Creating a sensory experience and inviting participation during the Bible story is important for every child, especially those with learning differences. Below are a few ideas to involve listeners with special needs in the Christmas story.
Angel Sock Puppet
Make angel sock puppets using white socks, gold pipe cleaners, hot glue and a Sharpie marker. Retell the story from Luke 1:26–33, 38, 46 and slip an angel puppet on one hand of each listener. As the storyteller shares about the angel’s visit to Mary, invite participants to mouth the angel’s words with their puppets. Be sure to have the storyteller look for opportunities to quote the angel. Students will be more likely to remain attentive if their puppet has opportunities to perform, silently mimicking the angel’s words. The sock angel can be used for all parts of the Christmas story involving the appearance of an angel. For a two-minute tutorial on making a sock angel puppet, see the video from Orange’s First Look curriculum team.
Provide each listener a handful of torn craft paper or natural raffia. For kids who have an aversion to touching scratchy materials, place the shredded paper inside a sandwich bag. Invite students to quietly manipulate the material (or feel their plastic bag full of torn paper) as the storyteller shares from Luke 2:1–7. The shredded craft paper serves as both a fidget and a concrete tool for helping listeners connect with the story. The storyteller might say things like:
Feel the texture of the papers in your hand.
The papers in your hand (or bag) feel like hay.
Hay is on the ground in a stable instead of carpet.
Hay is placed in a manger for animals to eat.
Mary and Joseph could not find a place to spend the night in Bethlehem.
They had to sleep in a stable.
Baby Jesus was born while Joseph and Mary stayed in the stable.
There wasn’t a bed or a crib for Baby Jesus to lay in.
So Mary placed Baby Jesus on the hay in the manger.
Jesus slept on the soft hay in the manger.
The hay felt a lot like the crinkled paper you are holding.
Make the Bible story feel real and experiential by inserting sound clips as the story is told. For example, when talking about the journey Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem, consider playing a 30-second sound bite of a donkey (or horse) clopping along a dirt road. Invite kids to take turns carrying a backpack or riding a stick horse around the room, walking to the pace of the playing sound clip. The storyteller might say things like:
Joseph and Mary went on a long trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
They did not have a car to help them get to Bethlehem.
They had to ride or walk alongside a donkey.
(Play sound clip of donkey walking, repeat as needed)
Joseph and Mary’s trip to Bethlehem sounded like this.
(Continue/repeat sound clip of donkey walking)
Let’s walk like Joseph and Mary walked to Bethlehem.
(Walk to pace of playing horse trot)
It was a long way between Nazareth and Bethlehem.
Joseph and Mary walked like this for four days.
Sound clips can be found by using an Internet search engine and typing the description of the sound you want to play. I found several good clips for this example by using Google and typing “sound clip horse walking on dirt road” in the search bar. My favorite clip was offered as a free preview and download for purchase at SoundClip.com (titled “horse trot and wander on dirt”). Many of you are more savvy when it comes to technology and uploading media; feel free to share ideas in the comments to this post.
Of course you can make your own; however Oriental Trading Company has a glittery star wand (originally purposed for princess birthday parties) that can be used to engage kids during the Christmas story. Provide each listener a star wand to hold during the retelling of the Wise men’s visit to Baby Jesus (Matthew 2). Invite participants to wave their star in the sky anytime the storyteller says the word “star” or makes reference to its amazing display in the sky.