How to Read Scriptures with Small Children
Reading scriptures with children. We often hear jokes about it in general conference or other church meetings. That’s because it’s not an easy task. In fact, sometimes it’s laughably difficult.
In his 2009 general conference talk, Elder David A. Bednar taught that we should be more consistent with family prayer, scripture study and family home evening because that is what our children will remember when they’re older.
So we need to consider how to make family scripture study more enjoyable for children. If your children enjoy the activity, it will be much easier to get into the habit and sustain it over time. To help, we’ve put together some ideas for engaging even the squirmiest of two-year-olds:
1. Keep it simple
We adults and our teenagers tend to read a full chapter in a single sitting. But it’s just too much for most small children. Try reading just a few verses a day. Take the time to stop and make sure they understand all the words or principles. In your explanations, use short sentences. Bear a simple testimony. Even in a short period of time children can feel the Spirit.
2. Listen for common phrases or specific words
Help your children recognize words or phrases that are repeated often. If a full phrase is too much, ask them to listen for just one word. For example, each time they hear the word “Nephites,” have them raise their hands and repeat the word. This will help your kids get familiar with the language of the scriptures, and it’ll help them listen too.
3. Use music
Music is a fantastic way to teach children. They’re eager to learn about Jesus Christ, and music can help with this. It invites the Spirit and will make your home a happy place to be. Try beginning scripture study with songs like “Book of Mormon Stories,” “Scripture Power” or “Search, Ponder and Pray.” Primary songs about specific scripture stories can also enhance scripture study, like “Nephi’s Courage” and “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.”
4. Tell the stories
While it’s important for kids to hear the actual language of the scriptures, sometimes it’s hard to understand. You might want to consider skipping certain verses or chapters and instead summarize them using pictures or tell the story in your own, simple words. If you do this, at least show them where in the scriptures the story is. This will help them make a connection between the scriptures and what you are teaching and telling.
5. Focus on the lesson of the story
Let’s face it – kids love stories. And toddlers definitely love pictures. So to keep the kids engaged, you may want to try to make scripture reading like story time. Try holding up a picture of the scripture story that you are reading about. Ask the children to summarize what they already know about the story you’re about to read before you start. Be sure to sum up reading by explaining and making sure they understand the moral of the story. It may even help some children to draw a picture of part of the story or act out certain parts.
The most important part of scripture study is to help your children feel the Spirit and become familiar with the scriptures. If they know the stories, they will have a strong foundation for future gospel learning, and be able to share the stories with others.