Guest post by Rachel J. from Somebody Come and Play.
Throughout my teaching years, one learned lesson has always stuck with me: adults (parents and teachers alike) often underestimate what children are capable of. I saw it over and over again in the classroom. A kindergartener tackles a book “too hard” for her and loves it or a 5th grader asks questions about the world seemingly “above his head.” Kids are capable. Kids are smart. Kids are hungry to learn.
This lesson has really sunk in at home as I watch my 18-month-old daughter, Eleanor, soaking in everything around her. Sometimes it’s easy to underestimate her abilities – she is a toddler after all. Aren’t toddlers just supposed to play and have fun? But as I play and interact with her daily, I am amazed at just how capable she is. Sometimes she will figure out a toy she has never seen before or say a word I don’t remember ever teaching her. Toddlers are capable. Toddlers are smart. Toddlers are hungry to learn.
Because this is true, toddlers are not too young to start soaking in God’s word. Psalm 119:11 tells us to “hide God’s word in our hearts.” Shouldn’t this apply to the youngest among us? Are toddlers capable of hiding God’s word in their hearts?
Though it might look different than how an adult or older kid would read and study the Bible, a toddler is capable of loving God’s word. And it is up to us to help cultivate this love and hunger. This is where a lot of us get stumped. How can we help toddlers “hide God’s word in their hearts” in practical, everyday ways? What does this look like?
Here is a glimpse into four things we try at home to help Eleanor love God’s word.
Listen to Scripture Set to Music
Toddlers love music and over time will internalize the lyrics of the songs. We love listening to music that is centered on God’s word at home and in the car and even sing them aloud before bedtime. Eleanor lights up when we start listening and singing some of these songs together. Here are a few favorites:
Say Simple Bible Verses in Context
Make God’s word meaningful (because it is!). Incorporate God’s life giving word into your daily activities. Keep the verses simple, short, and meaningful. Say them in context to help your toddler understand what they mean. I also simplify the language to words Eleanor will better understand. Here are a few I say aloud with my little one:
“Every word of God proves (is) true.” (Proverbs 30:5) I might say this when we are looking at the pictures in her Bible to help her see the Bible is all true.
“The heavens declare (show) the Glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1) I said this aloud to her on our walk this morning when we were looking at birds in the sky.
“Do not fear; God is with you.” (Isaiah 41:10) This is a great verse to say if your child is afraid before bedtime or before you leave them with a babysitter.
Read an Age-Appropriate Bible Together
This is an obvious one, but so crucial. To hide God’s word in our hearts, we must be in the word! The same is true for toddlers. Find a Bible your toddler loves and take time to look at the pictures, talk about the stories, and thank God for His word together on a regular basis. Here are a few recommendations:
Note: Here are more Bible recommendations for kids of all ages.
Model Reading the Bible to Your Toddler
This is an easy one to forget. Usually, I wait until Eleanor is asleep before I take time to read my Bible so that I will be able to focus. However, children are interested in whatever you are doing. If I am cooking or vacuuming, she wants to be a part of it. The same is true of reading my Bible. Sometimes, I just pray through a few verses in my Bible while she is playing beside me. Though she doesn’t always show interest, sometimes she’ll come up to me and I tell her “Mama is reading the Bible – God’s word. It is so special” or something along those lines. Now Eleanor will point to my Bible and say, “Bible!” This warms my heart to see these seeds being planted and taking root in her tiny heart.
What are some ways you share God’s word with your little ones?
Check out Rachel J.’s guest post about reading to little ones here. It’s fantastic!