As a Christian parent, you want to instill Godly principles and doctrine in to your child. Knowing when to start and what methods to use can be daunting. How do you know when to start? Do you buy certain materials? How do you know if your toddler understands? Here is some advice for you to follow to make sure that your child is getting what they need spiritually.
Once your child is around 2 years old, have a designated time each day to sit down with your child and read a story from the Bible. I recommend getting a Children’s Bible that has big, bright pictures and short stories to go with the pictures. These will help keep the attention of your child. You do not need to spend a long time reading. A short story will be enough as toddlers’ attention spans are short.
We do our story time as part of our bedtime routine. The Bible story has one Bible verse that we read and then a short story connected to the verse. At the end we have a one-sentence synopsis. For example, with the story of Adam and Eve, the synopsis was “we need to obey God.”
Allow your child to ask questions, express feelings, etc. during this time. Many times they may point to the picture and talk about something that isn’t related to the story. That’s okay. Use their comment to bring them back to the story. “Yes Johnny, that is a big elephant! Noah put two of those big elephants on the big boat!” Then continue reading or explaining the story. Make sure to speak at a level that your child understands. This may include paraphrasing the stories and using phrases that you use with your child during the day. An example would be “Adam and Eve didn’t obey God. They got into trouble.”
When you are done with your story, pray with your child. Make sure to create a habit in the way you pray (ie – putting hands together, sitting in a certain spot, etc). This will help your toddler understand proper behavior for prayer time. They will eventually learn to imitate you and not play or talk during prayer time.
Toddlers generally can’t pray on their own. They don’t know how. You have to teach them. We tell our daughter to repeat after mommy. Then daddy will repeat with her. The sentences in the prayer need to be short and concise. We have a few sentences that are the same every night. This helps reinforce what prayer is. Our repeat phrases are “God, I love you. Thank you for mommy. Thank you for daddy.”
There needs to be a sentence or two in the prayer that relates to the story. For the Adam and Eve story day, it could be “God I will obey you. I will obey mommy and daddy.” These sentences help reaffirm what you are teaching through the story and also help your toddler understand that God, prayer, and the Bible are all connected.
Make sure to end each prayer with “Amen.” This will help your child understand when prayer time is done.
Although this method takes only five to ten minutes a day, it is very important. It helps your toddler learn to set aside time for Bible reading and prayer. It teaches them the proper behavior during prayer time. It also shows them how prayer and the Bible are related to God and that these things are important.
As your toddler gets older, you can build on this time, adding in Bible memorization, discussions about their day, etc. What you do now with your toddler will set the stage for what you want to do with them when they are older. By starting now, it will make things less awkward when they grow older and create a spiritual bond that is so essential in parenting.