How do you keep children raised in a digital world interested in learning Bible stories? By acting out the stories with Clothespin People! Many years ago, we were using a book called Young Children and Worship as our Sunday School curriculum. This book had wonderful ideas about how to creatively tell Bible stories using wooden figures, and even included patterns for cutting out your own. We didn’t have the woodworking capabilities to make the dolls, so we used Clothespin People instead.
It isn’t just young children who can be kept engaged in a story by these dolls. At our vacation Bible school a few years ago, I filled in at the last minute as the Bible teacher. I was teaching groups of about 20 kids for 30 minute sessions. I figured that I would use Clothespin People for the 6 – 9 year olds, but not the older ones. However, the older kids saw my bucket of dolls and wanted me to know what they were all about. It turned out that my most attentive group that week was the 10 – 12 year old boys! They didn’t want to leave when their time was up. It was amazing to see boys so excited to learn about Jesus!
Clothespin People were actually created as a craft for a group of preschoolers back in 2002. I was running an outreach for preschoolers at our church, and wanted a nativity craft that would be nice enough that the parents would keep it for the next year. I still use my original Mary and Joseph in my Sunday school class. Their hair is a bit messed up and they are obviously old, but they still work! A few years later I made the first Clothespin Nativity kits to give out to the young families at church as an advent activity to do at home with their children. The nativity collection has since expanded to also include simple stables and wise men.
Other kits have been added to the Bible story collection. Israelite Men and Israelite Women and Children are extra characters that can play multiple roles. Their hairdos and clothing are very straightforward, meaning that they are easy to make and also that you can change the outfits of the dolls, giving you more unique people. The men come with two prayer shawls that can be added to dolls to indicate that they are Pharisees, and the women have head coverings.
Easter Story brings to life the most important story of the Bible. When my children were young, I would act out the Easter story with them throughout Easter weekend. Sometimes it started with the last supper on Thursday night, and other times with the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. We would remove his clothes, and hang him on the cross in his loincloth, and then later wrap him in a cloth and place him in our paper maché tomb. For added effect, I would melt some red candle wax to seal the tomb shut. Then we would post a guard of soldiers in front of the tomb and leave it alone until Easter morning. Before the kids woke up, I would remove Jesus from the tomb and place the soldiers face down in front of the empty tomb and an angel on top. I would fold the cloth that had been covering Jesus’ body and place it in the tomb and then put Jesus’ clothes back on him, and place him out of sight (to show up when Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb). One Easter morning, my 2 year old excitedly announced to the greeter on the way into church, “Jesus is alive! He isn’t in the tomb anymore!” And the Clothespin People had shown him that!
Check out a series of videos showing the Easter story here.
Having covered the major stories of the New Testament, I am now working on the Old Testament. Beginnings includes characters and props to tell stories from Adam and Eve to Jacob and Esau. A handy reference chart shows which characters to use for which stories. I have started thinking about the next kit, chronologically – In and Out of Egypt. It will include Joseph with his colourful coat, Pharaoh, Moses and more, but it won’t be ready for quite a while.