7 Ways to Teach Your Toddler About Jesus
by Anne Garboczi Evans
Hi, I’m Anne and I’m the mother of a talkative little two-year-old named Joe-Joe. And the older he grows, the more he wants to know. Growing up the second of four kids, I always thought of kids’ learning things as osmosis. You hang around smart people who have bookshelves full of interesting books and you end up educated—and entertained, and fed, and owning a driver’s license, right?
Boy was I in for a surprise the day I became a mom. Empty stomachs don’t fill themselves, neither do dirty diapers have the decency to throw themselves in the trash. But it gets even more intimidating as your child begins to walk and talk. As a stay-at-home mom, a majority of what my child intakes is what I output. He speaks English because I speak English to him. He likes avocados because I buy them at the store. He doesn’t know who “Sponge Bob” is because I purposefully haven’t let him see it.
As a Christian, the most important thing I want to teach my child is Jesus’ love. But how do I ensure my child intakes Jesus? Will he learn by osmosis from seeing my faith played out in everyday life? I hope my faith makes enough of a difference in my everyday walk that he does see it. But I also want to be intentional. Being the over-achiever I am, I contemplated spending hours going over creeds and catechisms—with my two-year-old. That didn’t happen. But I did find some great ideas that fit nicely into a busy day.
1) Talk about Creation:
When you’re out on an evening walk and the moon is just slipping up into the night sky, ask your son, “Who made the moon?” Then tell him that God did.
Ask your daughter, “Who made the trees? Who made the flowers?”
It gets to be a fun exercise when your child starts asking, “Did God make the stroller?”
No, no, honey, that was Graco.
Invest in some quality children’s Bible stories that are age-appropriate. I find that my toddler likes individual stories with tons of pictures and not many words a lot better than the 101 Bible story books.
Marsha Lambert wrote an excellent Bible story series called the “Me Too!” books that is the simplest I’ve found. Alice in Bibleland is also fun if your child has a slightly longer attention span. And they rhyme, which my son loves.
The Toddler Beginner Bible is also great for young children, and that company makes more advanced Bible story books, too, so the Beginner Bible can grow with your child. I also love to go to my local used book store or thrift shop and just see what they have on the shelf.
3) Imaginative Play:
My son loves to play; what kid doesn’t? Acting out Bible stories with his toys will entertain him for hours. You can make the plastic whale swallow the Fisher Price people for “Jonah and the Whale.” Or you can build Jericho with Mega Blocks and then make the walls come tumbling down. Imaginative play isn’t only a wonderful way to teach your toddler about God; it’s also great for his brain.
I know, I know. You aren’t supposed to let your kids watch any TV until they’re at least 26 years old, maybe 30. But we all do sometimes. The Beginner’s Bible cartoons are online on Youtube.
My son is always asking to watch “The Stone,” by which he means the Beginner’s Bible Easter Story. A few nights ago, Joe-Joe told me, “I want to watch the Stone. I think it’s about Jesus.”
Way to melt a Mama’s heart. But yes, your toddler will be so excited to be allowed to watch TV, he won’t realize you’re feeding them a steady diet of educational Bible stories rather than “Sponge Bob.”
The only way to teach your child to pray is to do it. Pray with them at meal times, bed time, when they scrape a knee, when they feel lonely, when they’re hysterically happy over a new toy. Teach them how to pray for comfort, ask for blessings, rejoice in God’s provision, or just tell God about their day.
A few weeks ago, my husband had to work late and I was putting our son to bed. We spent about ten minutes just rocking in the rocking chair in the dark as Joe-Joe told Jesus all his favorite animals and why he liked each one. It was beautiful.
At first, Joe-Joe got real quiet, like he felt awkward just telling Jesus things rather than just thanking Him for the meal. But then he got more comfortable. “I like piggies, Jesus,” Joe-Joe said, “And cows. And bears.”
And that’s the point, to teach your child to be comfortable telling Jesus everything.
6) Enlist Others:
The Christian walk isn’t meant to be walked alone. Let other Christians speak into your child’s life and show him glimpses of God through their faith. Take your child to an excellent Sunday School, sign him up for Bible camp, AWANA, or a kids’ Bible study (Community Bible Study has a wonderful kids program during the mornings while the moms also have a Bible Study. And it’s available all over the world. I’d definitely suggest looking into it if you’re not working full time.)
7) Sharing the Gospel:
Of course, when your toddler is a little older you want to share the gospel with him and teach him how to ask Jesus into his heart. But before that, you can just talk about being Jesus’ friend.
A few months ago, I tried to tell my son that Jesus died on the cross and rose again for us. But Joe-Joe had no concept of death or resurrection. Then Joe-Joe saw the picture of a crown of thorns. I showed him how the thorns poked Jesus’ forehead.
My two-year-old started crying. “Jesus got hurt. Jesus got hurt,” Joe-Joe said through sobs.
“Yes, Jesus got hurt for you and me,” I said, “because He loves us.”
“But they hurting him. They hurting him,” Joe-Joe kept wailing.
“Yes, but He’s all better now,” I said.
“Oh,” Joe-Joe brightened. He might not understand death and resurrection, but he understands “get hurt” and “get better.” And he’s always telling Jesus, “I want to be your friend.”
The most wonderful thing about teaching your child about Jesus is that you grow closer to Jesus, too. I’ve never thought so much about God’s mercy when we sin as on the 50th time reading “Jonah and the Whale” when I thought, you know, Jonah fully expected to drown when he was thrown off that ship. He thought he was going to get punished for his rebellion against God. But instead, God sent him a private vessel to bring him to shore—a whale.
And hearing my son prattle on to Jesus about his day, makes me think about how I can just talk to God, tell Him about my day, and He cares.
So start teaching your child about Jesus at an early age. There’s no such thing as too young to be told that, “Jesus loves you.”
Anne Garboczi Evans is a military spouse, mental health counselor, author, and mama to an opinionated little toddler named “Joe-Joe.” Anne and her husband are getting licensed as foster care parents in Colorado, so soon their house will be exploding with little voices, little feet, and diapers, diapers everywhere. But not to worry, three-year-old Joe-Joe insists he’s taking over feeding and diapering duty. Anne’s trying not to imagine what their carpet would look like if that actually happened.
To find out more about Anne’s books, follow her foster care journey, and read lots and lots of “Joe-Joe” updates, like her Facebook page.
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Shirley Chapel says
Beautiful post. Children are so sweet when they are that age. Great that you have started teaching your children about Jesus at a young age. Their little lives have been entrusted into your care. When they are older they will remember what you taught them and you will be blessed because you raised them to know Jesus.
Anne Garboczi Evans says
Thank you, Shirley! And yes, certainly is a monumental amount of entrusting God gives us as parents. Kind of scares me most days. 😉
Victoria Marlow says
I came across this article last week and can’t begin to tell you how helpful and inspirational it is. Your description of Joe-Joe understanding that Jesus is his friend, and that Jesus was hurt for us, touched my heart so much that I shared it with my husband and it still touches my heart to read it now. Our daughters are only 16 months old, but as they quickly approach toddlerhood, we are planning, hoping, and praying to build a Godly foundation for them. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing your experience!
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I’m glad I came across your post; such great tips & ideas. Thank you for sharing! It’s sweet to hear how your son conversates with Jesus. I’m excited to get my 2 yr old son comfortable doing the same.
Tricia Goyer says
What a wonderful post..thank you so much I really can’t wait to teach my 2 year old.
Beth Sexton says
Thank you for your great ideas! I tried to find Marsha Lambert’s book series and come up empty-handed both at your link & googling in general. She’s not on Amazon or anywhere! Do they have ISBN numbers? Thanks!
Tricia Goyer says
I’m looking to finding the answers for yoU!
Caitlin Wilson says
I think these are the Me Too! Bible stories the post mentions: http://www.amazon.com/Me-Too-Favourite-Bible-Stories/dp/1859858716
laundry trolley says
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Carrie Smith says
These are beautiful ideas! I struggle with how to teach my almost-two-year-old about Jesus, and will be using many of these ideas. Thank you!
lucy wairimu says
i really enjoyed reading this it encourages to know that even kids can talk to God keep updating
This is awesome!!! We pray that God continues to strengthen you and your family in his word and may you guys continue to abound in his grace!!! Going to start using these methods for my 4year old. Thanks again
kate Abah says
Thanks for sharing dis post.i now have an understanding on were & how to start teaching my baby.
Thank you for this great article.
My daughter is 17 months old I plan to use these techniques.
God Bless and may the lord be with us all.
Sorry to butt into this article years later, but I just really disagree with your response that Graco, not God made the stroller. Doesn’t God factor into the men and women who designed the stroller? I think its giving too much credit to mankind, especially in a world in which the natural “creation” is becoming less and less a part of our daily lives. God doesn’t only exist “out there in nature” and i think saying that someone else made the stroller runs the risk of excluding God from some parts of our lives and assuming that we don’t need God for some parts of our lives, like modern inventions. I realize we are talking about toddlers here and no need to over philosophize, but I believe I would want to answer questions like that with a resounding yes, God helped people to create this! Sorry to be a negative nancy, i just think we need to make god a real and important part of our lives, just like you talked about talking to jesus all the time in #5 to pray without ceasing. Part of that praying is recognizing how incredibly little we as humans can accomplish without God. I know you were trying to make a joke too, just I think it seems like it does a disservice to what you want to accomplish in establishing a meaningful set of beliefs for your child.
Thank you for sharing! I love all the ideas and approaches to sharing God to our little ones. God bless you and your little dude.
Cynthia Elliott says
I have to teach a class at a workshop this weekend for K-1 graders and this page has given me a wealth of information to incorporate. The information will be helpful as I plan my lesson. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much for being such a blessing to me. I have learn a lot. God bless you.