ARE BABIES AND TODDLERS TO YOUNG TO GROW SPIRITUALLY?
I have been asked many times are babies and toddlers to young to grow spiritually. According to scripture we are never to young to learn about God.
Parents may think that their little ones can’t learn and understand spiritual concepts like an older child. However, the truth is, that this early stage in life is a vital first step in a child’s spiritual growth.
Relationships are central to healthy emotional, physical and spiritual growth. Infants and toddlers bond with the parents, grandparents, teachers and other care caregivers who look after their physical and emotional needs. Infants and toddlers develop a sense of trust with adults because they care for their physical needs. Psychologist, Erick Erikson states that infants who successfully learn to trust develop hope. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” (NLT)
In the first two years of life, the foundational concepts of spiritual formation of trust and hope grow.
Nan and I are blessed to have three beautiful grandchildren at the time of this article. Graham is 4, Charlie is 18 months and Ellie is 2 weeks old. Every time we hold them we assure them of two things; Nana and Pops love them very much and God loves them even more. Many times when they are upset or crying we sing them songs about God’s love. It is amazing to see a smoothing calmness replace their agitated emotions. We have been singing a made up song to Graham since he was an infant called “special” at bedtime. It simply says, “Special, special Graham is very special God loves Graham”. We go through a whole list of who loves him and end with God loves Graham. Now when we put him to bed he asks for the “Special Song”. Singing simple little songs about God, Jesus and biblical characters plant the groundwork for future deeper spiritual growth.
In addition to singing songs of faith to your children start teaching them the language of faith. Talk about God and Jesus in your daily conversations with your infant and toddler. I was holding Charlie the other day and he saw a bird flying the sky. He pointed and (as best as a toddler can say bird) he said bird. My response was yes that is a bird and God made the birds. This conversation about birds will lead to a future conversation that God is the creator of all things.
I want to end this article by giving you 12 tips in helping to build spiritual growth in your infant and toddler.
1. Read to your infant and toddler about God and Jesus. Use board books with a lot of pictures to expand your conversation with them about God and Jesus.
2. Talk often about God and Jesus in your daily conversations.
3. Tell your infant and toddler constantly that Jesus loves them.
4. Use teachable moments to highlight spiritual truths.
5. As your toddler begins to develop their talking skills instill words of faith such as God, Jesus, the Bible and pray in their vocabulary.
6. Include infants and toddlers in spiritual activities such as prayer and church attendance.
7. Know that your infant and toddler really do learn in their age appropriate Life Groups and Children’s worship.
8. Include your infant and toddler when we have seasonal family worship services.
9. Include your infant and toddler when you have your prayer time with older siblings. My middle and youngest sons prayed to receive Jesus as their personal savior when I was having prayer time with my oldest son.
10. Pray with your infant and toddler and tell them that prayer is talking to God.
11. Make prayer a routine in your family’s daily life. Pray at meal times and have them say the prayer. Pray at bedtime to thank God for what they did during the day. Pray over the silly things in their life such as toys, animals and etc. Pray over the family members, extended family members and friends.
12. Remember that your child will discover God from infancy, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15, “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.”
I hope that these tips help you in teaching your infant and toddler about God and Jesus. Please know that Nan and I are available at anytime to help you with any question regarding the spiritual growth of your child.