Playing with God

How young children connect with God through fun

Q. I want to help my 3-year-old learn more about God, but it's hard to get her to sit still for a Bible story or even a video. How can I help her grow in her faith when all she wants to do is play?

A. God loves your child so much that he is intentionally, actively present in her life even when she's just playing. It was God who wired your child's heart to include a huge desire to play.

To our adult minds, play sometimes seems like little more than a break from the "real" stuff of life. But for a preschooler, play is serious business.

Obviously playing helps young children develop their motor skills, but it is also essential to their cognitive development (discovering cause and effect), social growth (sharing, taking turns), and emotional formation (feeling excited about a new toy). Just as your child's brain kicks in to high gear during playtime, her soul is also busy absorbing the basics of faith such as joy, patience, and kindness.

In his book, Godly Play (Augsburg), Jerome Berryman explains the benefits of play: "Godly play can awaken us to new ways of seeing ourselves as human beings. It is the way to discover our deep identity as godly creatures, created in the image of God. Godly play is a way to know God."

Summer is a wonderful time to start bringing more intentional spiritual lessons into your child's playtime. And what better place to play than your own backyard?

The casual playfulness of garden planning and planting and exploring plants and gardens together can yield memorable family times. Dig in the dirt and notice all the bugs and worms God created. Let your child nestle the seeds in their beds and talk about how it feels to have a safe place to live. Point out the various colors and designs of the plants and flowers you see and talk about God's wonderful imagination.

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