This Joseph Bible Box lesson was made for two and early three-year-olds and can be used for a Joseph Sunday school lesson or in a home setting. You can easily adapt the contents of the box based on what you already have available. For instance, If you don’t have a story of Joseph board book, you can easily use a Children’s Bible or better yet tell the story in your own words.
When planning a Bible box lesson, Here is the process I go through:
- What parts of this story are most important for this age group? What parts can be left out and still have all the story we need?
- What parts of this story lend themselves to activities this age group will naturally be interested in participating in? I love experiential learning!
- What resources do I already have on hand that can be used for this lesson?
- What resources have others made available that I can either use for free or purchase for this lesson?
- What do I need to create or add to the box so this is a complete lesson that can be used again and again in various ways? I choose open ended activities with re-usable materials whenever possible.
You really could take several weeks and cover the story of Joseph. The Bible dedicates a huge portion of Genesis to Joseph and digs deep into the story of his life and his character.
Preparing to tell the story
Before teaching any Bible story to children, be sure to re-read it from the Bible yourself and allow God to make the story new and fresh for you. I believe God is faithful to do that and that it makes all difference when we share God’s word with the next generation.
When working with young children, I typically present the story and don’t try to summarize it into one Bible point. I know that most curriculum for children does that and some Bible points related to this Joseph Sunday school lesson may be:
- God shows his faithfulness when life is hard
- God’s plan is bigger than our plan
- God is in control
- God is always at work
- We can trust G
- od no matter what
- God wants us to forgive those who wrong us.
You could come up with a dozen more for the story of Joseph, but when working with preschool children I like to share the story as a story. Not just any old story, but a true story from a Holy and loving God. A story that is for us. A story that captures the imagination. A story that can be entered into.
For young children the stories of the Bible are fresh…..new….alive. I don’t want to be too quick to tell them exactly what they are supposed to get from the story. To me, it is more important at this age to introduce them to the characters of Scripture and help them become familiar with God’s stories so that they can become familiar with God’s character.
When we teach young children the Bible, we are doing more than teaching them the story. We are teaching them to intuitively turn to God and trust His word.
We are teaching them that there is a God, He is in control, and He wants us to know Him.
But isn’t part of knowing God entering the mystery that He can’t be fully known or understood? I know I fall a little bit more in love with God each time I understand Him or a truth about Him in a way that I never saw before. Life would be so boring if I lived like I had God all figured out. There is nothing compelling about a simplified God.
THAT’s what I want to teach children. I want to teach them that life is a journey of getting to know God and letting him love us, shape us, and empower us to live for him in radical ways. And the Bible is a window into the soul of God.
Tell the story in such a way that the children can feel the story not just memorize the Bible point. We use board books to structure the stories, but they are just a jumping off point. The board books help provide the simple language this age group needs and highlights the main points.
What to put in your Bible Box
I look for board books that have good art and that tell the story simply without adding in a bunch of opinion. Bible storybooks are not always very high quality. Lot’s of cartoony art and people that look a lot more white than people from the middle east should. If I really can’t find what I am looking for, I will sometimes print out pictures from the internet and laminate them.
I also try to find props to go with each point of the story told in the storybooks.
I have found that if I have multiple storybooks for a story, then all of them add value and a different perspective. We use the different books to repeat the story either in the same lesson or when the Bible box is used in a review session. This is determined by the interest of the children and their attention span.
This is a popular story for young children so we had several board books appropriate for this age group already in our church. Many people use the Jesus Storybook Bible and if you are in a home setting, this is my very favorite Children’s Bible. The Jesus Storybook Bible is a great curl up in my lap and let me tell you a story Bible. It requires a slow pace that is hard to accomplish with a group of two-year-olds. One on one, it could work, but I still reserve the Jesus Storybook bible for kids 3 an up.
I found that it was too wordy to use with a group of two-year-olds in a Sunday school setting. I could tell they weren’t listening and so I switched to using stories with less words and more action.
The board books I included in this Joseph Sunday School Lesson:
- The Story of Joseph by Patricia Pingry
- Joseph’s Coat by Carine Mackenzie
- Joseph, Part of the Tiny Readers series
Of the three, The Story of Joseph by Patricia Pingry is the best. It includes more than just the part about Joseph’s colorful coat.
I also used these Joseph and His brothers printables from To the Moon and Back. You can get your own here for FREE!
Telling the Story of Joseph…
With this age group, I begin every story by saying something like…
The Bible is full of many amazing and true stories. God gave us these stories so we can know him better. Today we are going to explore the story of ______________.
So after you tell them that this is a story about Joseph, It may be helpful to back up and begin with Jacob.
Before I tell you about Joseph, I need to tell you about his father. Once there was a man who had 12 sons. His name was Jacob.
Then have the children help you count out the brothers. Save Joseph for last even though he isn’t the youngest. We did not cover the names of the brothers. I put this into the category of “what can we leave out and still have all the story we need.”
Joseph, wasn’t quite the youngest of his brothers, but he was his father’s favorite.
At this point, you can either continue to tell the story in your own words or use the board book. I don’t actually teach all the lessons myself so I provide the board books not only for the pictures but as a resource to those who serve in the two-year-old class.
When you get to the part about how the brothers threw Joseph into the well, put the Joseph figure in the well. We used this wooden contraption pictured below as a well prop. I found this at a garage sale and have used it for several different Bible lessons. You can make a well (or pit) with something you have on hand.
Something that works well with two year olds is to take the time to allow each of them to do a part of the story. If you have a small group, allow each of them a turn to put Joseph in the well. If you have a large group, let a couple do it and then let a couple more do something different at a different point in the story. Don’t be afraid to let the sadness of this part of the story be real for the kids. Pause and let the children react to what has just happened to Joseph.
Continue reading in the board book. When Joseph gets to Egypt, show the children the figure of Joseph in Egypt.
I only went into the detail that the book described when telling about Joseph’s time in Egypt before being placed into a position of leadership, skipping that bit about Potipher’s wife and the jail time.
When Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt, have the children help lay out the figures of Joseph’s brothers again. Technically speaking Benjamin wasn’t there the first time, but you don’t have to tell all the details. I treated the 1st and 2nd visit as one visit.
One thing I added was that Joseph sent his brothers home with food. I had some dry corn and the kids helped me fill 12 sacks of grain for the brothers to take home. We used a scoop and a tray to fill the sacks and had the kids take turns scooping while I held the bag open. If you are losing their attention, just fill one bag and move on to end the story. Then when the story is done, allow the children to fill the bags with the dried corn.
I was somewhat disappointed with the ending of the book, especially the last page which reads, “Joseph was a good ruler. He was a good son. And he forgave his brothers.” This is a good example of what I mean by adding in opinion and moralizing the story instead of just letting it be a good story.
We ended the story with
Joseph told his brothers, Go home and bring back my father. Jacob was happy to see his son and Joseph forgave his brothers.
I am sure you can come up with better words to end the story.
After the story was done, the kids made colorful coats with felt pieces. This idea was inspired by Flame creative children’s ministry’s Joseph’s coat in a box post here.
I made enough coat’s and pieces so that each child would have their own to decorate. You can find a printable pattern for the coat here.
You could also offer the dried corn and bags to fill as a sensory activity. If you don’t have burlap sacks, you could use brown paper sacks by cutting a few inches off the top. We usually use a large plastic bin as a sensory tub and either put it on the floor or put the plastic bin in our sensory table so it is off the ground. Either way, we place a sheet on the ground under the work space to catch the overflow.
For this activity, fill the bottom of a plastic bin with dried corn. Provide scoops or large spoons and sacks for the children to fill. They will most likely fill and dump, fill and dump, but that’s ok! I had wanted to hide a treasure in one of the bags like Joseph did when Benjamin came back with his brothers, but I left this out because we didn’t really cover that part of the story. If you happen to do this with older kids, I think they would enjoy hiding a treasure in one of the bags and then searching through the bags to find the treasure.
I will be writing more about how we use sensory bins with two-year-olds in a later post.
I also found this song about Joseph from Danielle’s Place that can be used both as a game with the children (play like London bridge) or as a review for a Joseph Sunday school lesson. It is LoooooooNG…so skip a verse or two or three. I am totally giving you permission.
What would you add to this Joseph Bible Box Lesson? I would love to hear your ideas for a Joseph Sunday school lesson.