Sunday, December 23, 2012

21 Ways to Share the Faith with Your Toddler

Pope Benedict announced that this is the Year of Faith, a time to learn more about the Church and grow closer to Christ.  This is an invitation for all members of the Church, even the very smallest!  My daughter is just barely a year old, but she is not too young to start learning about and loving the Faith!  In brainstorming and searching for ways to teach my little one, I came across some great ideas.  I hope you'll share some of your ideas as well.  Here are my favorites:


1. Take your toddler to Mass.  It can be difficult to get a little one to stay quiet and still, but it's important that your child experience Mass from a young age.  Going to Mass is also important for learning about being part of a faith community; your little one will see that not only mama and daddy worship God, but also men and women of all different ages and races.  Most people don't mind a talkative or squirmy toddler, and if they do, your little one is just helping them learn the virtue of patience!  Babies and toddlers are part of the Church too!

2. Go to adoration. Here's a quote from Anne that made me realize adoration is for little ones too: "I have been taking my 22-month-old to adoration with me for a few weeks now. I go when the adoration chapel is empty (but would take him in even if it wasn't). He sits on the chair and I kneel to pray for about 10 minutes or so, then I gather him on my lap and we talk about Jesus and then finish by saying the "Our Father" and singing (quietly) "Jesus Loves Me." My son is always in perpetual motion, but as soon as we get in the chapel he is always SO STILL. It amazes me."

If your Church doesn't offer one, you might see if they would be willing to start "Toddler" adoration once a month or so.  Kaylene wrote about recently taking her daughter to toddler adoration and was blown what a great program it is.  And here is a great "How-To Guide for Adoration with Small Children" by Dianna Kennedy.

3. The Sign of the Cross.  This is the perfect first prayer for a toddler.  It's short.  It includes hand movements.  It can be regularly seen and heard many times a day.  We start working on the Sign of the Cross with Lucia when she was only 10 months and she LOVES it.  She smiles and laughs every time we do it and tries to follow along.  She usually touches her forehead or chest while we do it.

4. Pray the Rosary.  Although they may be too little to follow along with the prayers, just having your child present during a family Rosary is a huge blessing (and teaching opportunity). This seems to be a popular prayer activity because the bloggers at both Working to be Worthy and For Love of Cupcakes suggested it (we do it in our home too).

5. Pray before naptime.  In addition to the "traditional" prayer times, in the morning, before meals, and before bed, introduce a special toddler-centered prayer time: prayer before naps!  What a great suggestion from Working to be Worthy.


Lucia's Saint Lucia doll from Frassencraft
6. Music. Make religious songs part of your child's day.  You don't have to set aside a special time for these songs, it's fine if they are squeezed between "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "If You're Happy and You Know It".  In fact, isn't it a blessing if your child sings, "Jesus Loves Me", "He's Got the Whole World", and "Lord of the Dance" as much as he sings "traditional" toddler songs?  You can also sing and play music you hear in Mass, not just children-specific music. 

7. Dolls. Such a great way to help little ones visualize Bible stories and interact with Jesus and the Saints.  You don't necessarily need religious dolls to do this (you can act out a Bible stories with the toys you have) but they certainly help.  Gina of My Broken Fiat suggested Little People toys (there is a Noah's Ark set and a Nativity set) and has a great blog post of her son with nearly life-sized Jesus and Mary dolls.  There are also some great ones on Etsy (just search the Saint you are looking for).

8. Crafts. The ideas for faith-focused crafts are endless.  You can make a cross out of nearly anything (beads, popsicle sticks, cardboard, blocks, etc., etc., etc.).  You can make a lamb out of cotton balls.  Most toddlers seem to love stringing beads, so a rosary would be perfect (a one decade rosary is great for a little one).  As your child strings the beads, say the appropriate prayer for each one. A paper plate can turn into an angel, a monstrance, etc.  Catholic Icing has so many crafts, including many that are appropriate, or can be adapted, for toddlers. 

9. Include faith items in your child's dress up box.  A blue sheet to dress up as Mary.  A simple brown robe (or brown pillow case with head and arm holes) and stuffed lamb to dress up as a shepherd.  A multicolored sweater to dress up as Joseph.  Or perhaps a few articles that represent a Saint that is important to your family - a crown for one of the many royal Saints (or for Christ the King), a crown of roses for Saint Rose of Lima, a fishing pole to represent one of the many fishermen apostles, armor to represent Saint George/Saint Michael.


10. "Baptize" a stuffed animal/doll. A fellow teacher shared this idea when we discussed how to get our students involved in the Year of Faith. Since Baptism was when our "door of faith" was opened, it's a great place to start teaching your little one about faith. 

11. Go on a nature walk.  It is hard for little one to understand how BIG God is, bigger and greater than mama and daddy even!  Take a walk through the mountains, on the beach, in a national park, or just a neighborhood greenbelt and show him everything that God made.  This is also a great opportunity to integrate science and faith.  Explain (in simple terms) how plants get food from the sun and how it is a part of the perfect plan God has for all his creatures. 

12. Read. A few board book suggestions: Baby, Come to Church!, Celebrating Mass, Daily Prayers, and Our Blessed Mother.  (Actually, all of the St. Joseph board books look great!)  I also love the Catholic Children's Treasure Box set.  It has stories, games, songs, and crafts for children age 2-5.  I was lucky to come across them at a used book sale at my church for only $30 (and they looked brand new), but I still think that at $5 a piece it's a good investment, especially if you'll have several children that will use them.

13. Help your child care for others.  Teach your little one about helping others by donating her toys and clothes to families who need it.  Especially during the holidays or birthdays when your toddler gets many new things, have her choose some of her toys to give away.  (Bonus, this helps reduce clutter!)  Another idea is to specifically pick new toys or clothes for another child, perhaps by picking a name on a Jesse tree during Advent.  Be sure to explain to your child that she is doing God's work by helping care for others.

14. Point out examples.  Use everyday interactions with family, friends, and strangers to teach about the God's love.  When your spouse cooks dinner (even if he/she does it everyday), use the opportunity to point out to your little one, "See Mommy making dinner?  She does that because she loves you and wants to take care of you.  God does that too."  If you see a stranger help another stranger pick up something he's dropped, that's a great learning opportunity too!  It's important to help your toddler learn explicitly about the connections between God and love.


15. Celebrate your child's Baptism Day.  This is your day that your child became part of the faith!  What a special day for her and for the whole Church!  Some ideas to make it special:
  • Take out a photo album and show her pictures of her baptism day.
  • Show her the baptism gown she wore, her baptismal candle, or any other mementos from the day.
  • Make a special cake or treat.
  • Give your little one a special gift to help her further her faith: a prayer book, a saint doll, a rosary, a religious picture to put on her wall, etc.

16. Celebrate Saints' Feast Days.  I didn't grow up celebrating Feast Days so this is very overwhelming to me.  My goal this year is just to pick two or three Feast Days and do a little something special for them, and hopefully add a few extra each year as my children grow up.   
  • Read a book about the Saint.
  • Make a special meal or dessert that has significance for the Feast Day.  I love the ideas from Catholic Cuisine.
  • Print out Saint coloring sheets.
  • Do toddler-approved crafts.  I love the idea of contact paper art for little ones that aren't quite ready for coloring or painting.  Cut out various items that represent the Saint and let your little one place them on contact paper.  You could do this for any Feast Day, holiday, or just for fun.  Here's an example from The OT Mama.  There are also countless art ideas on Catholic Icing.
  • If your child is named after a Saint, do a little something special on that Saint's feast day and let your child know that Saint is his special friend in Heaven.

17. Celebrate Advent/Christmas:
  • Felt Advent wreath
  • Nativity for small hands
  • Fill Baby Jesus's manger:  We started doing this when my brother was in preschool and he loved it.  Find a small basket, Baby Jesus figurine, and pieces of straw to fill the basket.  Put the empty basket in a prominent place and the straw nearby.  Each time your child does something kind, have her put one piece of straw in Baby Jesus's manger. The idea is that your child is preparing for the arrival of Christ through kind deeds; by Christmas the basket should be filled and your child can place the Baby Jesus in it.
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus.
  • Have an advent calendar with daily faith-based activities to do.  Each day you could pray for someone different, do a kind dead, etc.  You can incorporate them into traditional Christmas activities, for example, one day could be to make Christmas cookies to give to a neighbor or to pick out a toy for a less fortunate child while doing Christmas shopping.  
  • Don't end the Christmas season on Christmas day, keep your decorations up and celebrate the Epiphany with a few small gifts from the Reyes Magos (Three Kings).  Or reverse the gift giving and have your toddler make three small gifts for Jesus to be given to him on the Epiphany.
  • There are more great ideas in this 10 Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas (for Kids) post at It's Just Called Spicy.

18. Celebrate Lent/Easter:
  • Bury the "Alleluia" at the beginning of Lent and dig it up on Easter Sunday.     
  • I love the ideas of a Lenten Chain and a Jesus Tree that I found at Baby Love Slings.
  • To symbolize the Easter theme of rebirth, help your little one plant a seed and care for it.
  • Make a Lent tray of items as described at Montessori Living Now.
  • Have (make) a cross with a figure of Jesus that can be detached.  On Good Friday, put Jesus on the Cross and explain (in simple terms) that Jesus died for our sins.  Later that afternoon, have your toddler watch you "bury" Jesus somewhere (ex. in a cabinet).  On Easter morning, have your child help you open it to see that Jesus is gone.  Have your child look for Him "risen" somewhere else in the house.  Again, explain in simple terms the Resurrection.  (This might be a great use for a Jesus doll!)
  • Hide Easter eggs that include religious messages/symbols in them.  A lamb for the Lamb of God and Good Shepherd, a small cross, a prayer card, a butterfly to symbolize the Resurrection.


19. Put holy water fonts in your home at toddler height.

20. Place physical representations of the faith in every room of your house so that your little one learns that your faith is part of every aspect of your life.  These could be crucifixes, paintings, statues, quotes, etc.  We make it a point to have a crucifix in every bedroom in our home.

21. Have a little corner of your child's room dedicated to God. Include a baby cross or crucifix, perhaps a picture of the saint he/she was named after, a rosary, Biblical coloring books, and a basket of faith-filled toys (saint dolls, Noah's arc, etc.).  During the holidays, help your child decorate this area with religious decorations (a child's advent wreath or nativity).


  1. This is a fantastic post! I really love the idea of praying before naptime. That's something I never would have thought of. I also love the idea of creating a special "kids" prayer corner. You've given me a lot of food for thought as I prepare for my firstborn to arrive! Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! You'll have to let me know what you end up doing with your little one!

  2. Bookmarked this one! Great post. And I read the nap time prayers and thought, "hey, we do that. oh look! she got it from me!" Hehe.

    Did you notice one of the opening prayers at Mass today was from the Angelus? (That's our nap time prayer.) Peter just froze and stared as Father read it, like, "woah. how did he learn our nap prayer?!" So cute. :-)

  3. I wish I had something to add, but you already have so many wonderful ideas!

  4. I love this post! I love the idea about putting holy articles/costumes in the dress-up box! The saints are so awesome and what a great opportunity to present them as the heroes that they are!
    I made a PLINKO game...using the Happy Saints images. My 2.5 year old plays with it all the time!
    I also have made a one-decade Spiritual Bouquet (flower) with my kids when they were really little. The flowers looked kind of funny, but they learned the basic prayers pretty fast as long as I kept their little hands busy. I sell a paper craft kit (Spiritual Bouquet of Prayer Petal Flowers) at you can always just cut out 10 petals and the other flower parts and pray a decade as you glue the flower together. =) Makes a great gift for Grandma!

    1. I actually already had that Plinko game pinned on Pinterest! I'll have to make that for Lucia!

  5. My husband Jon has a picture of himself wearing one of his dad's white button-down shirts as an alb and a stole as a tie. In it, he is baptizing one of his stuffed raccoons at age 4 or 5.


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