Jesus Feeds the 5000 Play Based Lesson ideas

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Jesus feeds the 5000.  It’s one of my favorite Bible stories.  Jesus has been teaching all day and the people have stayed past the point of comfort.  They are hungry! And apparently not just for food, but also hungry for the words of Jesus….and for healing.  Jesus had been healing their sick all day.

Jesus intrigues me.  He kinda baits the disciples by telling them to give the people something to eat.  I think they were confused and frustrated.

Their solution was to send the people away so they could go into the villages to purchase food, but Jesus wanted to show them another way.

For the disciples this is a real problem.  The disciples have somehow discovered that one little boy has a lunch with five loaves of bread and two fish.  “All we have…” they say to Jesus.  They focused on their meager resources instead of on Christ.  It would take a year’s wages to buy food for these people.

I am so grateful for the disciples.  Their response makes this story so much more believable. The struggle was real for the disciples.  They just couldn’t totally wrap their mind around who Jesus was (is).  And the result was that Jesus was constantly amazing them.

I want to have faith and I want to be amazed!  Over and over again I have seen God provide when all I have to offer is something insignificant.  And when this happens I take that experience into the next experience and my faith has grown.

But life is curvy and bumpy and we don’t know what’s coming next.  God can handle our uncertainty.  I think he delights in surprising us with His creative provision.

Even in the story of Jesus feeds the 5000, there are 12 leftover baskets after everyone has eaten their fill.

Teaching the Story through Play

When I teach children stories about Jesus’ miracles, I want them to know that God is longing to show up in powerful ways.  I want to teach them to give credit to God and to look for His provision in their daily life.

I taught the story of Jesus feeds the 5000 this past week to a group of 3-5 year-olds In our AWANA Cubbies program. 

I offered some Play based ideas to help the children become familiar with the Jesus Feeds the 5000 story.

We are blessed with a huge classroom so I offer several activities around the classroom and the children pick what they will do.  I usually have a leader at the table with the children if the activity is on the messier side. And then let the kids do the less messy activities independently.

For this Jesus feeds the 5000 lesson we did the following.

  1. Fish and bread printmaking
  2. Filling baskets with bread and fish
  3. Jesus feeds the 5000 storytelling table

Fish and Bread Printmaking

In thinking about the idea of multiplying the bread and fish, I thought that making prints was a good way to represent that idea.

I bought round rolls from the bakery and made fish prints by hot gluing foam fish to wooden blocks.

The kids could dip the rolls and the fish stamps into paint and make a picture.  I gave them large pieces of paper so they would have room to work.

This is a process art activity so the process of dipping the materials into the paint and learning how to stamp on the paper is what captivated the children’s attention.

Below is my finished product.  I definitely am discovering my inner artist through all these process art activities.

Their finished products were much more sparse, but they love to paint and they all made a picture spending varying amounts of time on the project.

Here are some samples of their work.

Filling Baskets with Bread and Fish.

I wanted to provide the kids with a way to actually break bread like Jesus did in the story.  We could obviously make five loaves of bread go pretty far, but they were pretty quick to realize that we couldn’t feed 5000+ people with the bread we had available.

The fish were a little harder to demonstrate.  I have two fish hand puppets that I found at a garage sale.  I decided to cram a bag of goldfish inside each of the puppets.  So out of one fish, we had many fish.

I know you probably don’t have two fish hand puppets lying about…You could make a simple fish bag out of felt or paper and put your bag of goldfish crackers in there.  Or you could find someone who loves to sew and charm them into making a couple of these fish hand puppets.  There are A LOT of Bible stories that feature fish.  They won’t go to waste!

The kids thought his was pretty funny.  They called them fish babies. Not exactly like a miracle, but this activity provided great conversation with the kids.

And of course we filled our bellies a bit.  Goldfish are just good…

Jesus Feeds the 5000 Storytelling Table

Sometimes I have random items that I am not sure what to do with.  When I have enough of these random items to go with a story, I find a way to present them in an inviting way and leave it up to the kids to find a way to use them.   Their ideas are way better than mine.

So that’s what I did… Here is what I set out in the table.

  • Two Jesus feeds the 5000 storybooks
  • Some laminated story pieces that I had used last time I taught this story.
  • A file folder game I had made for this story.
  • Lots of fish and bread pieces and 12 baskets of leftovers that were a part of a craft project from eons ago.
  • Two glass beads shaped like fish and five glass beads that could look like bread (I mean if you have an imagination)

The kids were more interested in this table after the lesson time. They sorted the materials and retold the story in their own words.

I also had the story materials I used to tell the story available and one of the children played with those independently.

Our Classroom Routine

In case you are curious about how we fit these activities into the time we have with the kids, here is a little backstage pass to our classroom routine.

Our normal schedule for Cubbies is an hour and 15 minutes.  We used to have an hour and a half, but that time got cut so the children’s programming was the same as the adult/ youth programming.  This makes things a little crammed, but we work with it.

Here is how we divide the time.

Coming In Activities-15-20 minutes

This is when we set out most of the activities.  That way the children have something to do right away when hey come in.  We have that trickle effect so those who come early just have more time.  We let the kids return to these activities after the lesson so no one misses out even if they are late.

Circle time/ Lesson time- 15-20 minutes

We sing a little, do our bit with Cubbie Bear, have a short prayer time, tell the story, and review our verse This is a long time for kids to sit still, so we break it up into smaller activities that are pretty interactive. It is also pretty similar from week to week which helps the children know what to expect.

Activities and Handbook time- 15-20 minutes

We call the children over individually to say their memory verse and go through the Cubbies handbook with one of the leaders.  The other children either go back to the coming in activities or play with the other things we have available in the classroom (blocks, dollhouse, etc.)

Clean up and Snack Time (15 minutes)

We operate from a lot of Montessori principles, so over time the kids have grown in independence and their ability to clean up the room and put things away quickly and correctly.  They are also very helpful with serving each other snack, and passing out what we need for snack time.

Not every week goes smoothly, but we expect a lot from the kids and they typically rise to the occasion.  Plus there is no snack until the room is clean…so they get it done!

Jesus Feeds the 5000 Resources

Your Turn

These Jesus Feeds the 5000 lesson ideas would work for a Sunday school class or other mid-week program besides AWANA.  None of what we did was AWANA specific other than the verse.

What other ideas have you used to teach the story of Jesus Feeds the 5000?  What are your thoughts about play based learning like the ideas presented above?