Praying with small children can be difficult. They tend to be wiggly and have short attention spans. When little ones are involved, it’s easy for family prayer time to seem more like…Wrestlemania. But you can have a meaningful prayer time with small children if you remember that little people need different spiritual food than bigger people.
Faith develops in different stages from early childhood, to middle childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Children around 6 and under are in what’s called the “intuitive-projective” stage of faith. But we like to call it “the cuddly stage.”
In the “cuddly stage” of faith development, children believe something is “true” and good if it FEELS loving, and safe, and friendly. They believe something is “false” if it FEELS stiff, cold, and unrelatable.
You can focus more on things like prayer-posture and getting prayers “just right” as kids get a little older. But in the “cuddly faith” stage, the best way to nurture your child’s faith is to make prayer-times–and other experiences with the faith–affectionate, inviting, imaginative, and even playful.Let your little ones cuddle in your lap when you pray with them. Be affectionate. As you hold them, concentrate on letting them feel God’s arms around them and letting them feel God’s love filling their hearts through you.
Sing kid-friendly praise songs together. Use different voices when you read them bible stories or saint stories. Make it fun.
Engage their imagination by asking them to pretend that they were actually in the stories. You can even act those stories out together!
By understanding the spiritual food that a small child’s faith requires, you can help fill their hunger for God.
To explore more ways to help your kids fall in love with the faith, check out Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids.