He puts on his Superman cape, stands on the coffee table, jumps into the air and yells, “Superman to the rescue!” He flies in the air then slumps on the floor. Getting up, he dares to save the world all over again.
Later that evening, all tucked in bed, you hear him squeal, “Mommy, Mommy, read David and Goliath again!” With excitement, energy, and anticipation, our son just knew that he could be David one day! He imagined it, so it must be true. Believing he had the same power as the young son of Jesse did, Matt knew he could conquer anything large or small in his life.
At the ages of 3-7, faith is strengthened by imagination and imitation.
I have heard it said that the faith stage of a preschooler is called the “fantasy” stage. According to Theologian, James Fowler, who synchronized spiritual development with the physical insists that preschool-aged children (and a little older) connect faith with their imagination as well as mimicking the people influencing their life.
At this stage of human development, it is hard for preschoolers to understand abstract thought. What they see and experience is how they learn, and what they imagine is real to them. Children of this developmental stage are very impressionable and take what an adult says as literal truth. As Fowler charts, children of this age make no distinction between reality and fantasy.
This is the time of life where children’s imagination is large, magical, and, at times, a bit illogical. They love stories of God’s protection, His power, creation, and accounts of heroes making great feats; they believe in their prayers; they have faith that moves mountains!
Jesus applauds their faith as “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ (Luke 18:2-4).
There is nothing quite like experiencing the hope of a preschooler! They see the impossibilities of life as achievable! They are not limited by the challenges and disappointments that discourages faith in adults.
How do you cultivate such a faith?
At their level, read them stories of great men and women of God. As Jesus mentioned their lowly position, we must not think that they have an ill-equipped faith; instead, they have the humility that gives them power; they can have a faith like Paul the Apostle, the disciples of Jesus, George Muller, Harriet Tubman, and so many others. When you read them stories of another’s faith, you strengthen them to become just like these men and women. Not only will their belief in Jesus grow, yours will too!
Allow them to act out the stories. Give them roles to be David, Elijah, Elisha, or Joshua in the Bible. I will be quite honest with you, this role-playing will happen naturally if you read to your preschooler often. When acting out these stories, your children memorize the story and visualize their own ability to be great for God.
Teach them to do their faith. When your preschoolers need to act out their faith by sharing, giving, and obeying, they now have a bank of great men and women in their heads they can draw from. Ask them, “What would Harriet do? How would Paul handle this? Would Jesus obey his parents in this?” Your children want to be great! Put positive models in front of them, and they will strive to be like them. They mimic everything at this age, hence, an excellent reason to watch our behavior in front of them.
In prayer, point them to the One Who is Greater. Prayer is a big deal! If prayer lessons depression in adults, what can it do for your child? Teaching your preschooler, they can go to Jesus when they are sad, angry, or upset gives them hope, confidence, and rest. Raising children on prayer bolsters their faith and heightens happiness. Teaching them to pray puts their eyes on Someone bigger than themselves.
Stay away from faith drainers. A faith drainer is something or someone in which robs us of joy and discourages our well-being. Who are your children’s friends? What are they watching on T.V.? What is being said to them from their teachers? Are they being built up or torn down? What books are they looking at? How are you speaking to them? This stage is a sensitive one; because they are impressionable, it’s essential that parents strategically put in front of their children that which will encourage their trust; likewise, parents must be willing to remove what is damaging.
At this stage of faith, kids love stories. They like to pretend. They are naturally curious. They ask ‘why’ because they want to know. Thier mind is rapidly learning.
Parents, you have an opportunity to soak your kids with God’s power and might! They truly believe they are ‘batman’ or ‘David.’ Feed their imagination with characters who they can imitate. Dream with them. Learn with them. You will also benefit; far too often parents lose their own faith as their imagination wanes due to the demands of ‘adulting.’