What’s the Best Way to Teach Preschoolers About the Resurrection?
So much of Easter in our culture revolves around candy, eggs, and the Easter Bunny. Parents are buying their kids cute Easter outfits for Easter Sunday, and grandparents are buying up chocolates and plastic eggs to make sure the baskets are ready. It’s not surprising that many Christians wrestle with the commercialization of Easter. Some parents may ask, “Is partaking in some of the festivity okay?”
I actually think it’s a blessing that our culture still takes time to celebrate Easter—even if many miss the point. Easter is an opportunity for us to be intentional with our kids and bold with our unbelieving neighbors. It’s a time to invite the neighbors over to hunt eggs in the backyard and share a chocolate bunny. Most importantly it’s a time to share the story and the joy of the resurrection.
Tell Kids the Story of the Resurrection
Toddlers and young preschoolers learn by rote and by recognition. Here’s what I mean by that. Little kids are learning to repeat back Bible verses, stories, and simple biblical truths; sometimes they do that without a whole lot of thought about what the words and stories mean. But the basic concepts they’re learning at an early age are foundational; learning these truths are essential for kids if they’re going to grow up to have a more mature faith later in life.
Think about it. Two-year-old’s typically have a 200-word vocabulary while three-year-old’s have a 1,500-word vocabulary. That means that toddlers learn 1,300 words in a year! Even if we’ve faithfully subscribed to Alexa’s “word of the day,” we adults will only learn around 350 new words in a year. But our youngest kids are learning so many brand-new truths! When you read to your preschooler about basic Bible concepts—sin, salvation, the cross, the resurrection, Easter, or even the name, Jesus—they’re learning those words and their significance for the first time. Later on, preschoolers will be able to recognize biblical concepts that have been taught before. And, by God’s grace, they’ll spend their whole lives learning to trust the God to whom those stories point.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to read and tell the story. According to child psychologists, a “narrative” function emerges in children by age three. That’s science recognizing the truth that God made the human brain so that we think in stories. We know that preschoolers are able to grasp the basic plotline of a good story. And, from a young age, toddlers also begin to tell stories about their daily lives. As they grow, kids begin to make up stories about themselves—the imaginative adventures that they and their favorite toys are going on. Hearing and telling stories give kids a sense of rooted identity. We want their identity to be rooted in the story of the gospel. So read the story of the resurrection to your preschooler from a Bible storybook. And, as your kids get older, consider inviting them to act out the resurrection story during times of family worship (Peter and John’s race to the tomb in John 20 is really fun to act out!). Find creative ways to tell your kids the story of the good news again and again.
But whatever you do, don’t stop there.
Show Kids the Joy of the Resurrection
Romans 4:25 says this: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” The fact that the resurrection happened in history is essential to our faith. But, that fact is essential precisely because of what the resurrection accomplished. Read the last part of that verse again. Paul tells us that Christ was raised for our justification. When Christ was raised, his perfect, sinless life was vindicated (1 Tim. 3:16). The resurrection justified his claim that he is God. And, because we are united to Christ by faith, we’re raised and justified with him (Col 2:13; 3:1). If you believe in Christ, then––because he lives––everything that Jesus accomplished through his perfect life and death for our sins counts for you! It’s just what the prophet Isaiah predicted: “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities” (Is. 53:11). If you believe in Christ, then––because he lives––everything that Jesus accomplished through his perfect life and death for our sins counts for you! Click To Tweet
Children need to know the story of Jesus’s resurrection. But more importantly, they need to know that Jesus rose for them! I don’t remember how old I was when I learned the Easter greeting. But I do remember my dad waking my brother and I up on Easter morning with the words, “He is risen!” I learned from a very young age what to echo back: “He is risen, indeed!” I learned this fact. But, more importantly, I saw the joy of this truth in my father’s eyes.
This Easter, don’t just stick to the facts. Easter changed everything. So, help your little ones know, understand and believe it! Carve out some time with your kids to reflect upon and even memorize some of the “for me” verses in the Bible: “I know that my redeemer lives” (Job 19:25–26); “He loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20); and because he lives, “the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16).
So, as you prepare for Easter, show your kids the impact of the resurrection by giving them your time, presence, love, and joy. Hide and hunt those eggs that third and fourth time. Enjoy a an extra Reece’s cup! And let your kids see the joy in your heart over the truth that your Savior lives!
Editor’s note: Read more in Jared Kennedy’s book, Jesus Rose for Me.