Teaching Kids Scripture Study, Part 3: Real Life Examples
This post has been a few months in the making, and it has become near and dear to my heart as I have thought so much about scripture study and talked with many of you about how and why you make it happen. I have learned and been so uplifted by hearing the ups and downs of family study. I am such a believer in gaining strength and power from sharing ideas, and this has been so helpful for me to get insights from so many faithful families. I hope you enjoy what these families have shared, and take some of these examples to help reinvent or strengthen your family’s gospel study. I have been tweaking things around my own home because of so much that has been shared—but not only that, I also have a renewed determination to keep going! So without further ado, here are a few ideas from people who are really making it happen:
Laura Cope | mother of four (ages 1-8)
I am happy to say that in the eight years of having kids, we have kept scripture reading a priority, but what that looks like is wildly different any given day. Some days I can almost see that “perfect scene” my husband and I dreamed of before becoming parents…but MOST often—95% of the time—we have four wild little people! I have to keep the scripture Hebrews 11:1 in my heart: “Faith is the substance of things HOPED for, the evidence of things NOT SEEN.” As parents, we are “hoping” that our kids are getting some golden nuggets from our scripture reading every day. Most days, the evidence of our scripture reading can seem “unseen”. In those sweet moments that I DO see it—oh what JOY!
Despite the great effort that it often takes and the chaos that can ensue when trying to read God’s words, we keep doing it and have been immensely blessed. So wipe that “perfect” scripture study scenario from your mind and consider how to make it fun. I have found great power in switching it up, and often. Sometimes we all have our own book and follow along, sometimes one of us has a book and we take turns, sometimes we read and act out what we are reading, or even draw the scene. There are so many wonderful videos, accessible at the touch of a button that depict the scripture stories beautifully. My kids love to read the story and then watch the video clip to solidify what we read. Scripture study can be drudgery for little bodies that just want to be moving and having fun all of the time, so be creative. If you’re excited about it, your kids will get excited about it to the point where it has becomes their favorite time of the day. The blessings that have come to our family by regular scripture study are real and undeniable. So just keep going.
Jessica Buer | mother of five sons (ages 5-14)
Brusha, Brusha, Brusha your teeth, front and back and top and bottom, in between. These are the words to the "brush your teeth song" that plays shortly before the "read your scriptures" songs. Struggling with morning routines, we developed a playlist that we blast through the house. There is a song for every aspect of getting up and getting ready: A wake up song, followed by a make your bed song, get dressed, fix hair, brush teeth and then, most importantly, the two songs that play for read your scriptures and say your prayers.
The entire list takes about 30 minutes and is known as our "Morning Musts." The kids know that they can't have breakfast or do anything else until their "musts" are done. The scripture study varies. For my youngest kids, it's looking through books of gospel art or watching short video clips from lds.org. A little bit older and they will work on programs like Faith in God or Duty to God. My oldest kids sometimes prefer to listen to the scriptures rather than read. It is not uncommon to hear several different gospel messages playing through the house at the same time and it feels so good. My kids have had their opinions about how much they like the "morning musts" but through consistency, scripture study is becoming a part of their daily morning habit that I hope stays with them into adulthood as an absolute morning must.
Johanna Wagstaff | mother of three (ages 1-5) @johannawagstaff
Our number-one priority with family scripture study is consistency. Our second priority is that the children love scripture time. Since we have three children under six, this means we work hard not to bore them. Their minds are like sponges and they're willing to learn so we want to capitalize on that. However, let's be real, two-year-olds can barely sit for a few minutes at a time. They definitely don't want to listen to long passages of scripture.
So, we try to focus on what they CAN absorb. Stories. Children love stories! They have a great capacity to learn the scriptures in story-form. I scour used-book stores for bible stories in picture-book format. Noah's ark, Jonah and the Whale, Moses and the Red Sea, Joseph and the Colored-Coat, very young children thrive on these and ask to hear them over and over. I also use illustrated scriptures and scripture story books designed for young readers to guide our chronological scripture study. My kids love these scripture action figures. And Veggie Talesvideos are a fun and silly way to absorb some goodness. I often use the LDS.org Lesson Helps for Teaching Children Topical Archive. Also, my children are fascinated by the beautiful new LDS Bible Videos, and they're free for online streaming! There are so many wonderful resources out there.
Besides teaching children the stories from the scriptures, I want them to hear, become familiar with and memorize the language of the scriptures. But, since attention-span is a factor, I limit direct reading to a few verses. Aaaand since they're only getting a few verses, I try to make them count. So, we choose Doctrinal Mastery Passages and the words of Jesus Christ. In the past, I have attached Doctrinal Mastery Passages to fish cards for a fishing game and let the children reel n our family scripture for the night. I have also highlighted ad tabbed the Doctrinal Master Scriptures in our set of family scriptures. I let the children take turns choosing which tab we will read. Now that my oldest is reading, we bought a large print set of scriptures and he LOVES to read our nightly verse by himself.
We are certainly not perfect at holding family scripture study. Mostly the kids are crazy, running around and doing their darnedest to disrupt. It's sometimes frustrating but, I figure they hear us anyway. And we just keep trying new things to engage them.
The essential thing is that we are consistent. When life gets hard and I am searching for relief, I have often felt the Lord's Spirit remind me of the importance of our small, imperfect, daily family scripture studies. I absolutely believe that the joy we yearn for in our families is found in this obedient observance. I know that God sees our daily efforts and they are enough through Him.
Vanessa Welch | mother of three (ages 1-6) @vanessawelchphoto
With three little girls in our family scripture study has definitely been an evolving habit. One of our daughters in particular struggles to be still unless she is completely engaged. Knowing this about her, but still wanting to build the habit of scripture study, we decided that it was best for our family to read out of the Book of Mormon reader each night. Even our smallest daughter loves to sit in my lap and point out Heavenly Father and Jesus in the pictures. Our daily efforts to introduce the stories of the Book of Mormon, as well as just basic ideas of the gospel, have well been rewarded. We have had many sweet discussions as a result of our reading. Our hope is to one day transition to the actual Book of Mormon, but for now we are just trying to focus on habits, stories and doctrines. And we are loving it.
Stacey Hellwig | mother of 3 (ages 12-18)
One thing I have learned is when a special witness of Christ makes you a promise, you listen, and you act. In August of 2005, when my children were very young, President Hinckley challenged us all to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year. He bestowed apostolic blessings upon all who would heed his counsel:
"Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God."
We couldn't think of any other blessings we would want for our children. What we didn't expect, was how real those blessings would become in our lives. One of the things we first noticed is that there truly is power in the book beyond what we can understand. Our kids were little, but there were rarely fights in our home. They each wanted to take a turn reading, and learned reading skills before formal schooling. Something about the nature and format of the writing made it easier for them to learn. We noticed them using phrases from the Book of Mormon in their day to day speech. As they aged, we realized we needed to connect them with the principles and doctrine. One thing we tried was asking questions, both recall and doctrinal. Sometimes they were rewarded with a small treat per answer. We wanted it to be a fun learning time for them. They began to make connections to their own lives, and scriptures have become a source of strength to us. We have nights where we can only listen to a chapter, and some nights where we read one verse on the way home from a concert, but we love it. During the challenge, we put a Book of Mormon in the glove box of our cars, so that even when we didn't have a lot of time, we had a way to read scriptures. Now we have the scriptures on all of our devices. What a blessing that is! Recently we have tried looking for things that stand out to us as we read, and try to think about what God is telling us from that phrase or word. Sometimes we record those answers in our scripture journals.
Jamie Whittier | mother of 4 (ages 0-8)
We call our nightly scripture session our devotional, simply because we've found that if we make it more of an event our children look forward to it. We start with a song and then recite our memorization verses, which we rotate so we don't forget them once we've learned them. We finish by taking turns reading from the scriptures (we're in the Bible this year), while the little ones look at pictures in our scripture readers. We finish always with a kneeling prayer, even if kneeling means piling on dad's back. In this stage of our lives, it's always been easiest to hold our devotionals right before our children go to bed.
Our children are always excited for our devotionals, but some nights just don't flow as well as others. There's always someone jumping off of something and someone's almost always crying. But our habit of nightly devotional brings a spirit into our home every night that binds us as a family and reminds us that God is the center of our home.
Becki Simonse | mother of six (ages 6-22) @shutterbugfever17
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 says, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
How can I do this? By feasting upon the scriptures myself, for myself.
2 Nephi 4:16 states, “my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.”
I can then share with my children what and how the Lord is speaking to me during my one on one time with Him. My children see me studying the scriptures, highlighting, marking, taking notes, and praying to our Heavenly Father daily. They see my love for the Lord and His Word. They wish to emulate what they have seen me do, and they desire to do the same so they can have that relationship with our Heavenly Father and know Him personally.
Family scripture time is one of the most wonderful and treasured moments of my day. Is it perfect? No. Is it sometimes hectic and total chaos? Yes, but that’s okay. My favorite place in our home to do family scripture study is in my room on our bed, gathering everyone close together; Sometimes they are laying all over the bed, doing each other’s hair, playing with cars or dolls and sometimes it seems nobody is listening and they’re giggling or crying.
Isaiah 55:11-12 speaks about Gods word being spoken out of our mouth will not return void but it shall accomplish all that he please and prosper where he sends it. It will go out with joy and be led with peace. We have this promise that His word is still going out and we are blessing our children simply by speaking it.
Each night we begin scripture study with an opening prayer to invite the spirit. We read a chapter a night and we divide it up amongst all of us. With little ones that cannot read, we read aloud for them to repeat one or two verses back to us. As they get older, they recognize their sight words and will read all the words they know and we’ll help with the words they do not know. We go around and everyone will take their turn. During the chapter, we’ll make sure they understand who they are talking about, what is happening, and define any words they may not know. After we are finished reading a family member will give the closing prayer.
Gathered all together, closely, hearing their sweet prayers for each person in our family, praying for what we’ve just read in the scriptures and asking to keep Jesus in our hearts—there isn’t a greater experience or moment than nightly family scripture time. They’re truly heavenly moments, glimpses of heaven. We can see the benefits of regular scripture study for ourselves as well as in our children. There is a spirit of reverence in our home and no matter how crazy a night may get, there is always someone who remembers our family scripture study and reminds us to read. It is something we all truly enjoy and look forward to each night.
Monica Bauman | mother of four daughters (ages 0-8)
Find a time when your family is consistently gathered together each day and incorporate your scripture study into that. We have found the most success in scripture reading during the dinner hour. Our four young children eat their dinner SLOWLY. For years, my husband and I gobbled up our food and moved onto clean up and dishes while the kids finished eating. At a family member's suggestion, we began to read at the dinner table. It allows us to sit at the table longer and have a meaningful conversation as a family. There are minimal distractions (since their mouths are full of food) and we end up nagging them less about eating all their veggies because we have something better to focus on. Honestly, who cares about that last green bean anyway? Our kids love to read from illustrated versions of the scriptures but other nights we read directly from the scriptures and try to focus on a particular story or verse, its meaning and how it applies to their little lives.
Jeni Awerkamp | mother of two (ages 2 & 4)
Studying scripture is more than a love for me—it's one of my spiritual and physical lifelines. Helping my sweet little girls (ages 4 and 2) catch the scripture study fire is going to be a lifelong endeavor, I know, and in hopes to chip away at the special venture, my husband and I got really creative with family scripture study with the girls last year.
And when I say "creative," I juuuust *kind of* mean it. Following my in-laws' example, we have a special copy of the Book of Mormon (an additional book of scripture read in my faith) designated for family scripture study, because we draw out what we read about each night at bedtime—literally—right in the book. The approach has been amazingly effective at helping the girls really listen to and thus learn the scripture stories. Incorporating multiple senses when learning has long been proven as an efficient way to cement something in the mind, and it's no exception in the context of scripture study. Since the girls know that drawing something comes after we read the scripture story, the girls stay engaged. Their contributions to the super short discussion, and then the following drawing session, never fail to be so awesome. And so darling.
The shot above is our 4-year-old's interpretation of what she learned after we read verse 16 right there: "I have graven thee on the palms of my hands." We chatted about what Christ means there—His atoning, crucifying scars are unforgettable and for incredible reasons—and she drew that imprinted hand above to cement that will never forget us (and we should work so hard to never forget Him)!
Krista is the Editorial Director at The Small Seed and loves that she gets to share and connect with others about two of the most valued things in her life: belief in God and her family. You can connect with Krista on Instagram @kjohorton.