Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, “Let the children come to me” (NLT). He placed His hands on their little heads and blessed them, signaling their special place in the Father’s heart and reminding Christian parents of our all-important mission.
At age 43, I gave birth to our third child. What a joy to again have the gift of pointing a two-year-old to Christ Jesus! Though almost 12 years stretch between the births our twins and “bonus baby,” my methods haven’t changed. What worked for Caroline and Daniel, now teens, is being applied in the life of our littlest, Harrison, too.
The early years of our children’s lives are like wet cement quickly curing. Impressions made will be difficult to alter once set. So, very early in our homes we must determine to instill godly wisdom, teaching our toddlers a healthy respect for God and explaining the importance of obeying His Word. Much groundwork can be laid through what our children observe. That’s why the first natural step in teaching a toddler obedience to Christ is modeling obedience to Him. In the early 1700s, for instance, mother Susanna Wesley held a daily quiet time with the Lord. Each morning she threw her apron over her head in their kitchen, not allowing her nineteen children to interrupt her prayers. Christ, she felt, was the source of her parenting energy and worthy of her dedicated focus. This mom’s example would one day lead her son, famed theologian John Wesley, to say of Susanna, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians of England.” Susanna’s self-discipline and Christ focus were central to each day her children lived in her home. They set a tone.
Of course, we can’t expect our toddlers to develop a love for Jesus and His Word if interactions with Him are limited to our own times under the apron of personal devotions. Instead, we must invite our toddlers into worship with us—making Christ accessible, relational. When in the car, for instance, we tune into our local Christian radio station and sing and dance along en-route. True, the children benefit from hearing Scripture shared over the air, but even “The Hairbrush Song,” a classic Veggie Tales’ favorite, helps us apply God’s truth; it’s a reminder that “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Prov. 17:22, KJV). Laughter, fun, and exercise are gifts.
Further, we always begin mealtime with prayer, working to incorporate Scripture into our words: “Lord, I thank You that in the beginning You created the earth. Our food is a gift from Your hands.” Through this practice we also teach our children about worship. And while I don’t stress that our two-year-old have her head bowed and eyes closed as she’s reaching for a hushpuppy, I do trust she’s learning from our routine.
A third way to help our toddlers spend time in the Word is to encourage memorization. The first passage our twins memorized was the first four words of Psalm 37:3: “Trust in the LORD” (HCSB). I love to watch recordings of tiny Caroline and Daniel running the aisles of Target, shouting “Twust in da Lawd!” at the top of their little voices. (Only the Lord knows what seeds were planted through their witness.)
Nighttime is one of my favorite opportunities as a parent and brings me to another way we can make Scripture a part of our children’s lives. Each night Harrison and I pray together, but we begin our routine with an age-appropriate devotional piece like one of the picture books in the Scripture-adventure series Amanda Jenkins and I penned for B&H Kids. It incorporates entire passages of God’s truth into the text, showing children how a goal like overcoming a fear of the dark is easily reached when we put trust in Christ.
And finally, as I tuck my little girl in with a song—remembering that Psalm 100 encourages not skillful singing, but making “a joyful noise”—I choose a hymn as a lullaby. “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” and “I Surrender All” are powerful testimonies of the faithfulness of God, and their messages beautifully reinforce Scriptural truth.
“Every little word matters” is the motto of B&H Kids. As a mom and author, it’s my intent that my every little word points my children to a big God who loves them unconditionally and created each of us for a tremendous plan and purpose.
Tara Reeves co-wrote “The Knight and the Firefly” and “The Pirate and the Firefly” with Amanda Jenkins. She regularly blogs at http://rememberyourraisin.com.