After a long delay between lessons the “My Friend Jesus” series for Babies and Toddlers is now complete. Hopefully, it will help parents and teachers share the story of Jesus with little ones.
In this series infants and toddlers are introduced to Jesus and relate to him through various common experiences of childhood (celebration, helping, community, worship and growth). Role-play and sensory activities are used to express a growing relationship and friendship with him.
The first breath Jesus took on this earth was as a fragile newborn infant. The One who would save the world had to have his nappies/diapers changed. He learned to feed himself, crawl and walk. He experienced the human senses of taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell.
Infants and Toddlers can know that Jesus is special, experience affinity with Jesus through role-play and sensory activities. They can learn practices that express friendship, affection, obedience, respect and worship.
Lessons in this Series:
1. Cherished Baby
Expressing love through protection and tender care.
2. Time to Celebrate
The joy of giving, receiving and celebrating.
3. Helper at Home
Being part of a family by sharing responsibilities at home.
4. Worship and Praise
Being part of a community of worshipers.
5. Growing and Learning
The satisfaction of maturing and moving forward.
6. My Friend, Jesus
Comfort, love and affection in a relationship with Jesus.
We often speak of emptiness as a bad thing but sometime “empty” is good. That is the case of the empty tomb!
Many of us re-tell the resurrection story around Easter time. I thought I would share my favourite teaching tool for telling the Easter story. And, yes, it involves plastic eggs.
I did not come up with this teaching idea but I have to say I’ve used it over and over through the years. Kids love it and teachers find it very easy to use. I published a blog post about it in 2012 but I think it is worth posting again.
Collect 12 plastic eggs and a used egg carton to store them in. Note that you don’t have to use plastic eggs if they are not available. You can use 12 sacks or boxes or just cover the items with 12 cloths or paper.
Use a permanent marker to number the eggs from one to twelve.
Collect representative items (listed below) and put them inside the eggs. Place the eggs inside the egg carton.
Introduce the story by asking the children how they would feel if they went on an Easter egg hunt and every egg they found was empty. Lead into the lesson by saying sometimes it is GOOD if an egg is empty. Sometimes an empty egg is the best egg of all.
Open the egg carton and begin the lesson by opening egg number one.
As you open the eggs one at a time you re-tell the story to the children. You might let them guess what each of the items might represent.
After you tell the story distribute the eggs to the children and let them take turns re-telling the story.
If you are able and have fewer children then you might help the children make one of these sets each to take home.
What bothers Jesus? His earliest disciples thought they knew.
“Some people brought their children to Jesus so that he could bless them by placing his hands on them. But his disciples told the people to stop bothering him.
When Jesus saw this, he became angry and said, “Let the children come to me! Don’t try to stop them. People who are like these little children belong to the kingdom of God. I promise you that you cannot get into God’s kingdom, unless you accept it the way a child does.”
Then Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them by placing his hands on them.”
Mark 10:13-16 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
The disciples thought that these children would bother Jesus but it seems very clear that the disciples themselves, the adults in this situation, were the real bother. In fact, their judgement on children led to one of the few times in Scripture when Jesus was recorded as being angry. The New International Version uses the word “indignant”.
So why is Jesus not bothered by children? After all, children are wiggly and curious and lacking in inhibition. If we are honest, we have to say they are often inconvenient to have around. They slow us down, exhaust us and generally cause havoc in what we like to call our “perfectly organised lives”.
Children force us to reorganise our priorities. Schedules are worked around nap times and curfews. Holidays are planned based on how “child friendly” the activities and accommodations are. Having a couple of children enrolled in sporting activities or music lessons means a couple’s once-spontaneous social life becomes a series of intricately planned and often postponed events.
And if that was not enough, they don’t seem to really care when we are doing the “important stuff” at church. They are obviously not impressed by long sermons or deep discussions about spiritual matters. They don’t seem to worry about the things we worry about. They choose action over contemplation almost every time.
If children are such a bother then why was Jesus indignant that the disciples would turn them away? Jesus points out that the disciples were turning away the very examples they needed to learn how to enter the kingdom of God. Ultimately, the disciples were the ones missing out.
Children in our communities, families and churches inspire us to act more like adults than we sometimes feel like acting. The inconvenience they bring produces patience. Examining priorities helps us maintain focus. And practising an active faith makes us useful. To keep children safe we plan better. To secure their future we work harder. To help them engage we adapt and change.
Most of all, like the disciples, we adults are sometimes satisfied with walking alongside and talking about Jesus. Children on the other hand want to touch him and be embraced by him.
May we learn from the example of the young ones among us. This does not bother him at all.
Many teachers are making plans to tell the resurrection story on Easter Sunday. Whether at Easter or any other time here are some ideas that will help you share what is the most important event in the Bible.
“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.”
Romans 6:9, NIV
Visit a mature older Christian and ask them to share why the Resurrection is important to them.
Black out the windows of your classroom to make it dark like the tomb. Quietly tell the story of the resurrection by the light of a candle or by torch/flashlight
Place a dark cloth over a small table to form a “tomb”. Ask someone to be the body inside. Place a cardboard rock at the entrance. Let the children see the body inside and then put the stone in place. “The body” crawls out the back and the children remove the stone to see an empty tomb. Young ones love this obvious re-enactment.
Choose words related to the resurrection story and tape them onto stones. Before class begins hide the stones so that children can hunt for them. As the children collect the stone discuss the meaning of the words. Here are some words you might use:
Make a tomb craft from a paper plate. Cut a paper plate in half, paint if desired, and then staple the top rims together. To make the body of Christ cut a simple body shape from cardboard, wrap with one layer of toilet paper and dampen with water from a spray bottle, repeat layers and let dry. The stone is just crumpled brown paper. In one class we had the children each make a tomb and then put the body inside. During the week I moved the stones and removed the bodies. The next week we were going to be studying about the resurrection. When the children arrived that day they immediately went to the tombs they had made and were shocked to find the body missing. I let them search and conjecture for awhile before leading into the story of how the women came to the tomb to find Jesus’ body missing. The children could totally relate to how the women must have felt. At the end of class I returned the “bodies” so that the children could take the craft home and recreate the event for their families.
Write the individual words of Romans 6:9 on a whiteboard or chalkboard. Say the verse together. Erase one word or phrase and say the verse again. Say it over and over, eliminating one word or phrase each time. Soon, the children will have it memorised.
When was the last time you were curious about something? I mean really curious; the kind of curiosity that compelled you to get off the couch, or out of the office to go and earnestly seek out the answer; the burning desire to “know” that enticed you to look around the corner or walk down the untravelled path.
How energising is that quest! How thrilling and satisfying is the answer once found!
I never want to deny a child the chance to feel that energy, thrill and satisfaction. In my rush to GIVE information I must first allow children an opportunity to actually WANT it.
An Expectation of Curiosity
God draws children to himself through their curiosity. I love how he prepares the Israelites leaving Egypt for future questions their children will ask.
In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?”tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Deuteronomy 6:20-21, NIV
Notice he says “when” your son asks you and not “if” your son asks you. God knows children will be curious.
Curiosity Comes from God and Leads to God
God does not want us to feel the satisfaction before we have answers because he is the answer. Only God can satisfy the curiosity and longing children (and adults) feel.
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Psalms 63:1, NIV
The Bible is filled with interesting and attention-grabbing stories that children can easily relate to. Before sharing a Bible story I will often share one small part of it as a “teaser”. Here’s a fun and effective activity to try next time you teach children. Keep Them Guessing is a simple activity where children are provided with items as clues to guess what comes next.
The photo at the top of the page is by Mikhail Kryshin downloaded via Flickr. Use licensed by Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/