I am finally blogging about last year’s VBS (just in time to start writing this year’s VBS). Last year was our first year writing our own VBS. It was lots of work, but totally worth it. We chose to go with a video game themed VBS and we called it Power Up. In my next post, I will be sharing our full Power Up VBS curriculum. I tried to get as many pictures as possible to capture what we did. I thought last year’s set design was crazy! This year we basically doubled the set design work. Honestly, there were moments when I wasn’t sure we would get it all done, but it came together just in time thanks to many willing hands who showed up to help! Since this is such a massive set design, I am going to break it up into sections by the rooms/themes.
I somehow only managed to get a picture of the photo booth in the lobby, and didn’t get any other pictures of the lobby. For the photo booth, we used two pieces of 4×8 ft. insulation foam, the white stuff with the silver coating. You can buy it at Lowe’s or Home Depot for about $8 a sheet. We taped the two pieces of foam together to create one 8×8 ft. backdrop. Next, we covered the foam board with blue Kraft paper. You are going to need a lot of this for the other rooms and hallways. Purchase two rolls of this color to make sure you have enough. We added the fun details to the backdrop. We found the picture of the star and mushroom online, printed them on cardstock, and cut them out. The green pipe and yellow question box are posterboard. The bricks are made out of a roll of brick Kraft paper. I believe we bought and used about four rolls of the brick Kraft paper between all the rooms and hallways. We also covered small boxes from Home Depot with yellow and brick kraft paper to place in front of the backdrop.
We did something similar to what we did for last year’s Science VBS Set Design. Our church has a really open lobby with high ceilings and lots of windows. This is great for a lot of things, but I wanted to create a different environment for the kids to walk into. We decided to black out most of the windows and doors to get rid of all natural lighting so we could control the feel of the environment. We used black kraft paper and black masking tape to get the job done. We usually use black gaff tape for this, but we had an unfortunate experience the previous year. Arizona heat + black gaff tape around windows = paint ripped off the walls. Lesson learned. Gaff tape is still my go-to for using on walls and carpets, but use caution if it will be near a heat source. Once we had the lobby windows and doors blacked out, we had complete control over the lighting. We bought 16 cheap LED lights off eBay last year to use in the lobby and around the hallways to add some fun colored elements. We looked for a bundle of eight lights on eBay that were located in the US (for quick shipping) and bought two bundles (16 lights total). Note they are very cheap, and as with most lighting, you get what you pay for, but they served our purposes just fine. Be prepared to have one or two of them show up broken or defective. Fortunately, the seller we dealt with was very understanding and even gave us some money back! It was absolutely worth the amount we paid for them. The great news is, we purchased these lights for last year’s VBS and we have used them for countless set designs since then. We also changed the normal lightbulbs in the light fixtures in the lobby out for red and blue colored light bulbs to go with the theme. I wish I had pictures, but we used two cheap projectors that were lying around to project a video game on the floor of the lobby and a cute video game movie on the wall.
We went BIG on the hallways this year. We had two hallways to decorate, and each hallway had two sides of the wall to decorate. For one side of the wall in each hallway, we made giant video game controllers to place all over the wall. I believe I made over sixty of them in total. The larger controllers took up an entire piece of poster board, but I was able to get two or three of the smaller controllers out of one piece of poster board. I would definitely recommend stalking Hobby Lobby if you have one nearby to see when they put their poster board on sale. They have a huge selection and they seem to put it on sale for about 50% off every other week. I was able to purchases hundreds of pieces of poster board in a dozen or more colors at less than 50¢ each. Their poster board is much thicker and higher quality than the stuff I have purchased at Dollar Tree or Walmart. They also have the silver metallic color I used to make some of the controllers. Our walls are already grey so I used the silver to make them pop off the wall more. If you don’t have a Hobby Lobby nearby, you can purchase poster board for 2 for $1 at Dollar Tree, but your selection will be much more limited. For each type of controller, I free-handed a template by looking at a picture online. Once I had a good template, I traced all of the other controllers. All of the buttons are made out thin craft foam sheets. I would also recommend purchasing your craft foam sheets at Hobby Lobby. You can buy the big 12×18 in. sheets individually, and only get the colors you need. I used craft foam because it made the buttons appear to be raised like on a video game controller. I did run out of some colors and supplemented with leftover scraps of poster board. I used hot glue to put all of the pieces together. I also discovered a new tape that I fell in love with — double-sided gaff tape. We used this tape to put the controllers on the walls.
During VBS, we lit up the hallways with led tape. The cool thing is, my Pastor let me leave it up from last year’s VBS so we didn’t have to put it up again. We bought 16 rolls of RGB 5050 LED strip lights, which is surprisingly affordable, and it transformed our hallways into a party. We lined the edge of the ceiling all the way down both of the hallways, and turned it on color changing mode. We also used some of the cheap LED lights to help light the hallways enough to safely walk through them. We didn’t use any fluorescent lighting in the hallways at all. All the lighting came from the LED tape and LED lights. We also set up speakers in each of the hallways that played video game music in the background when all of the kids were rotating to their next room.
The other side of each hallway was themed in four sections in the same theme as the room it led up to. I will cover what we did for each section of the hallway with each of the themed rotation rooms.
Our main stage is also our adult sanctuary. The ceilings are very high in the sanctuary so we had to work with what we could reach. The stage is also quite large, so we had to create a lot of large elements to fill the stage. Let’s start with the easy stuff we were able to purchase. We bought the cardboard cutouts of Mario, Luigi, and Sonic online for about $100 combined. Not too bad, considering the detailing on them, it was worth it. We made everything else on the stage ourselves. We created two angry birds, a red and a blue one. We free-handed the shapes on sheets of cardboard, cut them out with an x-acto knife, and spray painted the bodies. I had someone more creative than I am make the face details out of craft foam sheets, and attached them to the bodies using hot glue. We made a Pacman and Ms. Pacman out of cardboard sheets as well. Spray painting them didn’t go as well since the yellow spray paint didn’t get the coverage I was wanting. So, we covered them in yellow Kraft paper instead. Ms. Pacman’s bow is made out of red craft foam. We also made two 2D Tetris shapes out of cardboard sheets and spray painted them. I get all of my cardboard sheets for free from Sam’s Club. Just walk around the store and you will find them in the aisles, and sometimes stacks of them are just lying around. You can also ask an employee to grab a stack for you from the back of you. It’s completely free! The 3D Tetris blocks and yellow question boxes are medium size boxes from Lowe’s wrapped in Kraft paper. They were actually for different stage games that we played during large group time, but they doubled quite nicely as set design pieces as well. It is important that all of your boxes are the same size or they won’t line up correctly.
We created two giant vintage video game controllers that we hung on each side of the stage, but these were super simple to create. Each one is was made out of a 4×8 ft. piece of insulation foam (the same stuff we used for the photo booth). We covered each of the sheets of foam with grey Kraft paper and cut a rectangle out of black Kraft paper that was slightly smaller to attach to the grey paper. The buttons are made out of large 12×18 inch sheets of craft foam. I outlined the black pieces with silver sharpie to help them stand out more against the black paper.
The best part of our Main Stage set design were the two homemade video game consoles. Yes, they actually work! Unfortunately, I don’t have step-by-step instructions on how these were made. I had a random pipe dream to make them, and someone in our church offered to make the shells for them for the cost of the lumber. There are many tutorials online for making these. If you or someone in your church knows how to build things, give it a shot. We found old tube televisions on the side of the road and at garage sales to put inside because we wanted the vintage look. We bought these arcade panels to use inside our video game consoles. They are expensive but make your consoles legit. We used these mini pcs to power the consoles. Raspberry Pis are cheaper, but a lot more work. We put the most money into these consoles knowing that we would use them every week in our elementary kid’s room after VBS was over. We also brought the video game consoles off the stage and into the lobby for people to play on our family night at the end of VBS.
This year we bit off a lot for theming. We decided to make each rotation room a different video game theme. We had eight rotation rooms and only repeated one theme. We chose to make both of the Devotion Rooms themed as Super Mario Bros. It was the video game with the most decor ideas, and we used the theming in our devotions each night. Most of the rooms include a focal wall, ceiling decor, themed doors, and a themed portion of the hallway. I tried my best to get pictures of everything, but if I missed anything I will do my best to describe what we did.
The Tetris Room may have been my favorite room because the focal wall was actually interactive. We covered the entire focal wall in black felt material. Make sure you measure your wall before you buy the material to ensure that you will have enough. I found the cheapest option at Walmart, but you can also purchase the material at any craft store. Don’t make the mistake we made! We thought that double-sided gaff tape and black gaff tape would hold the fabric on the wall, but by the time we put all the other felt pieces on the wall we had it fall down, right before VBS! We added black push pins to the top of the material and that held it up for the rest of the week. I would suggest using tape and push pins to keep your material on the wall. We created tons of Tetris blocks out of sheets of felt. You can buy felt for 23¢ cents a sheet and get a couple shapes out of each sheet. I did measure my original templates with a ruler to make sure they would fit together like in the game. After I created a template for each shape, we simply traced and cut out all of the rest of them. The vintage Tetris logo was also created out of felt. No tape is needed for any of the shapes or logo. They will stick right onto the felt material like an old-school flannelgraph board. The kids were allowed to move the shapes around and play with the focal wall when they were in the room. We made the Tetris Room a Snacktivity Room so the kids wouldn’t be distracted by the wall during devotions or something more important. We also made slightly larger Tetris blocks out of colored poster board and hung them from the ceiling using clear fishing line.
We covered the outside of the door to our Tetris Room in black Kraft paper. We used the black tape from this set of tape rolls to make sure we didn’t take the finish off the door. Just a quick note, we used so much tape for this set design because of all the paper we had to hang on the wall that we bought four sets of those tape rolls and used all of several of the colors. It was great for keeping paper and decor items on the wall and didn’t take any paint off the walls. We also created large Tetris blocks out of poster board for the door. You can see in the picture that we measured and added lines to each shape. This was a huge team effort and took a lot of time because we made a lot of blocks.
I absolutely love how this wall turned out. It was the longest of all the hallway portions that had to be decorated and it looked amazing. We covered the wall up to the door frame’s height with black Kraft paper and used the same black tape to hang it on the wall as we used for the door. The shapes are the same size as the door shapes, and we attached each individual shape with tape to the wall.
The Frogger Room focal wall was one of the hardest walls to create. We wanted it to look like the game so we used black Kraft paper on the bottom half of the wall, light blue Kraft paper on the top half of the wall. We created the barrier between the two with four strips of purple tape, and the green at the top was created out of green tape from this pack of tape. It took two people all night just to do that part of the wall. The logs, turtles, and froggers are made out of poster board. The cars are a coloring sheet we printed on cardstock, and colored each one a unique color/pattern. We even let some kids help us out with the cars. Everything was attached to the wall with tape. We also made some extra logs, froggers, and turtles to put on the other walls and hang from the ceiling.
We kept the door simple for the Frogger room. We covered the door in red Kraft paper and found an Atari symbol that we printed out and taped to the door. There is only a tiny sliver of wall between the Tetris Room and the Frogger Room so we just added some red Kraft paper and a few turtles to the wall.
Super Mario Bros. Rooms
We made a lot of the decorations for both of these rooms, but we did supplement a bit with a few things we purchased. We purchased these Super Mario Bros. backdrops and cut the characters out to use in our rooms/hallways. We also purchased two large inflatable controllers, one for each room. They served as part of our decor, and we used them during the devotions. We used light blue, green, and brick Kraft paper on the walls and to cover the cubbies we had in the room. The giant piranha plants and clouds were made out poster board. We created coins and question boxes out of yellow poster board and hung them from the ceiling using fishing line.
The hallways were very similar to the focal walls in each of the rooms. We used brick and light blue Kraft paper to cover the walls and added Super Mario Bros. characters and items to add detail to the walls. I didn’t get a picture of the doors, but we covered them half in light blue Kraft paper and half in brick Kraft paper, and added another giant piranha plant to each of the doors.
Angry Birds Room
We created a life-size angry birds game for the first night’s game in the game room. That ended up being the coolest part of the set design for this room. We wrapped a bunch of random boxes that were donated to us or VBS supplies were shipped in, using grey, blue, and natural Kraft paper. We added number amounts and TNT signs to some of the boxes as well. The angry birds were large bouncy balls we purchased from Walmart with angry birds faces taped on them. After the first night, we moved the angry birds display to the stage. We used the film strip side screens we had up for our current series and put up pictures from the angry birds movie. See my Lights, Camera, Action Set Design post for details on how we made the side screens. I didn’t get any pictures, but we also created hanging angry birds by attaching angry birds faces to colored paper lanterns. We also made small and large angry birds out of poster board and decorated the walls with them.
I apologize that some of these pictures are a little dark. The Angry Birds doors and hallways were some of the last things we finished. I forgot to take any pictures of the finished product in the light. We covered the wall and doors with light blue Kraft paper and had a lot of fun with the details. We made two large slingshots out of brown Kraft paper, one for the wall, and one for the exit door. We also created a large tree on the double doors using brown Kraft paper. The angry birds and eggs are made out of colored poster board, and we found the faces online, cut them out and glued them to the poster board shapes.
The Minecraft Room focal wall was the only one that rivaled the Frogger Room. We had planned on making the entire wall look pixelated, and realized that we hadn’t bought near enough of the paper to do it. I love the way it turned out regardless. We ended up covering the bottom half of the wall with brown Kraft paper, and the top half of the wall with green Kraft paper. We bought what we thought was enough 12×12 in. squares of paper in various colors of brown and green at Hobby Lobby for the pixelation effect. We taped each individual square to the Kraft paper. If I did it again, I would have made sure I had enough of the double-sided gaff tape to use to adhere the squares. We did have some trouble with the squares falling down, but we just kept taping them back up. After all, they only had to last four days. I would also add additional push pins to the top of this wall because it got heavy and started to fall down one night. We were able to save it, but had we added push pins in the first place, I don’t think we would have had that problem. We found a free printable for making your own minecraft torches online. We printed them on cardstock and assembled them with clear tape. We also added a battery powered tea light to the bottom of the inside of each of the torches to make it glow slightly. We taped them onto the wall using lots of tape. We also found the minecraft logo online and printed it enlarged on several pieces of paper, we taped it together using clear tape and taped it on the wall. For the ceiling, we found pictures of Minecraft characters, printed them double-sided on cardstock, and hung them around the room using clear fishing line. We made some simple TNT using red pool noodles we cut in half, bundled them together, and taped them with black gaff tape.
For the hallway, we covered the wall in light blue Kraft paper. We also found a picture of the grass blocks from Minecraft and printed a bunch of them on cardstock to line the bottom of the wall. We used a second printable of the Minecraft logo on the wall in the hallway. We covered the door in green Kraft paper and added a creeper face to the door in black poster board. We added two of the printable Minecraft torches to the sides of the top of the door.
The Pacman Room was so much fun. We literally recreated the game on the focal wall of this room. We covered the entire wall in black Kraft paper. The blue lines mapping out the game board is blue tape. The dots were made out of white cardstock. We bought a large hole punch to make this task a whole lot easier and all the dots symmetrical. We made the Pacman, Ms. Pacman, and Ghosts out of poster board. They were huge! Each one used up an entire piece of poster board. We made hanging ghosts by putting disposable table-cloths over paper lanterns and adding eyes.
The door and hallway were created basically the same as the focal wall. We used a smaller hole punch for the dots and the ghosts were made out of cardstock so they were much smaller. We used a lot of paper and tape on this one!
Can you tell I forgot to take pictures of this room until Night 2? Well, I did. We kept this room minimal since it was a large game room. We made gold rings for the ceiling by spray painting foam rings from the floral section gold. We hung them around the room using clear fishing line. For the stage, we purchased an extra Sonic standup and placed him on the stage.
For the hallway, we covered the entire wall with blue Kraft paper, then added the rolling hills in green Kraft paper. We made gold rings out of gold metallic posterboard we purchased at Hobby Lobby, and attached them to the Kraft paper. The double doors were covered in white Kraft paper. We printed a Sega logo on two pieces of paper and attached it to the doors. The exit door, which I apparently didn’t get a picture of, was covered in black Kraft paper and we added some gold rings to it as well.
Wow! What a set design! I hope this was helpful to you. If I missed anything, and you have questions for me, please feel free to comment or message me. If you’re interested in doing this VBS at your church, check out my entire Power Up VBS curriculum for free!