My kids like to play. I’m not talking about playing with dolls or trucks. We have reached the perfect age of pretending. They make up elaborate tales, crazy stories, and unable-to-be-followed-by-anyone-over-the-age-of-eighteen adventures. And I love it! Seeing my preschoolers’ imaginations come alive is one of my favorite parts of motherhood!
This summer I have zeroed in on this play-acting fascination by facilitating some Bible-centric playtime. I usually take the story taught at church on Sunday and think of a way to let the kids act it out at home. It doesn’t mean we have to put on Bible costumes (although, who doesn’t love a good costume?!). It just means immersing ourselves in the story!
Last week the kids learned about Noah and his floating zoo. So, we decided to make an ark of our very own. I got out my most versatile tool: Blue Painter’s Tape! Then we opened up our Bible, read the measurements of the ark (450 feet by 75 feet) and got busy turning our hardwoods into an ark! (No, it wasn’t an exact replica!)
Then we pulled down every single animal we own. Yup. Like Minnie Mouse, the Build-a-Bear family, Care Bears and even the Beanie Babies. The kids divided them up and placed them in the ark according to their kind–you know, two by two…or twelve by twelve as the case may be.
The jungle animals stayed together on a jungle towel. The water animals were in a laundry basket pond and the bears stayed in their cave under the Ikea table!
My son, Asa (almost 3 and all boy) got busy repairing the roof of the bunny’s cage.
My daughter, Lydia (five and as big of a big sister as they come) unpacked suitcases and organized the animals. They played and played in our taped up ark. They called each other Noah and Ham. Then they made the animals take a nap and pretended to sleep on hammocks like real sailors. It’s been two days and they still won’t let me pull up the tape!
In my former life, I was a Children’s Pastor, so I’m all about teaching the details of a story. But this time? I didn’t talk to them about the destruction of the whole earth because of sin. I didn’t explain about the sacrifice Noah made when he got out of the boat. I didn’t make them memorize how old Noah was when he got off the ark. (601!) I just let them play. And while they immersed themselves in the story, it opened up a conversation. What was it like for Noah and his family? Were they afraid of the animals? Did the lions try to eat the zebras? What was it like to rain for 40 days and nights? Was Noah glad to see the rainbow? Did God forget about them? What was Noah’s wife’s name?
Keeping preschoolers in a routine of learning the things of God is as easy as painter’s tape and stuffed animals. We can make playtime and the Bible intertwine. We can make theology come down to pretend. We feed our kids small bites of God’s Word so that when they are ready for big bites, they already have the appetite!
Our only problem was what to do with the dinosaurs and dragons!