Teaching Young Children to Memorize Scripture
Memorizing Scripture. There aren't a lot of people who look at young children and think, "They have the capacity to memorize Scripture." In fact, some people think that young children are incapable of learning, yet we know that they are CONSTANTLY learning. Why not introduce them to God's Word?
I started teaching my children to memorize Scripture for a few different reasons. One, I wanted to incorporate the Bible into our day to day lives. Two, I believed (and still do) that they are more than capable of learning AND applying the Bible to their lives. Three, I truly believe that there are a lot of benefits educationally if we help young children exercise their minds through memorization. Four, I simply wanted a simple and small way of breaking up our day.
We started memorizing Scripture when my youngest was two and my oldest was four. It's been a few months and they've got three verses down pat. Some of the verses we have memorized have been out of necessity. The first one we memorized was Romans 3:23 and this went along with our children's Bible and the story of the first sin. The second and third one we memorized was out of necessity when they started acting defeated when they felt that something was too hard for them. It's made a huge impact to remind them in their defeated moments that "Malachi can do hard things" while reminding him of his memory verse. It's become an encouraging game as my little boys look at each other and remind one another of their capabilities. "Nothing will be impossible with God!" "We can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!"
So, how do my children memorize Scripture while being so young? Here's the biggest and baddest secret.... are you ready?
We have fun!
Everyone has their own learning styles, which is is absolutely something to keep in mind. My boys are super active, so I opt for big gestures. I want them to use their whole body in their motions! It's also really helpful to make faces and to do funny voices. The biggest rule in teaching is that if you, as the parent (or grandparent, aunt, friend, etc) aren't having fun (and feeling a little silly) then they aren't having fun. The trick with memorizing is to HAVE FUN!
Here are some other tips:
- Keep the verses short. One of our hangups was when I chose John 3:16 for my boys to memorize. If you say it to yourself, it breaks up nicely into two parts. The thing is, two parts to put together was just too much for my boys to take on so early. Look for short, natural sentences.
- Write it down. If there are any parts of the verse you can draw out, do it. My boys gravitate towards very colorful objects. They're also too young to read (though they're very interested in the individual letters). I make a habit of writing out the verse and adding illustrations where I can. Be sure to add and teach the addresses! My little ones are learning how to count, so holding up fingers for the addresses is really fun for them. Three verses in and they can consistently give you addresses to their memory verses. I personally think that knowing the addresses are just as important as memorizing the verse!
- Add actions. Knowing a bit of sign language is helpful for these. The bigger the motions, the sillier the expressions, the funnier the voices, all of these accomplish the goal of helping the verse stick in their minds. Having fun (even while feeling silly myself) is the key to keeping them coming back for more. We WANT them to be excited about memorizing their verses and we WANT them to want to keep memorizing more and more verses!
- Post on the refrigerator and go over the Memory Verse at meal times or snack times. I post these where they are always visible. My boys get so excited that they even prompt me to review their verses! They also LOVE to show off for grandparents and anyone else who will listen. The point is, go over them often. I was amazed at how quickly they picked up their verses. My oldest child can memorize these short verses and have them down pat within a day! My youngest is a bit slower, so we work with his slower pace to help everyone stay on the same page and to truly have it memorized.
- Review verses that have already been memorized. Keep these fresh in their minds. Reviewing verses can be done during meal times or snack times, or they can be touched on where they apply in our everyday lives. Just as I mentioned "Malachi can do hard things" above, we talk about how nothing is impossible with God. We talk about how we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. We even talk about Bible stories where the different people did hard things because God was with them. My goal with reviewing and applying Scripture to our lives is to introduce them to the Lord. The Lord is our Helper and our Guide and He truly does love us. This is the Person I want them to meet.
- Reward. This is a completely optional idea. I'm always looking for ways to reward my children in a meaningful way. I love the idea of offering an allowance but struggle with paying them for contributing to our household. When I was little, my grandma called me up to say that if I memorized a verse, she would give me a dollar for each verse memorized. She gave me a list of five verses to start with. I struggled a lot with memorization and gave up quickly. As a mom, I love this idea a lot because I also want to teach my children about the value of money. After they memorize their verses, I reward them with a dollar. They're of an age where the dollar doesn't mean a whole lot, they're just excited to memorize their verses and to see our excitement. They'd be just as excited as with a penny or any other coin. I love being able to take them to the store and showing them that their dollar (plus other coins) can buy them a Hot Wheels car.
An additional note is that while my kids can memorize Scripture quickly, I'm not looking to run a race with them. I want the Word of God to be stored away in their hearts and minds. If I allow them to memorize at a very quick pace, then we run the risk of them quickly forgetting their memory verse. While my oldest could memorize it in a day, I review it constantly for a week (minimum) before introducing a new verse.