I’ll never forget the fourth time in a row my husband had read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” with our son, who was two at the time. My hubby was so over the insatiable caterpillar. I could see it across the room. As soon as my husband said the words “beautiful butterfly,” our son chimed out, “Again!” My hubby oh so calmly asked our son to choose a different book—any other book, please!—for him to read. I only chuckled. My husband was a toddler newbie. As a teacher of toddlers for years before we had a toddler of our own, I knew that toddlers crave repetition where adults crave variety.
For toddlers, every day is filled with new discoveries and adventures as they explore their ever-changing world. Repetition assures a toddler that a) some things do not change and b) they can “master” a new skill. Being able to know what happens next in a game such as peekaboo or in an often-read story helps toddlers feel successful. For toddlers, that’s the fun part of repetition.
Think about the first time you sang “Jesus Loves Me” to your group of toddlers. They probably sat silently and watched you with wide eyes. If you performed hand motions, they watched those too. The next time you sang it, they probably watched you just as sharply to make sure nothing had changed. The more you repeat the song, the more the toddlers become familiar with it and eventually sing it with you or perform the motions. They may not understand the words yet, but you are laying the foundations for them to grasp those truths later.
While you as a leader may want to vary activities from week to week, choose a few activities to do every time you meet with your toddlers. I suggest making a “habit” of providing hand-size Bibles in a pretty basket or container for toddlers to handle each week. While toddlers handle the Bible, invite them to open the pages as you tell them repeated phrases about the Bible, such as “The Bible is God’s words,” “God’s words are true,” or “The Bible tells us about God’s love.” Before long, toddlers will participate in the Bible time when they have “learned” the routine.
Repetition is key for any learning, but for toddlers most of all. So the next time little Lucy grabs a Bible storybook and wants you to read it for the millionth time, pull her into your lap and read it to her as if you’re exploring that book for the first time. Ask her questions; invite her to point to pictures or repeat what is coming next. Remember that these little routines help toddlers thrive as they explore the great big world around them.
For more tips on how to teach babies and toddlers the Bible, look here.
Rachel Myrick is the Babies and Toddlers Content Editor for the Gospel Project for Preschoolers. Rachel has served 1s and 2s (her peeps) for 12 years. Rachel and her husband, Shaun, live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with their almost 5-year-old son, Gideon.