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.