10 ways to share Bible stories with kids

Author: Matthew van Duyvenbode

Photo: Daddy-David

10 ways to share Bible stories with kids

In a world dominated by the Gruffalo, Peppa and Thomas, it can be a daunting prospect to introduce a toddler to stories from the Bible.

One of the very reasons we treasure the Scriptures – their richness – can feel so overwhelming in the face of a 30 second attention span that we give up before we’ve even begun.

Here are 10 ways I’ve tried to bring the Bible to life for a very restless two year-old.

  1. When necessary, abbreviate ruthlessly - At times, I’ve only had the amount of time it takes to put on some nappy cream and a pull-up after bath to tell a story. Think in bullet points rather than paragraphs.
  2. Don’t follow your own visual preferences - I’ll admit I hate the pastiche cartoon Jesus images in most Bible story books. I scoured ebay for weeks to find the uber-tasteful ‘Animals of the Bible’. Sadly, it has very little story, and the arty pictures may as well be writing to him. Every time he opts for the gaudy cartoon Jesus giveaway somebody gave us with simple, pithy language and bright pictures.
  3. Speaking of animals, swot up on your birds and beasts - There’s a reason every children’s Bible book features Noah, Daniel, Jonah, the Bethlehem Stable and the Good Shepherd. If you’re finding it hard to break through, start with these. Even better, tell them from the perspective of one of the animals.
  4. …Children work well too - Children love to hear about children. Try retelling Jesus lost in the Temple or the Feeding of the 5,000. Siblings work well too, so try Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his brothers. Don’t be afraid also to say that many of the figures in books (David, Jeremiah, Mary) were actually older children when they listened to God.
  5. Go off script
    Most children’s Bibles aim to engage two to four year-olds in terms of pictures, but the language is more like a four to six year-old level. So, if the language isn’t working, talk about the pictures. What’s going on? What are the different people thinking or feeling? Imagine what might happen next.
  6. Don’t just keep Bible stories for bedtime or Mass - Spread the love. Keep some books downstairs as well as upstairs; in the car and buggy.
  7. Symbols work well as story prompts - Having symbols, pictures and reminders around the place works well to remind of the stories. Don’t be afraid of non-religious symbols prompting the story too. We went through about two months of our son mistaking the Queen’s head on every postage stamp on every letter we received being ‘Mary’, and wanting to hear about Mary on the donkey.
  8. Choose an understandable translation - I don’t tend to read from a full Bible (yet), but if I did, I’d want to use the Goodnews Bible. You can buy Catholic Goodnews editions widely, and the language is probably the most intelligible of most ‘easier’ translations.
  9. Re-enact stories - I think it probably goes without saying now that I think retelling these stories needn’t be confined to sitting down looking through a book together – try re-telling in your own words, or even turning it into a roleplaying game like shopkeepers or doctors (this works quite well for miracles!)
  10. The difficult bit - Of course, to help with confidence, it does help if we have some basic familiarity with Bible stories. If you’re not a big Bible reader, just read their book for now, and then when you’ve got more questions, try speaking to your priest or other Christians you might know for advice.

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