Often parents start teaching their babies to pray by teaching them to fold their hands and bow their heads when an adult says a prayer. While prayer can be said in any posture, it is a great way to help set apart talking to God from regular conversations and to teach that God should be respected.
The next step – once they can speak a few words – is to teach toddlers rote prayers that are said for every meal or at bed time every night. There is another option, however, that I believe more clearly teaches how most Christians talk with God in prayer. With a little effort, you can make it fun and easy for even the smallest child to pray with a family member or independently.
Grab some magazines, family photos, colored card stock, glue sticks, a hole punch, metal rings (laminating film is nice for longevity) and your toddler. Toddlers often have a difficult time thinking of things for which to pray. Explain to your toddler that you want to help him or her make a special book to remind him or her of things he or she wants to either thank God for or ask God’s blessings about.
Start by helping your toddler find photos of things for which to thank God (for which He has blessed your child). As you find the photos, let your toddler glue them to a “thank you” page. Remember, a toddler has a very short attention span, so you may only add one or two items a day. That’s okay. Your toddler can begin praying for those items and it gives you a reason to talk about prayer every day you work on their prayer book.
After you have several items in that section, you can begin a “God bless” section. This will involve family photos and pictures of others close to the family. You can also cut from magazines photos of world leaders, recent events that concern your child or things like a photo of a hospital to remind him or her to pray for the sick.
As your child gets a little older, you can add sections for “God is Great” and “I am sorry for”. Although tiny children don’t sin according to the Bible, it is good to get them in the habit of repenting for when they are old enough to sin. It is also a subtle way to begin teaching them about the things God says are sinful.
If you have a small home laminator, it will make the pages sturdier. Punch one or more holes along the edge and put a metal ring through each hole to keep the pages together. Help your children use the book to pray with you and then begin teaching them how to use it to pray independently. When the book gets long, remind them they can choose just a few items about which to pray each time they pray. If they pray several times a day, they can cover a lot of their items.
Prayer is critical for the spiritual growth and health of your children. It’s great to start them with good prayer habits as early as possible.