Scripture Memory with Toddlers

KJV BibleWritten by monthly contributor, Natalie Didlake

Hearing my children reciting scripture sometimes takes my breath away. Their little sing-song voices echo verses back to me as they repeat words they sometimes don’t even understand…”O Lord, you have searched me and known me…” Breathtaking!

But actually buckling down to work daily on scripture memory with little ones…it’s daunting! I used to idealize we’d learn scripture together, but I had no idea how to actually make it happen!

Here are some tips that have really helped scripture memory become a day-to-day reality at our house.

Start small.

To me, the important thing is to do something, no matter how small. It obviously isn’t a good idea to make them sit still for 30 minutes for memory drills right off the bat. We started with about 3-5 minutes of memory work each day. Read the passage in small portions and have your child repeat after you phrase by phrase.

Be expressive. (In other words, sound like you enjoy it!)

Vary inflection of your voice. This really seems to help my kids remember the words. I have noticed that when I accidentally change up our regular sing-song pattern while we’re practicing, they won’t remember it!

Think of it as giving auditory cues to boost their (and your) memory power. The Jews have a long history of chanting and singing the scriptures…and it sure works for them! Historically, it has not been uncommon for them to memorize whole Old Testament books. Phew!

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

Now that my kids know the drill, they actually love repeating the phrases over and over again! Children love repetition, especially when they are engaging and sharing it with others!

I have learned over time how much their brains can retain at one time, usually about 4-6 words. So, for example, I say a few words/a phrase, they say it. I say another one, they say it. And so on. Before long, they know it by heart!

Vary environment.

In college, I used to memorize on my 45-minute commute. It was a nice, long chunk of time, but unfortunately, I couldn’t remember much unless I was in the car! I had conditioned myself to only recall those scriptures during mindless driving. Odd, but true. Hopefully, I won’t set my kids up for this mistake.

Some places we do scripture memory are: lined up on the kitchen counter. Swinging. Snuggled up on the “big bed.” On a blanket in the yard. Riding in the car. On long walks.

This could be a great way of training children that they can interact with God and his Word anywhere, anytime. (See Deuteronomy 6, God’s instruction to parents to teach their children about him all throughout the day!)

Note: When I know my kids will struggle to focus, they sit on the couch, our “usual spot.” Having a neutral, routine environment to fall back on helps us work on memorizing even when they aren’t in an optimal mood.

Stop to explain the scriptures.

I have one child in particular who just loves to know why! How could I possibly turn down all those precious questions and comments when we’re memorizing?

I would never trade all the hours I’ve spent explaining, teaching, answering questions, giving examples, talking, and doing more explaining…for those little “lightbulb” moments when it clicks for them. It’s amazing to realize it actually might be sticking! God’s word really is like a seed! All we do is plant, and then wait and water and watch, and wait some more. (Luke 8:11)

Plus, it helps them remember! I would hardly enjoy memorizing German, why expect them to memorize verse after verse of what’s practically a foreign language to them?

Another note: Sometimes I have to cut off the questions and just plow through memorizing. I have had to accept they won’t “get” everything now. But they can still store it away for later!

Learn long passages.

I know this sounds hard. But it’s really not. It’s like eating a big steak…one bite at a time!

One “bite” at a time, we’ve managed to learn long Psalms, poems, blessings, and parts of the Epistles. It’s been the easiest approach we’ve tried by far!

I prefer to learn longer chunks over individual verses, so that I can keep the context and flow of argument in mind. I’m sure my kids aren’t benefiting from such things as context, at the ripe ages of 3 and 5…but they will later!

Also, it is easier for me to just use my Bible for review. No papers or cards, just a list taped inside the cover. With small children, simpler is always better. Soon, I’d like to have my Bible on our Kindle and work from that!

Explain why we are memorizing.

I periodically remind my kids all the reasons we do Bible memory. It really helps them to hear why, rather than me just “making” them. They are small, but they are human. Why not clue them in?

I reminded them:

Scripture can help prevent them from sin.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Ps. 119:11)

Scripture can teach them about Jesus, who holds out their hope for life.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.(John 5:39)

Scripture can help clarify their hearts.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

Addition from Lindsay:

Take advantage of fun Scripture memory CD’s set to music. Here are some of our favorites:

Songs for Saplings
God’s Word from A to Z

Steve Green’s Hide Em In Your Heart Vol 1
& Vol 2 (I love this version because it comes with the DVD adaption as well)
Seeds Family Worship (a whole series of songs with multiple CD’s for the whole family based on Scripture)

Where should you start?

We have always found it helpful to start with the ABC’s as our guide for memorizing Scripture to begin with toddlers and preschoolers. You can use one of the lists provided in the CD’s above. It helps reinforce the alphabet but also a good review reminder tool.

Otherwise, use simple passages that are meaningful to your family during this time of your life. Is your child struggling with lying? Fear? Obedience? Then, start with doing some word searches to find simple Scriptures that they could memorize to address these struggles.

Other easy lists to begin with:

10 Easy Bible Memory Verses (this list has a fun little coloring page that accompanies each memory verse)

30 Easy Bible Memory Verses (a follow up list to the one above)

My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word in Little Heart – this book is an easy place to start as it includes a Bible verse and character story to accompany it.

I do recommend memorizing the entire portion of the verse and not just shortening it as some of these portions do above. I think you will find that a child can learn a lot more than you might give them credit for, as long as you work in smaller portions. I just prefer to give them all of Scripture for their instruction and memory work.

What tips or ideas do you have to incorporate and simplify scripture memory into your family? Can’t wait to hear your ideas!

Photo Credit

About NDidlake

Natalie Didlake is the mother of three lively little ones, Sabrina (age 5), Roarke (age 3), and Alexia (age 2). She has been married to the winsome and brilliant Aaron for 6 years. They live in Mississippi, where they still have no clue how to be "southern." Natalie's goals are to bring the gospel to bear on every ounce of womanhood, love and enjoy her family, and maybe capture some of it in writing. In between, Natalie likes to squeeze in cooking, blogging, taking pictures of her cute kids, couponing, and saving oodles of money by bargain-hunting. Natalie blogs at Guarded by the Gospel.

39 Responses to Scripture Memory with Toddlers

  1. Kate April 4, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    Dear Natalie,

    Just wanted to let you know what an encouragement this blog post was to me, even though I am just now reading it a year and a half after you wrote it! Scripture memory is a passion for my family and me, and it is always a blessing to hear of others working with young children to learn the Word of God. If you are interested, below is a link to learn more about a film my family and I are producing to help little ones memorize Scripture with hand motions.

    Smile! :)
    In His presence is FULLNESS of joy….

  2. kendra January 21, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Awesome advice…thanks for sharing!

  3. Alexia December 11, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    Songs for Saplings (a music resource Lindsay has mentioned before to help your kids learn God’s word) is having a Christmas special – you can get a free CD with any order (you only pay shipping). You can order just one CD, get it free, and pay shipping. See details at their website:

  4. Claudia November 17, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    GT and the Halo express is still available and now they are on CD’s. It is a bit pricey in my opinion, or at least for my budget at 13.00 plus shipping but definitely an investment. I have asked grandparents to give this as Christmas gifts this year!

  5. Jane August 16, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    Thank you so much for this post! I think this is great and I featured it on my blog :)

  6. kangkang July 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm #
    I tide fashion Good-looking, not expensive

  7. charis July 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    this is the 2nd blog post i have read today about working with our kids to memorize the Word – i think it is a theme! we are working on memorizing the psalms together and even our 3 year old is doing great. i agree that you have to do it bit by bit and then put it all together. it is challenging me to memorize the Word for myself to help them do it. makes me wish i had memorized more when i was a kid.

    my recent post: want to know what i have been reading?

  8. Katie July 21, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    What a great post! I so needed to hear this right now, because I’ve been considering moving on to memorizing scripture passages rather than just verses and this is really kicking me in the right direction! We love, love, love Hide ‘Em in Your Heart – “Mommy, the tongue song again!” (Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies – Prov 34:13). The songs (and of course the great advice to use a sing song voice) really help the words stick in little kids heads and all thiose words connect to the things they are learning as they grow and observe and bring up great opportunities to talk about God!

    Another great resource is Judy Rogers CD Teach Me While My Heart Is Tender – It’s a combination of previous albums (Why Can’t I See God & Go To The Ant). It covers the children’s catechism and some proverbs. Judy is reformed (presbyterian) hence the catechism which was foreign to my upbringing, but WOW I can’t recommend it highly enough> Just to explain for those who may think as I did that catechisms are just for catholics – it’s not true!! A sampling of the catechism questions covered on this CD: God Made Me, The Ten Commandments, How Can I glorify God?, The Greatest Commandment. I suggest researching it a bit more and considering it to supplement CDs like Hide Em in Your Heart and straight memorization.

    Also, to those asking if 9 months or 1 year or 17 months is too early, I just want to encourage you that whatever age you decide is right for you and your family to begin memorization, don’t let early age or the fact that your kiddo isn’t speaking yet stop you! The word of God will not return void – it will at the very least be an encouragement to you to set your mind on things above (especially on those really trying days) and likely your child will soak some up too. Repeating scripture to him will help influence which are the first words he learns! God, Love, Obey, Kind…etc… Just don’t set your hopes/expectations too high -God will bring the fruit He desires in His own good time!

    Bless you Lindsay and Natalie for this post and all you ladies for sharing ideas and resources in the comments. I can’t wait to try some of them out!!

  9. John Huss July 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    The Fighter Verses app (available for iPhone and Android) is a great resource for Bible verse memorization. It’s aimed at older people, but it includes songs for the verses which can be a very useful tool for younger learners. And a future version will likely include the “Foundation Verses” set which is targeted at kids. But right now for parents, this is app is already a great help for memorizing.

  10. c July 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    Incorporating ASL signs is a good way to work with little ones too. I notices that Signing Time has a Bible kit, but I don’t know what it looks like. Could be useful though.

  11. Jennifer July 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    We love scripture songs (I have Songs for Saplings) and listening to the Bible at the breakfast table (I just download the whole new testament for free from iTtunes). And of course the actual Bible is the best place to find any verse. But if you want a book to work through and check off (I can be a little organized that way, and it may be rubbing off on my Bean!) I would totally recommend the TAG books. They are here The TAG books are divided up by age (2-3, 4, 5, 1st grade, etc.) with verses and passages for each age (getting longer as they get older, but they don’t shorten them down for little ones- Bean knows Matt 22:37 in full, as well as John 3:16). It also includes several classic hymns and catechisms (all from a Baptist point of view, fyi) For a Southern Baptist like myself, the idea of catechism was a little alien, but having read over it, I’m excited about pulling that in (maybe when we hit 3, we just do verses right now.)
    My daughter is 2.75 and we’ve been using the first book for 3-4 months now. We concentrate on one at a time, where I tell her a phrase and she repeats, moving up to her saying her own phrases. We use hand motions too. She’s already learned 4 verses. Every night, we work on the new verse and be sure to say the most recent one at least once. Throughout the day, several times a week, I ask her to say the older verses too. After she can say the whole thing without any prompting from me, we have a big happy moment with hugs and then we write the date on the provided line. Then I let her “sign her name” next to the date. She also likes to present her newest verse to Grandma and Grandaddy.

  12. Sarah July 18, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Just a quick question: our son is 17 months and only says, oh about 8 words right now. We’ve been repeating verses to him mainly at meal times from the Desiring God Foundation Verses, but I’m wondering if you have any advice specific for non-speakers? Do we just remain consistent in this period and hope that he retains the scripture until he can speak? Thanks!

    • Courtney August 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      We always put motions with all of our verses. Our church’s program does a verse a month and we generally do an extra one at home as well. My almost 3 year old can say the verses, my 22 month old can say one or so verses, but can do the movements for about 4. He has been joining us with our memorization for about 5 months so he was the same age as your son.

  13. Janette July 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    I agree with the comment about you might be surprised by what your children can learn. My kids have amazing memories it blows me away. We like using the scripture memory system as it is the best system I have found for retaining the verses you memorize since you are going over them at least once each month. It doesn’t take much time or cost a lot but the results are priceless. Hiding God’s Word in our hearts is so important. Here is the link to the info if anyone is interested.

  14. Regina C. July 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    Great post! I loved your recommendation about not shortening the scriptures. My nearly-nine year old loves to memorize scripture and, it is a great joy to hear Gods word from her sweet mouth.

  15. Jessica B July 16, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    We love “seeds” at our house and have found Hide the Word Music to be really helpful as well It is geared toward adults, but great to listen to with the kids as well.

  16. Jessica July 16, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    These CDs are a great resource, too, in that they are taken exactly word-for-word from scripture:

  17. Becky July 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    I taught my younger siblings some verses too! I do it in a sing-song pattern as well, and start small- with really short verses, or just parts of a psalm and then later build on it.
    I’ve noticed that the best way they learn is when I add different hand signs along with the verse they’re reciting.

    For example:
    “The Lord” (pointing up).
    “Is my shepherd” (patting motion as if smoothin a sheep’s coat).
    “I shall not want (shaking finger as if saying ‘no’).

    And stuff like that. They love it that way, and it’s so easy to remember the next line especially for the 4 year old.

  18. Jaimie July 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

    Great post! I needed to be encouraged in this area! Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by everything I want to do with my children! But when I slow down, there are only a couple things I truly care about, and Scripture learning makes that list!

    On a side note, for those of you with an iPhone or iPad and are looking for a great free Bible app: YouVersion is awesome!

  19. abbi July 15, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing them. I like to work on scripture memory with my kids as well. I generally do it at the beginning of our school day (we homeschool) but then come summer it has in the past been quite easy to forget about memorization as we are taking a break from school work. This year I solved that problem but doing some reading and then memorization at the breakfast table. My kids like to linger there anyway so it has worked quite well.

  20. Maria July 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    I taught Scripture to the toddler for whom I did daycare by quoting certain verses when I changed him, when we worked together in the kitchen, when I rocked him to sleep. I don’t know when I began, but probably before he was even able to speak. I would simply recite verses to him whenever we were together. I taught him Psalm 23, John 3:16, Romans 6:23, and some others.

    At first I said all of it, then all but the last word of the phrase (which he’d supply), then I’d say a few words and he’d say a few words. I think by the time he was two or so, I would say a word or two of the verse and he could say most of the rest of it.

    I quit taking care of him, but when he came to visit a couple years later, I think he could still say most of it.

    He got the last verse of Psalm 23 mixed with John 3:16, and I loved the result–”and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord . . . for everlastin’ life!” I think that’s a pretty good picture of Heaven!

  21. Charlita July 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    LOVE IT! I have been doing this with my kids (6 & 2) for awhile, and as God has led for us (while homeschooling) we are learning scripture in English, Japanese, and Spanish to “Preach the Gospel” as my son would say. We listen to the Memory Bible which is narrated by Kirk Cameron. I believe it has 56 scriptures to song. But it does it by letters. It warms my heart to hear my kiddos singing scripture in song “And we know that in alllll things, God works for the goooood of those who love him!” It is the beginning of our journeys in life when we begin life in His name, Word, Path, and Will. This was a wonderful post!

  22. Julia Lawson July 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    Love it! Thank you for taking time to write this! I’ve been wanting to introduce scripture to my kids (ages 6 and 3) and this article has just the tools I’ve been wanting! Thank you sooooooo much!

  23. Natalie July 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    One thing that works great for us is to play the Word of God on CD at night before they go to bed. We play the same book of the Bible each night for many months. They actually memorize that book by osmosis! It’s amazing! What better way to fall asleep too!

    • Claudia November 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

      I have been trying to find this online for a few weeks now, but when I type in WOrd of God on Cd – there is a lot of stuff that comes up.. what is the specific title/author/singer of the one that you are referring to? Anything that will help me buy this for my 2 yr old as well. Thanks, Claudia

    • Claudia S January 22, 2013 at 8:41 am #

      Natalie, wha us the author or title of “the Word of God on Cd” that u play one book at a time for your little ones during sleep?

  24. Ginger Schooling July 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Great article. You should add a Google +1 share button to your website so people can share your pages on Google+ (the new facebook).

  25. Jillian July 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    A friend of mine just started a blog for Scripture memory and application for kids, Sow Little Seeds. I haven’t had the chance to look into it much myself, but what I’ve seen and heard it seems really neat. Our daughter is only a year, therefore we haven’t started with her yet. Thought I would share though.

  26. Jessalyn July 15, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    GREAT tips and encouragement! I do love Scripture set to songs. I find myself singing Dana’s songs to myself throughout the day and think… huh, that really works!

  27. Jennifer July 15, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    I learned so many verses as a child with “Hide em in your heart”. I still sing some of the songs…”God loves a cheerful giver hahahahaha” :)

  28. Carolyn B July 15, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    I am so glad you posted this! I was just thinking that I wanted to do this with my kiddos, but had no idea how or where to start.
    Do you recommend any scriptures to start with?

    • Lindsay July 15, 2011 at 7:27 am #

      I added some links above that you might find helpful for where to start.

    • Valerie July 15, 2011 at 10:41 am #

      I’ve read in various places to start with the verses for children: Exodus 20:12 (Honor your father and mother) and Ephesians 6:1 (Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.)

      And I think the selections in the Scripture memorization CDs are fabulous. I can’t wait to check out the ones recommended here. Our favorites are these:

      ABC Memory Book Scripture Songs
      by Scripture Memory Fellowship / Mikrut’s Music

      Sing the Word from A to Z
      by Anne & Steve Harrow (His Own Hand Music)

      These are not modern, but they’re not old-fashioned or cheesy. They are beautifully put to music, but the singers’ voices are clear and easy for toddlers to understand. And the second CD has children singing along also.

  29. Karen P July 15, 2011 at 4:44 am #

    Loved this post. I look forward to beginning scripture memory with my son. Can you provide some examples of scriptures that you started out with, and some scriptures that are good for the very young. Thank you!

    • Lindsay July 15, 2011 at 7:28 am #

      I provided some links above for help with where to start. You are certainly not limited to anything, but I have found the best success with memorizing verses that accompany our ABC’s – great reinforcement!

  30. Bethany W July 15, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    I just pulled out my Bible to resume memorizing this morning. My daughter is 2.5 and is exploding in her song-vocabulary. I think she learns a new song every day. I was just wondering about Bible memorization this morning. I’ll call this a God-timed post. Thanks! :)

    BTW – we’ve really enjoyed the G.T. and the Halo Express cassette tapes (dubbed onto CD). The songs are pure scripture, and it includes an engaging story.

    • Lindsay July 15, 2011 at 7:28 am #

      Yes! We loved the Halo Express as well when I was growing up! I don’t think it is available anymore though…at least last time I checked. Some of those songs still come back to me! ;)

    • Jennifer July 15, 2011 at 8:30 am #

      We used those tapes too when I was a kid! Those songs really helped me to memorize scripture!

  31. Rachel Thomas July 15, 2011 at 3:12 am #

    We like

    and we like the approach when learning new verses Read it, Write it , Sing it, and Pray it