3 Ways to engage your 3-year-old when reading the Bible

It’s absolutely brilliant when your kids start asking questions about faith and wanting to know more about Jesus. Just last night, my 3-year-old daughter was going through the story of John the Baptist and asked: “Is that a man or a lion?”. Good question, I thought. Even better, by the end of it, she was convinced that getting baptised was a good idea.

Because lately, the most exciting part of the bedtime routine for my 3-year-old daughter is when we read a Bible story together. If you think Bible stories are patently boring, then perhaps you think she is very deprived for this to be her favourite! (If that’s you, check out this story you probably didn’t know was in the bible, it’s definitely not one for the kids though).

Anyway, for a long time, my wife and I were pondering how we might best teach her the good news in the Bible. We had a few different books with Bible stories in them and would read them from time to time with her. But we wanted something a little more comprehensive, that actually tells us why Jesus had to come and die for us.

So last year sometime (I think for Easter…?) we got her a copy of the Jesus Storybook Bible, which is AMAZING. It takes you through the major stories in the Bible and points you to Jesus.

We had been reading this for a while a bit ad hoc, then a couple of months ago I just started reading it with her every night before going to sleep. The stories are a little bit wordy (full-page pictures on every page, but a reasonable chunk of text to read), but they’re not long, so perfect for a quick story before bed. Because if you’re like me, you tend to pick stories to read before bed based on length. The long ones don’t get read very often.

Now that she’s used to having the Bible each night, she’ll ask me when she gets into bed “Where are we up to in the Bible?”, and at the end, she’ll ask “What’s next?”. She also gets disappointed that we only get to read one each night. There are three things that I try to do to help her engage with the story:

  1. Where the story points forward to Jesus (or is going to be about Jesus), I’ll ask her: “Who’s this talking about?”, and she’ll usually respond with either “Jesus” or “God” with wide, excited eyes.
  2. There’s often references to King David or Abraham. I’ll usually ask her if she remembers who they were. She usually nods, but I doubt she actually remembers at the moment. Maybe after we’ve gone through the Bible a couple of times!
  3. I ask her about the main idea in the story as well. Usually, it’s something like: “Did Jonah listen to God?”, “What did King David do?” or “Why was Jesus born?” etc.

I’m still learning, but it’s exciting to see her asking questions, and wanting to learn more about Jesus each day! If you’ve had some good ideas or tried a different way of doing things, feel free to comment below.


Malcolm Purdey is a Christian, husband, father, student minister and science nerd. He completed a PhD in Chemistry and worked as a research scientist before making the jump into ministry in early 2017. He has been married for 5 years and has two daughters aged 3 and 1.

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