Toddlers need to feel unconditional love and acceptance. They need to interact with adults in positive ways. As we teach them, we need to show interest and concern for each child. This is how young children begin to understand God’s love for them.
Toddlers like copying simple worship as they begin to learn about church. Learning simple rituals like folding their hands for prayer becomes meaningful to them. Prayers, songs, and Bible stories are learning opportunities, although the process, not the content, might be more meaningful at this age. Toddlers relate to the idea of family and feel like they’re a part of God’s family too. They can learn to recognize the Bible as “God’s book.”
Toddlers need opportunities to pray, praise, and sing. They enjoy action songs and acting out Bible stories. The concept of “friend” is beginning to take root at this age, so they respond to the idea that Jesus is their friend. They understand that the Bible is special. They like feeling that they are part of God’s family.
Dramatic play, with children imitating the teacher’s actions, appeals to toddlers. They like “sound” words. “Jesus’ friends threw their nets into the lake to catch fish. Splash! Splash!” The children repeat “Splash! Splash!” “When they pulled the nets up (teacher pretends to pull up a net), the nets were full of fish. Flip flop. Flip flop.” The teacher flip flops his or her hands, which the children imitate as they say “flip flop.” They enjoy interacting with the storyteller.
Toddlers feel comfortable talking to Jesus, although their prayers are egocentric. They will pray for scratched knees or new toys, but once again, it’s the process that’s important. To enable young children to reach this point, start with short echo prayers. Give them time to pray for what’s in their heart. Although they are just learning to put their words together to work for them, the more they are allowed to say, the more their vocabulary grows, and the more comfortable they become praying.
For more faith building tips for toddlers, check out our Enduring Faith Parents & Toddlers program.
Post adapted from Building Faith One Child at a Time, pages 113–14, 117–18
© 1997, 2016 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved. ©1997, 2016 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.