If you have more than one child living in your home, you are familiar with the “natural” sibling dynamic. Siblings who are close, loving siblings usually have parents who have intentionally worked with them to help them develop a positive relationship. Left to their own devices, they are more likely to squabble, fight and generally dislike one another.
So what do these intentional parents do to help their kids have a loving relationship? Here are some of our favorites.
1. Teach your kids God wants them to love, serve and be kind to each other.
2. Remind your kids your family is a TEAM for God.
3. Teach your kids each one of them has special gifts from God they can use to serve each other, your family and God.
4. Do not let your kids use ugly words when speaking to each other.
5. Do not let your kids tease or say ugly things about each other.
6. Teach your kids how to end conflicts in Godly ways.
7. Encourage your kids to express their love for each other regularly.
8. Help your kids think of ways to encourage and serve each other. Encourage them to do these things regularly.
9. Do not treat one child with more or less love and kindness than your other children.
10. Work together as a family on service projects, sharing your faith and family projects.
In addition, you can study some of the following scriptures with your kids and talk about what they mean and how to live them: 1 Corinthians 13, 1 Peter 4:10, 1 Peter 3:8, Proverbs 18:19, Galatians 5:22-23
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.
Food plays a role in many Bible stories. Cooking is a great bonding activity for families. It can add warmth to your home and make it smell wonderful! The results can even be shared with others as a way to serve them. Combining easy cooking and scriptures from the Bible can be the beginnings of a fun Bible study and create great memories for your kids.
Grab your Bible app on your phone and select the NIrV version. Read to your kids Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:20. Point out to your kids that this parable is in two books of the Bible. It must be an important parable of Jesus, so what do they think it means? What is Jesus trying to teach us?
Chances are good, your kids won’t have an answer or won’t be confident in the one they give. When that happens, teach them that often Jesus told several parables together and many times these groupings had a theme. Back up a couple of verses in both passages and read the parable of the mustard seed that comes before the parable of the yeast. Ask your kids if that makes the parable of the yeast any clearer. If not, back up again and read the parable before the mustard seed in Matthew.
With younger children, you can explain that putting just a little bit of yeast in a large amount of flour causes it to rise and create a lot more bread than would have been made without the yeast. Older kids might benefit from showing them how to find and use a concordance on the internet. Here’s the link to a popular one. Point out that while the basic meaning of the parable is the same (a little can influence a lot) some people believe it was meant in a positive way based on the parables around it and others believe it was more of a warning to avoid evil and its influence.
Tell your kids you want to experiment with yeast to better understand the parable. You can use this simple bread recipe that uses yeast but doesn’t require kneading or this bread recipe that does require your kids to learn how to knead. If you want, you can also make one of these unleavened bread recipes.
Have your kids notice how much dough you have before it rises and how much it grows after rising (Note: extending rising time can make it grow even larger, but if you extend it for too long the dough can collapse.) As it bakes, discuss how your kids and your family can be like yeast in the world, helping God’s Kingdom grow. Don’t just focus on the future, but on practical things your kids can do now.
If you also make unleavened bread, compare the two. What differences did the yeast make? How can people influence others to either obey or disobey God? How can that influence spread? For older children, this can lead to a discussion on social media, influencers and using a platform for God.
Have fun with it. Can you think of other possible food family devotionals? They are also a great way to teach your kids some life skills while you are teaching them about God.
Spiritual disciplines can be tough for kids to embrace. Reading the Bible in particular can be tough for some kids, as well as scripture memorization. Bible journaling can be a fun way to encourage your kids to read a little scripture every day and writing in the journal can help them begin to memorize scriptures without even realizing it.
The trick is to make it fun and avoid doing things that will make it feel like school work. It all begins with finding the right supplies for each of your kids. Don’t spend the money on a Bible with wide margins, as most have a reading level that is too difficult for many children. Make sure you do have a regular NIrV Bible around for them to find and copy scriptures from into their journal. It’s on a third grade reading level, so most kids will be able to read it independently.
Next, you want to find or have your children make a journal that they love. You can find pretty ones on sale at stores like Five Below. Or you can go old school and create a book from typing paper and the fronts of cereal boxes covered with brown paper bags as the covers. You can even find blank books in the dollar spot at Target or at Michaels. Have your child decorate the cover or the first page to personalize their journal.
Finally, you will need art supplies. Your finances and your kids ages and artistic abilities will determine what supplies you use. Normally adults use really nice colored pencils and watercolor pencils. Since you aren’t actually having them write in a Bible though, they can easily use crayons or markers. Your child may want to try painting with watercolors or use different art supplies on different verses. (Put a sheet of paper or cardboard behind the page they are decorating and the next page when they are using markers or paints – to keep them from bleeding through to the next page.)
Now comes the fun part. Ask each child what types of Bible verses they would like to focus on in their journal. One child might choose quotes from the heroes in the Bible. Another might choose verses that make him feel less anxious. Yet another child may decide she wants to journal God’s promises in the Bible. Or perhaps one child wants to find all of the verses about angels or some other topic of interest.
The two types of topics that will make this project work best are first, scriptures about which they are curious…like finding everything the Bible says about angels. The other topic that will keep their interest is one about which they are passionate. Perhaps verses about taking care of God’s creation or verses that will help them deal with an issue they are having like anxiety or courage.
You can begin teaching them how to use Bible study aids to find the scriptures they want or you can make some suggestions for younger children. Once they have chosen their first verse, have them write it in their journal. Writing the verse by hand will make it easier for them to remember it later.
Then encourage them to illustrate the scripture. They can create their own art or get ideas from one of the many Bible journaling websites and books. Some kids will develop an interest in learning calligraphy to make their journal entries look nicer. Others may focus more on the illustration and still others will be more focused on finding just the right verses. It doesn’t really matter as long as they are working on the journal.
How often your kids write in their journals is up to them. It’s great if they will write a new verse every day and then maybe illustrate several on the weekend when they have more time. For others, that will feel too much like homework and they may do better choosing random rainy days or slow afternoons to work on it.
As they illustrate several pages, start encouraging them to show you their illustrations from earlier and explain why they chose the verse. Or have them tell you about their artwork. You want to do this at random intervals, so they will regularly revisit the scriptures they have chosen. This type of spaced review can help move those verses into their long term memories.
Not every child will love Bible journaling. For those who do, though, it’s a great way to encourage regular Bible study and memorization of scriptures.
Summer is a gift to families! The kids aren’t in school. The weather is generally amazing. Employers are often a bit more relaxed. You may even have vacation time to use. Your family can get a lot out of the extra time together. You can even spend some of that extra time teaching your kids about God, while you are having fun together and accomplishing your other goals for the summer!
Here are seven great ways to spend family time and teach your kids about God.
Read great books. What’s more relaxing than a summer siesta time reading books? The Bible is a library of 66 books. Start your kids out with an NIrV Bible and on story heavy books like Judges, Ruth, Esther, the Gospels and Acts. You can also read some of the secular and Christian books we have suggested in past blog posts and then discuss them over ice cream.
Keep academic skills strong. The last eighteen months have put a strain on many students academically. Our Teach One Reach One website (www.teachonereachone.org) has tons of free activity ideas that tie Bible lessons to academic skills practice in fun ways. We have ideas for language arts, math, science, second languages and health and hygiene.
Complete family service projects. What’s better than serving others together as a family? Our Teach One Reach One website (www.teachonereachone.org) has about 200 free service project ideas tied to Bible lessons. Designed for groups, most work for families, too.
Enjoy family devotionals. Now is the time to start that great habit of family devotionals. Our Teach One Reach One website has over 200 free Bible lessons with activity ideas you can use, if you want to have fun together as part of your devotional.
Solve sibling conflict (and more). Now is the time to tackle those parenting issues like sibling conflict that cause so many problems during the school year. The Teach One Reach One website has free printable parenting sheets you can print to help you tackle some of your most pressing parenting concerns.
Explore family gifts. Summer is one of the best times of the year to help your kids discover, develop and use the gifts God has given them to serve Him. Search our Parenting Like Hannah website for past posts on the topic to help.
Have fun training your kids. The Parenting Like Hannah website has tons of past posts with fun ideas on dozens of ways to teach your kids things God wants them to know and do, while having fun in the process. Just use the search function and look for “fun ideas”.
Your family deserves an awesome summer! Being intentional in how you use some of the time will mean your family can grow spiritually while you are enjoying life.