Praying with children under 5

I am a mum of a little girl under five, in fact she is just 18 months old. When I held this precious little wrinkled bundle in my arms for the first time, I can’t say I considered how I might begin to pray with her. When I was up during night feeds, watching her learn to hold her head up on her own or feeding her that first spoonful of pureed carrot, I wasn’t thinking about how I could help inspire a faith that lasts.

But as we got through those first six months, I began to see past the baby stage and see her as a little girl. This was when I began to think about what I wanted to be intentional about, the things that would make a lasting impact on her as she grows up. She comes to church with us on Sundays, and I hope this will be something that she will grow to love. She has a toddler Bible that we read to her before bed each night, but prayer always seemed to be a difficult one.

How do I teach a little girl, who cannot say much more than ‘It’s a cat or duck’, to pray? Is there any point in even trying when often it seems like she doesn’t understand something as simple as the word no? But I’ve begun to realise that one of the most important ways of building faith in our children is simply by modelling it. She copies me when I dust – flapping her little duster around with me. She tries to brush her own teeth and hair because she has seen me doing it.

Why would I approach prayer any differently? It suddenly seemed quite simple! So, now we pray the same little prayer as we cuddle at bedtime, we say grace before eating, we even pray very simply when she has taken a tumble.

I have recently made a prayer book for her – a plain book filled with pictures of her family and friends. We flick through and look at the pictures, and pray for the person in each picture. She does a lot more pointing and turning the pages, but as she grows she can be more and more involved.

It’s amazing how as we consistently do these little things, we’re modelling prayer before she is even able to speak. My hope is that she will begin to join in and that it will become as natural as breathing.

I look forward to transitioning from me praying to her taking over. I look forward to teaching her to listen to God, not just talk! And I look forward to encouraging her to pray when she needs support, or to thank God when something lovely as happened. We aren’t at this point yet, but this has been a great place to start.

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