I can’t believe I’m actually using the word “toddler” in a blogpost — when did that happen?? My little guy is hitting 18 months in a few weeks, and it has absolutely flown by. To be honest, I’m not sure at what point a child actually enters the “toddler era.” But I think for me, it was the other day when B looked me in the eye and said for the first time ever…
Aaaaand we’ve arrived.
I’m no expert at this being a mom thing, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that little B is a complete and total sponge. I’ve been guilty of underestimating him time and again, assuming that he doesn’t understand or know what I’m talking about. But suddenly this kid is pretending to talk on the phone, tucking his stuffed monkey into bed at night, and pointing out letters he recognizes in his books.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the highest priority for Matt and I in regards to B is to teach him about God. Well, even more than that, to love God and follow him. I feel like it could be easy to just say, “We’ll focus on those things when B’s a little older.” But like I’ve mentioned, I believe B is already capable of understanding a lot about God.
So I wanted to share 8 ideas for teaching about God throughout each day:
1. Pray Together
This is simple enough to do before meals and before bedtime, but be sure to allow your day to be “interrupted” with times of prayer. B has already taught me a bit about living out the concept of praying continuously (I wrote about that here). We’ll always fold our hands and say that it’s time to talk to God, and we always end our prayers by thanking God “most of all, for Jesus.” Are these things required for prayer? Of course not. But repetition and making associations with things like hand motions go a long way in helping kids learn.
2. Sing Songs
B LOVES music, and I’ve been blown away at how much he’s already picked up on words in songs. We’ve about run our Vacation Bible School CD into the ground from hitting repeat so many times, but it’s been worth it to hear B yell, “Jesus!” and “Bible!” whenever “Jesus Loves Me” starts to play. If you’re not sure where to find music, just check out YouTube — it has tons of kids’ Bible music channels to choose from.
3. Memorize Scripture
This might seem like a little much, especially for an 18 month old. But this is such a great practice to begin now, and I’ve found it can be really effective if you simplify or condense certain verses down to a few words. For example, we’ve started working on John 3:16. My 18 month-old version? “God loves me.” I wrote it on paper and drew a heart (I know, real creative) and have put it at B’s eye level so we can read it throughout the day. When he sees it he says, “Gah, haht!” (Translation = God, heart!) That’s a pretty good start! Another great way to do this is putting scripture into songs (which a lot of those YouTube music channels already do for you).
4. Connect with Other Believers
The simplest way to do this is by making “going to church” a regular part of your lives. Make Sunday mornings (or whenever you go) a special and exciting time. We try to make it a big deal that we get to go see friends, sing songs, and learn more about God. I also love that B’s class at church isn’t just childcare; his teachers do an age appropriate lesson and maintain an environment of talking about God. This is a great way for B to begin learning about community and being a part of a body of believers.
5. Have Bible Story Time
This is where having a toddler Bible can be a huge help. We love the Jesus Storybook Bible. It does a great job of using kid-friendly language and making sure that every story points to the overall theme of the Gospel. We started making Bible story time a part of B’s nightly routine when he was only a few months old.
It’s also a good idea to use a real Bible during this time. We’ll usually pull out the real Bible and say something like, “This is God’s true Word and we can trust everything it says.” We’ll open it and let B touch the pages or flip through it. Does he understand that it’s God’s inerrant and inspired Word? Probably not. But he knows that it’s an important book and that it tells us about “Gah,” and that’s a start.
6. See God Everywhere
Make it a point to talk about God constantly throughout the day. Whenever we get home from being out and about, we’ll thank God for keeping us safe. When we get back inside from playing outside, we’ll thank God for air conditioning. I’ll ask B who made the sky, the trees, or the fun sticks we use to dig in the dirt. When B is finger painting, I’ll comment on how creative he is, and how he gets that from God because we’re made in his image. When B eats his weight in baked beans, we talk about how cool it is that God made food taste so great instead of it all being the same. This is a practice that isn’t just for B’s benefit, either — it serves to keep my mind set on God and to foster an attitude of thankfulness for who he is.
This is something Matt and I are really just starting to learn about putting into practice. Let me start by saying that discipline is biblical. Like…you can’t get around it. It just is. Not really optional or up for debate here. So when the time for discipline comes, it’s a great opportunity to teach our children that God has placed us (the parents) as an authority in our children’s lives, and submitting to parents is a way to also submit to God.
What does that look like for an 18 month old? For us, we keep it quick and simple. After disciplining, I tell B that I am disciplining him because I love him and because God has called me to care for B in that way. I’ll also tell him that he can honor God by obeying Mommy and Daddy (Ephesians 6:1). There’s nothing particularly fun about discipline (for me or for B), but if we are centering everything else in our lives around God and his Word, then it’s only logical that God should be a part of the discipline process, too.
8. Model a God-Focused Lifestyle
Being B’s mom has been so humbling. Like, the amount of humbling is kind of annoying sometimes. Knowing that this kid is watching me and mimicking me can be overwhelming. Does he see me reading my Bible? Treating Matt with respect? Controlling my temper? Serving others? Doing daily tasks with joy? I can tell B what’s right all day long, but if I’m not actually doing it, then it’s all a little pointless. Backing up my words with actions is crucial.
Being a parent is no joke. And the task of not only keeping small humans alive but also teaching them to have a biblical worldview makes me want to hyperventilate a little bit. But I’m reminded of God’s daily grace and the fact that I’ve been given the perfect example to model my life after in Christ.
On the days when your kids are screaming and making a scene and you’re wondering if all the hard work means anything at all — be encouraged and know you’re not alone. And know that you’ve been given everything you need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3) — and that includes parenting.
What about you?
What’s worked for you as you teach your children about God? How have your “methods” changed and morphed as your children have gotten older? I’d love to hear your ideas! Believe me, I need all the help I can get. 🙂
Here’s to making disciples, one grace-soaked day at a time.