Playing with Bible stories might sound a great way to develop heresy, but education professionals all say that children learn and develop through play, and faith is no different. While they’re playing they explore the story, what they like, what they think is important, how they relate to the story and more. The comments children make while playing reveal a deep engagement in the story, connection with God and often development of deep theology.
This week I made these pictures of the creation story used in the Godly Play way of telling the story. I printed the pictures and glued them onto 10cm square canvases and sealed them with modge podge. I then cut out 10cm square pieces of paper and card and set them out in wooden bowls in the play room. It was approximately 30 seconds before my 4-year-old had found them and started telling the story which I’d shared with them a few days before.
One of the things I’m aiming to more of at home this year is Godly Play. I’ve done some ever since I went on a 3 day course in 2013, when my daughters were 1 and 2 years old. I went on the course primarily with the intention of using it at home although most people use it in church groups, and over the last 3 years I’ve learnt a number of stories, buying and making my sets to tell them with. I’ve seen the dramatic impact it has on even young children, giving them permission to play with the stories, looking for ways in which they relate, where they are in the story. We’ve used a mixed together version of The Faces of Easter and the Exodus story in our Passover meal at which most of the adults and children at present are new to Godly Play. We use the Baptism story on my daughter’s baptism birthdays. And I’ve tried hard to leave the stories pieces out whenever possible so they can play with them for at least a week.
As they’ve got older, I can leave more of the story materials accessible for them to get out when they choose, and so when we moved I was keen to create a Godly Play area in their play room. As they’ve got older I’ve also had more and more art and craft materials, as well as construction, small world play and other open ended toys available to them to get out whenever they choose.
As well as stories and response materials, I’ve been working on applying principles from Rebecca Nye’s book Children’s Spirituality into our home. This is an interesting exercise as I’ve found it is changing the way we do life, not just how I organise things for the children. For example, as well as having art materials out on an art table and a shelf for the children to access different pencils, paint etc, I have an art shelf for me! It has a few sets of nice felt tip pens and some crayons, and my favourite note books and art paper. The shelf is in the play room so I can grab them any time I choose, just as they do. For me this is often during my time just me and God before they wake up, or in ten minutes while they’re watching TV before I make the dinner – I purposefully choose to create something before I tidy up and start dinner as I find it refreshes me and makes those tasks less onerous and take less time! I also grab them on my way to church as I love doodling during the worship and teaching in the service.
Not heard of Godly Play before? Find out more here.