• Mater

Praying with Your Babies & Toddlers

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

I want to talk about one of the most important things you can do as parents: instilling in your child an early love of prayer. Remember, prayer is a virtue, which means it's acquired through habit. This post will focus on praying with infants, babies, and toddlers, since this is how early you can start. I want to share with you some of my ideas and hear some of yours as well.


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Instilling a praying regime with your kids takes intentional planning. There are three different areas to think about when planning your young child's regimen:


  1. Emphasizing a relationship with God.

  2. Memorizing vocal prayers and building routine.

  3. Staring to learn mental prayer.


Emphasizing the Relationship


This can be done from birth, and does not need to be relegated to a specific time of day.

It involves simply talking to your baby. Read them books about Jesus and Our Lady. Point to your Crucifix and say "That's Jesus! Wave to Jesus!" every time you pass it. (Turning your home into a Domestic Church makes this part so much easier!) A tip I love, from a wonderful book on the subject, We and Our Children, How to Make a Catholic Home, is to

stop periodically and say something like "The Holy Trinity is in our hearts right now! Let's say something to them." and then saying a short prayer to the Holy Trinity. Another great resource, The Mirror of True Womanhood, advises mothers that they should talk to their baby so frequently about Our Lord and Our Lady, that "Jesus" and "Mary" should be their first words!


If you are having trouble with this, the best place to start is with your own relationship. How do you view God? Do you talk to Him? Do you try to please Him? If the answer to any of these are "no", I highly recommend starting a Rule of Life. The best thing you can do for your baby's prayer life is to show them by example what a relationship with God and a regular prayer life looks like. You might even find that telling your baby about God throughout the day has a significant impact on your own relationship with Him!


Memorizing Vocal Prayers & Building Routine


Structure is good. It's good for your prayer life, and it's good for babies in general. Start a prayer routine with your babies as soon as they get home from the hospital. This will not only help them to see that we should structure our day around God, but it also will help them to memorize vital prayers at a young age.


Here is our Baby Prayer Routine that you can use as a sample. Note that this is all said by the parent. Eventually, once baby gets a little older, they can start to say it with you.


Morning


Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


By Thy Immaculate Conception O Mary, keep my body pure and my soul holy, and preserve me from mortal sin this day.


[Repeat 3x]


Noon


The Angelus Prayer


Evening


[Child blessing by parent with Holy Water, saying these words or something similar] May the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be upon you and remain with you always. [Even better if done in Latin: Benedictio Dei omnipotentis, Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, descendat super vos, et maneat semper]


Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


By Thy Immaculate Conception O Mary, keep my body pure and my soul holy, and preserve me from mortal sin this night.


[Repeat 3x]


Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.


[Particular title of Our Lady you or your child is devoted to], pray for us.


[First name saint], [middle name saint], pray for us.


St. Joseph, pray for us.


And may the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.


[Here I end with singing the Salve Regina while I rock the baby before I put her to sleep.]

Now, there are a lot of variants to this, so do what works for you. I normally do these while changing diapers, getting them dressed, etc. so I make sure to fit them in. You can also eventually add a little morning offering in the morning ("Thank you for keeping me safe last night! I give this whole day to you!") and a short examination of conscience at night ("What did you do today that made God happy? What did you do today that made God sad?"), but personally I like holding off until later in toddlerhood for this (around the time you start mental prayer, which we'll discuss later).


Note on the rosary: I'm not a stickler for them being present for the family rosary when they are this young. If they are present, I let them nurse or sleep or play quietly. However, once you can start teaching them to sit still at Mass is when I would start making sure they are present for the rosary or part of it, as this is great practice in sitting still and being quiet. My friend Rosie at A Blog for My Mom has a great post devoted just to praying the rosary with littles!


Starting to Learn Mental Prayer


The earlier you start mental prayer, the easier it is for your children. Trust me, it's a hard habit to start in adulthood. If you yourself don't have a daily habit of mental prayer, I highly recommend the book, The Ways of Mental Prayer.


The basis of this, I think, can be started when they are newborns, and it's probably something you already do: sitting and reading with them! Choose a book about Jesus or Mary, and just read (this book is the favorite in our house right now). Over time, start pointing things out and asking questions. Eventually, you'll be ready for the next step, and you've already laid the groundwork for it! Personally, I think a good time to start this next step is once they can understand you and respond a little bit. Use your own discretion. There are no set rules. You know your child best!


Carve out ten minutes or so (shorten or lengthen as needed) to look at a certain mystery with your child. You can use things like the mysteries of the rosary, or books like Divine Intimacy. Listed below is what Mother Mariana of Jesus Torres y Berriochoa used for her morning and evening meditations, if you need some ideas of where to start (although, I don't think I would use all of them for a young child, and twice a day is probably too much).

Monday: Washing the disciples' feet and the institution of the Eucharist (morning); knowledge of self and remembrance of sins committed and their seriousness (evening)


Tuesday: Our Lord's prayer in the garden and in prison (morning); the condition and misery of human life (evening)


Wednesday: The presentation of Jesus to the High Priests and the scourging at the pillar (morning); death (evening)


Thursday: Crowning of thorns, the Ecce Homo, and the carrying of the cross (morning); final judgement (evening)


Friday: Jesus' cross, His seven last words, and His death (morning); Hell (evening)


Saturday: The lance in Jesus' side, Our Lady's sorrows, and His funeral (morning); Heaven (evening)


Sunday: Jesus' descent into limbo and His Resurrection (morning); general and particular benefits we daily receive from God and our debt of gratitude owed to Him (evening)

Pick your mystery and grab a picture or something that represents it. Then, just sit with your toddler or young child for a few minutes and look at it and talk about it. Ask them questions that make them think and possibly respond. If they are distracted, gently draw them back. If they want to talk about a different aspect of God then planned, you can follow their lead. This is often how prayer goes for us!


Say you've chosen the Scourging at the Pillar. Here are some questions you could ask, while looking at a painting of it with your child: Who is that? What is happening to Him? What do you think those whips would feel like? Why is He hurting? What kind of things make Jesus hurt? What do you think the Blessed Mother is doing? What would you say to Jesus if you saw Him hurting like this? Etc.


The key is not to stress here. You just want to lay the groundwork so that one day you can say to your kids "Time for mental prayer! Today's subject is the Scourging at the Pillar. Anyone need any pictures to help them? Okay, fifteen minutes of quiet!" But when you are just starting out, especially with a young child, make the goals simple: learning how to focus on Jesus, learning how to talk to Him, learning about Him, and learning to think about life in relationship to Him.


If your child seems to be having trouble with this, again, don't stress. You don't want to teach them prayer is stressful. You could try different things, like going back to the book about Jesus together and talking about the pictures, having them color about some aspect of God, or playing with dolls together that represent Biblical characters. Anything to train them to set aside time to think about God. Again, this will look very different for different children at first!


Finally, head on over to our shop! We have multiple downloadable coloring packets based around monthly and daily Church devotions—some with indulgenced prayers for kids to learn! It's a fun tool to keep in your parenting prayer arsenal. Check it out here!





So there you have it! These are some things you can implement into your babies' lives. If they are a bit older and you haven't done anything like this yet, now is the perfect time to start. Post any other ideas you have in the comments! And next, check out how to stay organized as a new mom!



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