Sunday, October 2, 2011

Story Baskets for Faith Formation: St. Jerome and the Lion

This Year's St. Jerome Basket
What is one way to engage young children in cooperative play, language development and use of social skills while encouraging their faith formation?

Story Baskets!

I love making these for my children.

Basically, I select a story and rummage through our store of materials to find props and figurines that might go along with it.  I pop all these into a basket.

Then, I read the story to my children and also sometimes retell if (or have them do so) using the props.

From there, creativity reigns.  I leave the story basket out and let the kids have at it.  As they do, I sit back and marvel at how they synthesize knowledge, express their creativity, work with one another and come to terms with faith understanding at their own pace.

So simple, yet so rich.

An Example:  A St. Jerome Feast Day Story Basket

Last Thursday, when I woke up with almost no voice due to a cold, I knew I needed something to keep my older children engaged while I conserved my voice to work in the evening.  Thus, I decided it was Story Basket time.

Playing with Last Year's Basket
Since we had been reading St. Jerome and the Lion throughout the week in preparation for St. Jerome’s Feast Day on the 30th, and since my oldest had already mentioned a desire to revisit the Story Basket we did last year at this time, I decided it was  time to put together one for this year – one that was a little more advanced than last year’s.

So, I collected figurines to represent St. Jerome, monks, caravan men, a lion, a dog, a donkey and some camels and, then, added in a few Lincoln Log “sticks”, plus a pull cart.  I put all these in a basket along with a copy of St. Jerome and the Lion. Next to the basket, I put a bin of Lincoln Logs to be used to build the monks’ quarters.

With this as a catalyst, play began.

My children immersed themselves in acting out the story of St. Jerome and the Lion even without me re-reading it to them.  They also created their own tales, using props from the basket.  As they did, I thought about something:

In the St. Jerome storybook, it is mentioned how all the monks and each of the animals at the monastery had a job.  At the core, a young child’s job is to learn, explore and grow.  As a parent, one of my main duties is to facilitate and guide my children’s growth.  Story baskets are one very simple way to do this.

Three Ideas for Easy Faith-Based Story Baskets:

We enjoy many faith-based picture books in our home, but I know not everyone is familiar with these.  But, most homes have a Bible or children’s Bible on hand.  So, why not start there?

  • The Nativity:  Raid a child-friendly Christmas Nativity set for pieces or use three dolls to represent Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Use some stuffed toys or Little People for animals.
  • The Good Shepherd:  If you don’t have plastic figurines, use a wooden spoon with some scrap fabric to make a simple shepherd figure and some cotton balls and pipe cleaners to make sheep.
  • Jonah and the Whale:  A cereal box with a whale picture pasted to it and a small figurine for Jonah is all you need.

Last Year's St. Jerome Basket
Truly, story baskets need not be expensive or require much preparation.  A story, a little creativity on your part, a few props corralled from around the house, the natural imagination of your child and a portion of God’s good grace is all you need!

What simple ways do you use to provide hands-on ways for your children to explore faith stories?  Do you have a story in mind that you’d like prop ideas for?  How else are you helping to train happy hearts in your young children?

As always,please share your thoughts and questions in the comments and stop back next Sunday to join in on this ongoing discussion of how we might work together on Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children.  And, please, if you'd like to guest post one Sunday, just ask!

Disclosure: If you click on any Amazon links here and make a purchase of any item, I may receive a small percentage to help defray the cost of training my children up.  Thank you!


Jane Ellen said...

I have made story baskets for many years for my children too. Isn't it wonderful? My only trouble is getting them organized ahead of the feast day. But once it's put together I leave it out until the kids loose interest.

zookeeper said...

So happy to have found your blog! I am homeschooling my Kindergartener and (almost) four year old this year. We're using a blended approach as well and I LOVE how you use some Montessori materials for faith formation. Brilliant! It reminds me very much of "Godly Play".


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