We asked some of our mamas, “How do you teach your child to pray?” Following are their inspiring answers. Please share with us what has worked with you!
I’ve always encouraged the kids to join us for prayer. Even if they just come to sit and play with a toy. At around 5 yrs old I actively start saying the words of salah during play time, bedtime, or in the car. Especially the tahiyat. That seems to be the hardest for them. I also, slightly raise my voice during the sunnah prayer so that they can hear and see which words go with which position. At six years old, when they seem more interested in joining the salah, usually to thank Allah for a toy or ask for something special, I try and teach them acceptable behaviors during salah. Behaviors like, try and stand still, try not to giggle or make others laugh, try and focus on communicating /talking with Allah instead of looking out the window, don’t walk in front of others etc. Surprisingly, they do learn some of it. Staying focused is even hard for most adults.
A few months before their seventh birthday, we start to plan a very special salah party. We may do a small family “Thank You Allah” party for them during other birthdays, but for their seventh we plan something VERY special. We tell them that at seven years old, Allah asks us to teach you how to pray. It is a very special time in your life. For my son, we planned a weekend at Niagara Falls and many family members drove in to celebrate with us. I bought him a post card from the Falls wishing him a very happy life as a Muslim who prays to Allah. He uses it as a bookmark. It warms my heart every time I see the card.
When we returned home, we stood together and went through each position of salah. With all the prep, he knew most of it. Alhamdullilah it was an easy transition. I pray my children will fondly remember this important time in their life. Wa Allahu Alam.
K shares with us:
It all started when they were infants. They would see my husband and I praying, and crawl by us and make sujud with us. They would eagerly await the time when we raise our finger for Shahada during the long sitting after every two rakat, and then giggle from joy when they caught our finger! … It was their silent play time that gradually turned into a silent standing and whispering time, and evolved in joining us in full prayer with their mutterings of whatever they had memorized from the Qur’an.
Then they turned eight and all went down the drain! At least that is what it looked like. Eight has been the time both my daughters rebelled and demanded their autonomy. We did not fight them over salah. My husband I kept praying Jama3ah (together) in front of them, inviting them to join us, which they did occasionally. Reminders of how much Allah loves them and calls them daily to talk to him have worked well. And shamefully, but honestly, bribing with cookies has also brought on good results, especially instilling in them an inner reminder for salah, with the goal that once they have been trained to pray on time, that being rewarded with cookies will slowly be lessened and eventually dispersed, to be replaced with cookies in Jannah, Allah willing.
In our family we have tried to make prayer time an experience that children can relate with feelings of importance and closeness. As a mother of 4 active kids I know that this is often easier said than done! Our ideal picture of children coming eagerly and quickly for prayer and then following along quietly and obediently is seldom a reality. I have found that remembering to slow down and make prayer time an enjoyable family ritual as often as possible is important both for the parents’ spiritual maintenance and the children’s spiritual development.
Here are some routines that have mostly worked for us.
*We started early on by always finding one particular area of the house to serve as our designated prayer area. This has usually been a corner in the room we use as a home office. Other options could be a special corner of the living room or converting all or part of a seldom-used room such as a formal living room or formal dining room. Sometimes houses have landings or hallways upstairs that make good designated prayer spaces.
*Each child loves to have their prayer accessories. Girls love to each have their own prayer rug and special prayer hijab/skirt set. My son has a kufi he wears to pray. They also like to collect prayer beads for tasbeeh. Although my husband and I do not use beads ourselves and I know some people are uncomfortable with them, we have found that young children often have difficulty counting their tasbeeh on their fingers and beads are a great help to them. Plus, they can make a hobby of sorts out of collecting different types of bead sets.
*As often as possible we pray together. If you have children who are too young to really join you in your prayer at least make a point of praying where they can see you pray, this way they can be aware of the prayer, they can learn to behave during prayer time in an age-appropriate way, and they can feel the rhythm that the prayer establishes in the family’s day. For older children, have at least one designated time where the whole family prays together, Dad included (this usually works out to maghrib for us).
*My 3 oldest are girls so I have made a point of making prayer time in the home as formal and important as prayer time for a jamaa’ah of men. I make the iqaamah and sometimes the adhaan. Being called to prayer with adhaan or iqaamah is a lot nicer than “HEY, GET DOWNSTAIRS AND PRAY RIGHT NOW!“ I also made a point to learn tajweed and overcome my fear of “public” recitation. At ‘isha time when most husbands are praying at the masjid, we have a girls’ jamaa’ah during which I make a point to give an all-out Qur’an recitation in our salaah. I want my girls to grow up feeling that a beautiful group prayer with beautiful Qur’an recitation is not something we have to rely on men for and it is something women can do together. I also try to recite surahs that they know or are currently learning at some times and other times I recite longer surahs so they learn to stand a little longer and have the benefit of hearing a longer recitation.
*When the prayer is finished we shake hands, kiss on each cheek and tell each other “taqabbal Allah”. After the prayer, encourage the kids to sit quietly and resist the urge to jump up and run off to the next thing. A confession: I am often guilty of this myself, feeling the urgency of all the work that needs to be done or the toddler who might be wandering around unattended. Saying the post-salaah adhkaar, aayatu l-kursi, etc., aloud and/or together will remind the children that the prayer time is not quite over yet. In addition, I often choose one child to lie down in my lap and I do my tasbeeh on THEIR fingers. Both this and the handshake/kiss ritual help to engage the kids with me using gentle touch, and make them feel a sense of closeness with me and involvement with the rituals of the prayer and what comes after it. Doing my tasbeeh on their fingers can also help them learn how to count on their fingers on their own eventually as well.