Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Toddlers Again...

I need to seriously revise something in this post. In case anyone misunderstood, it wasn't my intention to reference the devil tempting Jesus in the wilderness following Jesus' baptism as a story about baptism for toddlers. My intention was to reference the part about the Spirit descending on Jesus like a dove. Even that may be realistically out of the reach of toddlers. Watching a baptism in church. That's concrete. Water is concrete. Being in the water, going under and coming back up is concrete. The Holy Spirit healing you when you're sick is concrete. You could tell the story using a paper dove with wings that flap or tell a simplified version of the baptism story with puppets or dolls. You might even be able to come up with a finger play if there isn't one already. Remember that each story or church activity is an opportunity to introduce new vocabulary (words) to toddlers & preschoolers especially if you have older toddlers who can talk: Jesus, water, baptism, dove. The Holy Spirit isn't neccessarily concrete to toddlers & preschoolers. The devil isn't concrete. Which brings us to why I even went back to that post.

Someone searched "explaining devil to toddlers". The works of God are concrete. The works of the Holy Spirit (healing) is concrete but I don't know that toddlers make that association. The dove is a concrete God- given symbol for the Holy Spirit. Do you see a God-given concrete symbol for the devil? The serpent? Good angels, bad angels, maybe but I still think even that may be confusing or completely off the radar for a toddler.

I would rather spend the first 6 years of a child's life teaching them to be responsible and accountable for their own actions and about making choices, making good choices. "Keeping the commandments," if you will.

Love God. What do we do that says we love God? What does that look like to a toddler or preschooler?
Love your neighbor as yourself. What do we do to love our neighbor as ourself. What does that look like to a toddler or preschooler? Go through all 10 commandments. Make them toddler/preschool simple and ask yourself what does doing this right look like to a toddler or preschooler?

Have no other gods before Me.

Don't make an image or bow down and worship anything in heaven, on earth, or in the waters below.

Don't misuse God's name.

Remember the Sabbath & keep it holy. Six days we work. On the 7th day we rest from our work.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." (My kids used to hear that a lot for the promise attached.)

Don't murder.

Don't take someone else's husband or wife.

Don't take anything that isn't yours.

Don't lie about someone.

Don't want something that belongs to your neighbor, (to your friend).

Those are the 10 rules God gave his people. Jesus summed them up into two.  Take responsibility for your actions.

Search the scriptures for references to the devil. Look for the stories attached. Who were those stories for? Is there a God-given biblical picture or image attached?  Did it strike fear into the hearts of men? Children?

My mother-in-law was an art teacher. She loved kids. She was also very involved in her Episcopal church. She'd grown up Russian orthodox so she was familiar with iconography. Much of her artwork for her church was simple, clear, clean line & color. When she died we found ourselves with a library of art books, among them a book of art depicting the life of Christ. Another was a book full of artistic and cultural renditions of the devil. I'm only bringing this up because children need concrete association and we often draw on visual images but they aren't all biblical. So before you go scaring little children needlessly, go back to scripture. Scripture talks about a healthy fear of the Lord. It also talks about cowardice not getting us into the kingdom of heaven.

Someday, if I understand scripture correctly, we will all face our Maker and give account. For Christ's sake and for the sake of the children in your care, prayrefully ponder and search the scriptures before you conjure up scary images that will be hard for kids to put aside when they grow up and into greater understanding. Consider what's age appropriate. Consider those words and understanding that are concrete for the very young. What's in the scriptures for them? Look before you leap. Go search the scriptures like the Bereans and "see if these things be so."

Christmas is a wonderful time to pull very young children into the scriptures. A mom & dad, a Baby, animals, angels, kings, a donkey, camels, sheep, shepherds, stars, songs, treasure, smells, things to touch...keep going!

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