What squiggles, squirms, are loud, in constant motion, and full of joy and passion from the time they get up in the morning to the time they fall asleep at night? That's right: preschoolers! Any parent of a preschool-age child knows his energy is boundless. This constant whirling may make it seem like your child is too young to learn daily routines that encourage him to build and sustain a relationship with God. In fact, the opposite is true. With your help, your child can use that endless energy to celebrate the Lord's love.
Reese Kauffman, president of Child Evangelism Fellowship, a ministry that specializes in reaching children with the gospel, says it's crucial to provide a solid spiritual foundation for our preschoolers. Kauffman says, "There's a window of opportunity early in a child's life when she's easy to reach with developmentally appropriate activities and materials about her Creator and Lord."
So how can we harness this energy to enrich their early Christian education? Here are a few ideas.
Get your groove on
"Sing to the Lord a new song…" (Psalm 149:1).
Praise and worship music can be incorporated into everyday life. Your child's day can begin and end with musical routines that incorporate positive and uplifting images of God. As your child gets dressed, eats breakfast, or does simple chores, he can listen to and learn songs that make him excited about God and God's love.
Once your child knows the words, you may often hear him spontaneously singing songs that will uplift you and all around him. Music can be used not only to teach basic scriptural truths, but to teach memory verses as well. There may be certain Scriptures that you want your child to learn and be able to draw on in a time of need before he can even read. Having a Bible verse set to music makes memorizing easy and fun. Scripture tapes and CDs are commercially available, or you could make your own. Don't worry about the quality of your singing voice. Your children will love you anyway!
Dance like David
"Let them praise his name with dancing…" (Psalm 149:3).
For the preschool set, nothing goes together like music and movement. We know from Scripture (2 Samuel 6:14) that King David praised the Lord through dance, and we can teach our children to do the same. Once you have identified some upbeat songs that your youngster is particularly fond of, encourage her to sway, move her arms, jump, or clap. Or simply start dancing to your favorite song. Dancing is infectious! In our home, certain songs are designated as "dancing songs," and as soon as they come on, the dancing begins. For more formal instruction, movements that seem appropriate to the song can be incorporated into your music time. Check out some of the DVDs and videos that show you and your child simple movements to child-oriented songs.
Speak for the Lord
"I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips" (Psalm 34:1).
Encourage your child to speak God's words as found in the Bible. Dramatizing a Bible story is a fun way to get family and friends involved in teaching your child religious truths. Give each person a part to learn in a simple Bible story, and with a few props, costumes, and proper lighting (just turn the lights down everywhere except near the "stage") you can produce your own preschool drama.
Storytelling allows a child to demonstrate his knowledge of a Bible story that has been read to him. After reading the child a story, ask him questions. Then, encourage him to tell his version of the story. You may be surprised at what you hear.
Reciting short verses from the Bible will help your child with his memory and language skills while encouraging his love of God and God's Word. Colorful mini-posters that have Scripture verses written on them make learning a verse more fun. They can be purchased or created at home and are useful as props for review. On a regular basis, at least three times per week, read the verse aloud to your child. Read with emotion and emphasis, enunciating each word clearly. Then, say one phrase at a time and ask your child to repeat each phrase after you—he can even shout it if he wants. The best time for this exercise is early in the morning when the kids are rested and ready for concentrating. The more often you repeat this exercise (up to once daily) the faster your child will learn.
Don't pressure your child to memorize; that will come naturally as you continue the exercises. As your child matures, he will be able to memorize longer verses more quickly. You will be pleased at the confidence that will develop in your child as he realizes how good he is at memorizing.
Share the fun
"Let the saints rejoice in this honor" (Psalm 149: 5).
Children love playing with other kids, and what greater way to reinforce what you are teaching your child at home than to have her share some spiritual fun with other children? Attending or organizing a weekly or monthly play group with like-minded Christian families or enrolling your child in a well-rounded Christian preschool teaches her that group worship and praise can happen on days other than Sunday.
As you begin to incorporate some of these principles into your preschooler's life, you may very well find benefits to the rest of the family as well. It will be hard for everyone to resist all that singing, dancing, and storytelling. Before you know it, yours will be a household overflowing with joy and the love of the Lord.
Victoria Carrington, M.D. is a mother of two and a former psychiatrist. She is now a freelance writer and publisher of ABC Bible Cards. Victoria and her family live in Cleveland, Ohio.