Thank you to Kayla Alonso from Baby Devotions for this incredibly helpful post with 4 practical steps toward meaningful bedtime prayer for toddlers!
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
We all know the classic rhyme-like bedtime prayer.
But what if I told you, that bedtime prayers with toddlers can be more than
just rhymes and games?
Bedtimes prayers can be an avenue of connecting with and guiding
our children, even toddlers, in their faith journey.
Here are 4 ways to engage your toddler in more significant bedtime prayers:
1. Speak life over your child
Navigating the terrible 2s can lead to some frustrating moments.
Not going to lie, there are some days it feels like we spent half the day in time out. Those days are the worst! And as hard as they are for me, I know they are even harder for my baby girl.
So we end the day affirming our little one.
- We thank God for the person that he has made her to be.
- We thank God that she is strong, independent, and has big plans for her life.
It doesn’t have to be a lengthy list of affirmations. Just pick a couple of things you see the Lord has placed in your child, and pray that over them!
2. Pray scripture over your child
Bedtime can be a great time to help a little one memorize scripture. Incorporating a piece of Scripture into your nightly prayers will just naturally commit it to memory. Right now our little one struggles with staying in her own bed and sleeping through the night, so we have adopted
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.Psalm 4:8 NIV
Do I think this is some sort of magic spell that will make my child sleep all night?
And it hasn’t worked like that. However, this is one of those verses I want
For more ideas, check out Kayla’s 10 verses for bedtime prayers for toddlers.
3. Teach Gratitude
You can also use bedtime prayers to help teach gratitude.
You know what toddlers are really good at? Naming things they like. My toddler knows how to say “cookie,” and “Grandpa,” and all the names of the Disney Princesses…and she figured out how to say all those big words, because they are things she enjoys.
So in bedtime prayers we make space for her to say thank you for those blessings. Now she leaps at the opportunity to pray. I can barely spit out the words “Dear Jesus,” before she jumps in with all the things she is thankful for.
But I won’t lie, we had to lay that foundation.
Starting when she was about a year old we started praying with her. We would say “Dear Jesus, thank you for Mamí, and Papí, and Valentina, Amen.” Short, simple prayers, but just the right size for a one year-old.
After a couple weeks I started helping her say our prayers by having her repeat the words. And soon after that she started going rogue. She now thanks Jesus for Grandma, and “The Incredibles,”and her stuffed animals (each by name), and….well you get my point.
It’s not super fancy, or eloquent, but it’s toddler-sized.
And it’s showing our little one that she can engage with her Heavenly Father, and he cares about the things she cares about.
4. Give cares to God
Lastly, before bed, we give our cares to God.
Vale has a really sensitive spirit, so some things just stick with her. Maybe it’s the baby that was crying at the grocery story…or our little friend that is sick…or when Auntie Hannah broke her arm. She really cares, and those moments stick with her, so we pray over them.
We want her to know that we care about what she cares about. And even more importantly, her Heavenly Father cares.
How this practically plays out
In our family, our bedtime prayers generally sound like this:
- We pray. “Heavenly Father, thank you for Vale. Thank you that you have made her kind, and strong, and brave. ‘In peace, let her lay down and sleep in peace, because you, O Lord, keep her safe.’ May she know that she is loved by her parents and by you. Amen.”
- We make space for her to pray, by saying, “what would you like to pray for?” We often ask “What was good about the day?” Then we lead her in prayer to say thank you for that. “Dear Jesus, thank you for Elena of Avalor.” (That’s a real prayer that happened.)
- Then we help her surrender her cares. I usually ask, “what was hard today?” or “who is someone that we need to pray for?” Then we pray over that situation. Example: “Dear Jesus, please heal Auntie Hannah’s broken arm. Amen.”
As she has gotten older, and more independent, she prefers to pray her own prayers, so we just follow her lead. However, this is how we’ve laid the foundation for her to have her own prayer life.
What do Bedtime prayers look like in your family? What would you add to these strategies?
Kayla and her husband live in Minnesota, USA with their two daughters. She enjoys long walks, black coffee, and good books. She documents the devotions she does with her toddlers at www.babydevotions.com.
Thanks again to Kayla for this enormously useful article! Kayla is a genius at putting together simple hands-on activities that help toddlers connect with God and learn the Bible.
For more help with teaching your kids to pray, check out my prayer workbook for families or children’s programs!
With 12 short but meaningful prayer activities, Made to Pray will guide you and your children to a better understanding of prayer. From prayer patterns to learning to hear the quiet whisper of God, you will finish this activity book with a deeper relationship with the God of the universe!