My friend Carol has two little girls: Emily (3 1/2 years old) and Erin (just over a year). She recently asked some questions. I'm giving her my $.02; anyone else have some ideas? I'd love to hear (and implement) them!
I've been looking for some guidance on doing a devotional time with Emily, and your link about Circle Time really steered me in the right direction! Thank you!! I was wondering if you've used the Big Truths for Little Kids book, and if it's appropriate for a 3 1/2 year-old? Amazon says the suggested age is 4-8, so I'm wondering if I should find something else for now and save this book for a bit?
We have used Big Truths for Little Kids, and I think it would be fine for Emily, but not a necessity. It's basically a way to teach the Westminster Shorter Catechism for Children: it introduces a series of catechism questions and then gives a short story to illustrate the meaning of the questions/answers being discussed. Even if you decide NOT to go with this book, I would encourage you to work on the catechism questions and answers. The beginning answers are simple enough for a 2-year old, and it's really fun to watch your child gain in vocabulary and understanding as she progresses. (First Catechism: Teaching Children Biblical Truths is available from Great Commission Publications for $1.50.)
Also, when you do Circle Time, does Jonathan sit in your lap or is he otherwise occupied? I'm wondering if this would be good practice for Erin to learn sitting still and being quiet, or if it's too much to expect. She normally stays in church with us at least until the sermon, but today she only made it about 5 minutes... not good! All advice is welcome!
I think I'll save how we handle church for another post. But for now, during Circle Time, the answer is nooooo, he does NOT sit in my lap. At least not consistently, quietly, or in any kind of orderly manner. Sometimes, when we're singing or I'm reading from the devotional book or the Bible, he'll climb up into my lap. But at other times he dances around, plays with his cars, asks for a drink, etc. I think your attention is going to be too divided if you try to use this time as a teaching time with Emily AND a training time for church for Erin. In church, I assume you want her sitting in your lap quietly. But what it would take to do this in Circle Time, while you are also trying to work with Emily (you're talking, singing, laughing, asking questions, answering questions, coloring ... whatever it is that the day brings) will be frustrating to you and confusing to Erin. This is NOT what you are doing at church.
As far as training for church, we have never successfully implemented a formal training time (when the children practice sitting quietly at the house while listening to a sermon, etc.) What HAS worked for us is general obedience training, instruction in being quiet, and removal of distractions. I will write more about this later.
So if you are not going to use this time as a "sit still for church" training time, what do you do with the baby? Since your time is going to be short, you could just do it during part of her nap. I save our "hard" stuff for when Jon (14 mos.) is napping.
The other option is to distract her and use this time as a training time for her to learn to play by herself. In that vein, here are some sites I've found helpful:
Kendra at Preschoolers and Peace gives an example of what she expects from her 18-mo. old. You could easily scale this down: you won't need HOURS of the baby being occupied; my guess is that your devotional time with Emily won't take you more than 15-30 minutes. Kendra has some good examples of what to realistically expect. Limited times of confinement (in a high chair, play pen, behind a baby gate, etc.) are GOOD. Children learn how to operate within set restrictions.
Here is a great compilation of preschool activities. You can scroll down and find all sorts of activities to keep Erin occupied (clothespins in a jar are popular around here, as is an oat box with a slit [or bigger hole] cut in the top and various toys or kitchen utensils [spoons] to poke through...). You will ALSO find some good activities for Emily! These can come in handy as you probably want to have time throughout the day when you can devote your attention to the baby and let your older child practice playing independently.
Hopefully this helps a little. I'll give my thoughts on church with littles later -- just know you are not in the trenches alone!
Anyone else have ideas? I'd love to hear them!