As parents, one of the most important things we can do to fulfill this sacred obligation is to teach our children to love God.
How do they learn to love God?
By studying His word.
The scriptures teach us who God is, what He has done for us and what we can do to share His good news with others. As we study his word with our children and teach them to keep His commandments they will come to love Him. That is definitely easier said that done!
I remember when my oldest son was two, we would try to sit down for family scripture study or family home evening and he would literally run laps around the coffee table. I thought about giving up because what was the point?
Then one day he was trouncing up and down the stairs repeating in the most cheerful little voice "Jesus loves me!" My heart just melted. It was the confirmation I needed to keep trying.
Three boys later I learned that children (particularly little boys) learn by moving and what appears like inattention is actually a subconscious effort to occupy their little hands so they can listen. Yes, there's still chaos, but there is learning amidst the chaos.
Here are three things you can do to make studying the scriptures just a little more exciting!
1. Make it FUN
Kids love coloring and stickers so one easy way to make scripture study fun is to give them each their own hardback Bible and Book of Mormon, a set of colored pencils and stickers or sticky tabs to mark their favorite verses. (I used to be very adamant about not writing in books until I discovered that the only way to properly love a book is to make your mark in it.) The hardback scriptures are quite inexpensive but the relationship your children will form with these books is priceless. They love marking passages they find and they tend to read much longer and more attentively than they would if they were just handed the book and asked to read it.
If you want to take it a step further, you can color code verses by topic. For example, mark and tab all scriptures about "obedience" in yellow, "being kind" in green, etc.
Here are the tools we use for scripture marking:
- Prismacolor colored pencils and Staedtler Fineliner pens for older children or adults to make notes in the margins
For younger children I use my personal Bible and Book of Mormon that I have marked which makes it is very easy to choose a scripture based on a certain principle I want to focus on. They also enjoy choosing a colored tab and having me read to them. Here is a picture of my Bible:
And my almost 8 year old's first Book of Mormon. He spent two hours coming up with his categories, finding and placing his first few tabs.
2. Keep it SHORTRemember the attention span of children is less than 15 minutes! I want studying the word of God to be something my children love doing, not something that is a dreaded chore. Keeping it short ensures that you stop while the momentum is high rather than waiting until they get bored.
I read the Bible each morning with my children as we sit around the breakfast table. Often I will stop right in the middle of an exciting story, like when Joseph's brothers throw him into the pit. My boys will beg me to keep going, sometimes I will but usually I don't and they are so excited to hear what happens the next morning (even though they know the stories by heart)!
3. Make it REALThe scriptures can be exciting if we let the stories come alive. While children's readers are nice for young children to read on their own, there is nothing that can replace the beautiful language of the scriptures and the pictures those words will paint in their minds as well as the feelings in their hearts.
|Acting out The Christmas Story|
When we read scriptures as a family each evening, we use the Gospel Art Kit to let the kids look at the pictures while we read the scriptures associated with that picture. Often times we will act out scriptures. Our boys love this, especially when cardboard swords are involved!
Another way to make them real is to use the scriptures when your children have a problem. If they feel picked on, talk about how Nephi must have felt when he was picked on by his brothers so bad an angel had to come and tell them to shape up. Or Joseph who's brothers hated him so much they sold him into slavery. If they are being made fun of (or making fun of others) read about Noah and how he must have felt being mocked for obeying God's commandments. Or Jesus himself, betrayed by his friends and publicly humiliated. If they have trouble choosing good friends, the Bible has a lot to say about the kind of friends we should choose and what behavior is and is not acceptable to engage in with those friends.
Knowing that people for thousands of years have had the same feelings, struggles and challenges they have and learning how they overcame them is a great learning opportunity and creates personal relationships with those passages and people. It shows them who real heroes are and where they can turn for help, advice and peace.
Nothing worth anything ever comes easy but remember the promise in Proverbs 22:6 "train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
While her roles as teacher/chef/travel agent/photographer etc. necessitated the closure of her blog Our Intentional Life, she still shares her love of photography at http://freeldstemplepictures.com.
Be sure to check out Cranial Hiccups today for another post on the Family Proclamation.