I was raised in a wonderful Christian home. Yet, we rarely did family devotions together. So when I had my children, I was not sure how to integrate devotions into our daily lives. A great book I found was Together by Carrie Ward which outlines a way for families with preschoolers to do devotions together.
So, how do you lead family devotions with a toddler?
First you need to pick a time to do your devotion. For my family, it was breakfast time. We were all together, fresh, sitting and engaged with food. You can start the day, restart your day, end your day with your family devotion—the point isn’t to check off a box at the same time every day, but to write His Word on their hearts—do what works for your family and give yourself grace!!!
Remember that toddlers thrive on routine. Routine helps build the anticipation and also gets them started with making Bible reading a daily habit, so try to stick to a certain time.
You could start with a couple of worship songs like Jesus Loves Me, Jesus Loves the Little Children or Bless the Lord, O My Soul. Just like you, it helps prepare their hearts and refocus their attention.
Then you can move into your Bible time. Read a short Scripture together from a toddler level Bible. Make sure your toddler Bible has short, engaging stories that are accurate. A little creative license is fine but let’s not miss the main point of the story! Use an adult Bible too sometimes! Have your preschooler help you look up a simple verse or show them where the story is. Review that the Bible is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament and that the Bible is God’s Word. The point is to do something and to create a habit of opening the Word of God together as a family.
During your devotion time/Bible story time, don’t worry about delving into every detail or implication of the story. You are introducing them to the basics—names, what happened, and simple truths—you can dive deeper later. Point out details in the pictures, explain new words/concepts, add in silly voices and use motions while reading the story. Your excitement will naturally be contagious!
Little ones love repetition! So make sure to read the same story multiple days in a row.
Toddlers love reading things they are already familiar with, and every time you read the story, it helps them understand a little better and remember a little more.
Toddlers and preschoolers learn best through play. Act out part or all of the story. Your laundry basket turns into an ark, filled with stuffed animals and your little becomes Noah. Use toys to play out the story, make up a great game from part of the story, sing and dance to music, do simple crafts later that day to reinforce the story.
The important part isn’t that it looks pretty or even that it ends up resembling the story, but that you use the time to help your child connect with the story.
You can then practice a memory verse that you are learning together and end in prayer.
The worship songs, devotion, memory verse, and prayer should only take 5-10 minutes! It can be messy, and preschoolers can refuse to cooperate, but you persevere by grace knowing it’s not about how it looks, but about their hearts.
By Laura Hearn & Christy Cupit