Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Reading the Bible with Babies

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
When our eldest was a tiny baby, I remember having a conversation with some other new mothers about another family in the church who had a quiet time with each of their children every day. The general feeling was one of surprise, and a consensus that this was a high standard that we wouldn't expect to manage.

Now, however, I am surprised that we were surprised!

I've written elsewhere about why we make teaching the Bible a priority, and about out aims in parenting young children. This post is about the practicalities of making reading the Bible with young children a fundamental part of the day.

So - how does it work in practice? I've broken it down into babies as one group, and toddlers/pre-schoolers as another. The reality is that every child is different and as parents we need to be wise as to how we teach them, but hopefully this will give you a rough idea of what we have done.

Babies (up to about 18months/2 years old):
So, if I had a tiny baby again, what would I say to myself about how to start reading the Bible with my baby?

I'd say start now. If you want to get into the habit of reading the Bible with your children, it is never too young to start. (It is also never too late; new habits can be adopted into a family at any time!)
There are lots of age appropriate, quality resources that we can use with our children. If your child is at the stage of listening to/chewing board books, then use some baby Bible board books.

Repetition is good! At this age, a child will usually be happy to have the same story every day. That's just fine. They will be learning, bit by bit, truth about God. They are also learning the habit of listening to the Bible each day. As they get bigger, you can add a new story, or rotate through a few.
Resources for babies:

This is just a few of the many books available, but ones we have used and particularly like:

Always Near Me by Susie Poole (A version of Psalm 139)
God has Power, God Never Changes and God is Kind (and others!) by Carine Mackenzie
The Beginner's Bible

Once they are ready, I'd move on to a variety of children's Bibles. We have always used a number, rotating through them. We do this because no children's Bible can really reflect the real Bible. All of them have weaknesses, such as neglecting whole genres of the Bible (the prophets usually only get a page or two, and wisdom literature rarely gets any time!). If we mix it up, we can mitigate this a little by using Bibles with different strengths.

Once they are ready, we begin to use a real Bible with our children. With our eldest, we began when we realised he could understand the short Bible verses in our advent calendar! Short verses or short sections of narrative work well, depending on your child.

Resources for toddlers/pre-schoolers:

Again, there are many Bibles available, but we particularly like these:

The Beginner's Bible A good first toddler Bible.
Beginning With God by Jo Boddam Whetham and Alison Mitchell. These are booklets which accompany The Beginner's Bible. Each page has suggested activities and discussion questions suitable for very young children, plus a sticker.
The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm and Gail Schoonmaker. I LOVE this Bible; it traces the story of the Bible as one big story. It is particularly clear on how the Bible points to Jesus. The illustrations also help to reinforce this.
My First Bible - which is from Marks and Spencer, and is surprisingly good! It is good at giving more detailed versions of the stories, which is helpful.
The International Children's Bible - a clear children's translation. This is the first proper translation we have used with our children.

Now we are that family! We take a few minutes each day to read the Bible with each of our children.

I'm convinced that this is a vital part of bringing our children up to know the Lord. Also, in reality it doesn't take all that long, and once a routine is established it happens very naturally. Bible reading is a normal part of the day for our children.


  1. It is a long time since we have had a child of this age but it is always surprising how soon little children can start to memorise the Bible. We have found that often short verses can be learned between 2 and 3, of course, with loads and loads of repetition.

    1. I am always surprised how much they can remember. That said, learning verses is something we need to do more of! We tend to go in phases with memorisation (and we are doing some at the moment) when we should probably be learning some most of the time.