Safe Hands-On Play

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sandHands-on activities effectively convey Bible
stories and concepts, so try these fun, safe ideas to enhance your

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Building-For Bible stories that involve building, such as the
ark, the temple, Joseph the carpenter, and the parable of the wise
builder, use small or varied sizes of cardboard boxes with lids
securely taped, beanbags, plastic bowls with lids securely
fastened, paper cups (not Styrofoam), and graham crackers on a
clean surface.

Travel-Loose sand is messy, and children tend to get it in their
eyes, hair, and mouths. For travel stories involving sand, such as
Abraham, Moses and the Israelites, Joseph and Mary, Jesus, the
disciples, and Paul, try these alternative ideas.

  • Place a scoop of sand (or salt, sugar, or flour) inside a
    plastic resealable baggie. Close the bag securely and then tape it
    shut with packing tape. Children can still enjoy squeezing,
    pounding, and shaking the sand without the mess. Closely supervise
    children as they play.
  • Place a scoop of sand inside a plastic jar and secure the lid.
    Give each toddler a jar to shake while you tell the story or review
    the lesson.
  • Give each toddler a piece of sandpaper, plus finger puppets or
    story figures from the lesson. Help children “walk” their puppets
    or figures across the sand.
  • Place a long strip of brown paper on the floor. Walk with
    children across the “desert.”

Water-For lessons dealing with boats, such as Noah’s ark, the
fishermen’s great catch, Jesus quieting the storm, Jesus walking on
water, and Paul’s shipwreck, use these safer activities.

  • “Float” boats on blue paper or cookie sheets dampened with
  • Give each child a “mast and sail” (a paper towel tube with a
    paper sail that’s taped on). Have toddlers hold their boats high as
    they “sail” around the room.
  • Place a rug in the center of the room and call it a boat. Help
    toddlers climb into the boat and pretend to sail, dipping hands
    into pretend water.
  • Use a spray bottle to spray a mist of water into the air. Have
    children pretend they’re in a boat and try to catch the

For other Bible stories focusing on water, such as the Creation,
the Flood, and Moses parting the Red Sea, try these ideas.

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  • Provide safe spray bottles for toddlers to spray water onto
    plastic or real plants or flowers.
  • Fill a plastic jar halfway with water. Add a plastic flower or
    other item and secure the lid. Toddlers will enjoy shaking the jars
    and watching the items inside float.
  • Provide white butcher paper and water tinted with food
    coloring. Let toddlers-wearing smocks, of course-fingerpaint the

Mary Davis
Montrose, Iowa

This article is excerpted from Children’s Ministry
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Children's Ministry Magazine

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