Our #1 priority as a parent is to raise our kids to know and love Jesus. Yet, many of us feel ill-equipped to teach our children WHAT we believe, let alone WHY we believe it. In the words of Natasha Crain, author of Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, “we have to stop winging our Christian parenting and start getting in shape to prepare our kids for what’s ahead.”
Our kids will be questioned about their faith, which is why we need to prepare them ahead of time. In order to be able to defend their beliefs, they must understand why they believe what they do. They must have opportunities to ask questions and explore God’s Word on a level they can comprehend. Here are 7 suggestions for elementary-aged children to build a lasting faith and encourage spiritual growth.
1. God Time Cards (Kindergarten through Grade 5)
Each God Time Card contains four 10 minute devotionals to be completed throughout the course of a week. Each week focuses on a different theme, such as gratitude, honesty, or contentment. Each devotional includes a Bible verse, an explanation of that verse, a short activity, and a prayer.My girls (ages 4 and 6) complete this with me after school/during snack time four times during the week. They are an excellent way to expose your children to God’s Word, encourage them to grow spiritually, and build character development.
(Note: If you have younger children, these Small Talk activities are designed for age 2 through pre-K and include activities you can do in the morning, in the car, during bath, during play, or at bedtime to teach them about God and His love for them.)
2. Daily Devotionals
Every night before prayer, my children and I read a short, 2-3 minute devotional together and talk about it. Whether done in the morning or at night, they are a powerful way to keep your children focused on living a God-centered life and instilling strong Christian values. Here are a few of my favorites:
- The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers by Crystal Bowman
- The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers 2 by Carla Barnhill
- Bedtime Devotions with Jesus by Tommy Nelson
- Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids by Sarah Young (good for elementary aged children)
- 365 Day Starter Devos for Girls by VeggieTales
In addition to daily devotionals, encourage your children to read the Bible! 100 Bible Stories and Songs by Tim O’Connor is great for preschoolers and comes with accompanying music CDs. A children’s Bible, such as the NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers by ZonderKidz is appropriate for elementary-aged children.
3. Lunchbox Devotions
These printable cards can be laminated and tucked into your child’s lunchbox to remind them how much God loves them. I like to personalize them by writing little notes with an Expo marker. When my daughter brings them home, I wipe it off and it’s ready to be used again another day. Here are some of my favorite lunchbox devotions, along with some notes and encouragement and jokes thrown in, just to mix things up a bit!
- Cap Creations Lunchbox Bible Verse Cards
- Cap Creations Lunchbox Note Cards
- Cap Creations Lunchbox Joke Cards
- Lunchbox Notes (from ashleeproffitt.com)
- Lunchbox Bible Verse Cards for Boys and Girls
4. Daily Prayer
Seems simple enough, right? Yet, many children don’t know how to pray or are used to scripted prayers that they memorize and then repeat back without much thought. While scripted prayers are a good place to start, I suggest adding in the four components of prayer as your children are ready, as well as encouraging prayer throughout the day (e.g. not just at mealtime or bedtime). The four components are Honor, Care, Forgiveness, and Guidance.
- Honor – This is where we give glory and praise to God and/or thank Him for our blessings. For a young child, it might sound something like, “God, you are the greatest! I love you. Thank you for my family, my warm bed, my cats, and the sunny day we had today so I could play outside.”
- Care – This is where we acknowledge that God takes care of us and others and we present our requests to Him. For a child, it may sound like, “God, please help the little girl who broke her arm in my class to feel better and for Daddy to have a safe business trip.”
- Forgiveness – This is where we confess our sins and ask God to grant us his grace and mercy. It might sound like, “God, please forgive me for calling my sister a name and for not listening to Mommy at dinner.” I encourage my children to be specific rather than simply saying, “Please forgive me for misbehaving.” When they do misbehave, after following through with the disciplinary action (e.g. a time out) I ask that they apologize to the person they offended (“I’m sorry for…”), state what they will do differently next time, and ask the person they hurt if they forgive them. This encourages them to think about their behavior and how they will change it, as well as emphasize the importance of forgiveness.
- Guidance – In the last part, we pray for God to help us be better individuals and followers of Christ. An example might be, “God, please help me listen better to my parents, have self-control/not lose it when I don’t get my way, be kind to my brother and sister, and live the way You want me to live.”
5. Christian Crafts
As parents, we know that our child’s engagement and retention increase when we appeal to multiple learning modalities. Crafts are a great way to do this while also helping your children understand God’s Word and how it applies to their everyday life. Here are a few of my all-time favorite websites for Christian crafts:
- Meaningful Mama – 100 Best Bible Crafts and Activities for Kids
- Truth For Kids – Crafts for Bible Lessons
- Oriental Trading Company – Religious Crafts (come in kits of 6 or more, but great for groups!)
- DLTK Bible – Christian Crafts for Kids
6. The Bible App for Kids by YouVersion
This is a great free app that helps your kids interact with God’s Word in an engaging way. It includes games and activities to help them remember what they learned. Parents can also go to https://bibleappforkids.com/ to download companion resources, including coloring pages.
7. Christian Music
All kids love music and there is nothing more precious than watching your kids sing praises to God while dancing around your living room! While you can easily do a search on Amazon for Christian Music CDs for kids, my personal favorites are the Sing Along DVDs that we purchase every summer from Vacation Bible School (VBS). (If you aren’t already signing your kids up for VBS, you should! Full of hands-on Bible learning experiences, music, games, and character-building activities, your child will have a blast and grow in their faith at the same time.) Group has some excellent VBS programs – you can click HERE, choose a program, select music and media, and find the Sing and Play DVD or CD.
CALL TO ACTION: What resources do you use in your home to encourage spiritual growth? Please share! (Check out my Resources for Parents page for additional resources to develop a Christ-like home and raise children who know and love Jesus!)
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