Catch Jonah With The Whale Game

(Jonah 1 & 2)

I have seen many versions of this craft/game over the years, but they always seemed to leave me wanting something... I don't know... more colorful, I guess. After a long search for the perfect materials, this is what I ended up with and I couldn't be more pleased. It works really well, is bright and cheery, and the kids have a blast with it. It is easy to alter the craft to fit whatever time span and age group you happen to have. For vacation Bible school, when longer activities may be needed, allow the children to do some of the "Beforehand Preparation" steps below themselves. For Sunday school, when time is shorter, put most of the project together at home and have the children only do the coloring, and maybe the glueing of the whales. Likewise, older children can do more of the actual construction, and younger children will need to stick to the coloring steps. You know your class and your time limits, so I'll just say, read through all steps carefully, then pick and choose which steps will work best as beforehand prep. and in-class construction for your situation. I've listed it below as I do it for a thirty minute project time.


Blue paper party hats (cone shaped, no decorations)
Yarn (any color)
Cotton cloth or burlap (solid, neutral color)
Any dried beans (I like Lentils best)
Hot glue gun & glue sticks (for ADULT use only)
Scissors (not pictured)
One large eye sewing needle (optional, not pictured)
Small bore funnel (optional, not pictured)
White card stock (not pictured)
Whale template: 
        Color (download here) or
        Black & White (download here)
Jonah template (download here)
Printable t-shirt transfer sheets
Skinny sharpie pens in variety of colors

Beforehand Preparation:

1) Print the Jonah template onto the printable t-shirt transfer sheets. One Jonah is needed for each child.

2) Cut around each Jonah in a circular fashion smaller than the bean bag desired.

3) Transfer each Jonah onto the cotton cloth per the transfer sheet instructions.

4) Cut around each Jonah leaving a good margin for the glue. Each one should be the actual size you want the bean bag to be. Don't go too big because if he is too heavy he will be difficult to catch with the whale.

5) Cut a matching piece of plain cotton cloth for the backside of the Jonah bean bag.

6) Cut yarn in approximately 24" lengths. One for each child. I have found this to be a good length for most ages. The longer the yarn, the more difficult it is to catch Jonah in the whale. For teenagers 36" works well.

7) Put together the Jonah bean bag:

        a) Hot glue the front and back of the Jonah pieces
            together leaving an opening at the top.
        b) Fill with beans.
        c) Stuff one end of the yarn into the opening.
        d) Hot glue the bean bag closed making sure the yarn is secure.

8) Print the whales on white card stock. One sheet (or 2 whales) are needed for each child. Use the black and white template if the children will be coloring their own whales. Use the color template if time will not allow them to color their own.

9) Since I am always running close on time in my class, I either let them use the color template and they get to cut the whales out OR I cut the black and white template whales out and they get to color them. We never have time for them to do both the cutting and the coloring during the Sunday school hour. 

10) Remove the elastic chin straps from the hats.

In-class Instructions:

1) Give each child a hat, a Jonah bean bag with yarn attached, a left and right whale, and sharpies.

2) Ask the children to color their Jonah (& the whale if applicable) with the sharpies. The whale can be colored with anything, but the cloth Jonah does better with sharpies.

3) When they have completed the coloring, they should take the hat and the whales to the teacher for glueing. Using the hot glue gun, glue the whales to each side of the hat with the mouth of the whale facing the large opening of the hat. I do not recommend using Elmer's or other similar glues because the children will want to play with the game immediately and that type of glue does not dry fast enough. Using hot glue allows game play to begin within seconds.

4) Lastly, have the children thread the free end of the yarn through the top of the hat. Tie a large knot in the end of the yarn to secure. Look closely at the picture below. See the hat seam? This seam makes it easy to thread the yarn without a needle. If your hats are constructed differently, a large eye yarn needle can be used. Just make sure it has a blunt tip if the children will be using it.

Hold the hat at the narrow end and let the swinging begin!

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