Thursday, December 9, 2010

Young kids learn best through play. Perhaps the best way for kids to remember the Nativity story is to reenact it in their own way.
Nativity Story and Pretend Play

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Understanding Nativity Story

A Baby Born in Bethlehem

We are not a religious family, but I think that even secular people should know Nativity story, just as they should know the Exodus story or how Muhammad received revelations from God. However, these stories are complex, with a lot of uncommon names and references to faraway places, so it’s hard for preschoolers to “just learn” them. The fact that they are usually only focused on once a year doesn’t help making them part of their “common knowledge”. Christmas books certainly help making Nativity story more accessible. My 4 year old really enjoyed A Baby Born in Bethlehem by Martha Whitmore Hickman illustrated by Giuliano Ferri. I like this particular book, because it closely follows “canonical” Bible story, but retells it in a simpler language appropriate for preschoolers. After we read this book, I encouraged my 4 year old to replay Nativity for me.

Nativity Story with Playmobil

Smarty got this Playmobil set with Three Wise Kings last Christmas, and it has seen a lot of action this year, as she set to reenact Nativity story. She added some Lego and Duplo bricks to make a crib for baby Jesus. Some parts from our Playmobil farm set also got into play – I think Mary (on the left near the stable) looks rather chick in her farmer outfit. Smarty played different scenarios from Nativity for several days also branching into her own pretend play.

Nativity Story with Paper Puppets

Unexpectedly, my non-arty 4 year old is a lot more interested in coloring nowadays even though she is still not bothering much with coloring neatly. Since we are doing online Advent with Activity Village, she noticed nativity coloring pages there and asked me to print her some to color. We had a lot of discussions about different characters as she was coloring them. She knows the nativity story, but it’s not reinforced all the time as in religious households, so a lot of her questions and comments really cracked me up: Why does baby Jesus have straw in his baby carrier? Why do they all have hangers (haloes did look like they were supposed to be used for hanging these figures) over their heads? Where are Mary’s legs? Why does she wear such a long dress? Why do angels have arms and wings?
I helped Smarty to cut her figures and make stick puppets of her Nativity characters for our cardboard theater (which, by the way, would make a great DIY Christmas present). Then she put up a play. It went about like this:
Here is baby Jesus. He was born in a manger. His mother was very surprised when he was born, because she wasn’t married yet and didn’t know she was going to have a baby. But an angel told her and Joseph that it’s all OK, and they would have a very special baby. Joseph and Mary got married after Jesus was born, and the three wise men brought Jesus presents. They brought him gold and… two other things. Now Jesus and his parents could buy food and clothes. The end. I am thinking this retelling could make for a good soap opera :)

Your Turn

Helping preschoolers to connect to Nativity story through play
What is your favorite book about Nativity?

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An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

I like the baby carrier question - very cute!

We usually stick with the Bible for telling the Nativity events, so we don't get all the story extras thrown in. But, I do like Exclaim Entertainment's The Very First Noel - still our favorite Christmas movie.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, that is the cutest. I love all her questions and her retelling of the Christmas story. Glad to see she is enjoying coloring now.

Christy said...

I love the way she retold the story! So cute and funny!

I love her questions too.

Ticia said...

I love her reteling and that puppet theater is AWESOME!

Debbie said...

I love all of this, from her questions to her retelling the story. She did a very good job with her puppet play!

Kim said...

I love it. It IS a confusing story...Crumpet won't color by number at all. Well, not true - he will, but he uses his own colors. Not a rule follower, my child...

MaryAnne said...

I also love Anna's puppet theater, and she did a great job telling the story of Baby Jesus! I never saw the wise men's gifts that way, but I imagine they did go towards food and clothing =)

Julie said...

I love it! I think she got the main points of the story down. I should probably pull out a book to tell the main story to M this year. She sees nativity scenes and says she loves baby Jesus, but I'm not sure she really has any idea who he is!

Jenny said...

She really absorbed the story, didn't she? Fun to do a puppet retelling.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

The puppets and stage are so great! Love all the colors on the stage. The book sounds great. I will have to look for it.

Our Homeschool Fun said...

Oh Natalie, her remark about the baby carrier is priceless and her retelling of the story is definitely one of a kind:-).

Her puppets turned out wonderfully! I like her theater too.

The girl who painted trees said...

Love her puppet theater. She's getting great gifts for Christmas too:) I'm always impressed by how well she retells stories.

Michelle said...

This is amazing...I love the puppet theater and her questions and retelling. What a great project thank you so much for sharing and linking up to stART!