a cardboard dividing wall to size and glue it across the middle of the shoebox, dividing the shoebox into two halves. Next, add more walls to divide one of the shoebox halves into quarters, as pictured above. The other half of the box does not require dividers.
  • Each one of the sections you have made will need a viewing peephole. Cut the holes approximately 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter, using a craft knife or scissors. (If you don’t have time to make a shoebox with dividers, just use two separate shoeboxes – one to contain the manger scene and the other to contain an assortment of items.)
  • Ask your children to help you find items representing things people turn to find joy – things such as money, food, entertainment or material possessions. Food could be represented by a chocolate bar or candy; entertainment could be represented by a toy car (because people often think that being busy, going places and doing things can make them happy); material possessions might be represented by a small toy; money could be represented by some coins or bills. As you collect the items to add to your shadow box, use discussion questions one to seven (below) to guide your conversation.
  • In the largest section of the shadow box you will create a manager scene centred on Jesus. To build the manger, attach two ice pop sticks in the shape of an “X” to each end of a small carton or box. (One end section cut from a macaroni and cheese box is about the right size.) Have your children shred or cut strips of yellow paper to make straw, then fill the manager and the large compartment of the shadow box with your straw. Find a small figure to wrap in a white napkin to represent baby Jesus. If you have suitable figures available, you may also wish to add Mary and Joseph to the manger scene, along with small farm animals. While you work on the manger scene, use question eight (below) to help explain that true joy comes through having a friendship with Jesus and through reading and following God’s Word.
  • Write a memory verse of your choice on the outside of the shadow box.
  • When your shadow box is complete, secure the lid on the top and take turns peeking in the holes “looking for joy.” Make a game of looking in the “wrong” places and finally finding joy when you look to Jesus. Phrases you could use to reinforce the lesson include, “Money might make me happy, but true joy is found in Jesus;” “Toys might make me happy for a while, but lasting joy is found in Jesus;” “Food might bring happiness for a few minutes, but Jesus makes me joyful all day, every day.”
  • For children who like to be active, have them decorate a toilet paper tube as a pretend spyglass. Encourage them to look for joy all over the house and then return to the shadow box to look for joy in the “right” place.

Each day, read one of the verses from below that talk about experiencing joy in knowing God. Then have your children select one item to add to the manger scene that will remind them where they can find true joy.

Questions for discussion
  • What makes you happy?
  • What is the difference between being happy and being joyful?
  • People often say they are “looking for happiness” or “searching for joy.” Where do most people look?
  • How would you feel if you were on your way to meet friends for a play day at the beach?
  • Would your feelings change if it started to pour with rain?
  • What would you say or do if your parents suggested that you spend the day with your friends at a museum instead?
  • How could you choose to be joyful about the change of plans?
  • What does the Bible say about how we can find joy?
Key concepts

We generally feel happy when things are going the way we want or when we are doing an enjoyable activity. When people say they are feeling happy they are often looking forward to having fun, or they have recently experienced something pleasurable like eating a treat, playing with friends or going somewhere exciting. Joy and happiness are not the same. Happiness is a feeling, but joy is a way of thinking or looking at life. Happiness is an emotion or something we experience; joy is an attitude or a mindset we choose to have in all circumstances, good or bad, because we trust that God loves us and is always with us.

Here’s an example of the difference between happiness and joy: We might feel happy heading out to spend a day at the beach with friends. If it unexpectedly begins to rain, the feelings of happiness would likely turn to disappointment. Imagine if the adults agreed to visit a museum and have an indoor picnic instead. A child who decides to make the best of the day and enjoy the exhibits is choosing to look beyond the circumstances and to be joyful. On the other hand, if a child pouts all day due to the change in plans, he or she is choosing to be dissatisfied.

It is easier to choose joy when our attitude is influenced by our relationship with Jesus. The Bible teaches us that joy is found in the forgiveness of our sin, obeying God’s Word, being in God’s presence and in knowing that we will be with Him in heaven someday. All these things are possible because of Jesus (Romans 5:10-11). The world teaches us that happiness is found in having lots of money or possessions, in being well liked by others, in doing fun and exciting things, and enjoying good food and entertainment. The Bible teaches us that a belief in God changes the way we look at everyday situations, because it helps us understand what is truly important in life.

Relevant Scripture

Verses about finding joy in reading God’s Word and obeying it:

Psalm 68:3 “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.”

Psalm 19:8 “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

Psalm 97:11 “Light is shed on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.”

Psalm 119:14 “I rejoice in following Your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.”

Psalm 119:111 “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”

John 15:9-11 “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. ”

God’s promises that we will find joy in our relationship with Him:

Psalm 5:11 “But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.”

Psalm 16:11 “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.”

Psalm 28:7 “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to Him in song.”

Psalm 70:4 “But may all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who love Your salvation always say, “Let God be exalted!”

Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

John 15:9-11 “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

1 Peter 1:8-9 “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”