I was asked this question today relating to under 2s in a toddler group, but my answer could apply to any group or home situation.
I love under 2s, but they are often ignored as they can’t draw or write or talk or walk or … well, the list goes on. However, God doesn’t seem to discount them from being His followers so we should be looking to help them grow in their faith, wherever they are in that journey. And because under 2s usually have adults nearby, it’s helpful to do ‘God-stuff’ which works across the generations, as the close relationships under 2s are building with adults will also help them in their faith journey.
When doing things with under 2s, I would recommend:
1. Keep it short.
2. Repeat stories. Share the same story multiple times, sometimes in the same session as they love repeating things!
3. Use physical things to help tell the story and let them hold and play with them both during and after the story. You could use toys as characters and/or props. They don’t have to be Bible characters. I once did ‘Jesus at Peppa Pigs house’ for the story of the man lowered through the roof. You could also do a story sack, with 3-5 items linked with things in the story. Think texture, smell, sound, and even taste as well as what they look like.
4. Get feedback from parents and the team and watch the children. Some will show a response then and there, for others it may be later or in a completely different setting. I’ve had my children repeat back parts of a story to me six months after I shared it with them, so don’t stop because you don’t see what’s happening inside them.
5. Don’t feel you necessarily need to give a moral response to the story. I might share what the story means to me and how it relates to my life. I’ve done a Godly Play style story with under 2s in a nursery and was told they never listen and they all gathered and listened and I told it a few times, and we did the first wondering question: I wonder which part of this story you like best. This helps them start engaging with the narrative on a personal level, and they can show it by picking up the part they liked.
6. Invite them to come and listen but don’t enforce it as they are very young for circle time and still developing attention span and are easily distracted, especially in a play-rich environment. Even much older children will choose to play while listening or sit upside down while being read to. it doesn’t mean they’re not listening or taking stuff in.