There’s a very good chance you are reading this post primarily out of curiosity. Why would someone have family devotionals with a child who is a few days old or a toddler who isn’t speaking in complete sentences yet? Or perhaps you wonder why you should take the time and effort to have regular family devotionals your child is too young to remember. Maybe you wonder what exactly you should do in a devotional with a child who is constantly on the move or is distracted by the least little thing.
The truth is that your baby or toddler may understand very little of what you say. Your very young child probably won’t have complete memories of your devotionals. It may take quite a bit of effort to hold your child’s attention for the five or so minutes a baby and toddler devotional requires. But you absolutely need to do it anyway.
Why? Because every child is different. We don’t know the exact moment your baby begins understanding words or ideas. However, wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of the first words your precious little one understands are, “God loves you!”? We also don’t know the age your child will be when he or she has a first memory that lasts into adulthood. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though, if that first memory was being cuddled by you or your spouse as you talked about God?
Starting family devotionals as soon as your baby comes home from the hospital may seem silly, but it lays crucial spiritual groundwork for your family. It teaches your child from day one that God comes first in your family. It helps you establish great habits of studying the Bible and praying together. It prepares you for explaining what God wants your kids to know based on the stories in the Bible.
So what is involved in a family devotional for a baby or toddler? If you can afford it, buy a baby Bible (many churches give them as gifts to babies when they are born). The stories are just a few sentences long and have bright, colorful pictures. Look for one that encourages the child to make hand motions to go with certain points in the story. A baby won’t be able to do them the first few months of life, but at a very young age many children will begin trying to copy your actions. The total process should only take a couple of minutes.
End your devotional with a simple prayer. Teach toddlers to fold their hands and bow their heads for the prayer. It’s not required by God, but helps your child understand that when they do those things, they are talking to God. Use simple words and focus primarily on thanking God for things. The entire prayer should only be four or five sentences. As your child begins talking, encourage him or her to say “Amen”. As vocabulary increases, your child can contribute more to the prayer.
For toddlers, you may want to sing a kids’ “church” song together. Or listen to a kids’ scripture memory song. As your child begins to talk, encourage singing along. Babies and toddlers love your singing voice – no matter how off key you may think you sing. What better first songs to sing together than ones that also help them begin to memorize God’s words?
Do you need to have family devotionals when your child is a baby or toddler? Absolutely! Have fun with it, but start your child’s life learning about and talking to God every day. It’s the beginning of an unshakeable faith foundation.