One of the easiest ways to help your child understand that the Bible is about real people, places and events is to continually tell them before you read or tell them a Bible story. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I even separated Bible story time from picture book reading times to create a boundary between the two types of stories.
The public library is a great resource in your neighborhood. While you are checking out books for your child, head over to the non-fiction section. Unfortunately in our branch, they are mixed in with the adult books, but they are still easy to find. Check out books on Israel, Egypt or Ancient Rome. Especially look for books with actual photographs. You and your child don’t necessarily need to read every word, but talking about the pictures is a great way to reinforce that the places they read about really exist.
Museums often house a hidden treasure of what I would term Biblical artifacts. Many exhibits are either temporary or permanent and show everything from pottery to coins to the Dead Sea scrolls. If you are not a regular museum visitor, I will warn you that your children will whine and complain (and probably loudly). Drag them anyway. After a few years, you may be surprised to find your child is the one who suggests a museum visit.
If you live in the Atlanta area, the Michael C. Carlos Museum on the campus of Emory usually has a lot of great items on display. They have everything from Baal idols to Egyptian mummies (did you realize Jacob’s body was mummified by the Egyptians?). Our Federal Reserve branch had ancient coins on display including a lot of the ones mentioned in the Bible. Check with your local museums to see what they have on display. Remember, the items you are interested in may be exhibited under names we would not necessarily connect with the Bible like Summaria, Phonecia or Iran and Iraq. The key is to be very excited when you come upon an item mentioned in the Bible. “I can’t believe it! An actual idol of Baal. Remember the story about King Ahab…. It kind of gives me the creeps to see a real idol.” You get the idea!
Bible book stores usually have a lot of helpful materials. In addition to books, many have kits on some of the cultures mentioned in the Bible. They usually have games, maps, clothing, toys etc. You can have lots of hands on fun playing the games Jesus may have played as a child.
Obviously, there are a lot of great pictures of Biblical places and things on the internet. Don’t stop there. Google and find out the typical diet or recipes from ancient Egypt or Israel. Have your child make them with you and have a supper King David or Jesus might have eaten.
Surprisingly, places like Party City have also provided some resources. Last summer I found a really inexpensive fishing net. I filled a large tub with water and threw plastic fish in it. The children tried to cast their net and catch fish just like Peter and Andrew might have done (without the boat of course!).
As your children get older, they will begin studying world history. I like to connect the events they are studying to events in the Bible. For example during the Roman Empire, Jesus and the apostles were alive. There is some debate when certain events line up with events in the Bible, but you can find what is currently considered a fairly accurate timeline in some Christian bookstores and from some homeschool vendors.
Be creative. Pull out maps, pictures, souvenirs. Visit the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, FL. They have built replicas of the Temple, the Tabernacle and many other places mentioned in the Bible. The time we visited and went in the Tabernacle, was the first time in my life I finally had a grasp of what all those things in the Tabernacle actually looked like and how they were used.
The idea is to teach your child the Bible is a history book and not a book of fairy tales. Have fun with it and comment or email me if you have found other great resources.