Teaching young children about prayer is more difficult than it may seem at first. The brains of children under the age of seven are not developed enough to understand the abstractness of a god or deity in the same way as an older child or adult does. Although this is the case, it is not impossible to start to teach children how to be thankful for gifts and good things that happen to them. With this said; it is appropriate to start teaching young children the simple concepts of thank you, I’m sorry and right and wrong. The ability to understand these kinds of concepts are the underpinning of the later development of prayer.
One idea, for how to start a conversation about the existence of a higher being, a god or a deity, is to make a comparison about talking to someone on the phone. You can’t see them, but you can talk to them. Taking this thought a bit deeper, you can explain to them to think the person they are talking to on the phone is someone who loves them very, very much like a grandparent, aunt, uncle or to whomever the child has an especially close and loving relationship.
Another idea, for how to help your child understand prayer, is to help them make a Prayer Box. To make this you need a food container with a lid that will seal tight, lots of craft supplies for decorating the Prayer Box and knotted pretzels. Knotted pretzels are used because they look like arms folded in prayer. Some items to consider for decorating the Prayer Box include: feathers, beads, glitter, buttons, stickers and markers. Help the young child use a hot glue gun to attach the decorations. When the Prayer Box is done, help your child count seven pretzels and place them inside the Prayer Box. Each day of the week, at bedtime, let your child take out one pretzel and talk about something that happened to them during the day that they liked or are thankful for. They can eat teh pretzel then or save for another time.
One last idea, for an activity to teach your child how to pray, is to take them on a Prayer Walk. A Prayer Walk is structured for children to look around nature and find things they think are beautiful and were made by a god or a deity of your cultural choice. Explain to your child that your god or deity made everything they can see in nature and that what they think is beautiful is a special gift for them. Have your child collect the special gifts they find on the Prayer Walk and put them into a quart sized food baggie that seals tightly. When you return home, help your child glue their gifts to a piece of card-stock cut to the size of the baggie. When they are glued, help your child write a simple note to thank the god or deity for making the beautiful items. Place the card-stock back in the baggie, squeeze all of the air out of it and seal it. This makes a page to put in a book or you might want to use it as a Prayer card to look at each day.
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