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7 Creative Ways to Teach Scripture to Kids

We all know scripture memorization is important.  If only it were also easy!!   🙂  If memorizing Bible verses proves difficult for adults, then imagine how much more difficult it can be for our young children to learn scripture.  Over my years of mothering our four kiddos and working with children at church, I’ve learned that teachers of  preschoolers in particular need to be really creative.  Sometimes that’s a real struggle for me!  What works for adults doesn’t always work for kids, and even more, what works for one child may not work for another.

So, for all of the purposeful parents, the homeschooling mamas, the Sunday School teachers, the toddler nursery workers, the Children’s Church volunteers, the daycare providers, the AWANA teachers, for any person who desires to teach children scripture but aren’t sure where to begin, here’s what I’ve learned thus far that works:

7 Creative Ways to Teach Scripture to Kids

1. Check it – Be sure the verse is short enough.

For very young students even a single sentence might be too long.  If the verse you have chosen is lengthy even in a children’s bible version, condense it further.  For example, if “Be kind and compassionate to each other” is too much, shorten it to “Be kind to others” or for very young children: “Be kind.”

Equally important, be sure that that your children or students understand the words in the verse.  What good is memorizing a verse that holds no meaning for them? 🙂

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2. Act it – create motions to go along with the verse.

In general preschoolers tend to learn more when they are being active rather than passive. Even many elementary-age children prefer to learn through movement rather than seatwork.  So, especially for those little learners who always seem to have ants in their pants, this technique can work wonders.

 For example, in our Cubbies class (preschool class for AWANA at church) we recently learned the verse “Children obey your parents in the Lord.”  The word “children” was portrayed by holding a hand out flat, palm down, and stair-stepping down, as in “stair-step children” (that’s the best I could think of, unfortunately – anyone have a better idea for children??).  Then for the phrase “obey your parents,” we pointed our finger straight out like a mommy telling a child what to do (picture Uncle Sam’s we-want-you pose – the kids really understood that gesture well, haha).   Finally, For “in the Lord” we simply pointed straight up into the air as if we were pointing to God in Heaven.

If you happen to know sign language, the easiest gestures would be actual signs, especially for words or phrases that will be repeated often, like God, Jesus, or Bible.   Sometimes my Cubbies are able to help me think of appropriate gestures, too.

Youtube example:

*One important note: do not try to attach a gesture to every single word in the verse.  Doing so will frustrate some children and will interrupt the natural flow of the verse.  You only need a gesture for each concept or phrase in the verse.  A second note: if the children look confused, then your chosen hand gesture or motion is not computing. Let it go and try something else.  🙂

3.  Play with it!

We usually repeat our memory verse a few times together before we get a little silly with it.  When the boys’ eyes begin to glaze over, I know we’ve repeated one too many times. 🙂   Once we can mostly say it together, I usually ask the children to stand up and push in their chairs so we can be more active.  We might crouch down and say the verse very, very quietly (gestures included) and then hop up and say it as loud as we can.  Sometimes we march around our table and say it, or we chant it to a rhythm, or we sing it, or clap it out, or use silly voices, and so on.  Songs in particular work very well at this age (Tip: you can use familiar tunes such as Farmer in the Dell, Old MacDonald, Three Blind Mice, etc. to put the words to if you don’t already know a song for the verse you are trying to teach).

Youtube example:

Once we used the suggested game for that week from our Cubbies book – let’s call it, “Lights on, lights off.”  When the lights were off, the kids were free to move around in whatever manner they desired: walking, creeping, running, hopping, crawling, etc.  When the lights came on, everyone had to freeze in place.  Once they understood the concept of the game, I used the “freeze” time to repeat our verse.  The same concept could be used with music rather than lights.

4. Repeat it – give each child to a chance to say it alone.

Once we have played around with the memory verse a little bit, most children will have at least part of the verse, if not the whole, in their minds.  At this point, I usually test my Cubbies a little while still trying to keep it fun.

For instance, if we’re chanting our verse to a beat, then in between each repetition, I’ll give a single student a chance to say it on his or her own.  Then the whole class says it together, followed by another individual, and so on.  Be sure to support those who need it so they don’t become embarrassed.

And we always, always celebrate, even if we are only partially successful at saying the verse!

5.  Draw it!

Some students prefer putting crayon to paper over reciting verses aloud.  Since my preschool Cubbies cannot read yet, I might ask them to draw a picture of their verse.  Of course, at their age I always have a few who choose to draw something totally unrelated, but for those who process information visually or spatially, drawing can really help to cement the concept of the verse in their minds.

6. Forget about references…for now.

Not that we shouldn’t attempt to teach the reference at all – I still do.  However, I just don’t stress about it anymore. At this age remembering a reference that doesn’t hold much meaning and is difficult to even pronounce can be really challenging and frustrating, especially for kids who might not be familiar with the books of the Bible. How many three-year-olds can actually pronounce books like Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes, or Thessalonians?  Even if they can pronounce them, do they understand what those words followed by numbers mean?  If not, then they are learning words that make no sense to them, hold no meaning.

Very rarely will my own young children remember a reference beyond a week or two unless it is a verse that we hear or review frequently, such as John 3:16, or a verse put to song that includes the reference, like the “Be ye kind” song.  In Cubbies we have a new verse every week and limited time for teaching, so the likelihood of children retaining references decreases even further.

Thus, in my humble opinion, the priority should be the conceptual learning taking place: truths about God making us, God loving us, loving others, etc.  I still teach the references, but I don’t emphasize them as much as the body of the verse itself.  For young children, as long as a child remembers the main idea of the verse, I count it a win!

 However, if you are going to be working on a verse for an extended time, then by all means, include the reference.  Additionally, if your children or students are older and can understand the purpose of a reference, then the reference should most definitely be included! 🙂

7. Remember variety, different methods work with different children, so use a variety when possible.

Our preschool daughter loves to say her verses carefully along with hand gestures as if she is performing on stage.  On the other hand, her twin brother resists the hand gestures, but he love, love, LOVES anything repeated in a weird or sing-song voice. (True story – I once entertained him through an entire grocery shopping trip simply by repeating the same phrase over and over again in a robot voice.  Whatever works, right?!)

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 Of course, sometimes during AWANA, or even at home, the kids are so crazy and energetic that we fail to accomplish much in the way of scripture memorization.  And we don’t always make time for memory verses either, but when we do, I want to make sure that it’s time well-spent.

Whether you teach at church or in your own home, I hope you find these tips helpful!  I have yet to find any ways to address tactile (touch-based/sensory) learners who cannot read yet, so if any of you have ideas for me, I’d really love to hear them.

Blessings to you brave mamas and teachers of little ones,

Jen 🙂

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Cultivating Christmas: The Christmas Adventure Box

The Christmas Adventure Box ~ an easy, kid-friendly advent for the whole family!

Last week I noticed a not-so-subtle change in our four-year-old daughter.  She contracted a terrible case of the “I needs.”  She needs a new doll for Christmas.  She needs a Barbie house for Christmas.  She really, really neeeeeeeeeeds a bike for Christmas…

While I understand her four-year-old behavior is typical, I dislike that her attitude can so easily become prevalent in our home during the Christmas season.  It happens so quickly.  We look at a few store ads, watch a few commercials, and we easily become convinced, even us grown-ups, that we have needs we have never had before!! 🙂

My husband and I purposed to combat the commercialism of Christmas and cultivate true Christmas spirit in our home many years ago. We looked for resources to use for our young and growing family.  We invested in Veggietales dvds about the true meaning of Christmas and a kid-friendly nativity set.  We participated in Operation Christmas Child, and we worked at local outreach events.   We read the Christmas story from the Bible on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

But we still felt like our children needed to be better educated about why we do some of the traditional things we do at Christmas time. Enter the Christmas Adventure Box – a family Advent activity.

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My friend  and fellow blogger Lana introduced us to the Christmas Adventure Box, a family advent activity/program that she developed for her own family.   The idea of the box was to complete daily (or several times weekly, for us) advent activities to help us remember the Greatest Gift of All, Jesus.  It was an immediate hit with our oldest two boys, especially with the word “adventure” in the title!

I know the last thing we all need during the Christmas season is yet another item for our “lists” of things to do (so please, please don’t feel pressured).  However, this family advent plan takes literally less than an hour to organize and the activities can take as little as five minutes or as long as 20-30 minutes depending on how involved you wish to make it (or how long your four year olds will sit still…) It really is a simple, but fun way to focus on the reason for the season! 🙂

Update: it’s even easier this year because I’ve added FREE printables that you can attach directly to the items in your box! Just click the link above. 🙂

Lana has created a blog specifically for the Christmas Adventure Box which you can find here.  If you want a full 25 day advent list, then I recommend visiting her site.  It’s very detailed and even has a lesson-plan type of format that would be particularly helpful for those who homeschool, teach children’s church, etc.

However, for our family, I’ve found that it’s less stressful to schedule only a few nights a week of kid-friendly advent activity.  So with permission, I’ve modified the Christmas Adventure Box to fit our schedule and even added in a few items that were important to us, such as spending one day on global missions.  That’s the beauty of this family advent activity – you can tailor it to fit the needs or even the traditions of your family! 🙂

Here’s how to get started:
Choose which activities you’ll be using (from the list below or from Lana’s site) for your family advent and wrap the according items.  Don’t forget to download and print the cards to attach to each item! Put all of the items into a large box (The Christmas Adventure Box) and wrap it as well.   Each day that you plan to use the Christmas Adventure Box, you’ll unwrap one (0r more) of the items and complete that day’s devotional/activity.

The Greatest Gift  –  read John 3:16 – unwrap the Christmas Adventure Box.

This will be the first activity on the advent list because it sets up the whole idea of the Christmas Adventure Box.  However, once you’ve completed this day, you can do any of the following days in whichever order you choose.    First, bring out the large, wrapped Christmas Adventure Box.  Explain to your children that you will be unwrapping an item a few times a week in order to learn more about Jesus this Christmas season.  Read John 3:16 and talk about how Jesus is the greatest gift of all.  You can also read prophecies from Isaiah about the Promised Deliverer.  Feel free to share the full gospel with your children and pray together as a family.

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Joseph and Mary – read Luke 1:30-33 – unwrap Joseph and Mary from your nativity set.

We purchased a fisher price little people nativity set several years ago when our twins were born, which makes it easier to let them “play” with the figures.  If you have littles in the house, be sure to choose a non-breakable set to work with.  On this day, you’ll read the story of Jesus’ parents learning that Mary was with child!  Discuss the prophecies fulfilled by Mary and Joseph found in Isaiah 9:7 and Isaiah 7:14.  Talk about promises God has kept for your family and pray together.

Baby Jesus – read Luke 2:6-7 – unwrap the baby Jesus figure from your nativity set.

Today you can discuss once again that Jesus was a gift, not only to His parents, but to the whole world.  Talk about the birth stories of each one of your children – how you planned for them, waited for them, and the joy of experiencing their birth.  Ask your children to find similarities and differences between their births and Jesus’ birth.  Pray together as a family, thanking Him for each family member and most of all, for the gift of a Savior.

Shepherds and Angels – read Luke 2:8-20 – unwrap the shepherd and angel figures from your nativity set.

Discuss a time when your family had exciting news to share.  Think about how the angels and shepherds must have felt sharing such important news.  Talk about how important it is that we continue to share the story of Jesus with anyone who hasn’t yet heard and pray together, especially for any unsaved relatives or friends.

The Wise Men – read Mt. 2:1-2, 10-11 – unwrap the wise men from your nativity set.

Talk about how the wise men had never heard about a Savior being born, but they still knew to follow the star.  Discuss the ways that God reveals himself to us today.  Pray together as a family that your knowledge of God’s ways would increase.

Kid-friendly advent activities for Christmas

Light of the World – read Mt. 5:14-16 – unwrap a notecard that says “Christmas Adventure!” on it.

Discuss light and dark.  Ask your children how Jesus is the Light of the World.  Then, pile everyone into your vehicle and go on an adventure to see some Christmas lights!  (You can continue discussion as you travel).  Be sure to pray together as a family.  *I try to schedule this night on a weekend so that we can allow the children to have  sleepover by the Christmas tree.  It’s one of our boys’ favorite traditions.

Legend of the Candy Cane – read Isaiah 53:5 – unwrap a candy cane.

Read your children a brief version of the legend of the candy cane and discuss why we use them in our Christmas decorations.  And yes, Pray together.

Joy to the World – read Mt. 28:19-20 – unwrap a small globe or picture of the world.

Tell your children about things we have in America that help us to know who God is (a Bible in our own language, churches we can attend, freedom of religion, etc.).  Discuss how other countries may or may not have these items.  Explain the importance of reaching the whole world with the Good News about the Greatest Gift.  Pray as a family for most unreached people groups of the world (if you need an easy way to pray for the most unreached peoples, use the T.H.U.M.B. method here.)

The Legend of Saint Nicholas – read Gal. 2:10 – unwrap socks or a stocking.

Read a brief version of the Legend of Saint Nicholas to your children.  Talk about ways your family can pass on the gift of Christmas to others by being generous.  Watch the Veggietales video, Saint Nicholas:  The Joy of Giving. (Hint: many veggietales videos can be found on Netflix, including this one.  No need to purchase!)  Pray together for a generous spirit during this season rather than a coveting spirit.  *This would be the perfect place to include a service project such as Operation Christmas Child or serving at a local soup kitchen.

Christmas Adventure Box, family advent

Christmas Caroling – read Rev. 5:12 – unwrap a note that reads “Christmas Adventure!”

Talk about the importance of singing God’s praises.  Take the whole family for an adventure in Christmas caroling and spread some cheer to your neighbors or even shut-ins from your church.  Local nursing homes usually welcome carolers, as well!  Pray together as a family.

The Baker’s Hand – read Isaiah 64:8 – unwrap cookie cutters.

Make and decorate sugar cookies (if you have small or impatient children as I do, it’s a good idea to make the dough ahead of time).  While you are working, discuss how God shapes us according to His purposes and how we are each uniquely created and uniquely gifted by Him.  Pray as a family, asking the Lord to help each one remember that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Christmas Adventure Box, kid-friendly Advent activity

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – read Thessalonians 2:15-16 – unwrap a nativity story dvd or a “Christmas Adventure!” notecard.

We have two different takes on this day’s advent activity.  In the past we have used one or the other, or sometimes both!  The first is to watch a dvd about the Christmas story, such as A Nativity Story. The second is to attend a local candlelight service, if you have one near you.  Both options will work to help you review what you have learned throughout the month of December and to celebrate this special evening.  Our family also has a tradition of an evening meal of summer sausage, crackers, cheese, and hot cocoa.  I know it sounds weird, but most of those items were obtainable when we lived in Papua New Guinea during my MK years.  I have such fond memories of making the most of Christmas in a tropical country that we decided to continue it once we were married. 🙂

Christmas Day – read Luke 2:1-20 and unwrap a Bible (shhh – don’t tell, but this year we plan to get preschool Bibles as gifts for our twins!).

Today, enjoy family and gift-giving and fun all within the context of celebrating Jesus’ birthday! 🙂

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That’s it!  The Christmas Adventure Box is a simple, kid-friendly advent activity to emphasize Christ in your home this Christmas season.  The best part?  It doesn’t cost a dime!  Just pick the days you wish to use or even add a few of your own, wrap up the necessary items, and you are ready to go. Remember, I’ve only included my favorites here, so if you want a full list, visit Lana’s site.  Enjoy!

Jen 🙂

If you are looking for additional Christ-centered Christmas resources to use in your home or at your church, check out Buck Denver’s Asks…What’s in the Bible series for Christmas!

You might find me linking up at any of these lovely blogs.

Also sharing with: Beauty Through Imperfection, Missional Call, Mom’s The Word,

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Hands-on Color Activities

mama mondays2

As promised in last week’s Mama Mondays post on Pre-K resources for homeschooling, I have some color learning activities to share with you today. 🙂  I did not spend a penny on creating these activities and probably only spent an hour or two of my time.  Unfortunately, the laminating machine and I did not get along at first, so it took a little longer.  If you do not have access to a laminating machine (I used our church’s), check with a local church or library.  And learn from my mistakes – practice on some scrap paper first.  Also, you might consider using clear contact paper as an alternative.

Here are the color learning activities we made this week:

Color Go-Fish

On pinterest, I saw an idea for cutting activities using paint chips from the store, similar to this color matching activity. So, the next time my husband went to the hardware store, I asked him to pick some up. Instead of the variegated kind, he brought home solid colors, but he did remember to get several of each.  Since they weren’t the kind I wanted for cutting practice, I decided to make a Color Go-fish game out of them.  The samples themselves were pretty flimsy, so we glued them onto card-stock.  If you don’t have card-stock on hand, try using index cards.  The twins were happy to practice using their glue-sticks, and I was glad for an adhesive that dries quickly. If you don’t plan to laminate them, I would use a better adhesive, though.

paint chips for Go-Fish color edition

I was already planning on doing some laminating, so I decided to laminate them as well.  Now they’re practically indestructible, which is good for our son. 🙂  Our daughter picked up on this color learning game rather quickly, but our son is still learning the rules and the right questions to ask.  They both really enjoyed it, though, and have asked to play again since the first time we played.  Color Go-Fish is a really fun, hands-on way to learn colors, and we’ll probably use it for shapes, numbers, and letters as soon as I can make up more cards.

Color/Shape Hop

Our son lacks interest for much table work, so I’ve been searching for some more active ways to practice shapes and colors.  One neat idea I found on pinterest  was to use masking tape to make shapes on the floor.  However, since I want to work on colors, as well, I decided to cut out large shapes from colored card-stock and laminate them.   Then, we put them out on the floor and say, “Hop on red!”  or if  you want to include the shape as well, you could say, “Hop on the red heart!”  Since we have two preschoolers, I’ll probably give each child his or her own turn so that they don’t fight over the shapes.  Once we practice colors, then we use the same activity to practice shapes.

Color Sorting Mats

My husband picked up enough paint chips that I had extras once I made the Color Go-Fish game.  I decided to laminate the extra set and use them for color sorting.  At the moment, all we had to sort were some colored pom-poms and some beads, so I had our second-grader use one of my scrap-booking paper punches to punch out stars from the leftover shape paper scraps.  He had a lot of fun using the punch and now I have stars for our preschoolers to color sort, as well!

Color Go-Fish

I also plan to use our Hi-Ho Cherry-O game for some color sorting.  Our twins love to play with the game pieces, so I figure it’s the perfect opportunity for some hands-on learning.  We’ll probably practice counting while we’re at it, too. 🙂

For more ideas on Color learning activities:

http://www.childcareland.com/teach10.html

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59532026297549568/

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59532026297549599/

Last week we focused on the color green, and this week we plan to focus on the color blue.  For our daughter, who already understands color, I’ll do more patterning activities to give her more of a challenge.

That’s all for this week!

Jen 🙂

You may find me linking up at any of these lovely blogs.

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