Christian Toys for Under 5s
We believe that when we are running Christian pre-school groups or organising worship for under 5s, it is important that the toys and materials reflect this.
There are many toys that fit with Bible stories and themes or are symbols of Christianity.
It can be expensive to set up completely from scratch, so it may be best to start small and slowly add resources. Another possiblity is to ask members of the congregation to "sponsor" a toy.
Some toys (like the knitted figures) can be made at home. When focussing on a particular theme we may bring in other toys - for example if the theme was "journeying" we might bring in a road mat, cars, trains etc.
Below is a selection that we have found works well in our settings.
Rainbow (Noah / symbol of hope)
This 12 piece wooden rainbow is pricy but this is the toy every child is drawn towards and they use the wooden arches in a variety of imaginative ways.
Smaller 6 piece versions are available but don't have quite the same impact
The Ark (Noah)
Arks come in all sizes and prices. Although expensive I like this wooden ark as it is big enough for several children to play with together. It comes with 11 pairs of animals including two doves (one with a sprig of greenery in its beak) and the figures of Noah and his wife.
This is probably one of the most popular toys with the children.
There is a wide choice of nativity sets available and you may like to have several different sets.
I've found the knitted figures work well with pre-schoolers - they are a good size for them to hold. This set was knitted from a pattern from Jean Greenhowe designs: Click here
Bible story and other figures
A choice of figures that can be used to retell Bible stories or just for play. The knitted figures were made as part of a church project to knit the Last Supper. You can find a pattern here
The figures need secure bases as they can be hard to stand up. I made female figures by taking the beards off some of the disciples.
The wooden figures can also be used in sand trays.
This set is from templates in Young Children and Worship (Jerome Berryman and Sonia Stewart).
Baby dolls (Jesus/ Baptism)
A variety of baby dolls of different ethnicities that can be used either for baby Jesus or for baptism stories.
Wooden water puzzle - can be used for baptism, creation, story of Jesus calming the storm, Jonah etc.
We also use blue shiny cloth, water animals, boats and people - and sometimes real water!
Sheep (The lost sheep / Psalm 23)
Plastic sheep and lambs (include different colours and varieties of sheep if possible). Green felt can be cut into circles and other shapes to represent fields and grass.
You may like to add blue felt for water, a sheep fold and a shepherd figure.
A basket of Bible animals. Ours includes: lion (Daniel); camels (Wise men); cockerel (Peter); sheep and goats (many stories but including Abraham and Sarah and other nomadic figures); whale (Jonah); fish (great catch of fish); donkey (Palm Sunday); snake (the fall); bear (David)
Butterflies etc (Resurrection / transformation)
The butterfly, transformed into something wondrously beautiful after its time in the cocoon, has long been seen as a symbol of Christ's resurrection.
As well as butterflies, cocoons and caterpillars we have also included tadpoles, froglets and frogs as symbols of transformation.
The brightly coloured, multi-textured Hungry Caterpillar and butterfly are favourites with babies.
The wooden flame puzzle can be used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. We also use it to symbolise light (Creation) and fire.
This wooden model of Jerusalem (from St Michael's workshop) has been used in many stories from the Old and New Testament. Here it is at the end of the road for the story of Palm Sunday.
Pre-schoolers like laying these different coloured squares and circles out in patterns and re-arranging them or using them as the underlay for stories.
We often have a selection of shapes in the colours of the season (purple for Advent and Lent, white and gold for festivals, red for Pentecost and green for ordinary time) .
These are always popular and especially good to use with under 2s. This set (Noah's ABC stacking blocks by alphabet alley) is hard to get in the UK but still available in the US. The letters of the alphabet are linked to particular Bible stories and symbols (V for vine for example).
Food turns up in many Bible stories, for example the Great Feast, Feeding of the 5000, the Last Supper, Breakfast on the beach.
The basket of brightly coloured wooden fruit and vegetables is useful for harvest and frequently played with (though we remove grapes and cherries if there are under 3s). It's been harder to find good quality bread; we have had to make do with a variety of wood and plastic bread.
The desert or wilderness features in many stories - Jesus' temptation, the escape from Egypt, the wanderings of Abraham and Sarah. Young children love the tactile experience of playing with sand. We add desert animals (camels, snakes,lizards etc) and wooden people.
It's not easy to keep up with resources, as they can come and go quite quickly! However we do find these sites helpful:
Mustard Seed Kids: a good under 5s section and especially good for wooden rainbow and flame and wave puzzles
St Michael's workshop: wooden people and other resources from Young Children and Worship
Early Learning Centre variety of playfood, boats, dolls etc