One night our son Isaac, age 2½, decided that he wanted to be continually thrown into the air. He would run over to me and say, “Do one more.” In his world this means I should scoop him up and throw him up into the air. After catching him and putting him back on the ground, he would run “flying” around the room.
As we were playing, my wife and I decided that Isaac should recite one Bible verse each time before I would throw him into the air. It was unorthodox, but he engaged and we were able to go through seven or eight verses that he had been working on over the past several weeks.
So have you ever thought about helping your toddler memorize Bible verses? Don’t be afraid to start working with them at a young age. Toddlers are a lot smarter than what we give them credit. They can master their favorite songs, repeat stories from their books, and understand the entirety of the word “No.” Why not help them learn the Word of God?
Memorizing Scripture is an important step to gluing the Word of God to a child’s heart. In the Bible, Israelite parents were instructed to teach the commands of God to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7). The same principle applies to us today.
Like planting a seed in good soil, teaching a child the Word of God at an early age will help prepare a firm rooting with plenty of nutrients for life. It can be done.
My wife and I decided to start teaching our son memory verses around his second birthday. It was difficult at first, but the moment I heard Isaac recite his first full Bible verse made me the proudest dad on the planet.
We started with Romans 12: 9-10. Admittedly, it was a little haphazard at first. Isaac would goof around or act like he wasn’t paying any attention. But finally after a few weeks he remembered the verses in their entirety.
Here are a few tips I learned from our early stages of teaching our toddler to memorize Bible verses. Feel free to try them out for yourself or add your own unique style. The key is just to be intentional and let your toddler take it from there.
1. It takes two. Technically, a child can learn a Bible verse with the help of only one parent, but it goes so much better when both Mom and Dad are actively engaged in the learning process. Understandingly, Mom may have a more active role because she may have more time with the kids, but this doesn’t excuse Dad from the process.
Be intentional. Your toddler needs to see both parents modeling a discipline of Scripture memory. Both parents don’t need to be present when practicing, but it is helpful to create a memorization plan that the family can work on together.
2. Don’t dumb it down. The Bible is full of words that are difficult for toddlers to grasp (they are even difficult for adults). After all, it wasn’t written as a children’s fairy tale. The words are rich and teach us what it means to follow Christ. This is not an easy process, but I believe it would be an injustice to our kids to water it down. Remember, they are much smarter than what we realize.
For example, look at Romans 12:9, “Abhor what is evil.” Abhor is a funny word. Maybe it is only funny to me because my wife teases me for how I pronounce it. The meaning of it is also hard. I guarantee abhor was not the first word on your mind this morning. It means "to regard with extreme repugnance or aversion." A toddler feels that way about taking a nap. Teach your kids the hard words. If you don’t know what it means, take the opportunity to learn for yourself while teaching them. Our families don’t need a watered down Bible, they need the full Truth.
3. Repetition is important. A major way people learn is by repeating an action over and over and over and over. Repetition doesn’t mean boring, however.
Memorizing Scripture can be done in creative ways. It works better for some families to practice at a specific time every day. Another option is to make note cards of each verse and put them on your table. At every meal you can work on it as a family. Or you could make a memory verse part of the bedtime routine. Kids thrive on structure; why not add a verse in with brushing teeth, goodnight hugs, and prayers? The more we practice, the easier it will become.
4. Repetition is important. A major way people learn is by repeating an action over and over and over and over ... you get the idea. Okay, point made, moving on ...
5. Use your arms and legs. Add motions to the verse you are trying to memorize. Kids love motions and if your child is anything like mine, he is constantly moving anyway. So why not use this to your advantage? Make up silly hand, arm, leg, head, or body motions to help describe what you are learning.
And do the motions with them. Toddlers are copy cats. This is a great way to get the whole family involved as you dance around on the living room floor reciting the verse.
6. Mark it on your wall. Most kids, and adults for that matter, are visual learners. Finding a creative way to put the verse in an everyday spot is a big help. Here are some creative ideas: Frame a verse and put it on your wall. Or write it in chalk on décor in your house. Write it on the mirror with a dry erase marker. Scripture templates are available online for you to print and display in your house. My wife, Emily, created a subway art canvas of Romans 12 on Shutterfly to hang on our living room wall. This has been a great reminder for our family.
7. Join the fun. Who said memorizing Bible verses has to be boring? I think kids grow up thinking the Bible is boring because of the attitudes they see from their parents.
The key is making it fun. And it’s not fun unless the whole family is involved. It's up to us, Dad and Mom, to make the Bible come alive to our children.
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