Teaching a Bible class full of children of any age can be difficult at times if not intimidating. Why?
Children are naturally wired to wiggle all the time and all over the place, bending, bumping and bouncing.
They are naturally wired to chat with friends and make all sorts of noises.
They are also naturally wired to play imaginatively!
Yet, each new generation of children MUST be taught the Bible lest the Word of God be forgotten. Deuteronomy 4:9 commands us “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.”
How can we possibly obey God’s command and teach wiggly, chatty, imaginative creatures that are, it so happens, made in the image of God?
It’s really simple. Sort of! We must incorporate their natural behaviors into our class sessions. This article will show just one activity that uses bending and bouncing movements children love to facilitate learning books of the Bible.
I CALL THIS MOVEMENT ACTIVITY A “HOP STEP MAT”
It is a version of Hop Scotch adapted for learning the books of the New or Old Testaments. I call it a “Hop Step Mat” because you hop and step and, well, you get the idea. It can also be adapted to teach other “lists” like the 12 apostles (Throw in Matthias and Paul even!), sons of Jacob, the judges of Israel and more. Even Bible verses would be a great idea.
Children have used my Hop Step Mats enthusiastically for many years. I merely wash them once a year . . . or every other year . . . or um . . . whenever I get around to it. No one is allowed to step on it wearing shoes.
- Bible book names are written on squares or circles on a sheet laid out on the floor.
- Children hop and step on from name to name. As they hop and step on each square, they must speak ALOUD the Bible book name.
- It may be used before class or during class.
- Bring this out when the children are fidgety or just need to move after sitting for a while.
- Those who are hot hopping should be encouraged to speak out loud the Bible books with the person who is hopping. It is a great way to repeat and repeat and repeat!
HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?
- Lay a clean queen or full-size bed sheet on a large flat surface. Ask around to see if someone has an old one you can have. Second hand stores like Goodwill sell flat bed sheets very cheap, just a dollar or two. If you use a sheet with a pattern, be sure the pattern does not overwhelm the squares and wording.
- Make an 8.5″ circle or square template out of stiff cardboard.
- Optional: You might want to make plain paper templates for EACH Bible book so you can play around with your layout. You want to be sure everything fits the sheet BEFORE writing on it with permanent markers. After all, permanent markers are permanent, if ya know what I mean. Otherwise it is back to Goodwill for another bed sheet (which is not so bad if you enjoy second-hand shopping).
- Place cardboard, plastic or another barrier UNDER the sheet you will be writing on before tracing with marker. The marker WILL bleed through the sheet and onto whatever is under it. (And don’t even try to blame your kids for the large square on the dining room table if YOU forgot the barrier! Hah! )
- Trace your cardboard template on to the bed sheet with permanent marker or fabric markers. Don’t trace any foot prints or hand prints until this after part is completed. The kids don’t mind imperfections if you make mistakes on your sheet. In fact, my original Hop Step Mat has a glaring mistake at the very end on a hand print. So, nobody’s perfect. Right?
- Trace 2 feet on the side of a Bible book at the end of each division and anywhere else you may like. Kids LOVE to hop, hop, hop, and then straddle a book. It is hopscotch after all!
- Trace 2 feet and 2 hands around the very last square.Both hands and both feet will touch the mat for a grand finale! What a fun way to finish! See the photo below as the little boy is on the last square.
Alternative ideas are to sew or glue fabric or felt shapes onto the sheets. If you don’t sew, ask someone who does to make this for you. If you don’t glue, then I guess there’s no hope for you. Hah!
Take a close look at the joy on this little guy’s face as he learns to use the mat. He is still a bit young to hop AND speak the Bible books at the same time, but that will come with practice. For now, the teacher must chant the books as he hops.
- Take a young child by the hand while the child steps or hops on each Bible book. The teacher speaks or sings the words with the child as the child hops and steps.
- This would be an excellent activity to use each time a young child enters the classroom if you have enough helpers. Place this across the doorway so they MUST hop and step as they enter.
- Young children do NOT need to step through the entire mat all at once. Color coding the mat allows the child to memorize just one division at a time.
You do not have to do this using just a bed sheet. There are alternative options. See this article for other options. __________________________________
- Children can hop faster than they can speak! Um . . . they need to speak aloud slowly enough to correctly pronounce the Bible books! Duh!
- Because they can hop faster than they can speak, they may choose to ONLY hop and step without actually SPEAKING the Bible books! Um . . . NOT our goal here!
- They may ALL want to hop on the mat at the same time! Um . . . that’s great, if you don’t mind chaos!
Make your Hop Step Matt ONCE. Make it well! You will use it for YEARS!