But sometime after the first of the year it clicked, and now they love it!
In fact, Sunday night we were getting home late from church and it was well past bedtime, but wouldn't you know my kids were NOT going to go to sleep until we'd had Bible Time.
I know a lot of parent's struggle with doing daily devotions with their kids, but I think sometimes we make it out to be a lot harder than it has to be, especially with little ones. (I don't actually know anything about older kids so feel free to leave me a comment and tell me how it is!)
I'm going to break down the how and whys of what we do (and why I think my kids like it so much!), and then I'd love to hear your suggestions for things we could incorporate in the future!
Reading the Bible (2-3 mins)
We start with reading our Bibles. In the beginning my husband and I just had our Bible out and would read a chapter out loud while the toddlers sat on their beds looking at picture books. They LOVED this method, but we really wanted them to be more a part of the Bible reading time so we got them each their own Bible.
As a matter of principle, we've decided not to call Bible storybooks "Bibles". They of course have a place in any child's library, but we really wanted our kids to understand that the Bible is completely unique and different from any storybook. It's the Word of God.
Their Bibles look just like ours. No picture or games or anything fancy. Of course, they were also cheap which makes them perfect for little hands to hold and turn pages without any fear of ripping pages.
My 2-year-old girl loves her Bible, and is perfectly content to sit and turn pages while we read. My 3-year-old boy isn't as thrilled. I've recently shown him how each page has big chapter numbers on it and he will quietly count the numbers on each page or identify the letters in each of the books titles.
We read about 12 verses each night out loud, about half a chapter. Because my husband and I like to memorize scripture, we sometimes use this time to review chapters we already know and we "read" them from memory while the kids sit in our laps with their Bibles.
Our goal during this time is NOT to make sure my kids comprehend everything what we are reading. That will come as our kids get older, but for now we are content that they simply learn the importance of Bible reading. We want to model a love of God's Word. We want them to understand that this is a different kind of book, and associate the Bible with good things (affection from mom and dad, security and calm before bed, laughter and smiles while we sing) and learn how to respect the reading of God's Word by sitting quietly and treating our Bibles gently.
Singing and Dancing (5 mins or more)
The second half of Bible Time involves lots of singing and usually dancing. Okay, there sometimes more dancing than singing! We usually let each of the kids pick a couple songs each, and they almost always include Deep and Wide and The Hokey Pokey (What? Didn't you know the hokey pokey was a praise song?!?!)
Then my husband and I suggest songs we'd like the kids to learn. We pick a new hymn or praise chorus each week and teach them the words. The first few days they just mumble along with us, but by the end of the week they are singing most of the words! So far they know Go, Tell it on the Mountain, Soon and Very Soon, Oh, How I Love Jesus, and a few others.
I've been really surprised at how quickly they pick up new songs and how they have become some of their favorites. The kids don't seem to know the difference between kid songs and "church songs". They just like to sing!
We usually try to pick hymn we are going to sing the following Sunday in church (it's easy for us since my husband is our song director!), but any song will do. My husband and I are both musically inclined, so we don't use any music for this time. However, if this is a struggle for you there are tons of great kids worship cds you can choose from! We love the music put out by Seeds Family Worship. The tunes are catchy and the lyrics are straight from the Word of God.
Scripture Memory (1-2 mins)
This is the area where we are still trying to improve. We have several options for memory work and we yet to determine which option will work best for us. Right now we are simply practicing our weekly memory verses for the Awana program at our church.
Of course, at the young ages of two and three, I know the real goal right now is to learn the habit of memorizing. They may not remember the verses several weeks from now, but that's okay! As they grow older, we will build on that foundation and reap the fruit of those precious word sown in love.
Prayer (and Saying Goodnight)
After we read our Bibles, sing, and say our memory verse, we tuck the toddlers into bed and turn out the light. It may seem like a lot since I've written a rather long blog post, but in reality it's usually only about 10 minutes or less. We read a little, sing a little, and giggle while we say our verse, then it's lights out.
We discovered that by turning the lights out our toddlers are more likely to be still and focus while we pray. My three-year-old will word his own very sweet and simple prayer.
Thank you for this day. Thank you for mommy and daddy. Thank you for prayers. Thank you for songs. Thank you for my possum. Thank you for new toys. Help me to sleep. In Jesus Name, Amen.
My two-year-old does best to repeat the words that I say, keeping it very simple and relevant to her. We have a similar format we use every night, but we do change the words up here and there.
We often pray together as a family at meal times and during those times we do our best to model "real" prayer. My husband or I pray out loud while everyone else listens or prays quietly. At bedtime though our goal is that we teach them to pray for themselves. It's often comical and will go on for quite some time but it truly is precious.
I cherish those few short minutes we have together in the evenings. I love the laughter and fun we have together!
If I had to pick one thing we've learned when it comes to having a family devotional time with toddlers, it's this: keep it fun!
Finding that balance between sitting quietly (for a short time!) and then getting to sing and move and play together makes all the difference in the world. Focus on your long term goals, and don't stress about getting it ALL right, right now. If you start when they are young you have plenty of time to learn and grow together.
So tell me! What do you do for family devotional time?