It was Bible Time, which meant my children were curled up on the couch with their blankies, ready for naptime. I read to them the story about Noah, and when I came to the part about loading up the animals, I paused. "Don't you wonder what it would be like to float in a boat with all those animals?" I asked. My sleepyheads shrugged. Grinning, I pulled the cushions off the couch and shouted "Let's go get all of our stuffed animals and find out!" Cheers followed my suggestion and before we knew it, we were floating in our living room with creatures great and small.
Toddlers love to play, so incorporating imagination and excitement into your Bible time helps little ones develop a desire to learn. You'll first want to purchase an age-appropriate Bible, beginning with a toddler version and progressing toward a children's study Bible. Be sure to add a full dose of fun into your Bible reading. This might mean using action figures to reenact the story of David and Goliath, or clanging homemade musical instruments to one of the Psalms. I always enjoyed reading the "take-home" stories from their Sunday school classes, changing the names of the main characters to my own children's names to keep interest.
Although parents might wonder how much understanding occurs at this age, a new study at Indiana University has discovered that children may comprehend words sooner than previously suspected. Cognitive science experts Linda Smith and Chen Yu have reported that kids ages 12-14 months may be using a technique labeled "data mining" to acquire language. This is where "the human brain accumulates large amounts of data minute-by-minute, day-by-day, and handles this data processing automatically." It then sorts "through massive amounts of raw data to find relationships, correlations, and ultimately useful information." This "system" approach to language learning would explain the ease with which 2- and 3-year-olds can learn one word at a time.Science Daily, February 4, 2008, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080129215316.htm, accessed 03/25/2009.
I started teaching my children memory verses at a young age by using body movements. For instance, when reciting "In the beginning God created the heavens" I would stand on my toes and reach my arms up high, and for "and the earth" I would squat down and touch the floor. Later, when my children could speak, I would repeat the verse, but leave out key words for them to fill in.
Teaching your child the Bible also involves what you do outside the home with your little ones. My children and I took a trip every Thursday to the nearby retirement home, where we handed out flowers to each of the residents. One day when my mom was taking a blooming plant to grandma at the hospital, to her surprise, my son began plucking off the flowers and handing them to the patients in the hallway. To him, it was just an opportunity to show kindness, just like the Good Samaritan did in the Bible.
More Fun Ideas:
- Rock your child to sleep at night singing praise songs and hymns.
- Dress up as Bible characters.
- Invite other children over for a Bible story time with treats afterwards.
- Turn up the music and dance to specially recorded toddler songs like Psalty's Songs for Li'l Praisers or Bob and Larry Sing the 70's.
- Deliver handmade cards to church shut-ins.