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Purposeful, Thoughtful Instruction for Little Ones




Purposeful, Thoughtful Instruction for Little Ones

Jessalyn Hutto

Last week I talked a little about the importance of providing a healthy spiritual environment for even our littlest children that nourishes them in the knowledge of God. Of course without our purposeful, verbal instruction our job as Christian parents will be severely lacking in effectiveness. We are called to diligently teach and instruct after all.

We are blessed to live in an age where helpful resources abound. From Children’s Bibles, to children’s worship CD’s, to allegorical books that set the stage for Biblical principles to be taught, there are no excuses for not teaching our children the truths of Scripture.

It is our responsibility to not only understand the Bible for ourselves, but to teach it to our children through intentional, planned times as well as through ordinary, spur of the moment opportunities that pop up every day. Deuteronomy 6 commands parents to thoughtfully take every occasion and use it as a vehicle to speak of the wonders of our God.

Intentional times of teaching can come in many forms: from family worship times, to reading chapters of the Bible to your toddler during lunch time, to coloring Biblical pages with your little one while explaining the meaning and story behind the pictures to her. It can be easy in our Pinterest/Mommy Blog inspired world to feel that if you are not doing a craft a day focusing on a different doctrine every week, you are failing in your responsibilities to teach your children. This is not so. Crafts can be helpful and fun, but they are not necessary. What is necessary is a commitment on your part to intentionally teach them the Word of God so that they can know their Creator.

Spur of the moment times of teaching are perhaps even more important than planned times because they apply the principles you are teaching to every day life. They reveal that you indeed are living your life through the lens of Scripture–through an awareness of spiritual matters. These opportunities happen almost every moment of every day with babies and toddlers: from times of discipline to the never ending barrage of “why?” questions, to moments when you are able to stand in awe with your little one at the site of God’s creation. Each moment of the day offers a new opportunity to share the incredible truths of our God with our babes. Let there never be a moment when they can recall their mommies not speaking of the wonders of God!

Sometimes the thought of teaching big, robust truths to little ones can be a daunting. After all, unless you have previous experience teaching the Bible, you may have only thought through some truths in your head without ever fully fleshing them out audibly. This is ok. You should not expect to become an award winning Christian apologist over night. 

Much like parenting in general, you figure things out one step at a time. As you speak these truths to your children over and over again, slowly fleshing them out, tackling the most daunting of topics pray for the Lord to give you the wisdom and knowledge necessary to speak to the hearts of your children. When you are unsure of a truth, do some studying on the subject, consult your husband, or ask your pastor to explain it to you. We are all daily learning how to apply the Word of God to our lives, and sometimes it can be difficult to know how to apply it to your toddler’s life in a way that they will understand.

This is why it is important not to wait until one magical day when you feel your child is ready to hear your instructions. Chances are if you wait 4 or 5 years to begin speaking about the deep things of God with your child, you will not be ready when the opportunity arises. Sometimes it can seem silly “teaching” your crawling baby about Jesus coming into the world to save him from his sinsbut each time you speak the truths of Scripture to your children, you are not only bathing them in the powerful Word, you are honing your own skills at explaining the Word of God in simple, tangible forms.

Desiré at When You Rise explained both the difficulty and the reward of teaching the Gospel early on in a post recently that is basically a mirror image of my own experience. I thought you would be encouraged to read her words:

While I know that they definitely don’t understand all (or even most) of my little explanations about Jesus and the Gospel and God and the Bible and on and on, I believe they can (and often do) grasp more than I give them credit for.  On top of this, regardless of whether they understand what I’m saying, it is invaluable to me as the parent.

I started using Scripture and pointing my oldest to Jesus during discipline when he was about 18 months old.  The first few weeks and months of it were AWKward! I fumbled over my explanations, felt self-conscious doing it in front of my husband and a little like I was over doing it for trying to turn vegetable conflicts into something spiritual.  Looking back 2 years later, I am SO glad I started working my way through those conversations then.  I’ve got a long way to go for this to be as natural as I’d like, but I don’t bat an eye about those insecurities I felt at the beginning.  I think the long term benefits will be incredible too.  I’m hoping and praying that by starting these conversations when my little ones could barely speak, that the years to come will prove to be open lines of communication about spiritual things.  (I imagine that if it felt awkward and forced with a 1 1/2 year old that it would feel much more so with a teenager if it wasn’t a normal way of talking between us).

So, while this may not be a stage where my child’s heart is transformed, my heart can and I can practice, practice practice and get ready for those years coming soon when these conversations will matter even more.  I seriously look at parenting through new eyes since making an effort to point them to the gospel.

What are some resources that can help you both understand difficult topics and teach them to your little ones? Here is a short list of some of the books I have found helpful at this stage:

  • Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers–I LOVE these little books that break down BIG truths and teach them to children in simple ways. Each of the four books deals with a different key doctrine and contains many pages of information (all filled with colorful, and fun illustrations).
  • Big Book of Questions and Answers by Sinclair Ferguson–Ferguson has been creating quite a selection of resources for parents that bring doctrine into everyday life. This book which is recommended for children 2 and up focuses on the life and work Jesus.
  • Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware–While this resources is intended to help you teach 6-14 year olds, the information and explanations of Biblical truth are invaluable, even for the mother of toddlers.
  • Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem–Do you feel that you could first benefit from knowing a little more doctrine yourself? Getting a firm grasp on key theological ideas will give you a head start in teaching them to your children and Wayne Grudem has a gift for taking seminary level material and bringing it down for the average Christian to consume.
  • Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick–If you want a book that will challenge the way you interact with and teach your children in light of the gospel, then this is your book. Not only that, but it contains lots of helpful charts with suggestions on how to approach different topics.
  • Also worth looking into is the Child Training Bible. It is a system that helps you color code a Bible so that you are able to quickly bring your children back to the actual Word of God when teachable moments occur.

How do you seek to teach your littlest ones the wonderful truths of Scripture? What are your favorite resources for doing so? Do you have favorite authors or blogs that encourage you in your responsibility to raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord? Share your thoughts in the comments!