How To Teach Your Toddler The Gospel: 5 Theological Truths to Teach Your Little One

Wondering how to teach your toddler the gospel? Read on for five truths to get you started!

The other night, as I was getting my (just turned) three year old in bed, he said something that made me stop and think.

He said something to the extent of: “now that I’m three I’m going to do good things!”

I felt like I had transported back in time three and a half years. Echoes of strangely similar conversations with my eldest rang in my ears.  And it all came rushing back to me.

How many times did we talk about how only God always does good things? How many times did I lay out the gospel, when one day everything clicked and he set out on a course to follow Jesus with all his heart?

Because isn’t that our highest goal as parents?

To lay out the path to the gospel and see our kids travel down that road? At first, holding their hand, guiding their feet, and then watching them walk the walk themselves.

In that one statement from my middle son, it hit me. It’s time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He doesn’t know a time without me telling him about God. Without me reading from his Bible. He knows the stories. He knows that Jesus died on the cross.

But now, as he is growing, things are going to start to change. His ability to converse is getting better. A sense of right and wrong is emerging within him. It is time for me to be more aware, more intentional with the way I talk to him.

After the conversation we had that night, I thought back to the things I did with my oldest. There is only 3 ½ years between them, but it seems so long ago that he was in this stage! As I thought, I came up with five theological truths that were laid as a foundation of understanding that allowed him to internalize the gospel message.

So, if you’ve ever wondered how to begin teach your toddler the gospel, this is an excellent place to begin. Because even though they can’t understand complex theological topics at this age, we can begin to lay the foundation for the future.

5 Foundations for Teaching Your Toddler the Gospel

1. God Made the World

As soon as you crack open the Bible (including your child’s storybook Bible), you are immediately confronted with this truth. God made everything. Everything is His. When you teach this to your child you set the foundation for the truth that God is sovereign over his creation.

This is one of the first and easiest truths to explain to your little one. Toddlers are already in explore mode. They love learning more about the world around them. They are already so full of wonder over creation. They love knowing that God made the flowers, and the sky, and the dog that lives next door.

Here are some simple ways to introduce this concept:

  • Reading the creation story in a storybook Bible (check out this one).
  • Going outside and looking at everything God made.
  • Modeling a sense of wonder when you look at something amazing that God created.
  • Looking at pictures of the things God has created in books.

2. God Made YOU

When God created this wonderful world, the grand finale was his creation of humans – his greatly loved and cherished children. When we tell our children that God made them, it establishes a foundation that they are loved and valuable to God.

Little kids love to hear about themselves. They love themselves! If something involves them, they want to hear about it. It makes them feel so special to know that God made them and loves them.

Here are some simple ways to introduce this concept:

  • Look at pictures from when they were a baby and talk about how happy you were that God gave them to you.
  • Tell your child what you love about them by saying “I love how God made you…”
  • Have your child flex their muscles and say “wow, God made you so strong!”
  • Have your child stretch out big and say “look how big and tall God made you!”
  • Make sure to also mention how God made other people special too!

3. Only God is Always Good

This is the conversation that I had with my son that night. He didn’t fully understand what I meant, but in time he will. When children hear the message that it is only God who is always good, it sets a foundation for the truth that God is holy and righteous.

It seems like most kids go through this phase of extreme desire to be “good.” I remember my oldest as a little three year old, always talking about how he was going to “do good things.” While it is easy to brush these comments off as “cute”, they are the perfect time to introduce this important truth.

Here are some simple ways to introduce this concept:

  • Remind your child during moments of discipline that only God can be good all the time, but that he will help us to want to do good and he will forgive us when we do bad things.
  • Talk about it while reading Bible stories and the characters are making bad choices.
  • When someone else sins against them, remind them that everyone makes bad choices and only God is the one who is good to them all the time.

4. You Do Wrong Things

This is the other side of the truth that only God is good – your child does what is wrong. You will have plenty of opportunities to point out this truth that lays the foundation for the fact that your child is a sinner.

As your child continues to grow, they begin to develop a more acute awareness that they do wrong. That often, even when they want to do right, they do wrong. It is this understanding of their helplessness in sin that will ultimately make the sacrifice of Jesus so beautiful to them.

Here are some simple ways to introduce this concept:

  • Once again, talk about it during moments of discipline.
  • Pray to God, asking for help to do the things He wants you do to.
  • Let your child know that even mommy and daddy do bad things. I remember the first time I told my oldest this – he couldn’t believe it!
  • Eventually connect truths 3 and 4 by talking about how God who is only good cannot be with people who are sinful.

5. The Good News

Once you get to the point where your child understands the four previous truths, the reality of the gospel begins to come into focus. It all comes together.

God created this world, He is in charge of it, He gives it life.

God is always good, all the time.

Because we do wrong, we do things that are against God, we cannot be with an only good God. And life without God is not life at all – it is the punishment of death.

But, the God who created us loves us so much that He came to the earth as Jesus and died for us. He took our punishment of death.

Now, because Jesus died for that bad stuff we do, we can live forever with God. All we have to do is believe.

Keep On Evangelizing

This is not something that you try and sit down and explain to your two year old all in one conversation. No, it is something you weave into conversation over the days, months, and years.

Sometimes the conversations are just a word or two spoken by you, sometimes the deep conversations coming from the hearts of such a tiny little one will shock you.

Keep pressing on. Keep speaking this truth into your child’s life. Keep leading them to the way, the truth, and the life.

Keep planting seeds, trusting that the Master Gardener will bring about a harvest in His perfect time.

My little three year old didn’t fully understand what I was trying to explain to him that night. However, someday he will, and that will be a beautiful day indeed.

5 Step Bible Lesson for Kids (That Will Have Them Begging For More!)

Looking for a simple, but effective, Bible lesson for kids? Keep on reading!


After my son turned six, I knew I wanted to begin digging a little deeper in our Bible time.

He’s been through Play Through the Bible and read lots of stories from our storybook Bibles. We also read through the Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories, which was a great transition from Bible storybooks to the actual text. Now, it was time for him to begin studying from his real Bible!

We’ve been doing our Bible lessons for about four months now and they have been going great! They are ultra simple, but he is loving them and learning so much. Our lessons often end with him begging me to read more!

So, today I want to share with you how we are doing these lessons.

(I also made you a FREE bookmark to print out and stick in your Bible that has all the steps outlined on it to make it super easy to remember! CLICK HERE to download it!)

What’s The Goal?

Before I do most things, I like to step back and take a moment to figure out what the goal is behind what I am doing. In this instance, it is helpful to divide Bible reading into two categories: devotional reading and study.

Devotional reading would be more of a worshipful or meditative experience, while study is more of a lesson style, where the goal is to learn something. Obviously the two categories overlap! When we have our Breakfast + Bible time and we read from a Bible storybook and sing hymns or other songs – we are still learning. However, the main goal of our Bible lesson time is exactly that – to learn more about the Bible and about God.

And what exactly do I want him to learn? This is something that will be different for every child, due to their age and their previous experience with the Bible. For my son, my goal for him is to gain familiarity with the main narrative sections of the Bible. 

So, while we do stop and discuss the meaning of the text, the main goal is for him is to know the stories. This is similar to my goal for him back when he did Play Through the Bible , except now he is reading the stories directly from the Bible, instead of a storybook Bible.

And of course, even more than remembering certain stories or details, I want to fan the flame for a lifelong love of scripture. He might not remember the specifics of what we read two months ago, but if he maintains a love for God’s Word, then he is on the right track.

What Do You Need?

There are tons of great Bible study programs out there for kids (hey! I even wrote one!), but for this I wanted to keep it simple. I wanted my son to feel like he could go straight to God’s Word to learn, be changed, and be encouraged!

So, to do these lessons, literally all you need is a Bible. It has also been helpful for my son to keep a Bible journal, but that is optional (you can read more about how we keep the journal right here).

As to where to do your lessons, that’s up to you! I have found, for us, that snuggling up on the couch has been the best spot. However, you could do them anywhere (at the table, in the kitchen, in bed, on the go…).

Alright, we’ve covered the goals and what you need, ready to get started?

Five Step Bible Lesson for Kids

Step One – Review

The first thing we do when we sit down to our lesson time is review what we read previously. Sometimes I’ll ask him what he remembers and sometimes I’ll give a little review.

This not only helps your child remember better what is happening in the story, it also gets their mind set on the right track and prepares them to begin the lesson. It’s like a little “warm up.”

It doesn’t need to take a ton of time, just a 4-5 sentence recap.

Step Two – Prepare

Before you dive into the reading for the day, take just a few moments to prepare your child for what will be coming.

What will you need to prepare them for? It depends on the child!

Basically, you just want to give them a “heads up” of anything that might be helpful for them to know before reading the passage.

Some examples are: important names, the setting of the story, unfamiliar words, etc. Sometimes it helps to write these important words on a dry erase board sitting nearby (although it’s not necessary). Don’t go overboard with details, just a few helpful tidbits – it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Step 3 – Read

Now it’s time to read your selected passage for the day! Here are five tips to help this go as smoothly as possible:

  1. Keep the selection short. I shoot for between 10-15 verses – that’s all! If it is hard to find a good stopping point I will occasionally go longer, however, my son has a pretty good attention span. If you are just starting out, or your child struggles with sitting and focusing for longer periods of time – try sticking to closer to 10 verses. You can even read less than that and slowly work your way up to more.
  2. Skip some stuff. Yes, everything in the Bible is important! However, not everything in the Bible is important or necessary for a six year old! Use your discretion when it comes to skipping portions – for now. If needed, give a quick summary of what you are skipping.
  3. Read with a little drama. The stories in the Bible are exciting – read them that way! Let the emotions of the story come out in the way you read. You don’t have to be the world’s best storyteller, but with practice you can be a pretty good one! 🙂
  4. Don’t repeat yourself. If your child wasn’t paying attention to the reading, try really hard to not re-read your selection. It feels a little backward at first, because you want them to hear it! However, when they know you are going to repeat it doesn’t encourage them to pay attention next time. If you are having problems with this, give your child a moment to focus, let them know you are only going to read once, and then stick to it. If they miss something, show disappointment with a “aw bummer, it was a really great part of the story too! Hopefully tomorrow you will pay attention and not miss anything!” This approach has done wonders for my son’s ability to pay attention – and his desire to do so!
  5. Leave them hanging. One of the other benefits of reading short selections is that, more often than not, you leave your child wanting MORE! When you stop right in the middle of the story of Jacob and Esau and put it away for tomorrow, there’s a good chance your child will be begging to read just a little more! And while it is hard to decline that request (and I don’t always!), try building up the excitement and saying “we’ll just have to wait and see!” Ending with them wanting more is an excellent way to fan that flame of a love for the Word.

Step 4 – Retell 

Up until now, your child’s main job has been to pay attention. But now, it’s time for a more active role. After finishing the reading, turn to your child and say to them “tell me what you remember.

Then, in their own words, your child retells the story to you. 

This act is so simple, but brings with it many benefits:

  • Increased memory of the reading (the act of saying it back helps cement it in your brain)
  • A greater desire to pay close attention next time (because they know they will have to say what they remember)
  • Communication of the parts of the story that are most important to them (as you see the things they choose to share)
  • Increased ability to process what they are reading (because their brain has to hold it and then spit it back out in a logical manner)

Now, just because it is simple – doesn’t mean it is easy. Unlike a worksheet with fill in the blanks or answering comprehension questions, your child’s brain is doing all the work of remembering and processing the information.

At first, your child’s retelling of the story might just be one sentence or they might only remember the very last thing you read – that’s okay! Resist the urge to add to their retelling or prompt them with questions.  In time, their retellings will improve.

Mix it up a little bit as well by having them retell the story to daddy, grandma, or the dog! Also, if you have multiple children doing the same lesson, have them take turns retelling.

Step 5 – Discuss

After your child has retold the story, take a few minutes to discuss together what you read. Now is the time to point out what you liked from the passage or ask a few questions. Don’t make it out to be a one sided lecture, but truly a discussion.

Some ideas of discussion questions you can use are:

  • How do you think *that person* felt when that happened?
  • How is God working in this story?
  • Why do you think *that person* did that? Were they trusting God?
  • How do you act like *the person from the story*?
  • What was your favorite part of the story?
  • What can you learn about God from this story?

Give it a try!

Whew! That’s it! Does it seem like a lot? I promise once you get the hang of the flow, these lessons become like second nature and only take about 10-15 minutes. You will be amazed at how well your child is able to dig into God’s Word!

If you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

If you’d like extra help in planning your Bible lesson for kids, everyone who is a Steadfast Family e-mail subscriber gets access to Foundation, a family Bible reading plan that goes through the main narrative portions of the Bible! I also include notes as to what portions you may want to skip or summarize. You can find more out about Foundation right here!

Click the image below to download this free printable bookmark with all the steps outlined!

PS Lest you think I am too awesome 😉 – this method for studying the Bible did not originate with me! It is the Bible study used in the Charlotte Mason Method of Education (in fact, its a simple rendition of the method used for most all lessons) – but even if you aren’t a homeschooler or someone who uses this method of education – I still think you should give this Bible lesson method a try! 🙂

Three Tips for Helping Your Child Start a Bible Journal

Wondering how to start Bible journal with your child? Try these tips.

One of our biggest goals as parents is to find ways for our kids to own their faith. To dig into God’s Word and walk with him daily. To go to Him in prayer and praise. And to do these things because they themselves recognize their need for Him, not just because mom or dad told them to.

A great way to do this that I’ve found recently and been implementing with my oldest is keeping a Bible journal. It is such a simple, spiral bound sketchbook from the local box store, but it is really helping him to dig into God’s Word for himself.

If you have never done a Bible journal with your child, I want to share three tips that I’ve found helpful.

#1 Have Some Ideas Ready

Sometimes, staring a blank page can be overwhelming. Even the most experienced writer still has writers block, willing a useful thought to appear on the white page before them. Imagine how it must feel to someone totally new to journaling!

Having a list of ideas (on paper or just stored in the back of your mind) can be helpful to overcome this.

One of the main things my son uses his journal for is to document what he is learning in our Bible reading. This helps give him a starting point when he goes to fill a page. Sometimes he will need additional nudges and ideas, but he usually comes up with something he wants to draw or write that goes along with the story.

Another thing I will do is suggest certain things I think would be beneficial for his journal. I do this in a “here’s an idea” way, not in a “you must do this” way (see point number three). I have helped him create Abraham’s family tree and encouraged him to replicate a map to mark Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph’s journeys on – things he wouldn’t have thought of himself, but enjoyed and were beneficial for him to do.

#2 Be Ready to Lend a Hand

Especially if you are attempting this with a younger child, they may need you to sit with them, or be close by if they need help. Although he occasionally works in his journal completely independently (and that will be the goal eventually), right now he still needs support as he learns this skill.

The main way that your help will most likely be needed is in writing. Especially if you have a younger child (and especially if that child is a boy) them dictating their thoughts to you will most likely be more successful than them doing all the writing themselves.

While my son enjoys writing some, he does like when I do the writing if he has a lot of thoughts or the words are hard for him to spell. So if he asks, I gladly let him dictate to me while I write.

#3 Don’t Forget it is THEIR journal and an expression of THEM

Yes, have ideas. Yes, be ready to lend a hand. However, and perhaps most important, be willing to step out of the way.

If they have an idea, don’t interfere. If they don’t do things exactly like you’d like, don’t change it. If they are resistant to your ideas, don’t push it.

Let this be an expression of them. Their thoughts. Their way to connect with God and to what they are learning from the Bible.

Does your child have a Bible journal? I LOVE seeing kid’s journal pages. Share them with me by leaving a comment or visitor post on the Steadfast Family Facebook Page or by tagging @steadfastfamily on Instagram!

Cheap Easter Basket Ideas (That are Still Meaningful!)

In need of some cheap Easter basket ideas? Look no further.
Cheap Easter Baskets

 

One of my favorite Easter traditions that I just love doing each year is unEaster baskets. (If you’ve never heard of this fun and meaningful tradition, you can read more about it here.)

Whether you do unEaster baskets or a traditional Easter basket, one thing is for sure, the cost of the items in the basket can add up really fast! Especially if you have multiple children!

For multiple reasons, this year the budget is low for Easter gifts. Like, really low, pretty much no budget! Since maybe you are in a similar place I wanted to share some of what I have come up with as creative ways to still have something meaningful in those Easter baskets while not spending much.

10+ Cheap Easter Basket Ideas

(Affiliate links included)

#1 Home Made Treats

Skip the more expensive fancy Easter candies and bake your kiddos their favorite treats! Right now my oldest is loving homemade Oatmeal Creme Pies and my toddler is all about anything with sprinkles on it! They will be super excited to see their favorite cookies in their Easter baskets.

Another fun idea would be to tuck in some granola or breakfast bars for something to munch on before heading off to church!

#2 Mom or Dad Date Coupon

This doesn’t need to be for a fancy event either – kids just crave that one-on-one time with mama or daddy! I’m thinking of putting in a few coupons for my oldest to do an art project together and my toddler loves baking with mom! Some other ideas are a park date, snuggling up with a good book, an at-home movie night, or a cheap outing like a donut date!

Such an easy, no-cost addition to your cheap Easter basket!

#3 Wash Cloth Bunny

I saw this cute little bunny on Facebook originally and thought it would be a really inexpensive addition to an Easter basket! You could pair it with some kid’s soap (hey, gotta buy soap anyway right?) or a homemade bath bomb.

#4 Origami Creatures

My oldest has just started getting into origami, so I know he would really enjoy an Easter basket decorated with some fun Easter themed origami (try Art for Kids Hub for easy video instructions). Tuck in some inexpensive origami paper and an “origami date” coupon to make it a complete package!

#5 Handmade Gift

Depending on the type of craft medium, handmade gifts can sometimes be really expensive. However, I don’t know about you, but I have a bad habit of collecting a large stash of unused craft materials!

Use up some of your stash to make a fun handmade gift for your kiddo!

I’m thinking of making a simple costume with some left over fabric. Get creative and resourceful with what you already have laying around!

#6 Scavenger Hunt

What kid doesn’t love following clues to find a surprise!? Do a quick google search for “kid’s scavenger hunt” or make up your own personal clues. Print it out and tuck the first clue in their Easter basket!

Or, use these fun Easter story themed clues from the Happy Home Fairy and go on a scavenger hunt for the basket itself! So fun!

#7 Homemade Play Dough

Are you sensing a theme of going homemade? It’s such a simple way to keep things cheap! And you can’t go wrong with Play Dough made from pantry items you already have on hand! Package it in plastic Easter eggs to make it extra fun!

Here is a simple recipe like we’ve made before!

#8 Do a Budget Borrow

One way to make a little extra room in the budget is to steal from another budget category by including something you were already going to need to purchase anyway.

I am planning on purchasing my son one of these awesome missionary biographies to read together, but I’m going to include it in the budget under his school supplies. Sneaky!

Some other ideas could be: other school or art supplies, personal hygiene supplies (yay for new toothbrushes!), rain boots, or garden seeds.

Doing this doesn’t necessarily make for a cheap Easter basket, but can make it easier to fit it in the budget.

#9 Buy Used

A while back I scored some awesome picture books super cheap at a library sale and I’m wishing now I would have saved some of them aside for Easter baskets! I might still pop into my favorite thrift store to see if they have a few nice books (usually only like $0.50!).

Whether it’s the thrift store, garage sale, Facebook BST groups, or hand-me-downs – used gifts are totally great! 

#10 Experiment Kits

What it is about “science experiments” that kids adore? My son is always asking to do experiments!

How easy would it be to package up some of the ingredients for simple kitchen science experiments? Print out the instructions and tape them to your “kit” and it’s a mess making kiddos dream! 🙂

#11 Bible Journal

A while back I purchased a really nice, spiral bound sketchbook for only a few dollars at Walmart for my oldest to use as his Bible journal. A notebook, sketchbook, or journal to use along with Bible reading would be a great addition to a cheap Easter basket.

#12 A Family Heirloom

What items do you have that might be gathering dust on your shelf, but would make a really meaningful gift for your child? Maybe the Bible you used as a kid? The stuffed animal you grew up snuggling? A special piece of jewelry?

Raid your storage (or maybe Grandma’s attic!) for something special you could pass down to your child.

Cheap Easter Baskets

I hope that gives you a good start to get your own ideas flowing for a cheap Easter basket!

Just don’t forget that what’s in that basket isn’t the real focus of Easter morning. Don’t be afraid to keep it really simple and focus on the resurrection!

The “Non-Hack” That Will Completely Change Your Social Media Habits

 

I can always tell the days that I have spent too much time on social media (ahem.. *Facebook*)…

My brain is foggy.

It’s harder to concentrate.

I’m unmotivated.

I’m often grumpy and irritable.

And yet my thumb still reaches for that tiny blue square.

Why?

Is it because I’m lazy? Or I just want to ignore my kids? Maybe I need better screen time limits for myself?

Could it be because I’m *addicted*?

It seems everywhere you go online right now, you’re being told to get offline. The harm of being connected 24/7 and overusing screens is well known.

So why is it so hard to put the phone down.. and leave it there?

No, you’re not addicted to your phone

The dictionary definition of “addicted” is physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects.

So, I don’t know, maybe you are addicted. However, for most of us, I think “addicted” has become a catch all term that both undermines serious addiction and is entirely unhelpful when it comes to the phone problem.

The real problem

So then what? Why does my hand grab my phone and without even seemingly thinking, press that icon and start scrolling?

Habit.

Here’s the thing, our brains love habit. Forget the path less traveled, our brains love the path well worn. Habit is the reason you can drive home while your mind is on a completely different topic and the reason you do a million other little things without even thinking about it.

Our brains love the well trodden path of the familiar. And, lets be honest, they are naturally a little lazy. If you have a brain that automatically would choose reading a heavy book over zoning out on Facebook – I want to know your secret!

Then, once you add in the fact that our brains love rewards, you’ve cemented that habit firmly in place. Cute cat video? Awww.. *burst of dopamine in the brain* Answer a question from a friend? I feel helpful! *burst of dopamine in the brain*

While scrolling social media, our brains *think* they are doing something, but in reality they aren’t. The well worn path is combined with positive feedback. We are stuck treading the same path without giving it much of a thought at all.

And when we do try and forge off path, it feels strange and unfamiliar. Our brains just want to get back on the normal track.

The solution

So what’s the solution then? How do we get off that path and forge a new one?

Well, this is where I have some bad news for you. There is no list of “5 easy hacks” to forming new habits. Forming habits is work. Often hard work.

A “hack” tells you to put a blocker on your phone or put it somewhere out of sight. A “hack” tells you to set limits for yourself. And while these hacks can sometimes be helpful, the problems is they do little to change the way our brains interact with our phones. 

We notice this when the time limit is up, the blocker is removed, and the phone is back in our hands. We fall right back into old habits.

But the thing about recognizing the power of your habits is that change is doable. The word habit doesn’t have the kind of negativity attached to it that “addiction” does, so you are already one step ahead in the mental battle.

You can build new habits.

You have a choice. 

Imagine you are at a fork in the road.

To the right is your current habit. The path is clear of obstructions. The road is level, the footing sure. It is easy to start down that path.

To the left, however, is new terrain. The path is so overgrown you can hardly see it is there. You can set down this path, but it’s going to take some ground work. However, the good news is, once that path is clear, you’ll have a new habit and a new easy path to tread.

5 “Non-Hacks” to build a new habit

So, I don’t have a hack for you, but I do have some ideas to get you started. We’ll call them “non-hacks.”

#1 A well worn path is well traveled

There is a reason they say that it takes 30 days to build a new habit. In order for your new path to be worn, you have to break it in. The more you walk that path, the more you clear it, the easier it will be to walk the next time.

Keep going. Or in this case, keep stopping. Stop posting, stop clicking, and stop scrolling. Go another way.

And when you inevitably turn down the old path, turn around and jump back on the new. Over and over and over.

#2 Replace old with new

If you wanted to improve your diet, you wouldn’t just get rid of the junk food. If you want to succeed with your new eating habits, you would also replace the junk food with new good food.

The same concept applies.

If you are going to change your phone habits, you need a replacer.

Now, there are a ton of things you can be doing instead of using your phone, but for the purpose of habit building you are going to want to pick something that is two things: 1) Simple and 2) Enjoyable.

Back to the diet example. If you are replacing your ice cream with something that is complicated to make and you don’t even like, what are the odds that you are going to stop eating ice cream? Not likely.

Pick a replacer that is easy to bounce your mind to. Instead of continuing to scroll, it might look like…

  • Reading a page or two from an enjoyable book
  • Telling a joke to your kids
  • Refilling your drink cup with something yummy
  • Turning on some uplifting music

The important thing is to keep it simple and just start with one, easy to remember replacer. Think of it like redirecting your toddler: “No, no, we can’t throw the blocks, but here is a ball you can throw.” The replacer gives just enough distraction to redirect your focus. The more you do the replacer instead, the less the other habit will have a hold on your brain.

#3 Find your triggers

One thing I’ve noticed is that there are certain triggers that cause me to more easily go to zoning out on Facebook. Things like being tired, bored, or overwhelmed. When you can recognize certain things that drive you towards zoning out on a screen, it is easier to fix the root cause.

Are you tired? Take a break that will refresh you.

I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down because I’m tired and zoned out on Facebook, leaving me more tired. Closing my eyes for ten minutes could have actually solved the real problem.

Are you overwhelmed? Face the feeling head on.

When I’m overwhelmed I often like to hide. If I can’t choose what to tackle first on the mile long to do list, I’ll just avoid everything. No matter how many times this backfires, it is still somehow a temptation! Resist it. Pray and then get after that to do list.

These are just a couple of my personal triggers. We all have different ones, but the point remains the same. The more you recognize them, the easier it gets to deal with them. 

#4 Focus on the real FOMO

Speaking of triggers, once I started realizing mine I found one that seems kinda silly. But that’s the thing about triggers, even if they’re silly, they still do their thing.

Maybe you can relate though?

I found out I struggle with a serious case of social media FOMO.

Fear of missing out.

I would find myself wondering…

What’s going on on Facebook?

I wonder if anyone commented on my Instagram post?

I’m just going to check this group real quick to see if anyone needs anything…

As silly as it seems, the online world never seems to sleep and I was always wondering if there was something going on that I needed to know about.

Thankfully, once I realized this was a problem for me, I found a pretty easy solution.

Redirect the FOMO. Look at what is right in front of you.

I asked myself…

Do I want to miss out on a Facebook comment, or my baby’s sweet giggles?

Do I want to miss out on an interesting article, or my son’s cool Lego creation?

Do I want to miss out on what so and so is up to on Instagram, or miss out on a conversation with my husband over dinner?

Now, that’s some real FOMO.

#5 Find new rewards

I was reading a book completely unrelated to screen time, and it had one little snippet that wasn’t even the focus of that section of the book (It was The Law’s Guide to Nature Journaling and Drawing btw – great book!). But that one little snippet totally caught my attention.

It said that the sense of wonder we get when we discover something new about the world gives us a release of dopamine in our brains. 

That got me thinking.. if that gives us a dopamine punch, what else does?!

And if we can choose other activities that release dopamine, can we retrain our screen time loving brains to go after those things instead?

Why not?!

Here’s a list of some things that can give you a dopamine kick:

  • Doing something creative
  • Discovering something new
  • Exercising
  • Having a healthy snack
  • Listening to music (combine with exercise for a dance party – my favorite!)
  • Have some *special time* with your husband 😉
  • Check something off your to do list
  • Spend time in prayer
  • Go outside in nature

Pick some of those to focus on and retrain your brain to find pleasure in these good habits!

You got this!

Alright, it’s time to start putting this stuff into action. This might not be easy, but it is so so worth it. Since I have started figuring out these things and putting them to practice, I haven’t gotten perfect (I’m still building these habits myself!) but it has gotten so much better. And the benefits of spending less time in front of a screen are endless.

Before you know it, you’ll be looking back and realizing you just went hours or even the whole day without the urge to pop onto your phone “real quick.”

Two more resources that have immensely helped me navigate this are have been the book Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn and this article by Hands Free Mama. Highly recommend both!

I’d love to know how you are doing in building these new habits, so leave a comment, shoot me an email, or come hang out on the Steadfast Family Facebook page (hey, the nice thing about building these habits is you have control over spending some time on social media, cause it isn’t all bad!)

One last thing for you, I made this fun flow chart to help you start thinking through how you are spending your time on social media and the triggers that drive you there. I hope it helps to give you some ideas!

(Click on the image below to open a PDF)

Happy habit building!

Journey with Jesus to the Cross: A Lenten Bible Reading Plan for the Family

**Note: scroll down to the end of this post to find out how to get the FREE printable reading plan and calendar!**

Have you ever wondered why we make a big to-do about the countdown leading up to Christmas, but Easter tends to get a major lack of fanfare?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good Advent calendar. However, Easter Sunday is the cornerstone of our faith. Without the death and resurrection, the baby born in the manger is just another baby. Right?

This is why I LOVE Lent.

Although it is not as commonly celebrated among some denominations, the observation of Lent seems to be on the rise in recent years, which is awesome! While it is definitely not mandated to observe, Lent is a wonderfully beautiful way to spend the time leading up to Easter in reflection and anticipation.

But how do you incorporate a 40+ day holiday with kids?

When I was thinking through how I would like to introduce the season of Lent to my young children, I knew I wanted to do two things: first, make it about Jesus and second, keep it simple. 

If the goal of Lent is to direct your focus towards Jesus’ work on the cross, what a better way to do that than to follow Jesus on his own journey to the cross by reading his words each day?

40 days of meditating and reflecting on the wisdom, commands, rebukes, and comfort that Jesus spoke during his time on earth. 40 days of drawing closer to him through the reading, and the doing, of his words.

Now, if we were going to be successful at doing anything for 40+ days straight, it needed to be easy to follow and implement. I also wanted something that would give a visual to my kids of how many days we had left leading up to Easter. That is where the idea for a countdown calendar of some sort came from. Plus, each day has the verse already labeled on it, that way once you’re set up, you don’t have to do any more prep throughout the 40 days.

Setting up this devotional is easy!

First, print out the pages.

Then, cut out the pieces.

Finally, hang on the wall to create a path, placing the empty tomb at the end. Use the picture of Jesus to mark which piece of the path you are currently on.

The scriptures are listed in the general order of appearance in the Bible, but it doesn’t matter too much if a few get mixed around. Just try and start with the first one listed (Matthew 4:17) and use the pieces designated with the cross in the bottom right corner for Holy Week.

Since the 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays, there are five “Sunday pieces” with a large cross and “John 14:15” written underneath. Place these where the Sundays fall along your path and use them as a day to reflect back on what you read that week, brainstorming together ways you can actually live out the words Jesus spoke.


Excuse the mess! 🙂

Well, are you ready to get started?! You can get this printable for FREE as a Steadfast Family subscriber. Sign up below! 🙂

A Revolutionary Mindset for Family Chores

What used to be a given in the life of the family, chores are now apparently falling by the wayside, with only 28% of parents stating that they give their child(ren) chores, according to a recent study. Even in spite of the up and coming evidence that chores are beneficial to children (here, here, and here), and the old-school common sense, parents just aren’t giving their kids chores as much these days.

However, YOU are not that parent, right? Because you clicked on this post, I’m going to assume you know that chores are beneficial. You want your kids to pitch in around the house. You are, after all, not a maid. Amiright?

Herein lies the big question? HOW?

A quick search on Pinterest will only give you about eleventy-billion results for chore charts, job cards, reward systems, and on and on and on. Where do you start? And do these systems even work?

Truth is, I don’t know. I haven’t tried them. The closest I’ve come to using a “chore chart” is when I jotted down a few jobs on a piece of construction paper for my son.

However, over the last few years I have stumbled on something. Something that does work. A mindset that has revolutionized the way I handle family chores.

First, I’m going to lay out the thought process that has worked for us. Afterwards, I’m going to tell you the *secret* to making it all work.. so stick around for that mmmk?

 

First off, no rewards!

Yep, you heard me. Basic, every day chores and house work does not get any compensation from mom and dad, other than the satisfaction of a job well done. We all live here, we all make the messes here, we all help. We do everyday chores together and work on bigger house projects together too. It’s a team effort.

Plus, if you work hard now, it means less work for mama later and maybe she can actually sit down for a minute and play that game you keep asking to play.

In all seriousness though, I don’t want rewards to be my children’s motivator to do good things and work hard, so I use them very sparingly as a general rule.

Three Stages of Workers

Here is the meat and potatoes of this method. It’s an amalgamation of various chores posts and systems I’ve read over the years. The best part is that it will work with every age child in your family. Perfecto!

Stage 1: The Helper

I’m just going to say this right off the bat. The helper’s “help” is not usually very helpful. It’s the toddler who plays in the water more than actually washing the dishes, the preschooler who folds the towels all wonky, and the child who skipped over half the window you were washing.

The helper works beside you, often getting in the way, often undoing what you just did. Sometimes the helper gets a “job” that serves only to keep him or her occupied for 5 minutes.

However, in this stage the importance does not lie with the end product. No, the importance is the feeling being helpful, of being included, and the beginning of family work becoming a habit.

So, take a deep breath… and let the toddler join you at the kitchen counter.

Stage 2: The Apprentice

This is where the real work starts. No, not for them, for you. 🙂 In this stage, you are no longer just doing damage control on their “help” – you are the coach.

It’s best to start with one task at a time. Want your child to be able to clean the bathroom? Be prepared to stand there the entire time, explaining what cleaner to use, how to scrub the toilet, and what exactly a clean counter should look like. With tasks that have multiple steps, it is helpful to have a check-list nearby to aid in independence.

In this stage you are going to be demonstrating, observing, helping, and reminding. With your training, gradually they will need your help less and less, but don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Stage 3: The Expert

It’s the stage you’ve been waiting for! You say the magic words: “please go do your laundry” – and they DO IT. Correctly. Without you. Did you hear that? You did not do the laundry. They did.

All that work has finally paid off. Your child is an expert in the chore(s) you have trained them in. Now, don’t be surprised if their memory seems to fade and they need a little time back in the apprentice stage. However, overall, you’ve got fully functioning members of the family.

It’s time to have a party! A cleaning party that is. 🙂

Moving through the stages

In our home, if you are under 5/6 years old, you are probably still firmly in the “helper” phase. I don’t even think about trying to venture out towards independent cleaning or checklists, or any of that. I just pull a stool up to the counter and call over a helper.

That said, if you haven’t done much by way of chores (or even just certain chores) an older child might still need to be in the helper phase. Let them help you make breakfast a few times (just cross your fingers there’s no egg shells in your food), then slowly move towards the apprentice mindset. Soon, they’ll be able to make a dish, then a meal, and their skills continue to expand.

A child can also be in multiple stages at once. He could be helping with kitchen work, apprenticing bathroom duties, and an expert at making his bed. It is less about having a complicated system, and more about having a mindset of slow growth through the stages.

How we set it up right now

Currently, what this looks like for us is this…

After lunch is our “chore hour.” We all work together for the hour between lunch and quiet time to do our chores and get the house feeling nice(r). The rule is this: first you do your assigned chore (apprentice stage), then you pick up your bedroom. If there is any time leftover, you help someone else with what they are working on.

Currently my 6 year old is apprenticing in cleaning floors (sweeping, vacuuming, mopping). If he has time after picking up his room, he helps me with other tasks (kitchen, laundry, etc). The toddler generally stays by me and “helps” or sometimes I’ll send him to help his brother.

The six year old also has a cooking job, which is currently training on how to prep veggies. Both boys enjoy helping in the kitchen at other times.

The SECRET to making it work

Okay, I promised a secret. So, here it is… (hopefully we’re still friends after this revelation)…

This is HARD WORK

Ah! Mind blowing, right?

Okay, okay, you’re probably thinking “Obviously! I know this is hard work! How does that help me make it work?”

Because expectations are everything.

If I expect my child to do their chores without my help and then they do them sloppily and half way, what happens? I get frustrated.

If I expect to make dinner without a toddler dumping spices all over the counter, what happens when the mess comes? Same.

Training little ones how work hard and function as productive members of society when they are grown is HARD. It is way easier to send them to their room while you fold laundry, put on a movie during dinner prep, or shoo them outside so you can mop. The struggle is real!

But, heres the thing…

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” 
-Galatians 6:9

Don’t give up! Keep the future goal in mind and it will make all that hard work worth it.

So lean on God, roll up your sleeves, grab a kid, and get to work.

Twelve Gifts of Advent: Waiting for the Promised One

The word Advent comes from the Latin word that means “coming.” Traditionally, Advent is the season of waiting and preparing for the One who is coming. And as amazing as the Christmas story of the babe in the manger is, its meaning becomes a whole lot deeper when we understand the story that came first.

The story of creation and fall, and of the long waiting for the coming of the promised one.

I originally had the idea for this advent devotional a few years ago when we were doing resurrection eggs at Easter time. If you’ve never heard of resurrection eggs, they are Easter eggs in a carton, each with a small object inside. Each object helps tell a part of the Easter story. This simple way of telling the story was fantastic. It was hands on learning for my young son and so simple for me. Once the eggs were assembled, all we had to do each day was open one up and read the corresponding scripture.

This devotional works much in the same way. Each day, you open a gift. Inside the gift is an object that helps to tell the story of Advent – waiting for the coming of the promised one. The objects really help in remembering the story! Do all twelve days in a row, or spread them throughout the season – it’s up to you!

**CLICK HERE TO SKIP RIGHT TO THE eBOOK**

Here’s a video I made that shows everything I put in our boxes…

 

How to Make the Advent Boxes

Most of the items for the boxes can be found around your house, but for ones you may need to purchase I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. All you do is wrap up the object and add a tag with the corresponding Bible verse to be read.

DAY ONE – CREATION 

Genesis 1

Globe ball

DAY TWO – FALL

Genesis 3

Tree branch

DAY THREE – PROMISE

Genesis 3:15

Rainbow

DAY FOUR – PEOPLE

Genesis 12:1-3

People figurines

DAY FIVE – MESSENGERS

Isaiah 6:8

Envelope

DAY SIX – LIGHT

Isaiah 9:2-7

Battery operated twinkle lights

DAY SEVEN – SAVIOR

Isaiah 53

Life saver candy

DAY EIGHT – SILENCE

Malachi 4:5-6

Earplugs

DAY NINE – ANGEL

Luke 1:5-25

Angel ornament

DAY TEN – GIRL

Luke 1:26-33

Girl figurine

DAY ELEVEN – BABY

Luke 2:1-21

Baby doll

DAY TWELVE – CROSS

John 3:16; 19:17-18

Cross made from two sticks

Want to make this even easier?

I’ve put together an awesome resource for you! It’s everything you need to make these gift boxes a fun Advent tradition for your family.

Introducing.. Twelve Gifts of Advent: Waiting for the Promised One – a hands on family Bible study!

For only $5, you get more ideas and instructions, a devotional guide for each day, printable tags, and more!

Here’s an example of day one…

The devotional goes through each day, explaining the significance and making it really easy for you to lead your family to a fuller understanding of everything that came before the baby in the manger. There’s even printable images for you to use if you don’t have time to get physical objects together for the gift boxes!

And I wanted to make it super affordable for you, so for only 5 bucks, it’s a no brainer!

Thankful for Who He Is – Psalm 136 Fall Banner Craft

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Today I want to share with you a fun fall activity that we did recently. Not only was it a fun way to play with the pretty fall leaves, but it also was a great opportunity to get ready for Thanksgiving and dig into some theology – learning about who God is!

Here’s a video I made for the Steadfast Family Facebook page if you prefer to see the craft that way!

 

Okay, let’s get started!

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

 

First, you are going to want to collect some leaves. This is a whole activity in and of itself, so feel free to do it at a separate time. If you live in a climate that doesn’t have pretty leaves, never fear, just print some off online (like these or these)!

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Once you’ve got all your leaves collected, pop them into your scanner and make a few copies. Now, you could skip this step, but I wanted our banner to last a while without the leaves getting all crumbled up and drying out. This was a fun way to accomplish that!

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Next you are going to want to cut out the leaves. Which is a good opportunity to practice patience! haha 🙂

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

After all your leaves are cut out, it’s time for the Bible lesson portion. Open your Bible to Psalm 136. We read about the first half and that was the perfect amount for my almost 6 year old. Then, we talked about Thanksgiving and giving thanks to God for all the amazing things about Him and all the great things He does.

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Then, I wrote on one of the biggest leaves: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is…”

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Together, my son and I came up with things about God that we could be thankful for and we wrote each one on a leaf.

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Once something is written on all the leaves, it is time to string them together. Cut two slits (by bending the leaf a bit and cutting with scissors) toward the top of the leaf and then string them all on a length of yarn or twine.

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Once you are finished, hang your beautiful fall banner up to remind your family of all the wonderful things we are thankful for about our amazing God!

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Bonus Note: Play the song “Forever” by Michael W. Smith. It is perfect for this activity and my kids love it!

Still Feeling Burned Out After Your “Me Time”? Here’s Why.

“Self care”

“Me time”

“Fill your cup”

The world seems to practically scream at you these days: “Tired? Overwhelmed? Burnt out? You need to take time for yourself!” Self care is the catch all solution to practically all your ailments.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love some good alone time (Hi, my name is Liz and I’m an introvert!). Even Jesus had alone time! However, here is the problem: Have you ever woken up from your nap or returned home from your “me time” at the coffee shop to find out something crazy?

Your life is still there! 

Seriously, I don’t know how many times I’ve been like, “okay, I just need a little down time and I’ll be good,” but then moments upon reentering normal life I am just as stressed out (or maybe more if the dishes magically piled up in my absence) as before!

What gives? I thought “filling my cup” was supposed to fix all these problems!

What is the answer?

A few weeks back I was listening to the sermon at church. I honestly don’t even remember what the general topic of the sermon was, because there was one illustration that totally rocked my world.

The pastor was talking about how we often view the power that comes from God like gas in a car. We “fill up our tanks” (through Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, etc) and then try to go about our days, using that “stored up” power. However, that’s not how it works. We don’t run on gasoline, we run on electricity. As long as our wires stay connected to the source, the power keeps flowing.

In John 15:5, Jesus says:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

We can’t fill up at church on a Sunday morning, or even in our morning quiet time, and expect to run on that until we can “fill up” again. And we definitely can’t expect a monthly girls night, a nap on the weekend, or taking time to do our makeup in the morning to be able to give us the strength to face our days with love and patience.

It’s not that those things are bad (they can be very good!), they just don’t have that kind of power. Only one person does. 

Change your mindset

This simple revelation totally changed my mindset. Time with God is no longer another thing to do in my day, it is the lifeline that gets me through my day!

A good way to envision it is this…

Imagine you are swimming in the middle of a large body of water. The water is still, the skies are blue. You are enjoying yourself during your refreshing swim.

The wind starts to pick up a bit, but you are doing fine. However, time passes and the wind blows harder and clouds cover the blue sky. The waves start to roll, getting bigger and bigger.

It begins to rain.

The wind whips the rain into your eyes. The water below you is swirling all around. It is dark now and hard to see. The pleasant swimming you experienced before is only a memory. It is taking all your effort just to keep yourself afloat in this storm.

All of a sudden you look up. A boat has come near. Someone throws you a life preserver ring and it lands within your reach.

You turn to the source of the device and cry in despair: “Can’t you see I can barely stay afloat? How am I supposed to hold on to something while I am already so overwhelmed?!”

Ridiculous, isn’t it? Of course you wouldn’t say that. You would grab that thing for dear life and never let go. You would cling to it in the midst of the storm. 

I just can’t seem to make time

How many times have you said this in regards to spending time with Jesus? “I just can’t seem to make time.” How many times have I said it? We beat ourselves up for missing our quiet time, for skipping our Bible study because of the demands of life. Life swirls around us and we wonder, “when was the last time I prayed?”

Dear friends. God is not someone that we arrange a daily meeting with. To get our instruction and correction and then be sent out to face the world alone. No, God desires to be the life giving power throughout your day. Jesus is your vine. Your life preserver. Your rock.

In the words of the great hymn:

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
  Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior!
    I come to Thee.

Stay connected to the vine

The truth is, when we are tired, weary, and overwhelmed, taking a nap, having some alone time, or even doing a Bible study is an easy answer. It is simple. It is a concrete action we can take. Clinging to Jesus is not. It takes practice to continually turn our minds to Him. It takes relying on the work of the Holy Spirit within us, instead of on something that we can do for ourselves. However, the power is in Jesus, not in our ability to make time for self care.

So cry out to Him..

…when the kids are going crazy.

…when the baby’s been up all night.

…when your marriage is going through a difficult time.

…when you are overwhelmed.

…when you aren’t sure what to do next.

Go to His Word. Not just to study like a textbook, but because it is the very life-breathing Words of God. 

Sing praises to him throughout the day.

Whisper a prayer or two or three during the moments that try you.

Come to Him again and again for forgiveness and a fresh start. He is not looking for someone who has perfect prayer and Bible study time, but someone who humbly goes to Him again and again for his mercy, grace, and strength.

So yes, take some time for yourself. Get that breather, enjoy your moment of peace. But when the trials of the day return, stay connected to the vine. Cling to the one who really has the power and the strength you so desperately need. 

That is something no amount of self care will ever give you.