Katie Kenny Phillips, author of iDisciple’s God, You Make Me Feel children’s series, understands that children need to see God’s love put into practice at home each day. Oftentimes for parents, it can be challenging to create theological lingo for toddlers, so Katie has created several prompts that serve as understandable, proactive conversation starters about God’s love:
1. Narrate The Gospel for your kids. Some of the best parenting advice I ever got was from a friend in ministry. She said, “The good news is, you’re probably already doing things in your life that are meant to bring God glory. It’s as simple as narrating it for your kids.” For example, when you make that meal for a friend who just had a baby, your little ones are most likely going with you when you drop it off. It’s easy to say, “Do you know why we’re making dinner for our friends? We’re showing God’s love for them by bringing them something to eat because they’re busy with their new baby.”
I remember a time that our good friends told us their dog had died. I gathered my kids into the minivan, went through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru, and drove straight to their house. I told the kids: “We’re going to our friends and bringing donuts because we love them and they’re sad about Daisy. God wants us to be sad with our friends when they are sad and to show them love while they’re in the middle of it.” Simple. We can easily point our kids to the REASON we’re doing what we’re ALREADY doing.
Practice narrating daily activities with your kids:
“Do you know why we’re making dinner for our friends? We’re showing God’s love for them by bringing them something to eat because they’re busy with their new baby.”
“God wants us to be sad with our friends when they are sad and to show them love while they’re in the middle of it.”
2. Have fun getting the kids involved in short, impromptu prayers. When you see a beautiful sunrise in the morning, say, “Look at the beautiful colors God used to paint the sky today!” Or when you hear sirens for ambulances or police, throw up a quick prayer like, “God, please help the people who are hurt!” As we are driving around in our cars or walking in our community, we have countless opportunities to point to things many people overlook. This is a great way to get kids in the habit of opening their eyes to see God at work -- and that God can help.
Kids quickly start doing this on their own. When one of my kids was 2 ½, we were driving in the neighborhood and saw some roadkill on the side of the road. I heard his little voice whisper under his breath, “Dear God, please make more squirrels. Amen.”
Practice involving kids in talking to God:
“Look at the beautiful colors God used to paint the sky today!”
“God, please help the people who are hurt!”
3. Make prayer time fun at bedtime. Little ones thrive on routine and can you imagine a better one than getting them in the habit of talking to their Heavenly Father? Just as bath time and toothbrushing and snuggling together before bed are a part of our nightly rituals, we can start incorporating fun prayer time. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated. Don’t underestimate the power of praying for mommy and daddy and cookies and bellybuttons. And take special requests from your kids! You might be surprised at what they are thankful for or what they want to bring before God.
There was a time my toddler wanted to thank God for triangles. Absolutely! Shapes, sure! The alphabet, of course! Your pet worm in the garden? Let’s thank God for that! My goal was to make talking with God something they enjoyed. And for them to understand there was nothing God didn’t want to hear about -- silly or not.
Practice involving kids into your bedtime prayer:
Ask for prayer requests.
Ask what they are thankful for.
4. Utilize solid Christian children’s resources like books, music and apps to help reinforce the message. Read books at bedtime that tell kids how their Heavenly Father feels about them like God, You Make Me Feel Special. Play music such as Seeds Worship that put Scripture to music.
We listened to VeggieTales music so much when my kids were little, that now, when I hear certain songs in church, I can almost hear Bob the Tomato’s voice! But I love that because it means we were surrounding ourselves with messages and music about God in ways my children really took to heart.
Practice involving children spiritual growth resources into your day:
Find children’s books that echo your beliefs.
Play fun kids' music throughout the day.
5. And don’t forget to take care of yourself spiritually! You’ve probably heard the saying: “You can’t pour from an empty cup!” Take advantage of the amazing iDisciple Growth Plans and devotionals like Find Rest and Find Peace. Kids also learn by seeing us pray and read the Word. We may have little ones sitting around our feet arguing over toys or spilling their snacks, but trust me, it’s beautiful when they see us with our Bibles and making our not-so-quiet time a priority.
Back when I had a toddler and a new baby, I remember feeling so anxious every night around bedtime. What if the toddler gets sick? Will the baby sleep tonight? What if the baby wakes up the toddler? Will I ever sleep again? Help! And then it struck me: I was feeling so stressed and exhausted, but I had not taken even a few moments to read God’s Word that day. It had been a routine of mine that was quickly shoved aside when life got busy -- but when I spent a few minutes reconnecting with God, it made me feel so much better. Was my life still non-stop busy with very little sleep? Yes. But reading the Bible gave me a fresh word each day that my soul desperately needed.
Practice visibly showing your kids your spiritual life:
Talk to your kids about your quiet time.
Let them listen to your worship music.