Teaching Toddlers Love For God and Love For Others

Posted by  | Friday, August 28, 2009  at 6:48 PM  
Hi everyone! I was asked by the lovely Leah Payne (great name!) to share about how I teach my toddler. My name is Leah Finn, and I have two children--Georgia, who will be three in October, and Baxter, who will be one in September (see end of post for a cute picture of them). Thank you for this opportunity to write for the wonderful Prayer of Hannah community.

In my mind, I always imagined I would have a structured teaching time with my children from a very young age. And then I had children! While right now a structured school time is not necessary for my toddler daughter, Georgia, it is important that I teach her something. The Well-Trained Mind (Susan Wise Bauer, Jessie Wise) points out that toddlers and pre-K children are sponges, but they have to be given water to soak up. I believe it is the parents’ responsibility to provide this knowledge (water) for small children who are so eager to learn.

My husband and I occasionally talk about things we need to teach Georgia, or areas in which she needs to develop. Often this is not a long conversation, but is something we will discuss as the thought occurs to us, or as a situation presents itself. Now that Georgia is almost three (and her younger brother, Baxter, is eleven months), our teaching centers around two main themes: love for God, and love for others.

We strive to teach Georgia and Baxter love for God, His word, and His church. The best means of doing this is by loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength, and displaying that love to our children. We talk about God, we pray to God, and we read about God.

As a family, we read the Bible together after dinner most evenings. There is a series of questions we go through with Georgia:
Q: “What is this?”
A: “The Bible”
Q: “And who does the Bible tell us about?”
A: “Jesus”
Q: “And what do we know about God’s Word?”
A: “God’s Word is true!”
We also use children’s storybook Bibles to read stories with Georgia—our favorite is the Jesus Storybook Bible—and I often tell her stories from the Bible while we are playing or talking. Memorization comes naturally to small children—they pick it up quickly, so saturate your child with Scripture verses! For example, Georgia knows Psalm 23. I learned the psalm as a small child, and I wanted to teach it to her. For several days, I would quote the psalm to her before she went to bed, or while I bathed her, or when we played outside. Soon I was able to drop the end of each phrase and she could finish it. Now she can say it on her own for the most part, with occasional cute toddler phrases thrown in. I look forward to memorizing more with her.

Worshipping with fellow believers in Christ plays a crucial role in our life, and we want to pass on that priority to our children. One of the ways we do that is by simply taking them to church from an early age. As such, we model the importance of church involvement to our children. We also speak of our church family, and talk with excitement of ‘going to be with our church’ on Sundays. We want to instill in Georgia and Baxter anticipation for corporate worship, and a love for fellow church members.

We hope to teach our children love and respect for others. We are from the South (does our daughter’s name not give it away?), and politeness is virtually required in the South! More importantly, politeness and respect in speech display kindness to others and are a means of showing Christ’s love to the world around us. Georgia has been taught from the time she could talk to say “Please,” “Thank you,” “Yes Ma’am/Sir,” and “No Ma’am/Sir”. Simply from repetition she has learned to say “Good morning, how are you this morning?” because we often ask her that question. Consequently, she responds, “I am doing well, thank you.” Sharing toys and books provides a regular object lesson for how to speak kindly and show love to others.

Though I do not sit down for a planned school time (yet) with my toddler, I realize more each day how teachable every moment is. It is my prayer that I will seize these teachable moments, and that my children’s hearts would be receptive to the Savior through the process.


Courtney said...

I love how you said "we are going to be with our church". I have been trying to figure out how to say that each week when we are giong for worship on Sunday mornings because I don't want my children to think the building we go to is what church is, but I also don't want them to think worship only happens there. I have already told my hubs this and I will be adding this phrase to my vocabulary. Thanks!

Meg said...

I also really appreciated this post! We've been trying to think of more ways to train our toddler spiritually and your post gave me some good ideas!

Leah said...

Thanks for the kind comments! The language we use regarding church comes directly from my husband. We want to teach our children that church is not a building, so we use phrases like 'going to be with our church', 'the church building'(when discussing the actual structure), and 'corporate worship' (for Sunday morning worship). It is a very deliberate decision, one that I love, and am still attempting to incorporate into my daily vocabulary as well:-)

noahandlylasmommi said...

Thank you for sharing that. I like the questions you ask about the bible. Something easy for young children to remember but so vital.

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