By: Jennifer Deibel
When my oldest was about a year old we had some friends over for a meal. As we bowed to pray, she started going nuts, kicking, screaming, thrashing. I managed to get her calm enough to ask her what was wrong.
“No nite-nite!! NO nite-nite!!!”
I looked at my husband, “I think we might need to start praying more with her…like, more than just at bedtime.”
Thus began my odyssey in teaching my children to pray. To really pray.
I wouldn’t say I’ve “arrived” by any stretch. I have a lot to learn myself, and then figure out how to pass on to my children. But, here are a few steps we have found helpful in teaching our children to pray.
1. Fight Repetition. I’m not against memorized prayers, and that is not the focus of this post. But, for myself and my children (my type-A, first-born, just-like-mama daughter especially), our lives are dictated by routine. It is tempting for me to let my prayers become rote, or formulaic, out of laziness or superstition. Be sure to model starting and ending your prayers in different ways, just like you initiate conversations with your human relationships differently. (ex., as a child, I thought no prayer had a hope of being heard unless it ended with “In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”)
2. Anything is Fair Game. God loves us. Just as the things that are important to, or concern, our children become important to us, so it is with God. So, if my daughter wants to pray about finding her other sock, I let her. I want them to know they can talk to God about anything and everything. You can’t build a deep, meaningful relationship by only talking to a person on Christmas, Easter, and in a major crises. And hopefully, your conversations during non-structured prayer times will shepherd their little hearts to begin to echo the things that are important to Him.
3. Give Guidelines. While we are teaching our children that they can come to God with anything, we also want to help them have quality times of conversation with Him. So, taking our cue from the Lord’s Prayer, at bedtime we make sure they thank Him for at least one thing, and ask His help with/for at least one thing. They can include other things if they so desire, but we make sure these elements are included.
4. Encourage, Model and Foster Spontaneity. When we find out someone is ill, see/hear an ambulance, or see a really beautiful rainbow, we pray right then (usually eyes open, head not bowed…Gasp). Many’s the time our daughter has prayed for a friend who wasn’t at school in the car on the way home. Let them see you do this, too.
5. Watch For Answers/Listen. Take time to be still and listen for His voice. Sometimes its a good exercise for littles to just sit quietly and ponder. Then, be sure to recognize when God answers prayer! Talk about it together, thank Him, and celebrate! You can keep a simple prayer journal with the date, request, and date/way in which it was answered. I’m not that organized (understatement of the century!), so we tend to keep it verbal. Be creative and keep it in line with who you are as individuals and a family.
I hope you have found these ideas helpful, and that as you pray for and with your children He guides you all into a deeper friendship with Himself.
What ways have you found helpful in teaching your children to pray?
Preschoolers have boundless amounts of energy and are always looking for the next thing to get into. Coming up with fun and education activities for them can sometimes be a challenge, but the internet is a GREAT resource to help you come up with ideas. Here are a couple activities from the website Net Mums:
See how many objects you can find lying around the house and use them to make different textures across paper (try pine cones, combs, coins or leaves). Lay some paper over the top of the item and use crayons or chalk to rub across the top of the paper. The result will be a mixture of interesting patterns and offers a creative way to teach children about varying textures and shapes.
What you’ll need:
- Lollipop sticks
- Felt (various colours)
- Glue/needle & thread
Great for role-playing, book marking or as treats in goodie bags, these mini puppets have a multitude of uses and are super-easy to make. The best place to start is to make your animal head. Go for an elephant option (like the one illustrated above) or opt for a tiger, lion or monkey – you can draw sketches first, look for pictures in books or simply let your child use their own creativity to make the face.
Help them cut the shapes out with scissors and stick the felt together with glue. For the eyes, use white felt with black felt tip on top or buy some ready made ‘beady eyes’ from your local craft shop. All that’s left to do is mount it onto the stick and hey-presto, you have a ready-made lollipop puppet!
Big feet, little feet
Encourage your child to think about size. A fun way of doing this is to do hand or foot prints and then see whose print is the biggest. Help your child to cut the prints out and add additional decorations (crayon or pen patterns over the dried paint prints). Get the whole family involved so children can see the difference between, say, Baby Brother’s footprint and Daddy’s footprint. Your child can then line them up in order of size, with each family members name written on them.
Letters in the sand
Make a sand tray using some play sand and place it on the table in front of your child. Cut out some letters or use your child’s magnetic letters as a visual reference and let your child practise writing different letters in the sand with their fingers. A simple activity, good for younger children, which works equally well with paper and finger paints.