Let me be honest. I don’t really like that word DISCIPLING when talking about little kids. In my mind, when I hear the word DISCIPLING I think of Bible studies, sitting still and listening for 45 minutes, and lots and lots of traditional book learning or watching a video of a speaker. As an adult, though, I love it, especially the table talk time.
But, discipling young children looks nothing like that.
In fact, when parents or caregivers disciple young children, we are more likely to sit (or lay or crawl or hop) on the floor than sit at a desk or stand behind a podium. We don’t usually pore over Scriptures together and discuss the Hebrew meaning of the words. Instead, when we teach young children about God, we use things like stuffed animals, a clean diaper change, or a hug.
God works through your family’s everyday moments during early childhood to teach children fundamental truths about Who He is.
Disciplining Young Children Starts Early
Yes. I am talking about age but I am also talking about time of day. Little kids wake up ready to play. Long before a baby or toddler can read or even express this truth found in Scripture, a young child fully embraces Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Young children wake up ready to play and rejoice in the day that God made. As parents, we are not always ready to receive this truth at 5am or 6am or 7am or even 8am. For some of us, it is easier “to rejoice and be glad in it” after a hot shower and a hotter cup of coffee.
Am I right? But for the littlest ones of the Kingdom, they wake up ready to REJOICE!
Young children wake up ready to play with you. They can’t wait to see you in the morning. They reach their little arms up to give you a hug or they smile a little crooked smile as if you are their favorite person in the whole wide world – which you are by the way.
God created us to be in relationship with Him and with each other. It’s why your child instinctively reaches for you each morning. Taking that a step further, God specifically created you and your child to be in relationship with each other. And as a parent, He calls on you to teach your child all about Him. For little children, play is the perfect tool to do that because through play, children can experience God through His love that you model.
Even infants can begin to learn about their Creator. Here is one way you might already be using play to teach your baby about God.
How Vocal Play with Babies Teaches Them About God
You’ve probably heard your little one make weird sounds before. Contrary to what your baby sounds like at times, your loved one is not turning into a pterodactyl, a creature from the Amazon rainforest, or a boat. When you hear your baby exploring the wide-range of noises possible with the human voice, mouth, and tongue, your little one is engaging in vocal play. Cooing, babbling, blowing raspberries, and well, screeching like a pterodactyl are all part of it.
Vocal play is one of the earliest stages of language development. When you engage in vocal play with your child by touching, gazing, observing, listening, responding, and imitating, you are supporting your child’s vocal development by encouraging breath control, the use of vocal chords, and the coordination of the small muscles in the face and mouth. Plus, the pausing and waiting during vocal play teaches your child conversational turn-taking.
Through vocal play with your child, you model for your baby godly truths:
- God loves them.
- God hears them.
- God responds to them.
Psalm 116:1-2 (NLT) perfectly says it: “I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen. I will pray as long as I have breath!”
Isn’t that what a parent does? We hear our child’s voice and we bend down to listen. So, when you engage in vocal play with your baby, you are laying the foundation for this biblical truth. Long before a child can even say God’s name, your little one can experience Him through you.
Jesus in the Everyday Moments
All those coos and babbles are actually an early form of spiritual discipleship. Did you realize that God works through you in that way? I pray God opens your eyes to all the ways your family can engage in simple moments with Him in your everyday routines and rituals.
Lisa Rowell is the brand manager for Family Christian. Her heart beats for encouraging women, supporting parents and pointing people to Jesus.