Phil scooped up his little daughter on his lap and asked, “Emily, who made you?”
Emily replied in her sweet, toddler singsong voice, “God.”
“And where does God live?” queried Phil.
“Up in da sky!” replied Emily, lifting her pudgy hands over her head and wriggling her fingers.
Such was my first lesson more than 20 years ago on teaching a preschooler about God. Phil’s questions didn’t end there, of course, and with each question, Emily instantly and cheerfully responded with simplicity and truth. She had spent time with her daddy before, discussing where the trees, flowers, puppies and squirrels all came from. Emily knew from a very early age exactly who is the source of all life, including hers.
Step by step, the process of teaching a child about God unfolds, as the Bible teaches us to talk about God’s ways “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7 Deuteronomy 6:7And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
American King James Version×, New International Version). But what does that look like in the home of a preschooler? And more importantly, what is the parents’ goal in teaching their child?
Start with love
Knowledge about God is necessary, but what does God really want from each of us? At its heart, our calling is about coming to know God, loving God and learning to obey and trust Him with our entire being. Deuteronomy 6:7 Deuteronomy 6:7And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
American King James Version×is immediately preceded by “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6 Deuteronomy 6:5-6  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart:
American King James Version×, NIV).
As parents, then, our goal is to influence both the hearts and minds of our children toward God. The first step is letting our children know that God loves them. As 1 John 4:19 1 John 4:19We love him, because he first loved us.
American King James Version×says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” How simple is that? And it can be as easy as just saying so.
What started as a sweet game during a cuddling moment between a mother and her toddler son emerged into a lasting reminder of God’s immeasurable love, and it goes like this:
Mom: “I love you…”
Son: “I love you…”
Mom: “I love you more…”
Son: “I love you more!”
Mom: “I love you the most…”
Son: “But I love you infinity the most!”
Mom: “Mmm, that’s tough to beat, but you know what? God loves you even more than that, and He loved you before you were even born!”
The little boy, now in grade school, still loves that game, and while he has to concede defeat in the game, you can bet he knows that you can’t beat God’s love. (Yes, that little boy is my son.)
With the foundation of God’s love, a preschooler then begins to correctly process all kinds of information that teaches just who this loving God is. And it’s up to the parents to bring that information forward in bite-sized tidbits in a joyful and accurate way, as Phil did with Emily.
Stories, songs, CDs, DVDs and more
This can be in the form of conversations that, with a toddler, may last all of just a few seconds, and with an older preschooler, can become quite intricate. Parents can also use age-appropriate Bible stories, songs and Bible-lesson DVDs.
A word of caution—it can be tricky finding CDs and DVDs that are completely accurate, and parents should carefully screen them for wrong concepts. Bible stories are a bit easier to work with, though these also require careful screening.
Years ago we purchased several children’s Bible stories in verse that were both entertaining and astoundingly accurate except for a line or two. So with the help of “Wite-Out” and my husband’s ingenious rhyming ability, we were able to delete the inaccuracies and rewrite those lines in accordance with God’s Word.
Those little books provided many hours of enjoyable reading and rereading with our young children (now college-age), who can recite many of the stories word-for-edited-word to this day!
If you decide to use aids such as books and CDs, it’s a good idea to hire a babysitter and visit your local Bible bookstore alone so you can browse at leisure. Some Bible bookstores have a children’s area where you can listen to CDs with headphones and possibly even view sample DVDs before purchasing. Alternatively, you can ask about the store’s return policy so that you can preview at home, or you may be able to borrow some from your local library to preview before purchasing.
Teaching throughout the day
With or without aids, keep in mind the instruction in Deuteronomy to create teaching moments regularly throughout the day.
Mornings can be started with lots of snuggles and a brief prayer of thanks for another beautiful day—or, as the case may be, thanks for the rain to give the birds fresh bath water! A stay-at-home mom can incorporate lessons about God on a morning walk—just how do those ants know how to build an anthill anyway?
Active preschoolers who love to sing and dance can bounce around the living room to tunes with godly themes. A child can offer a lunchtime prayer, or at least say “Amen” to Mom’s. He can drift off for naptime sleep with a soothing hymn of lullaby.
And when he wakes up and wanders into the living room to see you reading God’s Word in the only moment of peace and solitude you’ve had that day, your example of looking to the Bible for guidance will be permanently etched into his mind and his heart.
A family evening dinner preceded with a prayer of thanks, a story before bedtime with Dad, and the moments of cuddles and love that only you can share with your child finish off his day with assurance that God’s way is pretty good stuff. In these ways your child will absorb positive values and attitudes from you.
Next time you scoop up your child on your lap, with a tickle, a snuggle, a hug and a kiss, keep in mind how much God loves your little one. As you lift him or her up in your arms, remember how Jesus did the same so many years ago in the days just before His death. As He did then, He might say to you, “Let your child come to Me, and do not hinder him, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (based on Luke 18:16 Luke 18:16But Jesus called them to him, and said, Suffer little children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×). GN