Kids specialise in concrete thinking. The idea of praying and concepts like gratitude and forgiveness can be pretty hard to grasp – even for adults! You can help everyone in your household connect more easily with God by making prayer something that’s active and visual and concrete.
Here are five fairly easy ideas to get you started, and I bet you can come up with heaps more from here. And please add your own ideas in the comments below – let’s help each other out!
1. Start a Gratitude Wall
Instead of just saying ‘Thank you, God’ for the good stuff in your day, write or draw it and stick it up on your own family Gratitude Wall.
The easy version:
Get a few pads of large sticky notes, or cut up some scrap paper into pieces that suit the age and stage of your kids.
At dinner-time (or whenever), help each person to write or draw what they are grateful for and stick it up on your Gratitude Wall. It might be on the door of your linen cupboard or fridge, or on the wall by the kids’ toys – anywhere it will be seen often is great.
The extra-creativity version:
Get some paper in a few different colours that go together and with the area you are putting your Gratitude Wall. Cut out shapes that you like. They might be simple stars, hearts, gift-box-shaped, or as elaborate as you feel like.
2. Make a Shredder Confessional
Most kids don’t have too much trouble accepting forgiveness – from people or from God. But by the time they hit their teens, it’s often hard for them to move on from mistakes and let go of guilt. Younger children who have gone through trauma or family difficulty might also struggle to really feel forgiven.
Give your kids a picture of how full and final God’s forgiveness of us is with this dramatic prayer ritual. If you do this a few times through their childhood, it could be something that sustains them when they’re feeling worst about themselves later on.
You’ll need a paper shredder, used for destroying sensitive documents. You may well know someone who has one at home, or an office you could borrow one from overnight.
This could be a good thing to do each year at Easter time, when we are all contemplating our own guilt in a particularly poignant way.
Give everyone a piece of paper and invite them to take a few minutes by themselves to write or draw the things from the last day, week or year (depending on their age and stage) that they want to say sorry to God about. Tell them no one will see what they write or draw. It’s between them and God.
Read, act out or tell the story of the Lost (Prodigal) Son in Luke 15.
Remind everyone that God tells us that if we say sorry to God, and want to live more like Jesus showed us, then God is really happy to forgive us and give us a fresh start.
Invite everyone to say sorry to God for the things on their paper, then put the paper in the shredder. Supervise children closely, of course, watching especially that clothes and hair don’t get caught.
If it’s safe and wise for your home and your kids, burn the paper instead of shredding it. Stove-top, woodburner, open fire-place or even a beach bonfire – there are lots of memory-making possibilities here (but please be safe and sensible!)
3. Pray around the world with a map
Buy a large map of the world, or get a large atlas out of the library. Use the visual reminders of different parts of the world to pray simple, one-sentence prayers for the people of different countries and regions.
The easy version:
With your kids, take turns identifying different countries. For each country, share anything you already know about it together finish by saying ‘God bless Ghana/Germany/Greenland.’
The ongoing project version:
You could do this over a few weeks, giving everyone time to research countries they’re interested in. Each night, you can all take turns presenting what you’ve learned to the rest of the household. Each person can then lead prayer – simple, as above, or more detailed if you like – for their country, or perhaps an adult can help turn the kids’ research into prayer material.
The presentations can just be in conversation, or they can be elaborate and artistic if you want to spend more time on this. Let your kids’ interest levels guide you.
For each country you pray for, each person can light a tea-light candle and place it on the map near the country. You’ll get glowing clusters of candles around countries you’re praying for. What a good memory to give your kids.
4. Make a prayer tree of photos
If there are people you would like to pray for regularly – maybe friends, family members, people doing hard work for Jesus or people who are sick or struggling – print out their photographs and make them into a tree or other display.
Put the display on your dining table or within sight of it. For a month at a time, pray for each person on the tree (or for some of them) whenever you’re sitting at the table together.
- Make a prayer tree by getting a branch with a few smaller branches coming off it, and hanging, pegging or sticking photos to it.
- Turn the photos into a book and flick through it at dinner-time.
- Punch a hole in the corners of all the photos and put them all on a key-ring. Hang it up somewhere visible and put it on the dining table when you set it.
- Peg the photos to a line and hang it on the wall by the dining table (or wherever you want to pray together).
- Make a more permanent photo-frame display on a wall near where you eat. This would be particularly good if you wanted to have a wall of family photos and could then regularly pray for your loved ones, near and far.
5. Paint your prayers
Crayons, paints, coloured pencils – whatever your favourite art materials are, you can use them to pray.
- Invite your kids to draw a picture of Grandma and Grandad’s house and pray for the grandies while they do it.
- Suggest they paint something that says ‘thank you’ to God and see what they come up with. Chat with them about it.
- Draw pictures together of people they want to pray for.
- Paint the future your kids hope and pray for. Paint or draw a sick friend looking happy, a broken toy looking good as new, kids in Chad or Vanuatu looking well-fed and healthy, or something your kids want to do to make the world better.
Has anyone done anything like this before at home? Please leave a comment below with ideas that have gone down well with your kids. I’d love to add to the list for my own use!