Nativity Set

I’ve talked before about how acting out scripture helps children connect with the story. I can’t think of a better time to pull out items to help children do just that than Christmas time! A nativity version of the bible box!

Each of my boys have their own nativity set. They keep them in their rooms. But as we get closer to Christmas I also pack one nativity into our church bag for them to play with during the service. It’s my hope that as they play with the nativity, the stories they are hearing in the worship will sink in a little deeper.

When I was at Target a couple of weeks ago I saw this little nativity in the dollar section. Not sure if they are still there, but you can definitely check it out!

Below are some amazon links to the other nativity sets I own. Even if you can’t get them in time for this Christmas, you could stock up for next year!


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Pray for the Earth

Tell your child(ren) that there are people all over the world in need and that sometimes even the earth itself is in need. Sometimes the earth can seem so big and we don’t know what to do to help. One thing we can do is say a prayer for the earth and all her people in need.

Hug an earth ball in your arms, like this Plush Earth, and say a prayer of blessing. Pass the earth ball around the circle and give each member of the family a chance to offer a prayer.

 

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Countdown to Christmas

I love decorating for Christmas. And I enjoy the idea of advent calendars. This year I’ve decided to countdown in a different way. As a former teacher I have LOTS children’s books. Many of which are still in boxes in my basement. I decided to pull out my favorite Christmas/holiday books. Some are secular and some are religious. I discovered that I had 20 holiday books. If I purchase 5 more I’ll have enough to create a new kind of countdown. The 25 books of Christmas! My plan is that each night we will sit down and read one of these books. Since we read every night anyway this should be an easy thing to do. You could simply wrap each book and place them in a basket. I wanted this to become a yearly tradition so I created these bags. If you’d like to know how I made them, I posted a tutorial here.

What holiday tradition are you most looking forward to?

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Share the Love

Today is traditionally called Black Friday. I think it’s a great day to bring a little sunshine into someone’s life! Not to mention, it’s a fun project for the kids and a way to keep them entertained if you are out trying to take advantage of all the sales!

Find some 3×5 note cards and something to write with. Think of song titles that make you feel happy like “You are my sunshine” or “You Make Everything Glorious.” Write one song title on each card and decorate. Next time you are out of the house find places to leave these messages of happiness. On a friend’s desk, or in the grocery cart. At the gas pump, or in a library book. Know that your little messages bring smiles and joy to whoever finds them.

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Say Thank You to God {A Bible Box Activity}

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a Bible Box activity with you. Even if you haven’t made your own Bible Box yet, you can still easily use this activity with your child(ren). As Thanksgiving draws nearer we often talk of thanking God for our blessings. The lectionary scripture for Thanksgiving day is Luke 17:11-19.

 

  1. Read Luke 17:11-19 aloud to your child(ren).
  2. Ask them what props they want to use to act out the story. I used a green napkin, some felt cut into strips for the road, 10 figurines and a Jesus. You can use any toy people you have. I have Tales of Glory figurines so that is what I used. But they certainly aren’t necessary.
  3. Allow your child(ren) to set the scene with the props they collected.
  4. Read the scripture again as your children act it out with the figurines.


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Prayer Poster

It’s important to teach our children how to pray. But sometimes it can be hard for them to think of who to pray for. A prayer poster can be a great visual for children during prayer time!

Have your child(ren) create a poster of the people that are important to them.  They could stick on photographs, draw, or just list the names. Tell the child to think about why these people are important to them as they make their poster.  Together find someplace special to hang the poster. If you have more than one child they should each have their own poster. While some of the people may be the same, the children may also have people they want to include that are unique to them. Tell your child that each day they can pray for someone on their poster.

During your nightly prayer time rotate the location in which you pray so that each family member’s poster is featured at least one night during the week.  You can pray together as a family or individually for someone on the featured prayer poster.

Give your child a model for how to pray, other than the “gimme” kind of prayers.  As you pray hold an LED tea light candle and name the person or people you are praying for. Tell your child to imagine holding the light of that person up to God.  Then to imagine God’s light filling that person as you pray.  Your prayer might sound something like this, “Loving God, tonight I hold the light of [Grandma] up to you.  [She] is special to me because …  I know God that you are with [Grandma] every day.  Let her feel your light filling every part of her life.  Amen.”  This prayer is simply an example! Feel free to use any words that come from your heart!

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Categories of Spiritual Books

My boys LOVE reading books, and as you can see, my twin niece and nephew feel the same way. In fact, most children I know love listening to a good story! As a parent I’m always on the lookout for books that I can use to further my children’s spiritual education. Knowing the categories of spiritual books helps me recognize the many spiritual stories we already own!

Karen Marie Yust author of Real Kids, Real Faith: Practices for Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Lives defines 4 types of faith story books: close readings, stories about the tradition’s stories, books linking tradition and contemporary life, and stories exemplifying spiritual principles.

Close Readings are books that remain close to scripture stories. One example, from my personal library is the book Noah’s Crew Came 2 By 2 by Mindy MacDonald. This type of faith story book is the easiest to spot. They are typically based on scripture stories we are all familiar with.

Stories about the tradition’s stories are books that look at a scripture story from a new perspective. I love the story Who Is Coming to Our House? (Board Book) by Joseph Slate. It is the perfect example of a story about a scripture. It looks at the birth of Jesus from the perspective of the stable animals.

 

Books linking tradition and contemporary life become slightly more difficult to recognize. They are books, according to Yust, that explicitly take some aspect or issue of contemporary life and relate that concern to scripture or the practices of the religious tradition. One famous example is Judy Blume’s classic, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. An example from my own library is the book Little Ways to Give God Praise by Sally Anne Conan.

Stories exemplifying spiritual practices are the books that you probably have the most of in your home. They are ones  that take a spiritual principal and give it a human face. In the story Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney children can see the spiritual principal of caring for creation exemplified by the main character.

 

Take a look at your children’s books and see which categories they fall into. Now that you know what you have, you can be on the lookout for books in the other areas when adding to your collection. And who doesn’t like to shop for books?!?


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Why Don’t My Children Just Listen?!?

We’ve all been there, right? Frustrated because you’ve told your child something 100 times and they still don’t do it…or even remember hearing it! I’ve even been known to say things like, “I’m not talking just because I like the sound of my voice!” And when your kids don’t listen to you about things like not running in the house, or putting their laundry away we start to wonder…are they listening to anything I’m trying to teach them?

I saw this information in a presentation about brain research a few years back. It shows the average retention rate after 24 hours of learning new information.

After 24 hours of hearing a lecture people retain approximately 5% of what they heard. Think college…how many of us can recite from memory one of our professor’s lectures? I don’t remember a whole lecture but I do remember one quote. I had a college professor that used to say, “If teaching were the same as telling, thing how smart we’d all be!” How true!

Which means if you spend 30 minutes lecturing your kid, they are going to come away remembering about 1.5 min of what you said. And you don’t get to choose which 1.5 min they will remember. That must be why I feel like my kids are never listening to me! 🙂

If you read new information you retain about 10%. Audio visuals, like Powerpoint presentations, bring you up to 20%. If you can throw in a demonstration you bring the retention rate up to 30%. Still not great numbers.

Here is where things start to get good. Allowing the opportunity for discussion brings retention up to 50%. If you get to practice the activity by doing it yourself you retain 75% and if you go share what you learned with someone else you retain 90% of what you learned!

Can you imagine how powerful that makes a family devotion?!? When you provide space for your family to openly discuss their thoughts and beliefs about God you strengthen your children’s connection to their faith. When you spend time together with activities such as “Doing the Scripture” or using prayer practices you give your children the practice they need to make this connection a life long habit. And when you share your story with others and see your children doing the same you know that the most important message you are trying to impart has become internalized in them.

So if you take nothing else away from this post (since I know you will only retain about 10%), remember this…

Your children are listening! And when you take time to connect with God as a family you are teaching them lessons they will remember forever!

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Chalice Prayer

Ask your child(ren) if they know of someone that is hurting (it may be someone they know personally or a situation they know of through the news or school).

Form your hands into a bowl shape. Have your child imagine holding those people/situations in their hands.

Say a prayer together. As you say the prayer, literally lift your hands in the air and hold the people/situations up to God.

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The Lost Sheep {A Bible Box Activity}

I mentioned that children who “Do the Book Scripture” become more active readers. Characters, setting, events, dialog, 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 (or scripture) comprehension. Today I want to walk you through the process of Doing the Scripture.

  1. Choose your scripture story ~ When “doing the scripture” for the first time be sure to choose a shorter scripture story. For this example I am using the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7).
  2. Choose your props ~ For younger children you may want to lay out the props for them before reading the story. For older children you may want to read the passage first and then allow them to choose the props they need. (Note: it is often necessary to allow children a chance to free explore the items in the Bible Box when using it for the first time. Then when you are acting out a scripture story they are able to focus on only the props needed for that story.) Note that props can be anything you find around the house. They don’t have to be Biblical figurines!
  3. Read the scripture story ~ As you read the story have your child look at the props and think about what they might be used for in the story. I use My First Bible (using a children’s Bible is recommended).
  4. Decide how props will be used ~ Discuss which props you will need or how the props you have already chosen will be used. If you have more than one child participating in “doing the scripture” you may need to assign roles. How would you use the props in the photo above?
  5. Re-read the scripture story ~ As you read the passage again ask your child to act out what they are hearing with the props. For younger children you may need to guide their actions. 
  6. Read the scripture story again ~ As you read the story again allow your child to re-enact the passage on their own. Or perform it for another member of the family. 

 


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