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Ten Godly Play at Home Tips for Parents

by Christine Yeannakis
  1. Start with one story.
  2. Make your materials as attractive as possible.
  3. Learn the story before you tell it to your child.
  4. Set aside a special place to keep your family's story materials.
  5. Teach your child to respect the materials.
  6. Use godly play stories as a basis for family devotions.
  7. Use godly play lessons during Advent and Lent.
  8. Encourage an art response.
  9. Work toward independent use of the story materials.
  10. Help your church encourage godly play at home.

  1. Start with one story.
  2. Start with a story that is easy to make and easy to learn to tell. The parable of the Good Shepherd and the Wolf is a good starting point. However, your child may have another favorite. Ask your child to choose from among the parables displayed in your church's godly play classroom. After you have created and learned one story, you and your child can decide which to do next. As you know, children love hearing the same story repeated over and over again. Thus, you will have plenty of time to create and learn new stories.

    You do not have to be an artist to do this! Borrow the godly play teacher's copy of "Young Children and Worship." In that book, (also available for purchase via your local bookseller) you will find the story text, how to move the figures, a list of the materials you will need and instructions for making the materials, including outlines for the figures. Parable figures are cut from heavy paper and laminated; no woodworking is necessary!

  3. Make your materials as attractive as possible.
  4. The materials must communicate to children the importance of the story. Carefully color the figures yourself. (Your child may make a set in response to your story telling, but the "official" parable box is adult-made.) Cut the figures with care and laminate them smoothly. Make sure you use felt in the colors specified in the book and that you cut the felt such that the edges are smooth and the pieces are in the proper shapes. Parables are kept in gold boxes to signify their preciousness (among other reasons). Your gold box should be spray painted or covered neatly in shiny gold paper. (Note: Godly Play Resources sells home-sized versions of some lessons.)

  5. Learn the story before you tell it to your child.
  6. Again, your fluency with the story will impress your child with the importance of things spiritual. Further, telling the story the same way each time will help the child learn it. Telling the story with the book at your knee or making it up as you go along will diminish the experience for both you and your child.

  7. Set aside a special place to keep your family's story materials.
  8. This might be a small shelf in your child's room or play area. The special place signifies that the materials on the shelf are special--sacred--and not to be tossed about with the action figures and the Legos. You may want to turn the shelf to face the wall when it is not time for godly play activities.

    For some families, the best plan is to keep the materials somewhere inaccessible and bring them out when it is godly play time. Children should not have free access to the story materials until you are certain they will be used properly and respectfully.

  9. Teach your child to respect the materials.
  10. You provided beautiful materials. You know the stories. You found a special place, suited to your child's needs, to store the materials. Now, you must teach your child, by your actions, that these toys are very special. Your child has been introduced to this idea in Sunday School, but you will need to teach that the rule applies at home.

    When you get ready to tell a story, remove the story from the storage space with reverence. As you tell the story, take out the underlay and figures as if you were handling delicate, breakable pieces. When you are finished, replace the materials in the same way.

    After you tell a story, you might invite your child to tell the story to you. As your child takes out and replaces the story pieces, gently teach proper handling. Together, put all the pieces back with great care. Finally, with your child, walk slowly to the storage space and carefully place the story on the shelf.

  11. Use godly play stories as a basis for family devotions.
  12. Tell the story to all family members and ask the wondering questions, listed after the story in Young Children and Worship. If you have more than one child who is over the age of one year, this may be chaotic at first. The children will laugh and possibly (!) be somewhat rowdy. Your spouse will ask you why you are bothering. Persevere! You just may be able to engage the whole family occasionally in some theological reflection.

  13. Use godly play lessons during Advent and Lent.
  14. Even if you cannot manage godly play at home throughout the year, consider using godly play as a way to mark Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. "Young Children and Worship" has an excellent series of lessons, though making the materials for these lessons is quite time consuming.

    Check the Godly Play Resources catalog or speak with a godly play teacher about Jerome Berryman's lessons. For Advent ("The Glorious Impossible") and Lent ("The Faces of Christ") Mr. Berryman has selected a series of lovely pictures and written stories to go with them.

    Whichever set of lessons you choose--or both, you may want to display the materials in your home as you introduce them week by week. This is a wonderful way to remind the entire family, and visitors, of the "reasons for the seasons."

  15. Encourage an art response.
  16. In the godly play classroom, your child responds to the lesson using a variety of art materials. You may want to do the same thing at home. After telling the story, you may suggest that your child get out the crayons and draw a picture of the "most important part" or a picture that shows how "you feel about the story." You may want to have a special godly play art box where you include art supplies that are not usually available around the house. These might include shiny paper, water colors, pastels, clay that can be baked and painted and clay sculpting tools. Offer your child a public and private place in which to display or store godly play-related art work.

  17. Work toward independent use of the story materials.
  18. When your child masters proper and respectful use of your at-home godly play story and art materials, you will want to encourage independent use. Readiness for free access to the stories will depend on the number and ages of children in your home, the location of the materials and your child's personality.

    The goal is that children, as they need or want to, will be able to take out a story, work with it respectfully and even do an art response--all without adult supervision. Children who can use the story materials independently have a powerful tool. Without reading and without adult intervention, children will be able to find comfort, strength and guidance in God's Word.

  19. Help your church encourage godly play at home.
  20. While it would be ideal to have a collection of stories at your home for use at anytime, this is not going to be immediately possible for most families. Your church might help by organizing a lending library. The church would keep duplicate sets of story materials in sturdy storage boxes. Directions for each story, including the text, wondering questions and other follow-up ideas would also be in each box. Families would borrow the story box for at least a month. A minimum of one month would be needed for parents to learn the story, retell it several times and give the children a chance to work with it.

    Alternatively, your church could help by distributing semi-finished materials for parables and sacred stories (narratives from the Bible). Families would need to cut, color and laminate parable figures already duplicated on card stock. Or, families would need to sand and oil wooden figures cut en masse by a parishioner with a scroll saw. Your church might even order felt in bulk and distribute the bits and pieces needed for the various stories.

    Finally, consider organizing a godly-play-at-home material making event. The children could participate in a special, extended godly play class. Meanwhile, the parents would be busy making stories to take home. The church would provide the materials; perhaps even wood, a scroll saw and its operator.

Originally published in "Playing the Stories," a newsletter for Godly play teachers by Christine Yeannakis. Copyright © 1999 Christine Yeannakis. All rights reserved. Back issues are available for purchase.

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Copyright © 2002 Barbara Laufersweiler
Last updated June 26, 2001


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