The first time I read the Bible to my oldest child, he tried to eat it.
Mind you, he was barely a year old and was teething, and the colorful Bible board book I was holding did resemble every colorful object in his life—his sippy cup, his Exersaucer, and his plastic keys.
Still, I’ll never forget the sight of him trying to place the pictures of Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, and the risen Christ into his mouth.
“We don’t eat the Bible,” I told him. “We read it.”
But maybe he was onto something, because the Bible does compare our need for God and his Word to drinking milk (1 Peter 2:2) and water (John 4:14) and eating bread (John 6:35).
I now have four children (ages 10, 6, 6, and 2), and I’ve always looked for new ways to teach them about the things of God. That includes teaching them Scripture, even if they are not yet reading.
Are you a parent, grandparent, guardian of a newborn, toddler, or young child? If so, then try these ideas to get God’s Word into them.
1. Read to them.
It’s the most obvious way to do it, and it can also be the most effective. Don’t wait until they are interactive and talking. Establish a good habit early, even as a newborn. Some parents and grandparents prefer to read an actual Bible, while others like the wording and layout of Scripture-themed board books. Whatever the case, try incorporating pictures, which naturally attract the attention of little ones.
A Brown University School of Medicine study found that children ages 18 to 25 months old who had been read to regularly for a full year could say and understand more words than those who had not. But the spiritual benefits are equally significant. You’ll be establishing a pattern that could have an eternal impact, perhaps even reaching multiple generations.
2. Tell them stories.
Jesus told stories. God commanded Hebrew parents to tell their children stories of God’s great works (Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Psalm 145:4). That applies to us, too. The Bible is the greatest story ever told, and God wants us to pass it on.
Storytelling is not the same as reading. Have you ever told your kids or grandkids about your childhood? About your wedding day? About an historical event that you witnessed? Then you likely used elements of storytelling—the oral art of telling stories, often with a theatrical element.
The Bible is rich with great stories: David and Goliath, Jonah and the big fish, Jesus healing a blind man. The best thing about storytelling is it can take place anywhere—even in a car. Here are a few tips: Be expressive. Involve kids. Use props and costumes. Above all, have fun.
3. Sing God’s Word.
God wants us to sing to him and about him. In Ephesians 5:18b-19 (ESV), God even tells us what to sing: “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”
Why does God want us to sing? Perhaps it’s because God created music and enjoys singing (Zephaniah 3:17). Or maybe it’s because song conveys emotions that words alone cannot. Or perhaps it’s because it aids us in memorizing long forms of text.
Whatever the reason, I know that my children love to sing and that it has helped them easily remember Bible verses that otherwise would be challenging. Sometimes we use recorded music. Sometimes we create our own songs. Either way, they have a blast.
4. Take advantage of daily life.
Whatever happens during your day, there’s a Bible passage to apply. If you and your child or grandchild see an act of kindness, then discuss Ephesians 4:32. If you watch forgiveness in action, then mention 1 John 1:9. If self-control is an issue, then talk about Proverbs 25:28. If you’re folding clothes, washing dishes or changing oil, then try 1 Corinthians 10:31. You can also try making connections with stories or parables of Jesus.
With time, this sort of approach allows for a natural discussion of Scripture in your family and demonstrates that God’s Word applies to all of life.
5. Use audio drama.
Television dominates our screen-crazed culture, but audio drama can play a unique and beneficial role in your child or grandchild’s life. My younger kids enjoy read-along Bible stories as well as theater that is Scripture-centric.
Read-along books help kids discover the Bible as they learn to read, while stand-alone audio theater unlocks their imagination, forcing them to “paint” the biblical picture in their minds. And if they listen to the story multiple times—which often happens—they’ll walk away with the Bible-based script virtually memorized. For a parent or grandparent, that’s mission accomplished.
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