Over a decade ago, as my friends and I were approaching the end of university and the start of Real Life, I remember asking one particular friend what she wanted to do in the future. “I’m not sure exactly,” she started – and then her eyes lit up: “but I’m just so excited about the Bible, and I’d love to be able to share that with people.”
Perhaps, I thought, my friend would do a PhD and teach academically, or take on a teaching position within a church or Christian organisation. However, her calling was to be greater than that: Alice Buckley has written a book which unlocks the Bible not for lofty academics, but for preschoolers – and I genuinely believe that it has a thousand times more potential for changing lives than any of the weak-by-comparison suggestions my mind played through. Why start teaching the Bible at 18 when you can teach it from birth?
‘Play through the Bible’ works like this: There are 20 stories from Luke’s gospel. Alice suggests that you take one story per week, the daily repetition helping kids to remember it. She has expertly rewritten each story with language simple enough for a very small child to understand, as well as plenty of opportunities for them to join in – and, of course, there are numerous suggestions for actions, signs and voices you may like to use, as well as props (all of which can be found around the home). The suggestion is that families find a few minutes each day in which to tell this story – perhaps over a meal (we do ours over breakfast). However, anyone who’s even been within five miles of a preschool family knows that there will be a plethora of reasons why this might not always happen – but Alice is so grace-filled in her approach “Let’s agree not to guilt-trip when we miss a day (or week, or month!)…Deal?” she offers, reassuringly.
And then, the genius: every story comes with multiple play ideas related to the theme. Again, Alice is realistic, suggesting families concentrate on just one or two things. As a mum of three young children, she knows what fits easily into our lives, and recognises that each child learns differently. There are ideas for craft and cooking, things to spot or do when in the park or walking down the street, active games to play in the home and outdoors, and ideas for bringing Jesus naturally into the conversation.
In week one, when we heard about Jesus being God’s son, we used Alice’s idea of making a scrapbook to illustrate the point. Missy had been given one for her birthday, and loved filling it with pictures of her favourite Disney characters and other random colouring pages! Once made, it became an integral prequel to our telling of the Bible story: we would go through the book asking: “Is this my daughter?” with the kids responding “NO!” until we reached a photo of Missy at the very end – “YES!”. In the same way: “Is John the Baptist God’s son?”, “Is Jesus God’s son?” – you get the idea!
Week 2 was about Jesus being tempted in the desert, and how he listened to God, not the devil. My children’s favourite activity from the selection was playing ‘Simon Says’, which we played at the breakfast table each morning with no props or preparation – and yet it clearly brought home the point about listening!
Last week, we looked at Jesus’ healing miracles. As luck would have it, I took my kids for their flu vaccinations last week: it was a great opportunity to reinforce the story through talking about how Jesus heals – that he heals through medicine, but also that he can heal just by touching people, without any need for medicine. It wasn’t a long, deep conversation – it wasn’t onerous, and it wasn’t hard to remember to do – it was very natural, because we’d been thinking about healing all week. This week, we’re onto Jesus and the fishermen – and Mister is already looking forward to a fish-and-chips dinner later on this week!
The suggested age range for this book is 2-7, but we’ve been using Alice’s ideas (from her excellent blog) since Mister was 2 and Missy was a baby. Who knows what Missy was taking in, but it certainly wasn’t harming her to start hearing God’s word played out in a fun way! The very first time I saw Missy respond to God’s word was when she was around 16 months. She had very few words, and a handful of signs – but when, sometime shortly after Christmas, I mentioned the name ‘Jesus’, she signed ‘baby’. A small gesture, but a miraculous one: Missy was demonstrating that she’d taken in something from the Christmas story – Jesus being born as a baby! There really isn’t a start age for teaching God’s word. The problem is that most ‘preschool’ resources up until now have focused primarily on the 3-5 age group, i.e. children with some amount of verbal communication. Play through the Bible is unique in reaching children with God’s word before they can verbally communicate.
I knew this book would be incredible, because Alice’s ideas have been tried and tested in our family over the last three years. What I didn’t know was how beautiful the book would end up looking. It’s fab! Bright and colourful, with lovely illustrations and photos. Whilst the words are aimed at grown-ups, the book is enticing enough to have open on the breakfast table. My kids love looking at the pictures and trying to guess all the ideas we may (or may not!) get round to doing in the week!
This book has the power not just to change children’s lives, but the attitude of us parents, as we step up to the responsibility God has given us for teaching our children His ways. It’s not only a great resource in itself, it opens up a dialogue about how we can teach our children about the God who loves them. Think what priceless treasures we’re passing on to our kids if we’re able to teach them God’s word right from the start of their lives!
Now – who would like a free copy? Type a comment below and I’ll put all the names into a suitable receptacle on Sunday evening (Nov 9th) – the winner will receive a copy in the post at some point next week. Even if you don’t have young children – why not enter anyway? I’m sure any family you know would be totally blessed by this surprise gift! I’ll announce the winner on Facebook (as well as letting them know personally).
Disclaimer: No payment has been received for this review, even though it’s ridiculously positive, and reads like there’s been some secret commission exchanging hands. I did not receive a free copy to review – Christian book companies do not have money to burn – although perhaps if enough of you order the book, Alice may buy me a drink if we ever meet again.