A few of you have written to me and asked at what age to start doing devotions with small children. I have thought about this extensively. We did use “Leading Little Ones to God” (modified for our beliefs) in our family when one of my children was three and a half – but here is the big addendum: There was a seven-year-old as well (who felt this book was too “babyish”, by the way). But the point was that the older child was there to carry it for the younger child. So, if your oldest child is only three and a half you may have to think long and hard how you bring these things. It may be okay, it may not work. This is a situation every family must ponder and decide to do what works best for their family.
Blessings and prayers as part of your rhythm are effective, as are preparing for festivals in accordance with your religious traditions. We never “explain” a festival to small children, but we “do”.
Children also strongly imitate us, so if we show them how we maintain our own spiritual or religious practices, that is going to be absorbed more deeply than any words will be.
Irene Johanson’s “Stories For The Festivals of The Year” is a wonderful book for children ages 6- 9 that can be found through Bob and Nancy’s Bookshop and Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore and contains the perspective of the Christian Community. She writes:
“A question often asked is how families with children can celebrate Christian festivals in a way that relates to the events described in the Gospels? The contents of the Gospels can have an influence on our entire life. The story of the life of Christ Jesus on earth is like an archetype for our own biography. The destiny of each human being is a variation on a theme recorded in the Gospels. But young children do not experience themselves as individuals with their own destiny. Consequently, it is not yet appropriate to tell them Gospel stories as if they were part of a human biography, before they have developed a sense of what destiny is.
“In the religion lessons of the Christian Community these stories are not told until the children are about twelve years old. Before this age, children feel completely at one with their surroundings and stories best suited for them are fairy-tales, legends and stories in which creatures talk to each other.”
She goes on to write, “Since pictures for the events of the Christian festivals do exist in fairy-tales, children can be told stories that contain images of death and resurrection at Easter, stories about a change of consciousness at Midsummer- St. John’s Tide- and stories describing courage and conquest at Michaelmas.”
This is an interesting perspective and perhaps one also worth pondering.
Start slow with small expectations as you bring these things into existence for your small child who has no separate consciousness yet. One post that may be of interest to you is this one: ahttp://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/18/the-development-of-morality-versus-the-development-of-faith/ regarding the idea that the development of morality is different than the development of faith.