As we observe the season of Lent, I’ve been thinking about how careful we need to be to not “leave Jesus hanging on the cross” as we talk about His death and resurrection with the young children in our lives.
I’ve hesitated writing this post because the last thing I want to do is make someone feel self-conscious or sad about doing this in the past. Let me be the first to say that I don’t always do this perfectly! And, if you are someone who has never thought about this issue before, please don’t stress about it. Here’s just something to think about going forward: Don’t leave Jesus on the cross!
Here’s what I mean:
In the Church, especially around Easter, we have a tendency to focus on our sin and on the sadness and sorrow of Good Friday and the crucifixion. Rightly, we want people to understand their sin and need for a Savior.
Talking about our sins and all the things we’ve done wrong and how Jesus died on the cross to redeem our sins.
Writing our sins down on a piece of paper and hammering them into a wooden cross.
But, we have to be careful with children to not “stay” in that zone, for two reasons:
Children don’t have the same time concept as adults. My 3 -year-old still can’t quite remember the difference between yesterday and tomorrow. She can’t always recall a conversation I had with her earlier today. While this will obviously get better, even elementary school children don’t have a superb sense of time, in the same way teenagers and adults do.
Until around age 12, children are not abstract thinkers. They need things concretely explained to them. When we do an activity like “nailing our sins to the cross” (by writing a sin on a piece of paper), they can’t retain that activity over the course of two days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. They’re not processing that symbolism the same way adults do.
So, here’s a general rule when working with children, I would say all the way up through age 12 or so:
Don’t leave Jesus on the cross. If you talk about the crucifixion, talk about the resurrection in the next breath. If you lead an activity about sin and death, wrap it up with a component describing His victory from the grave.
In our family, I try to make sure we always say something like, “Jesus died on the cross and rose againon Easter,” rather than simply talking about Jesus dying on the cross and leaving it at that.
After all, what’s the value of His death on the cross if we don’t remember He rose again on Easter morning?
I want the victory of Easter to be ingrained in the minds and hearts of the children I teach.
I want to be sensitive to any Catholic Christian readers of Faith Passed Down. I understand there are reasons for crucifixes depicting Jesus on the cross, and I’m not trying to demean that practice.
Just make sure that as you view a cross with Jesus hanging on it with your young children, you point out that He’s not on the cross anymore – we can remember our sins and also remember that He rose victorious from the grave!
The other night after my husband came home from work, our family gathered around the table and ate a simple Peruvian dinner of chicken, rice, potatoes, and salad.
Together with our two little girls, we talked about the nation of Peru, learning some basics about their culture. We located Peru on a map (it’s in South America!) and listened to a song in Spanish. (We may have danced along with it!) Then we prayed for the people of Peru before heading to bed.
It was a sweet, meaningful, and simple time, and I’d love to empower your family to do the same.
Today I’m thrilled to share the first installment of a new resource called Around the World from Your Living Room. It’s a simple series that I’ve put together providing resources for a meal, activity (like a craft or game), and prayer for different countries.
Here’s how it works:
Your family (or small group, or Sunday school class, or whatever) gathers together for an hour or two to focus on a country.
You’ll prepare a simple meal together from that country, using easy-to-find, real food ingredients.
As you eat, you’ll learn about the country.
Then you’ll do a craft or play a game originating in that country.
Finally, you’ll gather together to spend a few moments praying for the people there.
Today I’ll be sharing a guide for Peru, and in the months to come, I’ll share about several more countries. I have traveled to Peru twice, so I was especially excited to share about Peru with my family and all of you!
Overview: Peru is a beautiful, mountainous country with a rich history, known as the seat of the Incan empire in the 1500s. Peru is famous for housing Macchu Pichu, an ancient palace for the Incas, located high in the mountains near Cusco. Most Peruvians face poverty, though for the past years they have had a good economy under good government.
Location: Peru is on the coast of South America, bordering Ecuador, Brazil, and Bolivia.
Population: 30 million people
Language: Spanish is the most common, but a small population speaks Quechua.
81% Roman Catholic Christians
12% Evangelical Christians
Weather: Near the coast, Peru has mild weather, with warm summers and cool winters. In the mountains, it can be very cold, though there is rarely snow except on the very top of the Andes mountains. Peru is located south of the Equator, which means summertime happens in December/January/February and wintertime happens in June/July/August.
I sliced two potatoes lengthwise into “French fry” shapes, tossed them in some olive oil, then put them in the oven on 400*. But, I had to go pick up the chicken… so, I just turned off the oven a few minutes into cooking, and let the potatoes sit inside for 30+ minutes while we were gone. They turned out great!
Chop up some iceberg/romaine lettuce for a salad. Top with shredded carrots and tomatoes.
For dressing, you can make this cilantro avocado dressing… or if you go to El Pollo Loco, just ask for a side of their avocado dressing – it’s very similar!
Alternatively, look for a bottled avocado and/or cilantro dressing (Trader Joe’s carries a cilantro dressing in their refrigerated section.) Or just use ranch!
Make a batch of white rice using your normal method. We use a rice cooker.
Even if you usually eat brown rice (we do!), I highly recommend white rice so it’s a more “authentic” experience.
Optional: Inka Cola
Your local grocery store may carry Inka Cola, especially if you live in an area with a larger Latino population. I found some at Target.
Inka Cola is a staple of Peruvian culture. It is a caffeinated, BRIGHT yellow soda and tastes just like bubble gum.
We didn’t buy any for our dinner because my husband hates bubble gum flavoring and our girls are too little for soda yet. But, it will definitely give your meal a genuine Peruvian flavor!
Alternative: Check if you have a Peruvian restaurant in your town… many communities do!
Hands-on Activity: Nazca Line Pictures
The Nazca lines are a famous location in Peru featuring incredible, huge sand drawings of animals and shapes, somehow created by an ancient civilization. To learn more about the Nazca lines, click here.
The Nazca lines were likely made as an offering to ancient gods. You could talk with your children about how we worship the One True God. You could talk about creating your art project to worship God, our Creator.
Inspired by this site, we made sand pictures in honor of the Nazca Lines.
Look at photos of the Nazca Lines. You can look at this page for examples (or just google “how to draw the Nazca lines” and view the images that appear.
Have your child draw a picture with a pencil or marker. Younger children can draw any shape; older children may want to draw an animal that looks like the Nazca lines.
Trace over the drawing with glue. (You may want to do this on behalf of younger children.)
Sprinkle sand (of any color) over the glue, then shake it off into a trash can or a piece of paper. Let dry.
Tip: We didn’t have any sand, so I actually used unsweetened Kool-aid mix instead. It worked at first, when it dried, it “melted” a bit. My preschooler wasn’t picky, but an older child may prefer the precision of colored sand.
As a family, spend a few minutes praying for Peru. If you have a globe or world map, locate Peru and have each family member place a finger on (or near) the country. You can lead the prayer, or invite each family member to pray about a specific request.
Your prayer time does not need to be lengthy! Don’t feel intimidated by thinking you need to pray for 10-20 minutes or more. Just a couple minutes focused on these requests, or others that come to mind, is fine.
Economy: The economy in Peru has been improving, but 25% of Peruvians still live in poverty, surviving in shanty-towns without electricity, running water, or other basics. Pray for job opportunities and for hope for the people there.
Religion: Many Peruvians are Roman Catholic Christians, but not all are actively practicing in their faith. Pray that Jesus would be a real, daily presence in their lives.
Health: Malnutrition rates in Peru have been dropping, thanks to government campaigns to teach good hygiene and provide clean water. Pray that this continues!
History: The Quechua are a native tribal group (you might think of them as “Native Americans” or “American Indians.”) Missionaries have worked hard to translate the Bible into their language and to bring Christ to this group, and God is transforming the Quechua! Pray that He would continue to be known among them. (I found this request on Operation World).
Ministry: Pray for local Peruvians who are reaching out within their own country, offering physical and spiritual support. Pray for the ministry of Krochet Kids as they provide jobs making knit hats and help support a community among the women who work there.
The Goodfellow Family works with Krochet Kids in Peru.Their blog has many pictures about their life in Peru, both every day life and their travels around the country.
Listen to Spanish worship music. When I visited Peruvian churches on a mission trip, I loved these two songs: “Te Alabare Mi Buen Jesus” and “Tu Eres Todopoderoso.” If you know basic Spanish, you will probably understand part of the songs (Alabare = worship/praise & todopoderoso = all powerful). I highly recommend dancing along. 🙂
Tell me about your experiences!
Did you spend an evening focused on Peru?
I would love to see your photos or hear about your experiences! Leave a comment below or share your photos using the hashtag #AroundtheWorldfromYourLivingRoom.
Because the Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek (with a little Aramaic, too), our English Bibles are translations of these original languages. Over the years, many different people and groups have translated the Bible into English from incredibly accurate Hebrew and Greek texts.
Some translation efforts have focused on writing a very literal and accurate word-for-word translation. Some of them have focused on making the Bible very readable in our modern language by paraphrasing the words. Many translations fall somewhere in the middle, aiming for a balance of accuracy and readability – we usually call these “dynamic” translations (or “thought-for-thought.”)
Note: This is not a sponsored post – I’m just a fan of these particular Bible translations!
There are many English versions of the Bible today – Bible Gateway lists over 50! I believe that each of these versions can be read as the Word of God and each is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
You probably have already chosen a couple versions of the Bible for your own personal use. The New International Version is very common, or you may like the extra-readability of the New Living Translation (my current favorite) or the Message.
Many people enjoy the English Standard Version, a relatively new edition that is highly focused on accuracy, while still being readable. On the other hand, you may enjoy the New American Bible or New Revised Standard Version.
My goal when choosing a Bible translation for any age is to select one that accurately conveys God’s Word while enabling a person to understand and enthusiastically read His Word.
Because of their different reading levels and different levels of understanding, children, especially young readers, would probably prefer to read a different version than adults.
For example, many people enjoy reading The Message paraphrase of the Bible, written by Eugene Peterson. It puts the Bible into very modern language, easy for adults to understand in a new way.
However, I actually don’t think The Message is very appropriate for children, because it’s filled with vague, abstract language. Until age 12, children have a hard time thinking abstractly, and The Message could be very confusing to a young child.
On the flip side, some of the more literal, high-on-accuracy versions like the English Standard Version may contain complex words that are difficult for a young child to understand.
My Favorite Bible Translation for Children
The New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) is my favorite translation for children. The writers of the NIrV took the popular New International Version and made it even easier to read by using shorter words and easy-to-understand language. The result is a Bible translation that reads at about a 3rd grade level.
Most children begin listening to Bible storybooks, where an author has taken the actual words of Scripture and written a shorter, easier-to-read version of the story.
The New International Reader’s Version is a great stepping stone from this point into a “real” Bible. It borders on the “paraphrase” category, where it’s not a perfect word-for-word translation of Scripture, but it is closer to an exact translation of the Hebrew and Greek text than just a Bible storybook.
We’ve chosen to use the NIrV for our kids’ first “real” Bibles.
On a side note, the NIrV is also a great version for teenagers and adults whose first language is not English!
My Favorite Bible Translations for Teenagers
As a child reaches the “tween” years, around 5th or 6th grade, I would imagine they’ll be ready for a new, more grown-up translation.
There are a few options:
I would consider the New International Version or the New Living Translation for these ages. Between the two, the NIV is more focused on word-for-word accuracy, while the NLT is more focused on readability and usually sounds more “beautiful.” (I am so touched by the lovely phrasing of some NLT passages).
The English Standard Version is also great for advanced readers as they hit their later teen years. Many of my pastor friends prefer the ESV as an accurate, precise version of the Bible, while still being pretty readable.
What about memorizing Scripture?
One question you may have is: Shouldn’t we keep reading the same translation throughout their lives so they can have verses accurately memorized?
Personally, I think the answer is: No, I don’t think you need to worry about this. Here’s my personal story to illustrate why:
I memorized a lot of Bible verses as a child. I had weekly memory verses throughout my years at a Lutheran elementary school, and attended Christian camps where we memorized Scripture too. Nearly every verse was memorized in the New International Version, and I still remember them today.
But guess what! The NIV was updated a few years ago. So now when I open up a current edition of the NIV Bible, the wording is a little different than the verses I learned as a child. Meanwhile, for the past several years, I’ve been using an NLT Bible out of personal preference, so the verses are a little different anyway.
Choose the translation that works for your children to memorize right now, without worrying about the future. We memorize mostly in NIrV at the moment with our kids. It’s not worth keeping a heavy attachment to one translation simply for the sake of memorizing Scripture.
One possible exception, though: You may choose to have them “grow into” the passages they are memorizing. It is so much easier to memorize as a child than as an adult. So, I could see you encouraging your kids to memorize a Bible verse in say, the ESV or the King James Version, which is not fully understandable to little kids.
But, as they get older, the verse will take on more meaning, years after it’s already memorized. It’s kind of the same idea as reading Shakespeare to your kids, even though it’s likely over their heads. I personally haven’t done that, but if that’s your motivation, go for it!
**What Bible translation(s) do you use personally? With your kids? At church?
In the past few months, I’ve been having so much fun with my three-year old daughter, Elle. We’ve set up a tent and eaten pretend s’mores, gone on nature walks, made crafts, baked an apple pie, acted out the 10 plagues of Egypt, made flowers and butterflies out of fruit, and read lots and lots of books.
Because I’m such an awesome mother? Not quite!! Left to my own devices, our playtime would probably be pretty boring.
This is all thanks to a little gem of a program that I found a few months ago for 3 and 4-year olds called “God’s Little Explorers.” Though it’s called a homeschool curriculum, I think it works for all parents to use, not just homeschool parents – I’ll explain this more below. We’ve been using it for a couple months and I am delighted by the quality time, learning, and focus on the Bible that has come out of it!
Today’s post is an extra-full one, chock-full of info about God’s Little Explorers. I’d like to…
introduce God’s Little Explorers, in case you’re not familiar with it
tell you why I love this curriculum so much
provide ideas for how to adapt if you’re not a homeschool parent
share some tips and tricks for doing God’s Little Explorers
offer some encouragement to not seek perfection in God’s Little Explorers
There are 28 weeks, covering the 26 letters of the alphabet (plus a couple review weeks, too). Each letter corresponds to a Bible story, and the Bible stories go in chronological order, which I love. Along with the Bible story, there is a theme for each week, offering fun activities.
The curriculum is designed to be done for about 45 minutes a day, four days a week. We aim for this, but sometimes don’t do it four days a week, in which case we might just skip activities, or might spend two weeks on one lesson.
Keep reading for adaptations for parents who do NOT stay home/homeschool during the day!
Please note – I’m not connected to God’s Little Explorers in any way – just a fan!
10 REASONS I LOVE GOD’S LITTLE EXPLORERS:
1. It supports intentional time with my 3-year old. Without an intentional plan, it would be easy for her to play for quite awhile by herself while I do chores or my own projects. While that’s okay occasionally, I also want to enjoy some quality time with her every day. (We try to do God’s Little Explorers while my younger daughter takes a morning nap.)
2. We are reading through Bible stories chronologically and “studying” them together. In the past, it has been tricky for us to read through her children’s Bible systematically. Even if we start with Creation, we get sidetracked after a few days, or lose the bookmark, or she requests one of Jesus’ miracles, or whatever, and there are stories we’ve never read. Plus, even if we do read systematically, we’re just spending a couple minutes a day reading the Bible storybook.
Going through God’s Little Explorers has helped us focus on these stories in an age-appropriate way. Elle is learning about faith heroes like Noah, Abraham, and Moses. She can identify a picture of Joseph in his colorful coat. I love this, and it’s totally thanks to God teaching us through God’s Little Explorers!
3. It’s flexible and easy to customize. I have seen other kids’ programs out there that are expensive or the structure is very rigid. I find God’s Little Explorers to be a great balance of providing ideas, but not being overwhelming. I don’t feel like a failure if we skip a few activities (in fact, the author encourages adapting as needed!)
And I don’t find that there is a lot of prep work or materials to prepare. We are already reading books together – they may as well fit with the theme! And we are already looking for something to play… it may as well be a fun activity that teaches the Bible or just life in general!
5. It encourages us to do creative, fun activities together. I totally believe in giving kids some free time to play however they want. However, it’s also fun to do some new activities, rather than defaulting to our typical blocks-Legos-princesses-coloring routine.
6. The themes and activities are not a stretch. The themes (i.e. colors) and Bible stories (i.e. Joseph and the coat of many colors) really connect well. Everything makes sense and is very thoughtful. There is a strong correlation between each Bible story and the theme for the week. Also, the themes are pretty typical of preschoolers: food, water, camping, colors, desert, birds, etc. These are nice concrete things for kids to explore.
7. It uses supplies I already have or can access easily.
8.The activities are simple and hardly require any preparation – often the only prep I’ve done ahead of time is printing off the lesson and perhaps reserving some books at the library (which is optional). For some activities, it might be helpful to pick up a few extra supplies at the store or prepare the components of a craft ahead of time.
9. There are sections for life skills and a service project. We don’t do these every week, but we have a few times. One of my favorite life skills activities was getting out different seasonal clothing and asking Elle to choose what she would wear when it’s cold, or raining, or hot.
10. The activities are really simple. This is normal, old-fashioned fun with my kid. There is nothing glamorous or picture-perfect about these activities. We’re not doing anything super high-tech or ultra-educational… just playing and helping her learn a little!
ADAPTATIONS IF YOU’RE NOT A HOMESCHOOLING PARENT
I stay home with my girls during the day, and my daughter doesn’t go to preschool, so we typically do God’s Little Explorers on weekday mornings while my husband is at work.
BUT, I think you can do it even if your child typically is in preschool or day care!
I would guess most Christian parents are looking for quality time and a simple way to teach the Bible to their children, and God’s Little Explorers offers that!
While it will certainly take some intentionality, I think you could easily find a couple hours a week to do this with your preschool-age child, even if you are not home during the day with your child.
Activities to Choose
First, when you look at the lesson (click here to see week one for an example), realize that if you are trying to do this as a working parent or if your child is at outside-the-home preschool all day, you probably are not going to get everything done (simply because of the amount of time in the day). That is okay! (We skip quite a bit, too, even though we are home).
If your goal is quality, spiritual time with your kids, I would focus on the sections of the curriculum labeled: Bible, Theme, and Life Skills. Then if you have extra time, you could choose a fun activity from ABC & 123 and from the Book Bag section.
For time sake, I would recommend skipping the “extra” activities in the right sidebar, like the musician and artist studies. If your child is already going to an academic preschool, you also could just skip the letter/number/shape activities, unless one of them looks really fun.
Also, the Learning Bags ideas are totally lovely, and might afford you some time to make dinner or something, because they are mostly for independent play. But, they do require some extra materials and preparation. So that is your choice. (So far, we have skipped making these).
When to Do God’s Little Explorers
Then, consider when you would have some time to devote to doing God’s Little Explorers with your child. Here are some possibilities:
Do you have any time in the evening after preschool? Perhaps there is a window of time in the late afternoon before dinner, or between dinner and bedtime? I could see a family coming home from preschool around 3-4 pm, having a snack (could even be a suggested snack from the curriculum), then doing 30-60 minutes of reading, play, and crafts from God’s Little Explorers, then preparing dinner.
Or, you could read the Bible story and sing the song at the dinner table, then do one or two of the activities before getting ready for bed. There are usually several suggested books to read together – these could become bathtime or bedtime stories.
Or, do you have any time over the weekend? Maybe Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon? Even just two solid blocks of time would be enough to get much of the God’s Little Explorer lesson completed, and then during the week, you could still read the Bible story, sing the songs, and read books as part of your normal routine.
Adult Mentors – are you a grandparent or another adult mentor to a preschool-age child? You could certainly use this curriculum with the child! Do you see them once a week?
Just pick and choose your favorite activities to do together for an hour or so!
There is a special edition of the curriculum that is a little more expensive ($35 right now) that allows you to use it for a group… I think this would be usable as a Sunday school curriculum with a little tweaking!
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR GOD’S LITTLE EXPLORERS
As I’ve gotten started with God’s Little Explorers, here are some tips that have made things easier for me.
How to Prepare at the Start of the Program:
Print out the lessons. You can access them for free through this link, but it is pretty time-consuming to open each individual file. If you purchase the curriculum, I believe it downloads as one file, which would be much faster!
Gather the lessons together in a 3 ring binder or accordian folder. I keep them in a 3 ring binder, with a post-it note stuck to the current lesson so I can find it easily. HELPFUL HINT –> if you hole-punch the first page of each lesson plan on the “wrong” side (the right side of the page), it will allow you to see a spread of the entire lesson plan for the week at one glance (see example in photo above).
Gather your supplies. During week 1, you will put together an Explorer’s Kit (a box to hold crayons, scissors, glue, etc.) and a Treasure Box (a box to collect completed artwork and pages). There’s also a time to create a treasure map for the wall to remember each letter each week.
You could go through each lesson and highlight any special supplies needed, or books to put on hold at the library. (I keep meaning to do this, but we haven’t done it yet.)
Make a schedule for the year. If you start the lessons in the next couple weeks (September), and do one lesson a week, you’ll get to the story of Jesus’ birth around Christmastime, which would be fun. We started in June but have not done a lesson every single week… up until now I just was moving on to the next lesson as we felt like it. I just recently made a schedule to take us through next spring.
Preparation for Each Lesson:
Like I mentioned, sometimes I do zero prep for the week ahead, but of course, it works out a little better if I do.
Usually the night before, I look at the printed lesson and circle a few of the activities I want to do the next day. That might just be all the Day One activities, but sometimes we are missing a supply for a Day One activity, or I’d just prefer to do a different one. Circling the activity makes it easy to reference in the moment. Then after we’re done, I cross it off so by the end of the week, I can see what we have and have not done yet.
I put together a hymn book of all the recommended hymns so those words are accessible to us. You can print the hymn book here: Hymn Book – God’s Explorers We usually sing during our Morning Time.
Stacie Nelson (the author of God’s Little Explorers) has a blog post for each lesson, with photos. I try to look at this blog post for inspiration, and there are easy links to the directions for the activities. Sometimes I look through it with my daughter, and she helps decide which crafts we should do, based on the pictures. For example, this week looking at the picture of eggs in a nest inspired us to make that for snack.
Ideally, I’d look ahead a week or two and put books on hold at the library for a week or two ahead. In the beginning, I was doing this a lot. Lately, I’ve been behind the curve, which is unfortunate, because it is really nice to have those books at the right time.
Imperfection is okay!
Finally, I just want to encourage you that sometimes it’s better to just start doing something, like God’s Little Explorers (or any activity with your child), rather than seeking perfection.
In my house, if I looked for the perfect moment, where I could 100% focus on my daughter, and the house was clean, and I had done all the prep work for the lesson ahead of time, and all the books were checked out from the library… we would never actually do God’s Little Explorers.
So I’ve been trying to just do it anyway. I try to put the baby down for her morning nap, then immediately start God’s Little Explorers… even if there are breakfast dishes on the counter, or I’m still in my PJs, or I’d really rather use the computer for a few minutes while Elle played by herself. (Of course, there’s still a day or two every week when I give in to my own desires to tidy up or get ready right away).
This is the only way that God’s Little Explorers is actually happening – my choosing to do it even though it’s not perfect.
Sometimes I’m throwing together the next activity while Elle finishes up the current one.
Sometimes we don’t have all the right supplies so we have to improvise.
Sometimes I’m looking at the lesson for the first time with Elle next to me (like I mentioned, looking at the pictures online with her is kind of helpful because then she can choose what we do!)
The other day I snapped this picture to show what the rest of the house looked like while we did the 10 Plagues activity. It was a mess! (Though I do promise that is clean laundry, at least!)
And frankly, after we finished doing God’s Explorers for the morning, I felt like I spent the entire afternoon cleaning up the house (and was pretty cranky by the end of it!)
But when Elle requested “the new Moses story” as her bedtime story a couple nights later, and was so excited to read about God’s power and the plagues, I felt like it was worth it.