Cows absolutely love to play!
OK, so maybe not cows, but their calves surely do!
In my previous home I was blessed to look out over a lush green pasture from my kitchen window. When we first moved in to that home, Farmer Bob (not his real name) had four cows that each had a calf. Being a city girl, I had never really witnessed what calves were like. I was quite surprised to discover that calves frolicked and played like puppies all day in-between snacks. Bundles of energy!
The moms on the other hand barely moved and spent the day with their heads down munching on grass.
While I don’t want you to get the idea that I think humans are just like cows – thankfully there are many differences – I do see a similarity between how children behave like calves and adults are more like cows. That’s a good thing except when adults expect children to be like cows…still and focused. As adults, it’s important to remember that kids learn best through play.
The NCPAD defines play as “a physical or mental activity that has no purpose or objective outside of pure enjoyment or amusement.” In recent years our culture and made it more and more challenging for kids to have blocks of time to engage in play. Increased classroom time, a packed extracurricular activity calendar, and toys created with a specific script in mind such as movie related toys, all result in a decreasing opportunity for kids to use their imagination, pretend, improvise and be creative. As a result attention spans have decreased as well as the ability to self-regulate according to Howard Chudacoff, a cultural historian at Brown University.
How can you make play an integral part of your classroom time?
- Begin your time in the classroom with Learning Activities. Not only are they a great way to welcome children to the classroom, but they also allow children to plug into an activity that will be meaningful to them right off the bat.
- Allow children to engage in Learning Activities for an extended period of time – 30-45 minutes. While unstructured from an adult’s perspective, the freedom to choose what each child wants to do will pay off later when you need their attention as you briefly share during Bible Story Time.
- Be sure to have a minimum of three options for the children to choose from – more if you have a particularly large group of children. The reality is that God made each of us different so we are not all attracted to the same activities. Include options that appeal to boys and girls, as well as choices for the active and the more reserved.
- Remember that Learning Activities can also include Creative Hands ideas, or Movement Ideas depending on how many helpers you have. You may need to communicate with your helpers ahead of time so they can actively help reinforce the lessons, but the more variety you can offer the better.
- Allowing children to resume play and plug back into the Learning Activities after Bible Story Time or group time increases the play time and makes for a more positive experience. It also makes pick up time go more smoothly.
- Interacting with the children while they play allows you to connect with the kids, access how much each child understands, as well as creating opportunities for you to have meaningful conversations with them to encourage them to learn. In fact, this is typically when kids learn the most.
- Often times there is a big jump when it comes to the elementary classroom. Suddenly children are expected to passively sit and listen. Let’s be honest, even most adults don’t get that excited about that! Think about “play” as the needed food that provides the energy necessary for children to listen when they really need to. Consider starting your time together with a fun Learning Activity or game. If you have enough help, offer a couple of choices because everyone is different!
- How can you incorporate more moving around when memorizing scripture or during Bible Story Time? Limit reading straight from the Bible because it can be hard to follow and keep kids from paying attention. Encourage them to read it later on their own or with their parents. Challenge them to come back and share what they have discovered after reading the passages themselves – it’s a great way to review!
- Consider allowing kids to work on a Creative Hands project or simply play with Playdough if you have something big to share to keep them occupied. Busy hands equals better listening.
- Take a break if your class time is long enough and allow children to run off some steam outside in a way that positively reinforces the lesson so that you can get the wiggles out but not waste teaching time.
Baby cows are curious, playful, and bundles of energy just like children. Why not channel all of that in an intentional way!
Don’t forget to get down on a child’s level when interacting and playing with them. It will be appreciated by the children and keep you young at heart! And you will be a more effective teacher and isn’t that what it’s all about?
He wraps you in goodness – beauty eternal. He renews your youth – you’re always young in His presence. Psalm 103:5 (MSG)
How will you incorporate more play in your Bible lessons?