My children love small world play. When they play with Lego, they make models then use them to create a world and tell a story. They love Play Mobil (although not as much as me!), and any sort of small toy they can tell stories with, so this is an easy way for me to introduce Bible stories.
Any story which features a distinct location can be done in this way, although ones where there is movement between locations work particularly well.
Here are some examples:
Jesus at someone’s house – you can make a road with the house on it, put trees or rocks (stones!) along the road, and use a box as a house, or as we do, a Play Mobil Egyptian tomb, which works well as a First Century home! This set up would work well for loads of gospel stories, including Mary and Martha, Zacchaeus, Simon’s Mother in law, the Centurion’s servant, Jarius’ daughter.
Moving between contexts works well for journey stories such as:
- The Exodus, where you can create half the area as Egypt, and half as the desert, with the Red Sea between them, and the Nile in Egypt.
- The Easter story, with a building for temple where Jesus spent time in his last week, a home for the upper room where Jesus had his last supper, a garden where Jesus prayed, and a hill where Jesus died on the cross. I usually put the tomb here too.
- The resurrection story when Jesus meets two of his followers as they were returning from Jerusalem to Emmaus. This one could use the remnants of the last story, add a loooooong road and a house for them to stop at.
Don’t worry about the set up being accurate. Make it as close as you can, but enjoy the freedom we have in play to put things in to help us imagine what it would have been like to be there, and to discover how we respond to the story. My children will often put themselves into the story as a play person, which is a very physical way of responding to the story and contemplating where we sit in relation to the characters in the story and theology (thinking about God) they contribute.
What story might you set up like this?
You could pick a story they will recognise and leave it as an Invitation to Play – set up for them to explore as they choose – or you could introduce a new story using the set up then leave them to play with it, responding to the story as they do.