Independent Bible study isn’t one of those things that you tend to think your children can do until they can actually read. But let me tell you that teaching your children the habit of independent Bible study time is something that you should be starting as young as possible. Will they be able to read and study their Bibles on their own right away? No, of course not. But it’s all about establishing the habit in their lives so that when they are old enough to read, they will already have the groundwork laid.
And getting started with instilling this new habit isn’t too difficult, but it does take some intentional planning and guidance on your part. But it’s completely worth it! And it’s such a precious gift that you can give your children from such a young age, to be able to love and enjoy their quiet time alone with God.
What does independent Bible study look like for young kids?
Now just to clarify, at the beginning of this process when your children are young (basically pre-readers) it will not be a true Bible study that they are doing. Because they don’t know how to study their Bibles yet and they (might not yet) have the reading skills to even do that. However, this post is all about how to teach your children the habit of independent quiet time with God or “Bible study” time.
There will come a day, even when they’re young that they will be able to do some small forms of study like examine the pictures in their Bible and be able to recognize what’s happening in the stories based on those pictures. And then beyond that, looking for certain sight words in their Bibles (God, Jesus, etc). These are baby steps and all good things for them to do. But at first it might just look like them flipping through their Bibles and then scribbling on a page in a notebook. This is totally okay. At this point, we just want them to grow in love with this special time. That’s the whole goal here. 🙂
So let’s explore how we can do that from (nearly) day one.
Give them some various age-appropriate Bibles, devotionals, and Bible story books
There are a lot of great children’s Bibles out there for kids of all different ages. You can check out my lists for the best Bibles for babies and great Bible choices for toddlers to get some ideas. There are also some great children’s devotionals and tons and tons of Bible story books (both collections and individual stories) to choose from. Having a lot of different various options on hand can help to keep young children engaged and interested in their independent Bible study time. Let them select one of their Bibles and several other devotionals and/or Bible story books to bring with them to their quiet time with God. This gives them a feeling of independence because they get to choose something for themselves and they are still digesting the information you’re wanting them to during this time. So it’s a win-win for everybody. 🙂
Let them pick out a special Bible study only notebook
One of the keys to this process is allowing them to “write out” or “draw” what they learned from their Bibles in a notebook. Again, this won’t really be the case at first because they are so little, but after a time it will be like that. No matter what stage your child is though, letting them pick out a special Bible study notebook for themselves is the next step. Allowing them to be part of the selection process is helpful here because it’s getting them excited for this new and special thing they get to do “just like mommy and daddy”. They probably see you writing in your Bible or a notebook and so they will want to too!
Here are some cute ideas for Bible study notebooks. Although it is good to have them pick out their own notebook, if you want to go the route of giving it to them as a special present, then that might be fun too!
Allow them to choose their coloring/writing utensil
This sounds like such a simple thing, but letting them also choose what kind of coloring utensil they get to use each time they study their Bible means the world to them. It doesn’t really matter what they choose: crayons, colored pencils, or markers. But what matters is that they are having fun and enjoying their independent time with God. Just be sure to give them options that are fairly clean and easy to keep contained, as well as options that aren’t going to be too distracting from actually looking through their Bibles. If you’re brave enough, you can even offer to give them a highlighter and tell them to highlight sight words in their Bible.
Set a goal to have them study their Bibles every day
After they have their Bibles, devotionals, Bible story books, special notebook, and coloring utensils, set a goal to have them read and study their Bibles independently each day. During this time it would be helpful if you were also reading your Bible. It might be challenging to get any deep study done here, but at least reading it for the sake of appearances is good for them to see. You can try a short devotional for yourself during this time too, or even a simple step-by-step Bible study method like one of these. As long as you are actually opening your Bible (in order to be an example to them) then no what you do during this time is up to you.
Be reasonable with how much time you have them study their Bibles
As you set goals to have your children study their Bibles every day, be sure to be reasonable with how much time that you expect them to be studying their Bibles. The younger they are, the shorter their attention span. A 2-3 year old will probably only last about 5 minutes. A 4 year old might last longer like 10-15 minutes. But every child is different. Just don’t be too hard on them if they get too antsy before time is up. Try not to make a big deal out of it, just keep things light and fun for them.
Have a special Bible study timer for them to use
If your child is having a really hard time with asking when the time is up, then why not try picking up a fun timer that you can set for them at the beginning of their quiet time? It might cut down on the complaining and distractions, and allow them to better focus on (and enjoy) their special Bible study time. There are a lot of great ones to choose from, but the best choice for a young child would be a visual timer like one of these:
Stay consistent with their Bible study schedule
Consistency, consistency, consistency! That is the key to establishing any habit in anyone, whether young or old. And so this scenario is no different. If you want to establish the habit of Bible study in your young children, then it’s going to be vital that you stay consistent with their Bible study schedule. If you can be consistent with the time of day that you have them do their quiet time, that would be even better. But if that’s not always possible, then at least remain consistent in the fact that you have them do it every day. This will greatly help to ensure the success of establishing the habit of Bible study in their minds.
Don’t require perfection…just progress!
As you work hard to establish a routine and habit of independent quite time with the Lord for your children, be flexible and show grace (towards them and yourself). Everything isn’t going to be perfect right away (and maybe it never will be). But it’s all about progress. Try to set goals you want your child to reach, and depending on their age you can share those goals with them. Be reasonable with your expectations and allow wiggle room for variations. How their Bible study time goes will vary from day to day depending on their mood and the time of day, etc. so you have to be able to roll with the punches here.
Remember to keep things light-hearted and fun for them
One of the biggest takeaways I want you to remember though is that you have to make it a fun and enjoyable process for them. Kids run solely on emotions and so they have to have a pleasant emotional connection with their independent Bible study time in order for it to be something that they have a love an joy for. And when they have that desire for it, they will be able to better establish the habit and consistency to do it every day.
You can teach your children to love independent Bible study time!
There’s no need to wait until your children know how to read to start teaching them to love quiet time with God. By working to establish the spiritual discipline of Bible study early on, even before they can read, they will develop the good habit for it and be ready to REALLY study the Bible when they get old enough.
Just work hard to establish a consistent routine for quiet Bible study time in their lives, make it a fun and enjoyable activity for you and for them, and be willing to adjust your expectations if needed. So long as you remain flexible and practice grace during the process, then all will go well and you will be well on your way to cultivating a deep love and joy for independent Bible study time within your precious children.
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