Family devotions can be challenging at any stage, but throw toddlers in the mix and things can get unpredictable quickly. Look forward to some practical advice on creating a devotional time for toddlers the whole family will enjoy, a few family devotions examples and devotional books and resources to equip you to feel confident as you begin this faith building family habit.
What are family devotions?
Family devotions are a time when Christian parents gather their children together outside of church to teach them about God through Bible stories, simple lessons, questions, songs, prayer, and connecting activities. They can be a longer more formal time, but I’ve found what works best is to keep it short and simple so that young children (and older kids) stay engaged AND parents don’t get overwhelmed.
Just like your personal time with God don’t get caught up in “doing it perfectly”. Connection and consistency are the most important things. Think quality time or quantity time.
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Why even bother with family devotion time for toddlers?
You may wonder why you should even bother with opening God’s Word with your child when they are SO young.
- “Surely this will all go over their heads.”
- “They’re so busy they’ll never sit still long enough.”
- “I’ll just end up frustrated, so why even bother!”
Yes, short attention spans are a thing with toddlers. But that doesn’t mean your time spent connecting with your child and teaching them about God is wasted. You can create precious memories with them, foster a secure relationship, speak life over them, and begin to help them know who God is through these short, but powerful devotional times.
How to do family devotions with toddlers: 4 Tips to Remember
It’s important to go into your family devotional time with the right expectations and focus. Here are four things to remember that will make your family worship time enjoyable and doable for everyone!
1. Short attention spans are real.
When in doubt, a short devotion is the best devotion for little ones. Most educational professionals say that a child has an attention span of a minute per year of their life. So your two year old really only has a two minute attention span before something needs to change.
This doesn’t mean your family devotions has to only be two minutes long, but that you probably need to move more quickly than you think through the actions and activities that are part of your devotion time.
Also, don’t assume because they aren’t “sitting at attention” they aren’t listening. They could color while listening to the Bible time or play with a few quiet toys on the floor (like legos or blocks) while your Bible reading or devotional readings are taking place.
It’s also okay to cut your time short if you have very sleepy kids or one’s that are over-tired and wound up. A short prayer and quick song is a great way to still hold your family value of devotions while also honoring your child’s body and tiredness.
2. Focus on the Bible
Whether you read a full Bible passage or one single Bible verse or a paraphrase children’s Bible–let your family devotion time focus on God’s Word.
For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do. -Isaiah 55:10-11
God’s Word and the Biblical truths in it will never come up empty when we plant them in our children. It can *seem* like they aren’t retaining or paying attention, but the seeds of God’s love and care for them are becoming rooted deep in our little ones souls.
At the end of the reading time ask your kids a couple of simple questions to help reinforce what they’ve heard. It can be as simple as “What was the boy’s name in the story? Samuel! That’s right!” or “What did Jesus say to the little children ‘go away’ or ‘come close’?” This is a great way to tailor your reading to your younger kids and your older kids as well if you have a variety of ages participating. Older kids can answer “harder” discussion questions that help them apply the story to their life or articulate a truth about God’s character.
3. Pray with and for your kids
In our family devotion time I like to pray specific blessings over my kids. My husband and I chose four character traits we want to be true of their lives and we speak and pray these words over them often. Ours are kindness, strength, truth and bravery. Through our prayer time I want to model connecting with Jesus and talking to Him in a “real voice” not with holy or special language.
You can also use the prayer time to help your kids learn to pray. That can be a brief prayer they memorize like: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, Watch and guard me through the night, and wake me with the morning light. Amen”
Or you can use prayer prompts to help model and teach prayer for your kids. Maybe everyone goes around in a circle and says one “Thank you God” prayer or you do it popcorn style where everyone pops in their prayer as they think of it.
- God you are _______________________ (strong! wise! loving! smart!)
- God thank you for _________ (my teddy bear! playing outside! pancakes for dinner!)
- God help me with _______________ (being brave at bedtime, being kind to my brother, sharing my toys)
- God help someone I love _______________ (Grandma’s foot, my kitty-cat’s tummy troubles, Daddy’s cold)
One thing I have tried to do with my kids is always let them pray when they ask and always affirm their prayers. Even if they’re long winded or filled with semi-coherent mumblings I try to say “Thank you so much for praying! Jesus Christ heard you! Isn’t that amazing!”
We have three young kids close in age so sometimes prayer times can get long if everyone wants to pray and wants to pray long-winded prayers. So sometimes we let one child pray tonight and tell the other one they can pray at breakfast or at the next family devotional time.
4. Incorporate activity (fine motor and/or large motor)
You can incorporate fine motor activities by letting your kids color or play with small toys while they listen. Allow them to stand, to sway, to move around in space, to lounge on you while you pray or read the Bible. We also incorporate large body movements by learning Bible verses with motions and singing songs with motions.
You can check out these top Christian songs (many that have motions to follow) for simple songs to sing with your kids during your devotion time.
We also have loved to memorize simple Bible verses with our kids. We made up hand motions to go along with them, which also helps the kids memorize better and understand what the verses mean! We started out incredibly simple with verses like these:
- God is love. -I John 4:8 — God (point up) is love (use two fists to make a heart over their chest).
- God created the heavens and the earth. -Genesis 1:1 God (point up) created (mimic using a hammer and nail) the heavens (stretch arms overhead and bring them down in an arch) and the earth (spread hands flat across miming the flat ground).
Many toddler and preschool church and Sunday School curriculums also have a memory verse they teach for a week or a month at a time. These are great Bible verses to bring home with you and repeat with your young children. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but look for resources you already have around you!
What are family devotion examples?
Use these 3 family devotion examples to kickstart your own creativity and imagination about how you want your family’s unique time with God TOGETHER to look like! Ask these questions as you plan for your time:
- When is the best time of day for me and my kids?
- What do I want to be the main focus?
- What would my kids enjoy?
- What feels doable to me to be consistent with?
- What brings up joy for me and not anxiety?
Evening Circle Time
Here’s how my family practices family devotions with a toddler. We do this at bedtime and I’ve always called it “Circle Time”. We circle up on a kids bed, in the living room or on the floor of a bedroom together as a family to end the day. For a long time I wouldn’t have called it “family devotions”–it was just our evening, wind-down time–but it was filled with faith-forming habits, exactly what family devotions is for!
- Read a short Bible story from Toddler devotional or Bible (see below for our favorites!) Sometimes we incorporate discussion questions after the story or use the prompts in the book we’re reading.
- Practice our memory verse with motions.
- Sing one song.
- Hugs and Tuck in.
- While kids eat breakfast or a small snack mom or dad reads a short devotional or Jesus-centered children’s book.
- Family prays together for their day.
- Child is cleaned up from breakfast and invited to keep reading other books or move on with their morning get-ready activities.
Car Line Devotional
- Practice saying a Scripture verse all together.
- Talk about what the Bible verse means. “God is love which means God always love you no matter what! Does God love you when you pick your nose? Yes! Does God love you when you are sleeping? Yes! Does God love you when you don’t listen to mom? Yes! Does God love you when you are super-kind and share your toys? Yes! God always loves you, Layla.”
- Pray over your child out loud in the car. (Keep your eyes open obviously!) Ask your child if they want to pray too.
- Listen to one chapter of the audiobook version of The Jesus Storybook Bible or
- Turn on a kids worship playlist and sing along together for the car ride.
Dinner Table Devotional
- Pray together before you begin eating. Slow down and be intentional with this–don’t just rattle off a prayer to get to the eating! Also, if you’re feeding toddlers or preschoolers sometimes it’s best to get their food in front of them and then sit down and pray when you’re ready to eat. There isn’t anything magical about praying before taking a bite of food.
- Ask your toddler and family members “What are you thankful to God for today?”
- Read your devotional. You can even use the Youversion Bible app to find some awesome Scripture reading and devotionals for kids! Here’s one I love!
- Ask some simple questions about what you read at your child’s level.
12 Resources to Help You with Easy Family Devotions for Toddlers and Little Ones
There are a lot of options out there for your family devotions. These are great picks for younger children to help introduce them to God and get them familiar with the Bible.
Bibles and Devotionals for Toddlers
Stories of Jesus for Little Ones – This book by Judah Smith is filled with short (2-3 minutes) Bible stories about Jesus life and short prayers with beautiful illustrations. I love the sum up section with the little donkey and that they include the Scripture passage the story is taken from.
My First Read and Learn Bible – This is a great little book that is a toddler-size summary of many major Bible stories (like creation, the flood, David and Goliath, Jesus Birth and miracles). It doesn’t include any content on the cross or the resurrection, but it is a great simple introduction to the Bible for family devotions.
The Jesus Storybook Bible – We wore out our copy of this wonderful resource reading it to our kids! While it may be a bit long for little ones, it has great illustrations and is a book that is easy to listen to while kids color or race small cars on couch cushions. This entire Bible summary does a great job in building anticipation for Jesus and seeing Him as the central figure in all the Bible stories.
My Tender Heart Bible – This short children’s Bible is perfect for little ones. It retells12 Bible stories in rhyme with a special emphasis on God’s redemptive love. There are Bible verses included for each story and a short “heart moment” prayer.
The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers – This devotional has Bible lessons and verses applied to young children. There is a short reflection, a memory verse to learn and a prayer. The illustrations are diverse which is nice and the short stories hold the attention of little ones well.
God’s Big Promises Bible Storybook – Created for children 2-6 years old this is a great introduction to God as a promise-keeping Savior and includes a FULL 92 stories to explore together! Vivid illustrations and simple language make this an enjoyable and understandable read for young kids! It’s divided into 5 themes of God’s promises–Rescue, People, Land, Joy, and King which I think is helpful for both kids and grown ups alike!
Toddler Board Books to Use in Family Devotion Time
Don’t overthink it! Fill up a basket with one of the Bible storybooks above and 3-4 of these short, but powerful board books. Let your child select one each day to read during your set aside time. Pray with your kid after you finish the book. Sing Jesus Loves Me. You’ve done family devotions. Yes, it can be that simple!
The Biggest Story ABC Board Book – A fun way to teach the ABCs and the overall story of the Bible to littles! Will they get it right away? Of course not! But repeating stories over and over like this one will plant God’s truth in their lives and we know that won’t return void.
Jesus Calling for Little Ones – This sweet devotional book is filled with love letters to children written as if Jesus was speaking those very words over your children. Each one has an included Bible verse as well. The illustrations are whimsical and we loved reading this book over and over again with our little ones.
The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross – I love the older kid version of this book and it’s wonderful to have it’s message in a book ready for 2-4 year old hands and minds!
Bedtime Prayers for Little Ones – Max Lucado is a beautiful writer and this sweet board book is filled with cozy illustrations and simple, but heartfelt prayers your little ones can mimic and relate to.
Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer – We have and love the hardcover version and I’m thrilled they have the board book version to introduce children at a younger age to the practice of prayer.
From Eden to Bethlehem: An Animals Primer – I’m so impressed with this series of books, Primers with a Purpose to teach animals, shapes, colors, opposites and more alongside key Bible concepts with simple, yet beautiful illustrations that pull little ones in! Easy to adapt with your kids as they become older and more mature as well.
Want to learn more? Check out these faith-building resources:
- 35 Encouraging Bible Verses for New Parents
- 12 Best Advent Devotionals for Families
- 35 Powerful Bible Verses to Pray for Your Kids
- Christian Parenting Advice: 9 Things I Learned in 9 Years
- Best Devotional Apps for Busy Moms
Sweet Christian parent, I want to encourage you if you have never done family devotions before–you can do this! If you’re new to faith in Jesus you can learn right alongside your children! If you hear “family devotions” and think dry, boring lectures–think again!
You can create a family devotional time that fits your unique family personality and the needs of your current season while offering solid Biblical truths and teachings to your little ones.