As a teacher one strategy I used to help children really connect with a story was called “Doing the Book.” Children who “Do the Book” become more active readers. Characters setting, events, dialogue, conclusions, mood, and motivation become more important, and children pay more attention to them when they have to interpret and recreate the drama. Doing the book greatly increases story comprehension. What that says to me is if I want my children to comprehend scripture one excellent activity to incorporate would be Doing the
Children relate to characters and images they see frequently and recognize as familiar: Mickey, Big Bird, Thomas the Tank Engine, Winnie the Pooh, etc. In order for children to develop a relationship with the images and characters of their faith tradition, they must also see these images and characters often. The spiritual characters in a child’s world need to have a name and personality: King David, Miriam dancing and singing, Noah and the ark. Only when they know enough details about these people will they think of them again and again. One of the easiest ways in which we can cultivate our children’s spiritual lives is by exposing them to religious stories and then providing them with the materials (props) necessary to enact these stories in their imaginary play.
A couple of summers ago our congregation chose to combine all our Sunday school classes because of how small our numbers got while people were on vacation, at camps, etc. One Sunday I was in charge of this multi age group. I had an 18 month old up to a 2nd grader. I read them the scripture of the Lost Sheep. Then I laid out some supplies (cotton balls, one sheep each, a farmer figurine, and some popsicle sticks) and asked them to look and think about how we could use them as I read the scripture a 2nd time. Then I allowed them to set their scene. The third time I read the scripture I had them act it out with their supplies. Then for fun we took our supplies and found someone to “perform” our story for. By then Sunday school was over. So I packed up and we went on to church. About half way through the service my oldest, who was 3 at the time and had been in class with me, asked if he could play with the “lost sheep toys.” I pulled them out and listened as he re-enacted the story from start to finish without any help from me. I was shocked that after only a few readings he already knew every bit of the story. I was even more impressed when a few weeks later he could still tell me the complete story! That speaks to the power of acting out a story! I’ve even used this technique during a children’s moment. I didn’t have toys, I used people instead to act out the scripture about Jesus telling his disciples to let the children come to him. I recommend checking with the people you are going to use first. Or you can do like I did and just call on people in the congregation that you know will be good sports.
Not every scripture lends itself to this activity. But where it’s appropriate, it can be a very powerful way for your child(ren) to connect with scripture! Come back next week to see the types of props I use when my family is Doing the