Even while your children are toddlers or preschoolers, you can teach them more about God and faith principles. Here are a few ideas that others have used to help their children grow in their faith:
Bring Bible Stories to Life
My husband and I try to make Bible stories come alive for our boys, ages 2 and 3. I’ll never forget their excitement as we built the walls of Jericho with toy blocks, marched seven times around them and then knocked them down. Our boys also loved to see their great, big daddy fall like Goliath.
—Monica Faith Vernot
Faith to Grow On
As a mother of four young kids, my constant purpose is to fan the flame of faith in their hearts. Here’s what my husband and I have done to help God’s Word come alive during “the little years”:
Say it. Most mornings, I read Scripture while we’re eating breakfast. When we come to a story — the story of Joseph’s vivid dreams, for example — I have my kids repeat a key phrase, such as “Joseph had a dream,” frequently throughout the story. This kind of repetition sets the tone for memorizing Scripture as they get older.
Play it. Dress-up is a favorite pastime for my young children. My 2- and 3-year-olds love to act out the Bible story I just read.
Pray it. My children hear me talk about God and pray on a daily basis. We pray for requests together and then discuss how God answered previous prayers — whether the answer was “yes,” “no” or “wait.”
Celebrate it. We like to celebrate who God is and what He has done for our family by singing and praising Him in the middle of the day. We shout and thank Him! Occasionally, we even bake a cake and have a party.
Teach About God’s Love
Play a game. Ask, “What is bigger than a mouse?” When your child answers, extend your arms and say, “God’s love is bigger than that.” Ask again using different examples, such as “What is bigger than a house?” Each time say that God’s love is bigger than the child’s answer.
Trace your child’s hand-print. Use the outline of her hand to make a sheep — fingers are the legs, and the thumb is the face. Draw in the fluffy wool and then a big heart around the sheep. Explain how God is our Shepherd and we are His sheep because He loves us.
Toss a ball back and forth. Each time say, “God loves the mail carrier,” or “God loves Grandma,” or someone else whom God loves — even people who don’t know or love Him.
Sprinkle grass seed on a sponge. Water it each day and watch it grow. Explain that God’s love is like water, which helps us grow.
—Nancy I. Sanders
If you sing a Scripture verse often enough, toddlers will remember it. But singing does not guarantee they will learn the correct words — like the child who thought God’s name was Harold from the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name.”
To ensure my children learned the right words, I enlisted the help of Scripture Squirrel. This friendly puppet couldn’t get the words right until the kids reminded him. They would learn the verses long before the poor squirrel, making them feel good about themselves.
Just because a child has memorized a verse doesn’t mean she understands it. To aid comprehension, act out Scripture using toys and stuffed animals. We performed Matthew 7:9 where Jesus asks, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?”
When Annie Doll asked Clara Clown for bread, Clara gave her a rock. But when Annie asked Papa Bear, he gave her a piece of bread. We’d talk about how God gives good things when we ask, not stones. The kids seldom tired of this game and played it repeatedly, unaware they were learning.
It’s not enough for a child to know and understand the verse; he also needs to apply it. For instance, when teaching Matthew 7:9, I’d pray with the children. But in daily life, they may not make the connection unless it’s pointed out. So when God answered our prayers, I’d say, “Hey, this is just like what happened with Annie and Papa Bear!”
If you sing, say, act, live and point it out, Scripture will be an active part of your children’s lives.
—Connie l. Peters
High Chair Bible Stories
The high chair is a great place to introduce your toddler to Bible stories and establish building blocks of faith. First, hold hands together and pray to thank God for the food. Then tell a simple Bible story such as Noah’s ark. Every bite can be different pairs of animals entering the ark (your child’s mouth). Trumpet for the elephants and roar for the lions. To tell the parable of the Sower, spoonfuls of food can represent the different seeds being planted (in your child’s mouth).
For the feeding of the 5,000, divide finger food into small plastic bowls to set on the high chair tray. These represent the baskets of food. Or tell the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet by pretending to wash your child’s feet with a napkin, between bites. And when you’re almost done, tell about the battle of Jericho. Make trumpet noises for each mouthful.
When the last bite is swallowed, say, “And the walls fell down,” while whisking your delighted toddler out of the chair.
—Nancy I. Sanders
Show Your Love
Help toddlers grow in confidence as children of God with this family activity:
Materials. Sheet of construction paper, pencil, an envelope, index card, Bible
Preparation. Copy the following Bible verse on an index card and place it in an envelope: “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3).
- Hold your child in your lap at the dinner table. Hold up the envelope you prepared earlier. Explain that it contains a message about your child. Open the envelope and read the verse. Explain how God gave you (Mommy or Daddy) a wonderful present. Your child is a gift from God. Clap your hands and cheer. Let your child join you. Remind him that you love him very much.
- Next, spread out the construction paper on the table. Trace the hands of your child, so the thumbs of the traced hands touch.
- Draw a large heart on the paper encompassing your child’s outlined hands.
- Draw stars, balloons, smiley faces or other fun shapes inside the heart. Have your child color the shapes if he is able. Save the heart as a special valentine to your child.
“I’m teaching my daughter to have a quiet time every day,” a young mom shared with me as she bounced her infant on her hip.
“How?” I asked. “She’s just a baby.”
“Once a day, I put her in her playpen,” she explained. “At first, it was only for five minutes, but as she got a little older, she could stay there slightly longer. I really think it’s important to start when they’re young.” Laughing, she admitted, “I need that time, too.”
To help young children take a quiet time, do the following:
Start short. Five minutes is long enough in the beginning.
Use a timer. Put them in their playpen or crib. Toddlers can sit on a special chair or rug. Your children will learn to wait for the timer instead of fretting.
Set the example. Sit nearby, and read your Bible. Listen to worship music, and journal your conversations with God.
Stop and cuddle. After the quiet time, gather your children in your arms. Then read a Bible story and pray together.
—Nancy I. Sanders