Trying to Do "Come, Follow Me" with Toddlers? A Piece of Advice: Quit While You're Ahead

by | Jan. 29, 2020

The following article is brought to you by Gospel Day by Day, a community designed to help parents lead home-centered gospel learning. You can find Gospel Day by Day on Instagram here.

We’ve all seen how people bring varied needs to the gospel, but they’re rarely met if the Sunday School instructor steamrolls through their lesson material just to make it to the end of their neatly prepared outline.

The same goes for our children at home, but it’s not always easy to “focus on people, not lessons” when we step in the ring with our toddlers and the Come, Follow Me manual (Teaching in the Savior’s Way, p. 7).

Our tiny humans have huge needs that we can address using gospel principles found in scripture! But if we push our own agenda, we will almost always miss out on creating valuable teaching moments.

We all want to have these meaningful Come, Follow Me experiences with our toddlers where both parent and child walk away feeling great about it! This is my best tip for making that happen: set yourself up for success, and then quit while you’re ahead.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Success in Come, Follow Me requires a little bit of planning, but I’m not talking about anything huge. I’m not talking about a lesson plan for daily study or staying up the night before to make a paper mâché landscape of Book of Mormon geography for your 2-year old. (Though that would be completely awesome!)

I’m just talking about forethought.

Consider how your child learns. Your home is not a classroom or a church building; it’s a laboratory—loud, mobile, dynamic, fun, applicational, and meaningful. Toddlers typically don’t learn with folded arms and seated tushies; they learn in motion.

Think of a simple—and I mean really simple—way to engage one or more of your toddler’s five senses to ignite their incredible learning brains. (There are lots of great ideas in Come, Follow Me—For Primary!)

Consider your child’s attention span. You know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s so short. If you remember one thing as you set yourself up to absolutely crush Come, Follow Me with toddlers, remember this: you have 30 seconds.

The simple activities you do together will usually last longer than that, but when it comes to the actual teaching moment—the explaining, applying, and testifying—your toddler isn’t wired to sit still for long. So practice summing up a verse and applying it to your tiny human’s universe in half a minute.

And keep in mind, short is not insignificant. These 30-second teaching moments add up. “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).

Consider what you’re trying to teach. Since we have such a short window to teach and testify, focus on principles, rather than facts. Memorizing the names of the First Presidency won’t serve your child as well as learning about prophets, revelation, and God’s grace. They will have plenty of opportunities to learn all that good stuff as they “grow up unto the Lord” (Helaman 3:21).

Quit While You’re Ahead

Even when we set ourselves up to be successful with Come, Follow Me, it’s bound to fall flat sometimes. Maybe more than sometimes.

That’s because the home is the intersection between the kingdom of God and everyday life. And in everyday life, toddlers lose interest quickly; they can suddenly become frustrated or sad, or the garbage truck drives by and your toddler runs to the window for a ritual honk and wave.

Sooner or later, curiosity and concentration turn into disinterest and distractedness, or worse, distress.

This isn’t the time to push our own agenda, though. Once you notice signals that your toddler is losing interest, don’t try to force the lesson to continue. Recognize that you’ve been completely successful in being consistent. Then, quit while you’re ahead—while the Holy Spirit is still there.

Being willing to wrap up your lesson when its purpose is served speaks volumes to your toddler and it helps create the gospel learning environment that both of you want.

Quitting while you’re ahead teaches your toddler that learning the gospel is happy. If you’ve ever tried to make a toddler do something they don’t want to do, you know how easy and effective that is. You can avoid a lot of negative feelings in your home by adopting this simple mantra for your Come, Follow Me study: when they’re done, we’re done

By assuming this outlook, you’ll find that toddlers don’t dread lessons, they won’t feel forced to participate, and they won’t resent the break from their day for family scripture study. Far from that, your tiny learners will begin to anticipate scripture study as a favorite family time where love is felt and happiness is shared. Isn’t that what we’re all going for?

Quitting while you’re ahead shows your toddler that you care about them. Even at their tender age, toddlers are able to see you prioritizing their needs over your urge to check off a box and they translate that to love!

In time, your little one will grow in their capacity to learn the gospel in larger chunks, and with the faith-centered relationship that you’ve forged in mutual respect, you will be successful in addressing their individual needs, rather than plowing through assigned material or a number of verses.

Go and Do

Focusing on your child rather than the lesson material is a key to fostering a great relationship with family scripture study using the Come, Follow Me resource in your home. With some modest planning and a commitment to pack up the lesson when your little one is done, both you and your toddler can walk away from your family scripture study feeling great about how it went!

Kate Matthews is passionate about living out a full and abundant life in Christ, from the comfort of her own home. Kate spreads the gospel message to women as the creator of @milkandhoney.market, a by-mothers-for-mothers community that ministers to the modern homemaker. A happy homemaker herself, Kate is the mother to two on Earth and one in Heaven. Kate is a hobby weightlifter, a sunshine lover, a painter, and a sourdough baker.

Photos Courtesy of Gospel Day by Day and Kate Matthews.
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