Having family devotions with kids isn’t as simple as it sounds.
If you’ve ever enthusiastically tried out a new devotional-
only to end up with distracted kids and tears of frustration (those would be yours)-
then you totally understand what I’m talking about.
I’m a mom of five.
Teaching my kids about God and his Word is really important to me- but it isn’t always easy.
After all, we live in the 21rst century, right?
And that means our kids are constantly bombarded with fast-paced distractions… typically in the form of technology.
How can a mom help her kids really engage with stories and truths from the Bible?
And does watching another episode of “Veggie Tales” or “Super Book” count as family devotions?
When it comes to having family devotions, I’ve made my share of mistakes.
I’m sharing three of the big ones in this post today.
If you find yourself feeling unequipped in this area, it’s okay.
You can easily help your kids connect with God’s Word with a simple mindset shift.
I recently discovered a brand new devotional for kids that helps problem-solve some pretty common challenges that Moms face:
The author, Sharon Deur, is a former elementary teacher with over twenty years experience.
She wrote Victor Discovers Treasure with 5 to 10-year olds in mind.
As an example of how to implement solutions to some common struggles, I’ll be referring to this book throughout the post.
If you don’t own a copy of Victor Discovers Treasure, you can order one from Amazon for under $17.
A worthy investment, if you ask me.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Mistake #1: Expecting kids to sit still and listen.
Having a studious, calm child is every parent’s dream.
But if we’re honest, most of us have pretty energetic kids with short attention spans.
Okay, I do anyway.
Research tells us that, on average, a typical child has an attention span between 2-5 minutes per year of life (source).
So that means a seven-year old should have an attention span of anywhere from 14 to 35 minutes.
In theory, a ten-year old can focus for at least 20, and possibly up to 50 minutes.
Well, I’m the mother of a seven-year old and ten-year old… and I’m pretty sure this research doesn’t actually translate into reality.
Not during family devotions anyway.
Should kids sit still and listen?
But will they and can they?
That depends- on your kids, the time of day, how they slept last night and when they last ate a snack and took a potty break.
I think it’s safer to assume that kids won’t sit and listen for long periods of time.
(You’ll be less disappointed that way.)
Mindset Shift: Start short + sweet with family devotions.
Sharon obviously knows how kids think and learn.
She also knows how busy moms are.
I can easily read and explore the devotions in Victor Discovers Treasure with my seven-and-ten-year old boys in about five minutes.
Of course, if you have slightly older kids-
or kids who actually CAN sit and focus according to the statistics for their age-
you can definitely stretch the Bible story time out a little longer.
Or read two devos.
Personally, I like to stick with the solution: read for short periods of time… and do it consistently.
We can all find five minutes a day to explore God’s Word with our kids, right?
If you struggle with consistency, check out my post on Morning Time.
This one habit is how I manage to have devotions with my kids several days a week.
Mistake #2: Choosing Bible stories for kids with big words.
Unless you’re a word geek (like me, ahem…), you may not make this mistake on purpose.
But it’s really easy to talk over our kids heads when we’re:
- reading certain versions of the Bible
- reading devotionals that are above our kids’ level
Now, let me just say one thing:
I’m not against stretching a child’s vocabulary by talking or reading “above” their level.
In fact, I think it’s a good thing when a child asks, “What does xyz mean, Mommy?”
A very good thing indeed.
But when our kids can’t grasp concepts because we’re talking at them with big words-
Well, we have to ask ourselves if there’s a better way.
Mindset Shift: Use words kids can understand.
Right here, I’d like to share what Sharon Deur, author of Victor Discovers Treasure, has to say about this:
[My] motivation for writing the devotionals, Victor Discovers Treasure, Book One and [soon] Book Two, is a deep love and appreciation for Biblical imagery. The reading of Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, set the stage for that back in the 1960’s. Since being retired, I followed the Spirit’s nudge and finally put pen to paper.
The Bible is full of word treasure-clues; words that put a picture in our minds to make our journey on this earth a discovery of truth. Adults call Bible word treasures metaphors, similes, and imagery. It’s called “freedom language” in Romans 6:19 from the Message. Paul says, ‘I’m using this freedom language because it is easy to picture.’
Sharon gets down on a child’s level and opens up the mysteries of Bible truths and stories in a beautifully engaging style.
The book quotes Scripture from versions which are easy for young kids to understand.
I love the fact that the Scriptures mentioned in each devotion are listed in the back of the book for easy reference.
Bottom line: Victor Discovers Treasure is an easy book for kids to understand, and for moms to use.
Mistake #3: Trying make it too serious.
This is where I’ve messed up the most.
By nature, I take life pretty seriously.
When it comes to the Bible and truth and God, I want my kids to get serious too.
Well… that just doesn’t always work out.
My boys feel hungry and distracted and, yes, bored… even while I’m desperately trying to unfold the mysteries of Jesus before their eyes.
Mindset Shift: Family devotions are fun!
It’s as simple as that.
Don’t complicate “devotions” by turning it into a space where kids get in trouble for simply being kids.
Now, I’ll tell you right now: I’m not a very creative mom. I don’t do crafts or hands-on activities especially well.
I am deeply grateful for books like Victor Discovers Treasure, which give me simple and practical ideas for keeping devotion time fun.
For example, an adorable little donkey named “Victor” stars in this children’s devotional.
Since a donkey is mentioned more than 100 times in the Bible, it is part of the fun and adventure to have ‘Victor’ help us out.
Just for fun, Sharon uses this donkey puppet when sharing her devotional book with kids.
Sharon’s puppet inspired me, so I ordered two little stuffed donkeys from Amazon for my boys play to with while we read a daily dig from Victor Discovers Treasure.
MY BOYS LOVE THIS.
These donkeys were super cheap ($7 each), but they are priceless! Why?
Because what I actually bought is more time.
When my kids’ hands are busy, their minds miraculously engage with whatever I’m saying to them.
Having a toy in hand that looks similar to the character in the book makes my boys feel like they are part of the story.
And since it’s a story about God and His Word, that’s a major win!
Other ideas for making Bible story time fun for young kids:
- build a fort and climb inside to read together
- have a snack while listening to the story
- color or paint a picture about the story
- “act out” the story with costumes
- make a simple craft that relates to the story
- play with toys that relate to the story or theme (like I did with Victor the Donkey)
Which one of these mistakes do you relate to the most?
- Expecting kids to sit and listen.
- Using big words.
- Trying to make it too serious.
A simple mindset shift will make a world of difference, I promise!
- Keep it short and adjust your expectations.
- Simplify your language.
- Have fun!
Want more inspo like this for living well?
I hope this post inspired you to keep reading Bible stories to your kids.
You don’t have to be super creative, Bible-smart or organized in order to have devotions with your kids.
Just be willing to invest a little time, and choose Bible stories for kids that they will connect with.
I think you’ll be surprised how easily you can lead your kids through a Bible story they’ll actually love with this little devotional.
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