Category: Toddler (Ages 0-3) (page 1 of 10)

More Great Resources for Family Devotions

Two years have passed since my last post on family devotionals, and in that time I’ve learned that there’s more to Orion than his belt, and that hot sauce is actually, in moderation, most of the time, pretty good. I have also learned that we’re not great at following through with real devotionals, but there are so many good ones out there that I keep finding them and trying them and reviewing them for you. I have reviewed so many since that last post that it’s time for another compilation, one that features two of our favorites—two that we have successfully read from cover-to-cover and, in one case, even read a second time.

6 More Resources for Family Devotions | Little Book, Big Story

This list features books that span a wide range of ages and that will appeal to different families at different times. Some are rooted in Scripture, some around a catechism, and some are systematic theologies for kids. But they all strive to communicate the gospel clearly and beautifully to families, and they all offer excellent jumping-off points for discussion, either in the form of questions or in content that begs for further conversation.

The Ology, by Marty Machowski

A systematic theology for children? Yes, please! Introducing The Ology, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

I’ll begin with one of our favorites. Marty Machowski’s The Ology is a systematic theology for kids that covers everything from the nature of God to the calling of the church to the end times, and he does it in a way that our four-year-old will sit through and our older girls engage with and love. The Ology is even structured so that can be used with still older readers, middle- and high-school readers, with additional questions and study ideas, as well as verses in each reading to research. We’re almost done reading this one for a second time, and it’s still excellent. (Read the full review.)

Everything a Child Should Know About God, by Kenneth N. Taylor

Everything a Child Should Know About God, by Kenneth N. Taylor (Review) | Little Book, Big Story

This book is also a systematic theology, but it’s written for young readers. (At four, Phoebe adores it.) The readings are short and simple (but not overly simplified), and they end with questions that tie the big concepts to the illustrations, so little ones have something visual to refer to while they listen. If you’ve finished The Jesus Storybook Bible with your little ones and want to know what to read next, try this! (Read the full review.)

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms, by Susan & Richie Hunt

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms, by Susan and Richie Hunt | Little Book, Big Story

These readings, drawn from the psalms, focus on the life of one family as they explore the psalms together and put what they learn into practice. I worried at first that these readings might feel too cheesy, but no! The girls loved them, and they gave momentum to some deep discussions. These readings are practical, which can be helpful for kids who hear often how they ought to behave but struggle to know what that looks like, but they’re not moralistic: grace weaves through each one, reminding us all that we are forgiven and loved even when we fail. (Read the full review.)

Wise-Up, by Marty Machowski

Wise Up, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

These ten-minute devotions from Proverbs are—as every Marty Machowski book I’ve read is—excellent. They’re short, but give ample fodder for deeper discussion, and they bring families back each night to Scripture itself. We didn’t finish this one, but that doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the book itself. This might be a good place to start if you’re interested in his other books, Long Story Short and Old Story New. Or it might be a great thing to read if you’ve finished those and want something shorter and focused on one book of the Bible. (Read the full review.)

New City Catechism

The New City Catechism | Little Book, Big Story

Our older girls memorized parts of this at school, and we’re getting ready to start it here at home. It’s a rich catechism, written beautifully, and with so many partnering resources to help families memorize it together. The answers are two-part—one for children, one for adults—with print editions available for both children and adults. There is also a book of devotions, as well as recorded songs for the questions and answers, and an app. (If you’re just starting, you probably want either the black book or the app.) This is a resource I’m excited to explore together as we grow in our knowledge of God and help equip our kids to follow him. (Read more about why the New City Catechism was written and what the authors believe.)

Exploring the Bible, by David Murray

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Exploring the Bible is our current read, and we continue to love it. This is not really a devotional but a Bible reading plan for kids, with a short Scripture reading (about five verses) designated for each day, followed by a simple question.

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids, by David Murray (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Mitch, Lydia, Sarah and I all read ours individually in the morning and then reread it together in the evening, with Phoebe. Some nights, the conversation branches off into deeper things, or we find ourselves tying some event to the reading as we interact throughout the day. Murray’s goal is to introduce kids to the whole story of Scripture through this year-long, fly-over view. And so far, our family loves it. (Read the full review.)


What about you? Have you found any great devotional resources or Routines lately?

Everything a Child Should Know About God | Kenneth Taylor

I must begin with a confession: You know Facebook-stalking? How people haunt the Facebook pages of people they only sort of know? I did that with this book. I frequented its Amazon listing and read reviews; I saw it ranked as a staff pick in the Westminster Bookstore and I read their reviews; I read a few sample pages.

And I didn’t get it—in either sense of the phrase. I didn’t understand what the book was getting at, and so I didn’t buy it.

Everything a Child Should Know About God, by Kenneth N. Taylor (Review) | Little Book, Big Story

But a few weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house, rummaging through her shelves on a quest for a perfect book to take with me on vacation (this is an art, as you know), when I came across her copy. Sure, she said. I could borrow it.

So I brought it home, and Phoebe promptly fell in love with Everything a Child Should Know About God.

The very things that I was skeptical about—the super short readings, the simple illustrations, the very basic questions—sparked Phoebe’s curiosity. She carried it around with her everywhere; she called it her “Bible.” And so I sat down and scanned the table of contents.

I got it. I got it in both senses of that phrase, because when my friend heard how much Phoebe loved the book, she gave it to us, and because I finally understood what the book is.

Everything a Child Should Know About God, by Kenneth N. Taylor (Review) | Little Book, Big Story

Everything a Child Should Know About God is a systematic theology for toddlers. Like The Ology, the book we’re currently reading through as a family, Everything a Child Should Know About God explores what the Bible is, who God is, what he’s done, and why we love him. But it scales these things back to their simplest, clearest forms. The questions point to the illustrations, which give young readers something clear to visualize as we talk about these vast concepts. They are little pegs these readers can hang bigger truths on as they grow in size and understanding.

Phoebe and I now sit down together each morning and read through one page of this book together. It takes five minutes, and we both love that. But I love the way this book gives me a doorway into discussion with her, one that reaches her right where she is, right now, at four.

I finally get what this book is about.


Everything a Child Should Know About God
Kenneth N. Taylor; Jenny Brake (2014)

First Bible Basics | Danielle Hitchen

First Bible Basics is a board book written on two levels: on the ground level, it’s a counting primer based around core doctrines of the Christian faith–One God, Two natures of Jesus, Three persons of the Trinity, and so on.

First Bible Basics, by Danielle Hitchen (review) | Little Book, Big Story

But on the second story, it’s a theological primer for young readers, as Danielle Hitchen uses quotes from Scripture, hymns, old writings, or her own simple explanations to expand upon these core doctrines of the Christian faith.

Josie, at one, stays on the ground floor. We count commandments and beatitudes together, close the book, and go to bed. But four-year-old Phoebe rides up to the second floor, where we discuss those things a little more deeply. We read the verses and quotes and study the illustrations and sing whatever songs we know that go with them (after years of listening to Slugs & Bugs on repeat, this is a reflex. I can’t read “Matthew, Mark, Luke, John . . . ” without bursting into song).

First Bible Basics, by Danielle Hitchen (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Jessica Blanchard’s illustrations help articulate these truths for children (and, if we’re honest, adults). She represents broad, abstract ideas in a way that familiarizes readers with some of the wonders of our faith.

First Bible Basics would be a beautiful gift for new parents (or for new believers with a sense of humor). Hitchen and Blanchard have released a second book in the “Baby Believer” series, Psalms of Praise, but we don’t have it yet. It’s only a matter of time before I find an excuse to add it to our collection of board book theology.

First Bible Basics, by Danielle Hitchen (review) | Little Book, Big Story


First Bible Basics: A Counting Primer
Danielle Hitchen; Jessica Blanchard (2017)

Sing the Bible: Family Christmas | Slugs & Bugs

Remember two weeks ago, when I told you we wouldn’t listen to Christmas music until the first day of Advent?

We made it until the day after Thanksgiving. Here is why:

Slugs and Bugs: Family Christmas CD | Little Book, Big Story

My very favorite Christmas album is A Charlie Brown Christmas. No matter how many times I hear it played in my home, your home, my parents’ home, Starbucks, and the department store, I still love everything about it. If anything brings back warm, fuzzy Christmas memories for me, it’s that album. If any Christmas song consistently makes me weepy, it’s Vince Guaraldi’s rendition of “What Child is This?” If any CD calms me down when I have more to do than time to do it in, it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. I play that album more or less on repeat for all of Advent.

My second favorite Christmas album is A Slugs & Bugs Christmas. It’s funny and touching and quirky at once and gets the blend of humor and wonder and just right. The affection for this one in our home is corporate—we all love it equally and, unlike A Charlie Brown Christmas, no one person is making everyone else listen to it all the time against their will.

Slugs and Bugs: Family Christmas CD | Little Book, Big Story

The only thing better than those two albums would be one that somehow combined the cozy jazz piano of Vince Guaraldi with the clever energy of Slugs & Bugs. Seasoning the whole mix liberally with lyrics pulled straight from Scripture would take this hypothetical album from good to great.

That is exactly the album that Slugs & Bugs just released.

Slugs and Bugs: Family Christmas CD | Little Book, Big Story

Randall Goodgame is, it turns out, not just a stellar songwriter but also a stellar jazz pianist, and he anchors the whole album with piano pieces that elicit of the warmth and nostalgia of A Charlie Brown Christmas. But the songs are decidedly his, with songs ranging in tone from charming to beautiful. Within the first four songs, I had laughed helplessly once, cried twice, and said “I love this album so much” to Mitch more times than I can count.

“Mary’s Song,” sung by Goodgame’s daughter Livi, is stunning. “Joseph’s Dream” is wonderfully peppy (“I didn’t know he could sing that fast!” said Lydia from the backseat). The rest of the album is good, too, I’m sure, and I’ll have listened to it all before this post goes up*. But I knew within the first song that I wanted to share Sing the Bible: Family Christmas with you, and so here I am, having listened to only seven songs before writing a review.

I’ll send you off with a little foretaste of that first song:

May these songs fill your Advent with light and warmth and joy (and jazz).

Footnote

I have listened to the whole album now, many times. The entire thing (and especially the last song, but also many others) is a thing of beauty.


Sing the Bible: A Family Christmas
Slugs & Bugs; Randall Goodgame (2017)

The Biggest Story ABC | Kevin DeYoung

What I loved best about Kevin DeYoung’s book The Biggest Story was the way he distilled the grand narrative of Scripture down into a straightforward, engaging book for children. I was impressed. Funneling a vast story like that into the uncluttered language of childhood (without dumbing it down) is a challenge, and DeYoung succeeded admirably.

With his new book, The Biggest Story ABC, DeYoung distills the gospel down even further and writes a remarkably coherent explanation of it for toddlers, using the letters of the alphabet as guideposts for the story.

The Biggest Story & The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

This approach seemed a little too cute to me at first, but not so cute that I didn’t pre-order it the moment I saw it listed on Amazon. But when I finally read it, I was shocked—shocked, I tell you!—at how beautifully the gospel does fit into an alphabetized book. Even the plagues are neatly alphabetical (Egypt, flies, gnats, hail):

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

as are portions of Israel’s history (judges, kings, law, Messiah):

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

And the way DeYoung describes concepts like substitution and atonement is truly beautiful. Don Clark illustrates these concepts richly, opening visual doors in them so we can behold their beauty in a new way.

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

I set The Biggest Story ABC aside as a Christmas gift for Phoebe, and that seems a painfully long time to wait to share it with her. I can’t wait to read it through together and hear what conversation stems from this story—our story. The one we are never to young—and never too old—to hear.

The Biggest Story ABC, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story


The Biggest Story ABC
Kevin DeYoung, Don Clark (2017)

10 Books About God for Toddlers

This summer, we planted flowers—rows and rows of them. In the bed typically dedicated to trailing squash, we sprinkled seeds that grew into cosmos, zinnias, poppies (four kinds), larkspur, dainty dwarf zinnias, snapdragons. Walking barefoot among those rows, watching the flowers wake, became one of our favorite morning routines.

But inside our home, another kind of flower unfurled as Josie took her first steps, said her first words, and learned how to make us laugh. She shed her babyhood, in which she watched the world happen around her, and stepped into the thick of things, poking at and exploring the world and expecting it to respond.

10 Books About God for Toddlers | Little Book, Big Story

I had watched this transition three times before, but, like watching flowers shed those green things that encapsulate crumpled petals, it is amazing every time—I think because, with each child, I see more clearly how little I did to bring about that unfolding personality and how much of it was already there, sown into each daughter before I had ever seen her face.

So, in honor of Josie’s summer of unfurling, I made a list for you of my favorite books for toddlers. We love Sandra Boynton and BabyLit books, of course, but this list is for the little ones demanding answers from the world: If I poke the cat, what does he do? If I make this face, will Mama laugh? Let’s give them big answers in small books and see what happens:

10 Books About God for Toddlers | Little Book, Big Story

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise, by Tomie de Paola

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise | Little Book, Big Story

This exuberant book considers every aspect of creation and urges it all to praise God. Beautiful, simple, and vibrantly illustrated. (Read the full review.)

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Found, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Sally Lloyd-Jones’ newest book leads readers through Psalm 23, drawing out the tenderness and warmth of our Good Shepherd as she paraphrases the familiar psalm into a poem that moves readers big and small. Jago’s illustrations here are stunning. (Read the full review.)

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella K. Lindvall | Little Book, Big Story

Each volume of these Bible stories is full of familiar stories, written in language that looks simple but does justice to the biggest truths of our faith. (Read the full review.)

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, by naoko stoop

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, by Naoko Stoop (review) | Little Book, Big Story

Naoko Stoop’s sweet board book departs from the usual Noah’s Ark/Joseph’s Coat/Moses’ Moment at the Red Sea picture books and gently unwraps 1 Corinthians 13 for readers. (Read the full review.)

Hug-a-Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Baby's Hug-a-Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Fuzzy on the outside, rich and vibrant on the inside. Lloyd-Jones introduces small readers to the idea that the Bible is not just a collection of epic stories, but an invitation from God to know him, by condensing the truths of a handful of Bible stories into short, beautiful poems.

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie De Paola

Look and Be Grateful, by Tomie dePaola | Little Book, Big Story

Tomie dePaola’s book of gratitude is one that pokes at parents as we read it to our kids. The text and illustrations are simple but weighty, and they urge us to look around and savor the God who made all things big and small. (Read the full review.)

Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field

Prayer for a Child, by Rachel Field | Little Book, Big Story

Prayer for a Child is a sweet but not too sweet look at prayer from a child’s perspective. My copy doesn’t show it, but this one won the Caldecott in 1945—at a time when the children reading it were living through a world war. (Read the full review.)

Lift the Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Lift-the-Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

What toddler doesn’t love lifting flaps? Sally Lloyd-Jones again distills favorite Bible stories down to their gospel essence, while Tracey Moroney’s bright illustrations give little hands plenty to do while they listen. (Read the full review.)

The Biggest Story ABCs, by Kevin DeYoung

The Biggest Story ABCs, by Kevin DeYoung | Little Book, Big Story

Using the alphabet as a guide, Kevin DeYoung lays out the big story of Scripture from beginning to end in a way that points back to Jesus over and over. (Read the full review.)

Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible | Little Book, Big Story

No booklist on this blog would be complete without The Jesus Storybook Bible. The truths in here are huge, but the format is small: perfect for introducing toddlers to Jesus through the beautiful stories of Scripture. This book is a standard second birthday gift in our home. (Read the full review.)


What About You? Which books do you love to read to your toddlers?

Lift-the-Flap Bible | Sally Lloyd-Jones

Flaps are big at our house. We love lifting them, sliding them, peeking under them when we think no one is looking. (One of us also enjoys tearing them—alas!) We have a rather impressive stash of books with flaps (or books formerly with flaps), and we add to it whenever we can.

Lift-the-Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

But Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Lift-the-Flap Bible is one of my favorite recent additions to the collection, and not just because it has flaps and we love them. Every time we read one of Lloyd-Jones’ books for toddlers, I am in awe of her ability to articulate the love and justice of our God in a few artful sentences. It is a feat that seems simple because the end product looks small, but every word in this sturdy Bible is hand-picked—not one is superfluous.

Lift-the-Flap Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Little Book, Big Story

Tracey Moroney, too, illustrates these short stories with vibrant colors, and those flaps make her paintings interactive: the volcano erupts; the whale breaches; the waters part. This book is perfect for exploring with all five senses (because you know the little ones will try and taste it, too, and new books smell so good) and for sowing that first planting of the gospel in the hearts of the smallest readers.


Lift-the-Flap Bible
Sally Lloyd-Jones, Tracey Moroney (2011)