Let’s Dance!

Dancing.sm

After crossing the Red Sea and being delivered from your enemies, what would YOU want to do?  A seven year old in my Bible class answered, “I would do this!” and then proceeded to dance around our classroom clearly demonstrating pure joy.

Sometimes the illustrations I’ve selected and the scripts from which I read simply pale in comparison to the spontaneous responses of children who hear about what God has done.

Over a span of about a month we had journeyed along with Moses and the Hebrews and felt the pain of their suffering in Egyptian bondage.  We had seen God at work through the ten plagues.  We  worked our way through the emotional experience of the night when the angel of death passed over.  We trembled as we crossed through the Red sea on dry land with great walls of water on either side of us and the enemy right on our heels.

Now, after reviewing these events one more time, I asked the children in our Bible class to imagine being a Hebrew that day and looking back over the water of the Red Sea.  I asked them to imagine the feeling of knowing that God was so strong and loved us so much that he had conquered our enemies and gotten us out of Egypt.  My question “What would you feel like doing?” was a rhetorical question so I was simply floored when this seven year old spontaneously responded in exactly the way the Hebrews did!

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them:  ‘Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.  Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.’”  Exodus 15:20-21, NIV

At that point I put other activities aside and we all did just what the Hebrews had done.  We danced in praise to God for what he had done. Never mind that we were in an upstairs room and the adults in the Bible class below us thought I had possibly lost control of my class.  (Never mind that I probably DID lose control over them for just a few moments).  Never mind that the kids danced much better than the teacher.

The fact is that we participated together in some of the most “Biblical moments” I had experienced in quite some time.

The children went on the demonstrate dance moves depicting the plagues and the Passover and the crossing through the sea.  Then, after what turned out to be a rather morbid rendition of the annihilation of Pharaoh and his army, I drew the children back in together and we participated in some quieter activities.

Once again, I thank God that I have the honour of sharing His Word with children and that so often the children become my teachers.

More ideas for teaching using movement and dance

Movement and Dance

Wading Lambs and Swimming Elephants

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As a Scripture was being publicly read in the church of my childhood I would sometimes watch my grandmother’s finger slide across the page of her Bible.  As a small child I would light up when I could occasionally read a word or two.

 

There is no other book like the Bible in its importance for people of all ages.  It has always amazed me how God’s Word can seem so simple and yet so complex.  Even when I am reading Scripture as I prepare lessons for infants and toddlers I am often astounded at a new concept that I had never noticed before.

I think Gregory the Great said it best many many years ago when he wrote the following (emphasis is mine),

“Divine speech sometimes stirs up the clever with mysteries, but more often provides consolation for the simple with the obvious. It has out in the open food for children but keeps hidden away the things that fill the minds of the eminent with awe. Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim”.

Saint Gregory the Great: Moralia on the Book of Blessed Job, Section 4.  Click here for full text.

 

What a blessing to help lambs wade in God’s Word!  As I teach children I want to be attentive to their stage of development and help them experience God fully.  I usually have my own Bible open on the table when I am teaching so that children can see that I refer to it and respect what God says.

In addition to my own Bible I want children to be very familiar with handling a Bible on their own.  If at all possible I try to have bibles available for the children.  Over the years I’ve developed a few measures for what children of various ages are able to do so I’m sharing them with you here in case you might find them useful in your teaching and at home.

 

Infants and Toddlers

  • 0-2 Rectangle3Allow the infants and toddlers to hold small Bibles.  These should be inexpensive because they will inevitably, at one time or another, be chewed and pulled apart and the pages torn.
  • Show them how to hold the Bible carefully and how to turn pages.
  • Place a sticker of Jesus inside the front cover so the children can “find Jesus” when they hold their bibles.
  • Hold the Bible in front of each child, in turn, and slide your finger along as you “read” from it.  I usually read, “God Loves Suzy.” (inserting the child’s name)  Or “God loves Mummy.” “God loves Daddy.”

 

Pre-School (ages 3-5 years)

  • 3-5 Rectangle3Pre-Schoolers can look at pictures in a children’s Bible.  If you do not have picture Bibles then tuck pictures between the pages of a Bible before class.
  • Guide the children in pretending to read along with you as you tell a story or read a verse.
  • Children of this age can learn to spell and write a few basic Bible words.  I use magnetic letters or puzzles to do this.  And of course they are learning to write letters at this age so they really enjoy just writing the letters.  We practice one word over a few weeks until the children have it down.  They are so proud of themselves!
    • G-O-D
    • J-E-S-U-S
    • B-I-B-L-E (song)

 

Younger Primary School Age (ages 6-7 years)

  • 6-7 Rectangle3Children of this age can learn to recite the names of the 66 books of the Bible. I think it really helps to learn them by singing the songs.
  • With help, children can find a book, chapter and verse in the Bible when given a Scripture reference.  This is much easier to accomplish with a few children than a big group.
  • Depending on their reading ability they can usually read a Bible verse that you have chosen (short and simple).
  • They can use their finger to follow along in their own Bible as the teacher reads

 

Older Primary School Age (ages 8-10 years)

  • 8-10 Rectangle3Depending on reading level children of this age might be able to read a few verses in a row or even a very short Bible story.  You will have to plan this carefully if children are reading out loud in class.  This can be embarassing for some children and it does take time.
  • Children in this age group can copy verses onto paper.  These can be used in the classroom or taken home as reminders.
  • Children aged 8-10 years are often able to confidently find a verse from a book, chapter, verse reference.  A fun game is for the teacher to call out a reference (like Ephesians 6:1).  The children then “race” to find the verse in their Bible and begin reading.

 

Pre-Teen (ages 11-12)

  • 11-12 Teaching AgesBy the pre-teen years children can usually read a set of verses or a Bible story of reasonable length from the Bible.
  • A teacher can challenge them to read a verse or set of verses and then:
    • Outline what they have read
    • Point out the most important words and/or
    • Name the characters and describe them based on what they have read.
  • Also guide them to read a verse, group of verses or a Bible story and then describe:
    • What this reading reveals about God
    • How the pre-teen’s thoughts and feelings are affected by what they have read, and/or
    • What actions they might take based on what they have just read.

 

 

Teaching Children to Pray

One of the most profound aspects of helping shape the spiritual lives of children is guiding them in talking to God.

A few years ago I realised that I was not giving proper attention to prayer in my Bible classes.  I found myself sometimes tagging a prayer on at the end instead of taking the time to facilitate an actual connection between the children and the Creator of the Universe.  He has, after all, invited these children into his presence and that is no insignificant thing to be passed quickly over!

Since that time I have used a number of different methods to encourage active prayer.  You can read more at Prayer in Bible Class but I thought I’d just share a few of my favourites here.

Prayer Sticks

Prayer requests written on craft sticks encourage children to pray in this activity.

  • Colorful popsicle sticks over white background (Shallow depth of field)At prayer time guide the children in drawing out the prayer sticks. Each child prays for the request that is written on the stick he or she has drawn.
  • Use this prayer method over a number of weeks. As prayers are answered move the sticks to a different container.
  • From time to time pull the sticks out of the “prayers answered” container and praise God for how he has heard and answered our prayers.

Five Finger Prayer

childs-handChildren pray in their own words for five different groups of people represented by each of their five fingers.

  • Thumb (As it point back at us.  Praying for people who are close to us)
  • Pointer Finger (Praying for those who point the way and lead us)
  • Tall Finger (Praying for people in authority)
  • Ring Finger (The weakest finger.  Praying for people who are weak or vulnerable)
  • Little Finger (Lastly, I will pray for myself)

Paper Chain Prayers

Children write prayer requests on the links of paper chains and then use the chains as prayer reminders.

  • Prayer ChainsGuide the children in writing specific prayer requests on the slips of paper. One prayer request on each piece of paper.
  • Staple or tape the ends of the papers together to form links of a chain.
    Connect the links to from a chain of prayer requests.
  • Children can hang the chains in the room in the classroom and bring them down at prayer time. The leader of the prayer prays for the requests listed on each link.
  • Or send the chains home with children so that they can use them at home and invite their families to pray with them.

 

Oh, Baby!

my-friend-jesus

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.

my-friend-jesus

 

Download the complete set here.

Go to the “My Friend Jesus page on this website.

 

 

Additional Infant and Toddler Lessons

god-created    god-is-with-me

 

 

What Every Child Wants to Hear

Lovely portrait of father and little son A couple of weeks ago I taught a group of 5-8 year olds about the Baptism of Jesus.

In the days leading up to the lesson I contemplated Matthew 3:13-17 and asked myself how the event might be viewed from a child’s perspective.  What is it about this part of God’s Word that “makes sense” to a child?  What is it about the baptism of Jesus that helps a child relate to God?

And then it struck me.  It was not just “God’s Word” in a general sense that was impacting.  It was, quite literally, God’s words.  Words spoken directly from heaven and in relation to his son.  Words of approval.  Words of affirmation for a good choice made.  Words from a proud father claiming a son as his own and expressing love for him. These are the words every child wants to hear.

Unlike the crowds flocking to hear John’s preaching, Jesus was not baptised because he had done something wrong.  Jesus was baptised because he wanted to do everything that was right.  God responded immediately…

And a voice spoke from heaven.  The voice said, “This is my Son and I love him. I am very pleased with him.”  Matthew 3:17 (ICB)

As for the children in my class, they related perfectly to Jesus at that moment.  They understood how much this declaration must have meant to Jesus.

After we talked about how proud God was of Jesus I took the lesson to the next level.  The children were not aware that I had previously collected words of affirmation from their own parents.  You could  have heard a pin drop as, one by one, I read these messages aloud to the class.  Tears came to my eyes as I watched the way the children hung on each word.

  • Ezekiel, you are my son.  I love you.  I am proud of you.  You have been very brave about leaving your pre-school and starting at a new school.
  • Mylah, you are my daughter.  I love you.  I am proud of you.  You are always so kind to people and take the time to thank people for their good deeds.
  • Gurshan, you are my son.  I love you.  I am proud of you.  You have practiced faithfully in Tae Kwon Do and have earned a place beyond what is usual for your age group.
  • Caleb, you are my son.  I love you.  I am proud of you.  You are a good big brother and set an example for your younger brother to follow.

I use the term “God’s Word” quite often because I believe the Bible to be inspired by God.  In sharing lessons from the Bible I am imparting truths from God.  However, in the story of the the Baptism of Jesus, the literal words spoken by God were the ones most profoundly impacting on each child.

Just like the children, don’t we also crave these words from our father?  Through Christ, I want to make God proud.  I want him to say, “Mary, you are my daughter.  I love you.  I am very pleased with you.”

This is what every child wants to hear.

 

Quotation above from the  International Children’s Bible (ICB)
The Holy Bible, International Children’s Bible® Copyright© 1986, 1988, 1999, 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a division of Thomas Nelson. Used by permission.