Playing games with young children in church is an effective way to keep their attention, prevent boredom and teach them important religious lessons. Games also appeal to their stage of development, allowing them to be active and have fun while they are learning. Many church games are adaptations or variations on common playground or home games, adding an element of familiarity and making them relatively easy for the children to learn in the often limited time available in a children's church or Sunday school class.
Playing games based on familiar Bible stories is a staple of Sunday school classes. Children this age have short attention spans and often don't do well sitting for extended periods listening to a lesson, so games provide an effective alternative. Help the children make Noah's ark out of a large cardboard box, then let them "march" into the ark, acting out the various pairs of animals from the Bible story. Give them pieces of cloth to drape into Biblical robes and help them act out the Nativity, taking turns being shepherds, the wise men and the angel.
Play a variation of hide and seek with the children outdoors. Tell the children they are the sheep and assign one to be the shepherd. The sheep get to hide from the shepherd, who must find them and bring them all back to the pasture to care for them. Circle games such as "Duck, Duck, Goose" can be renamed with Bible story character names so children learn to respond to specified Bible characters when they are called out. Adapt the words to "London Bridge" and have the children join hands and act out blowing horns as they march around a pretend Jericho and sing about the walls tumbling down.
Popular preschool games such as bingo and memory games are easily transformed into church games. Make bingo-style cards with pictures of familiar church and Bible story items, such as a cross, an angel, a Bible or a rainbow. Give the children colored pieces of paper to cover the items as you call them out. Matching or memory games featuring Bible characters are available commercially or you can make your own. Most children this age are familiar with the matching game concept, so this version is a simple and effective way to remind them about famous Bible characters.
Divide the children into small groups to compete against each other in relays based on Bible stories. Put small animals in a bucket at one end and an empty one at the other. Children have to get all the animals, one at a time, safely into the "ark" bucket before the rains come. Give each group the same number of colored building blocks and a simple pattern to follow to build a church before a timer goes off. Play a game based on the story of baby Moses: Give each team a small plastic basket with a paper picture of a baby inside. The teams have to blow on their basket to scoot it across a small water table or kiddie pool to get Moses to safety.