I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
- Psalm 119:11
As Christians, we are responsible to read and know God's Word. As parents, we are responsible to teach His Word to our children. Psalm 119:11 is a great reminder that memorizing and meditating on Scripture helps us to avoid sin. But how can we teach our youngest children the beautiful benefits of hiding God's Word in our hearts? Here are a few ideas for helping toddlers and preschoolers memorize Scripture that work for me!
1. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Hearing anything over and over tends to imprint it in our memory. To memorize Scripture, simply repeating verses can be one of the most effective methods. Greeting each morning with "This is the day that the Lord has made!" or saying the same verse before bed each night (I like Psalm 4:8) will help even young toddlers to memorize the familiar words. Try saying a verse of the week (or month) before every meal or every time you drive in the car. Children also learn when we use Scripture throughout the day, demonstrating how God's Word fits each situation. One of the first verses I taught Donny was "Be joyful always," followed by "A cheerful heart is good medicine" to remind him to have a good attitude, even as a young toddler. My children have also heard me repeat, "Children obey your parents in everything," many times. If I cue them with the first word or two of one of these verses, they can easily finish it!
2. Create a book of verses. As a homeschooling project, I started verse binders with the boys last fall. I type and print out a verse relevant to our theme unit on cardstock. Each child decorates his own copy, and then I slip the finished products inside sheet protectors in a three ring binder. For example, we did leaf rubbings around the words "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life," and cut out magazine pictures of fruit for the Fruit of the Spirit. Every day we practice saying the verses together as we look through the binder. The children love to look back at their work, and the art provides a visual clue to remind them of the words. At the end of the year, they will have their own special book of Bible verses that they have memorized, as well as a sampling of the fine motor skills they practiced throughout the year.
3. Read a devotional. Devotionals for children can be a fun way to introduce particular verses and passages. My boys and I really enjoyed working through Susan Hunt's My ABC Bible Verses. It was a great way to review letters and learn Scripture at the same time! Now we are reading God's Wisdom for Little Boys by Jim and Elizabeth George (a Little Girls is available too). While it lacks the stories of application found in the ABC verses, the illustrations depict a character trait for each highlighted verse from Proverbs, teaching young children how to apply the wisdom of Proverbs in their own lives.
4. Sing a song. Many people find this to be the easiest method of memorization...just think of how many commercial jingles and TV show theme songs you know! Whether you sing a verse-based song like "Rejoice in the Lord Always" (Philippians 4:4) or "Trust in the Lord" (Proverbs 3:5-6) or set a verse to a familiar tune, young children will quickly learn the words. You may even hear them singing Scripture throughout the day, a sound that always delights my ears! My boys and I especially love Steve Green's Hide 'Em in Your Heart CDs and accompanying DVDs (ours came together as a set). They have learned several verses just by listening to and singing along with these Scripture-based songs. Even before he turned two, Hayden was singing, "Do everything without complaining; do everything without arguing," an important lesson from Philippians 2:14.
For an excellent discussion of this subject, check out Teri Maxwell's Mom's Corners series on Scripture Memory. Part 1 and Part 2 specifically discuss memorization and young children. Besides giving our children a firm foundation in God's Word, learning Bible verses together helps parents to remember God's commands, too. Making a commitment to memorize Scripture benefits the entire family!
I would love to read your comments and ideas...How do you help your little ones hide God's Word in their hearts?