Godly Play with pre-school children
Since I began working with Godly Play, pre-school children have been one of the most interesting groups. At this age, children are curious; they want to find out everything, and everything is possible for them, because their imagination is endless.
On Thursday, ten children, between 3 and 6 years old, are sitting on the floor, looking around in the Godly Play room. ‘Oh look, a big boat! Can I play with it?’ ‘What´s that? May I open the golden boxes?’ I answer, ‘Of course you can, but first let´s listen to our story. Are you ready?’
With younger children it may take a bit longer to get ready. There are so many things to see and to explore in the room. They need to know very clearly, that after the story there will be enough time to play. First we listen – then we talk – then we play.
I begin the story: The Parable of the Good Shepherd. ‘I wonder what this could be?’ Wow, what imagination! Everything could be anything; there is no end of ideas. Sometimes I have to remember the rules because it´s getting really loud.
I know the group well, and I know that there will be some comments and questions during the story. ‘Oh, he is very thirsty!’ ‘The poor sheep!’ ‘That looks funny,’ and the group starts laughing.
With this age group I allow extra time, because the story may be interrupted. But that´s OK, for it´s another way of getting deeper into the story. And the children can find their way back into the silence and the deep concentration. The storytelling is an interplay – a stop and go between concentrated silence, lively discussion and a third factor, the special resonance of touch for children of this age group.
During the wondering, three-year-old Anna touches the blue felt. I don´t know what it is for her, maybe the water, maybe the sky, or something else. But it is something that moves her deeply. She picks it up, cocks her head and leans the felt against her cheek. In this position she is quiet while the others are in a big discussion.
‘Can I play with the boat now?’ The signal for me to finish. The time of wondering is short, maybe five minutes, but now they want to express themselves, and all that had touched or disturbed them. And the materials are so attractive. I can observe the sheep finding room in the ark, the Good Shepherd side-by-side with Noah. Anna continues to work with the blue felt while others need some help to find out what they want to do.
‘May I help you prepare the feast?’ Here is something that must not be missed. For this age group, the feast is an absolute must and full of joy. I look forward to seeing the group next week!
No child is too young for Godly Play, though we must be open to the particular needs and forms of expression particular to this age group.
Ulrike Labuhn works with kindergarten children in a Berlin church.