My grandbabies love playing in water. It’s their all-time favorite summer activity! A few years back I created a ‘water container’ that contains all the things that can enhance as well as spark their imagination while playing with water. When they were toddlers, they enjoyed placing a dry sponge in water. I was amazed at the amount of time they spent hovering around it, watching it absorb the water, while wholeheartedly giggling and laughing. I was overcome with joy at their ability to find delight in the trivial, and sad at how one day, like me, they would question what happened to their diminished sense of wonder.
But I know that their sense of awe serves a very strong purpose during these years. Brain development suggests that the first 9 months, followed by the next 3 years are the most critical. Everything that a person needs, to be all that they can be, happens during these years. The brain is storing information that will be used later. In other words, their brains are sponges - soaking and storing! Their deep sense of wonder makes this world their classroom. Every moment and experience is a teachable moment. Information input to the brain will never be as optimal as it is during this phase, and this happens through their five senses. So how can we capitalize on what is naturally happening during this phase?
First, discover what’s missing….
It’s easy to think of the “how-to’s” we teach every day – how to eat with a fork, how to play safely, how to brush your teeth, how to get dressed, how to walk, how to talk… However, what is often overlooked in the crazy pace of parenthood are the spiritual needs of our children. Maybe it’s because these needs are invisible. Experts say that children start living out their values at the age of two. Their sense of wonder coupled with their spongy brain makes this time frame the easiest time to shape their beliefs because they’re teachable.
If you had asked me as a young mom to add something to my schedule I would’ve had an instant, ugly breakdown. Six weeks into my motherhood journey I was aghast to discover that my supermom cape didn’t come with an ‘Energizer Battery’. Looking back, I wish someone had opened my heart and mind to understanding Deuteronomy 6:7-8. There is freedom is knowing we don’t need to find additional times in our day to pass on our faith to our children, but instead, we do it as we do life with them each day.
We all wake up, eat, sleep, drive and hang together. We all do those things in the rhythm of our day, and God is just telling us to maximize them by incorporating faith into your ‘beats’:
Talk to your baby/preschooler about God during these ‘beats’. I have found that bath, drive/walk, play and cuddle times are the easiest.
Avoid feeling overwhelmed by choosing one thing to do each week. Be intentional about adding more, over time.
Point out and link faith to everyday things. ‘God made (name of person or thing).
Keep it short and sweet. Drop the details.
Pick and share a few Biblical truths – ‘God made you’ and ‘God loves you’.
Repeat truths and stories over and over again. You might get bored with repetition (I do!), but the brain thrives on repetition to make permanent connections.
Keep it informal.
Model it – faith is taught not caught. Model praying and reading your Bible. ntroduce them to love (not anger) – God is love. So how does a baby or preschooler define love? I posed t his very question to the parents at one of my parenting classes. They were stumped. Babies and preschoolers are sensory learners – they’re asking what love feels, sounds, smells, tastes and looks like? In light of this, what does your family life convey? It’s easy to assume that babies don’t understand what’s happening in the far corner of your homes – but studies show that their lack of inhibitory transmitters makes them more acutely aware, as well as sensitive to everything around them compared to adults.o Their spongy brain is soaking it in. As parents, when we lovingly embrace their physical and emotional needs, we help them understand love and introduce them to their Heavenly Father. With kind words, we introduce them to God’s love. With warm hugs, we show them what God’s love feels like. When we feed them we demonstrate God’s care and provision. When we protect them, we illustrate God’s protection….
At drive time, listen to children's worship music and sing together.
At cuddle time, read a book, share Biblical truths and pray.
At walk time, talk about God's creation. Stop, watch, listen and feel nature together.
At play and bath time, reenact Bible stories using figurines.
Parents, no one has more potential, including the church, to impact your children spirituality more than you do. Your time is valuable, but limited. Your intentionality can reap a harvest, especially during the first 4 years of your child’s life. So how will you use your daily beats to convince your little ones that God made them, God loves them, and He is with them?