Teaching Young Children To Memorize

TEACHING-CHILDREN-TO-MEMORIZEShortly after Judah turned 3 my sister, who was living with us at the time, asked me if I wanted her to start teaching Judah some Bible verses. I hadn’t given it much thought before – I had always heard that children are like sponges and just soak up information and to teach them things while they are young, but I had never considered three years old to be old enough to start learning verses.

I told her I would appreciate her teaching him verses and so she started with John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

They worked diligently on it, and over the last several months he has learned many other verses – and while I originally thought it was simply his agreeable, eager to please personality I was delighted and fascinated to realize that his two year old brother knows all of these verses too.

And then I realized a rather disheartening fact – apart from my sister no one has ever encouraged me as a young mom to teach my young children Bible verses. And so dear friends with young children, I would like so much to encourage you in teaching your young ones to memorize Bible verses. Full length, not watered down Bible verses. Little ones have bright minds, eager and waiting to be filled with knowledge. What better way to feed their mind than with the word of God?

After a couple of months of selecting Bible verses at whim for the boys to memorize I purchased Teach Them to Your Children. The book has a verse for each letter of the alphabet, along with a corresponding short story. I have appreciated this book immensely as it has given an order to our memorization of the Bible (we’re currently on letter “H”) and the short story gives a practical example of the verse.

If you desire to teach your child some Bible verses I think it is extremely important to have a plan in mind for you to follow and to keep you on track. I would highly recommend Teach Them to Your Children for young children, but even simply having a list of verses chosen ahead of time will help ensure continual learning and minimizes distractions and excuses.

After months of working with my 2 and 3 year old boys here are some tips and tricks I have found helpful in teaching young children to memorize;

1. Repeat the verse over and over and over again. When I first introduce a new verse to them I generally will say it to them 20-30 times in a row. Somewhere in there they will start saying it alongside with me, but my point is for them to hear it over and over and over.

2. Explain new words – there are tons of new words to be discovered in Bible verses and it is a wonderful opportunity to expand vocabulary. If there are words or concepts in the verse that the boys don’t understand I will rephrase the entire verse so the meaning is clear to them. {They do not memorize the rephrased verse, this is simply so they understand what the verse is saying.}

3. Use the new words in every day discussions. I think it is really important for children to truly understand what they are saying, so to drive home the meaning of the new words and concepts I will use them throughout the day with the boys. I realized how effective this was when Judah and I were waiting for a YouTube clip to load and he said to the computer; “Come on, keep working heartily!”

4. Recite verses in different voices – the way both my boys memorize is through hearing me recite the verse and them repeating it back. We do this many, many times throughout our day. I will ask them to be mighty warriors and tell me their verse in their warrior voice, or to be a mouse and tell me the verse in a squeaky voice – they are having fun playing different characters and don’t even realize they are working on memory verses.

5. Recite verses in different places – I strive to make memorization a natural part of our daily lives and I have them recite verses everywhere; bathtub, dinner table, in bed, in the car, in the grocery store, etc. I will occasionally {to keep it special!} ask them to pick a place for us to sit and go over memory work and they get giddy with excitement over picking places like under the table, sitting in the middle of the stairs or sitting fully clothed in an empty bathtub. Keeping a fun attitude towards memory work, I believe, helps them view it in a fun light.

6. Reward for memory work – I like things rather simple, so I purchased a large piece of card stock and attached it to the boys bedroom door. Each time they memorize a verse I write it down on their door – this truly delights them and is all the reward we do. They love to see the list getting longer {neither of them can read} and I think they take pride in it. I very intentionally choose not to reward them with anything bigger, but each parent knows their own child and what will work best. I would, however, gently suggest that the reward be both simple and an acknowledgement of their work.

7. Keep other distractions to a minimum – Movies hold such an allure to {my} young children, captivating their imagination and holding onto it long after the movie has ended. As a stay at home mom living far away from helpful family and with a husband who is often gone for a week at a time it is a struggle to not keep movies running to keep them entertained and give me a break – but I have found the amount of time they watch movies directly relates to their attention span and ability to memorize. I know it’s not a popular opinion, but eliminating {or reducing to only a movie or two a week} will, I believe, do wonders to a child’s imagination and ability to memorize. I have seen it work in my own young children and if you are seeking to make Bible memory a priority I would encourage you to try reducing the outside distractions in order to help make your job easier.

I sat down with Judah and asked him to say all of his verses on camera. As you will see he struggles with the reference and connecting it to the correct verse and by the end he was so done with reciting verses! Here he is:

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Jessica Lynette

16 Comments

  1. YAY! Vision Forum is FANTASTIC! Your boys are a bit young, but just wait for Jonathan Park adventures – they're PHENOMENAL!!!

  2. Very good, Jessica! This needs to be printed in a parenting magazine!

  3. Judah is so cute!

    An excellent post and reminder to me! Levi is 2 1/2 and I haven't really thought much yet about starting Scripture memorization. I guess I thought he was too young and wouldn't understand, but I underestimate him, I know. The way he soaks up everything is amazing.

    • Their minds really are amazing!

      And don't be discouraged if it's slow going at first – Judah is faster at "getting" it now that he understands that he's suppose to memorize them, but it took time for him to understand he was suppose to retain it 😉

  4. That is great… I also never considered teaching Joshua Bible verses, though he will be three in October. There is no reason not too, especially since he can sing Jesus loves Me which proves he is able to memorize. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • I know – I can't believe my single-no-children sister is the one that introduced me to the idea of teaching the little guys verses!! I am so glad she did – but so wish another mom had encouraged me.

  5. Jessica, as a homeschooler, you need to immediately get The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer from your library.

    You don't have to agree with or implement many of the educational ideas in that book, but you will get an appreciation for the fact that early childhood memory work is a cornerstone of a quality education.

    Three years old is not too young to memorize Bible verses, but also poems, addresses, the continents, months of the year, and a host of other things.

    I'm happy to hear how well your boys are doing! Keep up the good work!

    • A friend just lent me a copy of the book and I am devouring it! It is incredible and I am thoroughly enjoying it! Thanks for the recommendation… she actually saw it on here and brought the book to church for me because of you 🙂

  6. Ouch! Sorry Jess. Memorization is a skill that gets easier and better with practice. We do have the children memorize a chapter every 12 weeks at least. No. It's not Ps. 117. It is always neat to see how their attention os drawn in a sermon when the preacher uses a verse or passage they have memorized. I will have to blog about it. It is such a great thing that you are doing withyour guys. You go girl!

  7. Very, very cool! Smart as a whip, that one!

    Levi does well with anything in song format, but he reallllly has trouble focusing on anything else. So…in song it shall be! LOL (He knew ALL of the words to Matt Redman's "You Never Let Go" when he was 18 months old!)

  8. My two-year-old learnt over half of Psalm 100 whilst I was teaching it to my four-year-old in her schoolwork. I wasn't even aware he was listening, but he just came out with it one day when I asked her to say it to me. My mother-in-law and two older children were there, and we all listened, amazed, with barely suppressed giggles of delight as he recited the first four verses, almost word perfect. I struggle with memorisation, but it's so worth teaching it to children whilst they are young. The discipline will hopefully stay with them for life.
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