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Teaching Children

"Jesus called the children to him and said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'"

(Luke 18:16)

Even the youngest child is ready for God. Luke's gospel teaches this in 18:15 by using the Greek word for "newborns" (βρέφη, pronounced bref'-ee) when describing the children whom Jesus welcomed. The disciples had mistakenly viewed them as unwelcome interruptions of their important work, but our Lord knew they were his work. What about us: do we see little ones through Jesus' eyes?

Active learning is a good method to teach all ages about their Savior, for learning extends beyond language and reading. Babies absorb family rhythms of gathering for Scripture and prayer, and you can sing hymns while rocking them to sleep. Toddlers and preschoolers want to investigate everything (even while you are trying to get out the door!)—so help them investigate the Bible. Structure your home devotions to purposely include their curious hands and questions.

Try It!

Teach Babies and Toddlers

When you read the Bible with your baby, her little hands and mouth naturally try to explore the book and its pages, for this is how she learns about her world.

How can you guide her exploration to begin teaching her about God and his word?

You can…

…teach what she can feel and see.

Help her finger trace "Holy Bible."

Say, "God is holy!"

Invite her to touch shiny gilt pages.

Explain, "We make it beautiful because it's God's own word!"

During family devotions, your toddler touches your phone while you use your Bible app. Toddlers notice what adults do and try it themselves: this is how they learn.  

How can you use toddlers' drive to copy you to teach simple truths about God and his word?

Ask them to help:

"Help me tap here to see what Jesus said!"

Give them their own:

Give them their board book Bible every time you use your Bible. When you read about Jesus, also show them Jesus in their book.

Young children have very short attention spans: know your child's personality and development. Establishing regular patterns is often helpful, both for timing of the lessons (example: while snuggling before bed each night) and also for how you structure those lessons (example: read Scripture first, then pray).


If family Bible times include children of varied age, it might be wise to choose only one short part during which you expect the youngest ones to participate. Clear expectations encourage growth, but only expect what children are developmentally capable of. Notice when they are engaged or tuned out; adjust accordingly. Perhaps you had planned to study a parable with the family, but the preschooler (expectation: try to pay attention during Bible study, share a prayer) has lost focus and is beginning to distract others. It's okay to end the listening part early while helping the preschooler respect others (rocking him in your arms might help for the minute it takes to end the lesson), let the preschooler be the first to pray, and then release him while you continue in-depth instruction that older ones are ready for. Many ways exist of adjusting to group and individual needs; as you practice adapting, you will find what works well for your situation.

Try It!

Wiggle Worms

Your preschool grandson likes to be with the big kids during Bible time—but today he is all energy. You want to complete the second part of a two-day lesson about David and Saul.

How can you incorporate a wiggly little one into the group lesson?

Teach him with a game:

"David ran from mean Saul" [stomp in place]… "but Father God kept him safe!" [swoop him high]

"And Father God keeps us safe!" [swoop again]

Expand it while he can: "God protects me from ______!"

[before new swoops]

Then let him go play while you study with the older ones.

Your active preschooler likes anything except books. You taught her older siblings the Bible during snuggle time, but this kiddo just isn't ready to focus while sitting still.

How can you use her active nature to teach Scripture?

Play an audio Bible or hymns.

Scripture doesn't have to be read. Jesus spoke when he taught.

Use activities:

…when playing with dolls, teach God's loving care.

…while gardening, teach creation and how faith grows.

​As children develop, they will become ready for more formal learning sessions. Remember that active learning is the student figuring out the answer with appropriate guidance rather than the teacher giving the answer. This method engages curiosity, which children have in abundance! If they aren't yet readers, they can still listen to Scripture and discuss it or draw a picture about it. As they start identifying letters and numerals, you can "race" them to find a chapter or verse number (slowly moving your finger down the page) or ask them for help finding the word "Jesus" when they know the letter "J." Simple activities such as these will gradually familiarize children with God's word and the Bible's structure.

Try It!

Teach Luke 5:12–15
Jesus heals a man from leprosy

First, read your Bible selection ahead of time.

Decide the main idea you want the child to learn.

Keep it simple: one idea is fine.

Add more thoughts as children's attention spans develop.

Read Luke 5:12–15.

What main concept do you want to teach?


God is able to help us.

If the child is ready for more…

…add that Jesus' miracles demonstrate he is God.

Instead of saying the concept, use questions to help students think and discover it themselves!

What "thinking questions" teach the main concept(s) in Luke 5:12–15?

Second, ask "thinking questions" directing the child to explore the main idea to figure out the answer.

"Why did the sick man go to Jesus?"​

"If Jesus helped him, can he help us?"

"Jesus wasn't a doctor. How did he heal him?"​

"Let's read John 20:30–31 to learn why Jesus has such power."

Children may respond in unexpected ways.

Answer the tangent, then redirect to the original lesson.

It's also okay to say you'll answer the new question later.

Suppose you ask, "Why did the sick man go to Jesus?" (expecting "Jesus could help").

Instead you hear, "I'm sad God let the man get sick," or, "Why is my goldfish orange?"

How could you respond?

CHILD: "I'm sad God let the man get sick."

YOU: "I'm sad, too. God says sickness happens because people rebelled against him. He uses sickness so we turn to him. Let's study that more tomorrow. Did this man's leprosy bring him to Jesus? Why did he go to him?"

Goldfish innocently swimming.

CHILD: "Why is my goldfish orange?"

YOU: "Because God chose its colors. God is so powerful he can heal sickness, too. Did the man with leprosy believe Jesus was powerful enough to heal him? How do you know?"

Invisible teaching—including adult attitudes—has major impact. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then daily living is worth a trillion. Be a God follower every day (patient, kind, honest, humble enough to apologize for your own wrongs, etc.). And talk about God. There's a big difference between teaching children good behavior because it's the vague "right thing" or because "God loved and saved us, so we also walk in his ways." Attitudes during Bible time matter, too. Do adults also ask and answer questions during devotions? What are your children silently learning from your own involvement in the word? Share your reaction to the lesson, take your turn praying aloud, and together with the young search Scripture for answers that you don't know.

Model that biblical growth is a lifelong pursuit.

The buttons below link to Bible teaching activities for young children. Use them as-is, adapt them for your family, or let them serve as springboard for your own ideas!

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