It has been a pleasure to have one of our wonderful Christian Montessori Network Facebook group members, Megan, with us for the past 5 weeks sharing her Godly Play knowledge with us. Today Megan helps us in creating DIY Godly Play materials. I feel empowered to use Godly Play with my own children after reading her posts and hope you do too! If you missed the previous posts, be sure to check out Why I Love Godly Play, How Godly Play Works, What is Godly Play Work Time?, and How to Learn Godly Play Stories. Stop by the CMN Facebook group and thank Megan for all her hard work. We are truly blessed with amazing members. Thank you, Megan! ~Marie
If you’re interested in doing Godly Play with your church or at home, you’ll need materials to tell the story. It’s a great idea to go to the Godly Play Foundation website and take a look at the beautiful materials they sell to tell the stories.
But take a deep breath before you do, okay? They’re expensive! Just like Montessori materials, Godly Play materials are specially designed and often hand crafted. They’re breathtakingly beautiful and created to be used for years by generations for children. But for most of us (especially those of already struggling to find the money for our Montessori homeschool materials!) these gorgeous materials are probably way out of your budget.
Don’t worry. Just like Montessori materials, you can definitely find ways to DIY Godly Play materials for your family. Later, I’ll share ideas from teachers and bloggers on specific materials. But first, here are some simple guidelines for how to go about DIY’ing your own materials for Godly Play:
- Make them as beautiful as possible. As with Montessori materials, try to make your lessons as high-quality and beautiful as you can afford, both economically and spiritually. By that, I mean that beautiful materials are important, but not as important as your own sanity, so don’t make yourself crazy making things. Try to find a happy medium.
- Go simple. Godly play materials are beautiful, but also simple. For example, the People of God figures are beautiful wooden figures, each carved to look a little different. But they don’t have faces. You can’t tell what gender they are. They don’t wear clothes. All of that is left to the imagination. When you have a choice, choose the simplest materials you can find and let the children fill in the details.
- Be creative. Look at the amazingly beautiful hand-crafted materials for a story online first, and then think to yourself, “What is the spirit of these materials?” Then do your best to recreate that. God will take care of the rest.
In addition, the Godly Play Resources site offers some of the materials in kits at a discount, so that you can put them together yourself. It might cost a bit more than doing it completely DIY, but it also saves time and effort.
Now, here are some great examples of DIY materials or store-bought materials that would make great substitutes for Godly Play props. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to include your own finds in the comments:
- Creation – Generally, the first lesson of the year, this simple lesson is easy to make yourself with a bit of paint and some wood boards, or even by cutting out foam. Here are some examples:
Godly Play – Creation from Nurturing Learning
Our own Facebook member Patrycas shared her photo of DIY creation materials:
- The Ark and the Flood (a.k.a. Noah’s Ark):
Julie from Nurturing Learning made her own ark out of paper and a shoe box:
If you’re crafty, this pattern gives great directions on how to make an ark and animals out of felt.
This Imagiplay Noah’s ark would be a great material for your home or classroom.
Another store bought material, this Playmobil set would be great for telling the story.
This KidKraft toy is designed as a shape sorter, but that won’t stop you from using it for Godly Play.
- The Holy Family: In a Godly Play classroom, the nativity set, called the Holy Family, sits out all year long with a different colored fabric underneath it to indicate the time in the liturgical year. Here’s the exact same set called the Olive Wood Children’s Nativity Set we had in our classroom (and one I will be ordering for my own family!) on Amazon.
But most any nativity set will do, so make do with what you have or what you can thrift or craft!
- The Desert Box – This “sandbox” is used to tell the majority of the sacred stories of the Old Testament. It’s a great sensory play experience for children and sure to be used over and over! Find a way to make it fit into your classroom by using an under bed storage box, or even making a “desert bag” like this.
Easy to hide away in a closet when you’re not using it!
- Circle of the Church Year – this lesson on liturgical time is a great way to introduce your children to the church calendar. You can buy the wooden set, which is really lovely for a classroom, but it’s easy enough to replicate this felt one, designed to hang on the wall:
Or here’s one made out of Legos.
- Advent Materials:
Asmic from Amazing and Amusing made these beautiful advent tiles out of felt.
There are lots of more materials and lots more ideas for how to make them yourself. But what if you want to splurge on some official materials. What should you buy? Here are my recommendations, based on what my students worked with the most:
The Ark – the DIY substitutes above are great, but the official ark from Godly Play Resources is a treasure.
The people of God these plain wooden figures are used for multiple lessons, so they are very useful. You can definitely substitute with plain wooden peg people or something similar, but I love the simple beauty of these.
The Ark and the Temple and the Ark and the Tent – these materials bring the story of the People of God learning what it meant to worship God and be in his presence. Once you build Solomon’s temple, your children will want to make it again and again!
Jonah, the backward prophet – These materials are simple and fun, with wooden “waves,” a whale that has a space for Jonah to be swallowed up. A favorite in my classroom.
The Synagogue and The Upper Room – this story is one that it’d be hard to DIY but it makes a wonderful capstone to the Easter lessons. There was an audible gasp from my students when the buildings came together to make a cross-shaped church.
What Godly Play materials are you dying to get your hands on? What creative materials have you used to share God’s word in your home? Tell us!
Megan Cottrell is a mama, writer and journalist who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Megan’s life changed as a Christian when God spoke to her through a summer-long internship on the Westside of Chicago where she learned about God’s heart for the poor. She spent six years writing about race, housing and poverty in the city and was awarded the Studs Terkel award for writers who capture profoundly human stories.
Megan attended a Montessori preschool, but didn’t become formally interested in Montessori education until her son, Teddy, was born in 2012. Through her interest in Montessori, she fell in love with Godly Play, a Montessori-based Christian education curriculum, and has been a Godly Play teacher every since. She and her son work on Montessori-inspired activities at home daily, and she loves to watch him grow in independence and curiosity.