Preschoolers are such a fun age. They are eager to learn and want to do everything by themselves. This is the perfect time to begin teaching your child about our Catholic faith and to start planting simple seeds in the soil of their hearts as they grow in their understanding.
As parents, we are our children’s first educators. It is our moral responsibility to cultivate their faith. My daughter started asking LOTS of questions, including “how” and “why” questions around three years old. At that age, I started talking more about who Jesus was and was surprised at how much she could comprehend! While they may not be ready to understand big faith concepts, they will be able to understand basic facts about our faith. The beauty of this age is that they are open and eager to learn!
How can we begin to teach our children to become good Christians?
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Here are 15 practical tips on how you can introduce faith to your preschoolers.
1. Read Bible stories together.
Replace those Disney stories with reading stories from the Bible – Old Testament and New Testament. I am loving this Children’s Bible. We have quite a few bibles and read them over and over. Talk about how much God desires to have a relationship with us. Show them that nothing is impossible with God.
2. Teach the Sign of the Cross.
As soon as your child can say her first words, start showing them how to make the sign of the cross. In the beginning, let them watch you make the sign of the cross (in the opposite direction) so that they can learn how to cross themselves in the right direction (from left to right).
3. Encourage your child to pray.
Prayer is an absolutely fundamental part of the Catholic faith. What exactly is prayer? It is having an intimate conversation with God. Let your children know that they can speak to God at any time, as if they were talking to a friend. God hears our prayers and wants to be close to us. Set aside prayer time together as a family but also give them opportunities to pray independently. We love these prayer starters from Catholic Icing.
What prayers do I teach?
You can start with the common prayers. Using these books, we started with reading the Our Father and Hail Mary books every night until my daughter had each page memorized. From there, add a new prayer at a time depending on your child’s willingness.
Establish a prayer routine.
Children thrive on routine. Make it a point to pray at the same time every day and it will form a basis for a lifelong prayer habit. You could let them pick the prayer they want to say. By establishing a habit of prayer, it will teach them to turn to God for strength in times of need. These are some suggestions on a simple prayer routine:
- Morning: “Thank you, God, for giving us this day; help us to be like Jesus in all we think, do, and say. Amen.”
- Daytime: The Angelus prayer. Grace before meals.
- Bedtime: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Angel of God.
- “Thank you God for…”
- “I’m sorry for… Please forgive me.”
- “Please help me with…”
- Personal intentions.
What if my kid doesn’t want to pray?
This is completely normal. Even adults go through moments when we don’t want to pray. Don’t force faith on your kids to avoid creating negative associations. The goal is to help your child develop a relationship with God and not push them away. I don’t make my children join in prayer if they don’t want to, but I do expect them to sit quietly.
4. Weave prayer into your day.
Pray out loud so your children can see. They will come to see prayer as a normal staple of life. There are many opportunities to do this throughout the day:
- Every time you drive by an accident
- When you see/hear an ambulance
- Driving past a cemetery
- When you see beauty in nature, praising God’s creation
- Giving thanks to God
5. Light candles during prayer time and then blow them out.
Any action to make something more kid friendly and fun, do it! My kids love it when we dim the lights to light the candles for prayer time. It instantly grabs their attention!
6. Read Catholic books.
I don’t want to rely on formal religious education for my children to learn about the faith. Go out and look for good Catholic books and keep them in your home. Here are some of my favorites:
- Tell Me about the Catholic Faith for Small Children
- My Sunday Gospel – easy to read text for every Sunday and feast day
- Baptism Day
- My First Book of Saints
7. Pray the Rosary together.
For small children, praying the full rosary is something we can gradually work towards. As little children have short attention spans, start with a decade at a time. Let them take turns leading the prayer. Make a poster rosary and move a small Mary statue on each Hail Mary. We want our children to get to know Mary as she will only help bring us closer to her Son.
8. Teach gratitude.
Most of us teach our kids to say “thank you” to others, but what about giving thanks to God? It’s so funny and endearing listening to my daughter giving her thanks (toys and candy). At this age, we just want to instill in them an awareness of the many blessings we have.
9. Create family traditions around the liturgical year.
The Catholic faith is rich with feast days and traditions from all over the world! Start with picking a few meaningful feast days and add new traditions into your home. Your children will remember them year after year. Toys and gifts come and go but memories created from family togetherness will last a lifetime. Here are a few that we do:
- Advent – lighting the Advent wreath
- Christmas – baking a cake and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus
- Celebrating patron saint days and name days – food and dessert
- Celebrating Baptism Anniversaries
- Holy Thursday – washing of the feet
- May Crowning for Mama Mary
- St. Nicholas – stuffing shoes
10. Introduce your children to the lives of the Saints.
Saints are real life heroes who have dealt with hardships and were able to prevail. They are examples of faith in action. Your children will know that Saints were real people that worked hard to become extraordinary. This will inspire them to grow stronger in their faith. On feast days, we read a story about the saint from this book. We also love watching Saints movies from the CCC of America.
11. Take your kids to Mass.
I know – easier said than done, especially with little ones! Going to church every Sunday whether we feel like it or not will teach our kids the importance of it. It helps when we can explain what is happening in the Mass. We have a subscription to the monthly Mass Box, which I highly recommend! My daughter LOVES doing the weekly “Jesus crafts” and I believe it helps her to be more attentive during mass.
12. Sing children’s bible songs.
One of the easiest ways to introduce faith to your kids is through song.
13. Bless yourselves with Holy water
Bless yourselves with Holy water at night before bed while making the sign of the cross. Keeping Holy Water at home reminds us of our baptismal promises and will expel any evil that is in your home. Before bed, I also make a little cross on their foreheads with my thumb and say, “May God bless you and protect you.”
14. Tell them how much Jesus loves us.
As parents, we can help our children to understand that God created us and the universe out of love. Lately, my four year old has been asking lots of questions about the crucifix and why Jesus died. I explained in the simplest way that God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to save us so that we can go to heaven.
15. Teach your children by example.
Don’t expect your child to do something you aren’t already doing yourself. Your example is more powerful than you realize. Let your child hear you praying out loud, see you reading the bible, and making the sign of the cross. Your children are absorbing more than we know. Through the sacrament of matrimony, we have been given special graces to educate our children.
My kid doesn’t seem to understand, is it normal?
Totally normal! Often times I have this perfect image in my mind on how I hope something will go, then my kids end up acting up a storm! Set realistic expectations according to your child’s age. Whether it’s in group prayer or sitting through mass, remember that this rambunctious age is just a phase and it will get better over time.
On a personal note
I know that the Holy Spirit is working in our family through our children. Perhaps that is why God put me in charge of these little lives. I feel an immense responsibility to do my best to tell them all about Christ and his abundant love and mercy. At the same time, I am strengthening my own relationship with Christ as I catechize my children.
I hope these tips will help and inspire you to introduce our Catholic faith to your little ones. It’s never too late to start, no matter how old they are. They are absorbing more than we realize so keep it up!
Do you have any tips on sharing the faith with your kids? Let me know in the comments below!
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