Helping Your Children Learn About God
You may have heard me use this phrase many times, but here it goes again: “God created children with the capacity to learn about Him.” One of my seminary professors used this phrase often in his teaching. I began thinking, “What does that phrase mean for parents?”
First, God made children to be multi-sensory learners. They learn in a variety of ways, but you need to allow them to use their senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) as well. Consider the following ideas to help children learn through their senses.
- Use the Bible as you talk about God. Say, “The Bible tells me stories about God and Jesus.”
- Let children smell the fragrance of a flower and say, “God made the flower.”
- When playing outside, talk with children about what they see that God made.
- When they use their hands, feet, arms, and eyes, say: “God made you special. God made you able to do many things.”
- Say thank you to God for the food they eat. Let them thank God, too.
Second, children need to have relationships which allow them to feel loved, accepted, and cared for. Through these nurturing relationships, children will learn about who they are. They will learn how to get along with others and how to relate to other children and adults. Friendships will become important to them.
- Read to your children. (They will have their favorite books.) Take time to talk about how special your children are to you and God.
- Nurture them as they express their ideas and knowledge.
- Affirm your children, but bring balance to your encouragement. They are natural pleasers, so be sure they feel accepted for who they are, not just for what they do.
Third, children need to repeat what they learn. Give them opportunities to repeat what they like to do or new skills they have acquired. Repetition lets children use what they learn in a variety of experiences. A good rule to remember–children can’t learn anything new that they cannot associate with something they already know. Knowledge builds on prior learning. They attach knowledge to something they already know.
- Remove physical barriers for young children to learn to walk. Yes, they will learn first by pulling up and then comes balance. They will develop confidence in their ability to take those first steps. Sing their name in a song, using a familiar melody. Say, “Thank you, God, for legs to walk.”
- Provide opportunities for children to repeat, but add something new to the repetition. Like first riding a bicycle with training wheels and then removing them when the skill is acquired.
- Guide children to know how much fun it is to learn new things. Prizes don’t always need to be given, especially when the joy of learning means more. Your praise goes along way.
Fourth, God gave children a natural curiosity. They want to know why things work. “If I do this, what happens next?” God’s world is a classroom for learning about God’s creative nature.
- Take a nature walk with your children. Collect items they might want to look at later or even use in an art activity.
- Bring along a magnifying glass to take a closer look at nature items.
- Together look at books with colorful pictures of God’s world.
- Let children lie on a large sheet of paper and draw outlines of their bodies. Supply markers or crayons so they can add their own characteristics: eye color, skin color, hair color, clothes, shoes, etc. Talk about how God made them special.
Fifth, children love to play. Do you know that in all of God’s creatures, man has the longest period of adolescence (in relationship to length of life)? Perhaps God intended for children to have a longer period of learning. Play has often been described as children’s work—the way children learn more about themselves and working with others. Play encourages new skills as they grow and develop ideas of what they want to do. I met a man who told me he loved playing with airplanes as a child. He became a pilot and used his skill for helping others.
- Give your children opportunity to play with a variety of toys and watch their preferences develop. Build on what you learn about their play.
- Encourage them to use their skills to help others: making cards for friends, taking food to a friend who is sick, and calling someone who is in need of an encouraging call.
Sixth, children love to do things for themselves and by themselves. They develop independence when they have learned new skills. You might hear your toddler say, “Me do it.” Children gain such satisfaction and joy in doing things they have learned. Satisfaction and success go hand-in-hand for learning. Find more ways to say “yes, let’s do it” rather than “don’t or no.”
- Plan play experiences or activities you feel are safe and challenging, without being too difficult to do. Remember to think of their abilities and development as you plan.
- Encourage children by saying, “I knew you could do it!”
- Always find ways to say “Thank you, God” as children learn.
Seventh, children learn through imitation. They are always listening and watching. They will learn to treat others by observing what you do. They will learn to be accepting because they have watched you be accepting of others. They want to do what you do. Yes, as they grow older they will watch others and want to be like them. Use these early years to help them know the right things to do.
- Let your children watch you read your Bible and tell stories from it.
- Pray with them. Let them hear your prayers, too.
- Allow children to watch you give to others.
- Let them see your gratitude when you are the recipient of someone else’s giving.
Thank God daily for your children. As they grow, ask God to help you guide them and teach them all about Him and His love for them.