Thursday, September 22, 2011

What should small children know about G-d?

    Recently a friend (and mother of a three year old) asked me how I teach my two-year old about Yeshua. My answer was that at this point, we mostly read her Bible stories about Yeshua and tell her about Him as opportunities arise in daily life. Little ones learn (and believe) what they see, so ultimately everything that she will learn about Yeshua will be from watching us. However, this question stayed close with me and caused me to ponder the question of how to teach her about G-d in her homeschooling in a way she could understand, and that I could build upon as she grows. 
    In my pondering, I thought about what is traditionally called the Shelosh Esrei Middot or the "13 Attributes of G-d's Mercy" as taken from G-d's proclamation to Moshe in Exodus 34:6-9. It proved very helpful both in reminding me who G-d is, and as a guideline to use in teaching my daughter about Him. The Biblical text states:
    "And the L-RD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The L-RD, The L-RD G-d, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." (KJV)

The following was taken from the website in their parashah teaching on this portion of Scripture. "According to traditional interpretations, the thirteen attributes are articulated as follows: 
  1. The L-RD - I, the L-RD, am the merciful Source of life
  2. The L-RD - The repetition of G-d's name indicates that G-d is merciful to a person after he has sinned and shown teshuvah (repentance)
  3. El - G-d the Mighty: G-d is the rightful Judge
  4. Rachum: G-d the compassionate, merciful to the poor and downtrodden
  5. Vechanun: G-d is gracious and generous even to the undeserving
  6. Erech Apayim: G-d is slow to anger and patient in waiting for our repentance;
  7. Verav Chesed: G-d is abundant in kindness to both the righteous and the wicked;
  8. Ve'emet: G-d is truthful and faithful in carrying out promises;
  9. Notzer Chesed La'alafim: G-d extends kindness for a thousand generations, taking into account the merit of our worthy ancestors
  10. Nosei Avon: G-d forgives iniquity, defined in the tradition as wrongful deeds committed with premeditation;
  11. Vafesha: G-d forgives transgression, defined as wrongful deeds committed in a rebellious spirit;
  12. Vechata'ah: G-d forgives sin, those wrongful deeds that were inadvertent;
  13. Venakeh: G-d will cancel all punishment for those who are truly repentant."
 You can read their full teaching here.

Based loosely on these 13 attributes, I came up with the following "13 Things I know About G-d" craft to do with my daughter as an introduction for her: I used a circle traced from a bowl on a paper plate to make the center of our Sun. (I could only come up with either using the Sun or a flower as two possibilities for this because I wanted a center and ways to display the attributes around the edge.) I printed this on yellow card stock, cut it out using the same size circle and glued it to the paper plate, and then also printed the attributes and cut them out (there is a clip-art picture next to each one to help little eyes  visualize the attribute, but they would not paste into this post. Email me at and I will gladly send you the original Word document!)

13 things
I know about

is Ruler of the World     

gives us everything we have   

doesn’t get angry easily     

is good to everyone   

keeps His promises   

remembers the good things we do    

is forgiving     

is kind   

is loving    

is holy      

is One     

gives life    

made everything   

 The 13 Attributes were then glued to large Popsicle sticks that we painted yellow and glued around the circle to make "the Sun". (I made it a point to say that the Sun is not G-d, but G-d made the Sun.)

Of course, for very young children, these attributes still need further explanation, and as parents we can use illustrations from our lives to clarify them and also make use of comparisons. In addition, I will make a point to add that "Yeshua is G-d" as we talk about Him, even though that may prove difficult to explain. This week, I introduced the concept that G-d is love, and next week look forward to our theme of "mitzvot & chores," which will lend itself to the "G-d remembers the good things we do" attribute. This will also be a great opportunity to teach what mitzvot are, and that they should be seen as acts of love and obedience and never as trying to earn favor (or salvation) from G-d. We will also learn about rewards & consequences. With Rosh HaShanah approaching, these concepts will be very important for our children to know amidst the popular understanding that our good deeds need to outweigh our bad ones and that we can actually work for salvation.

 I will continue to post on the individual attributes as we expound upon them in weekly parashot, as this will be an evolving (and never-ending) lesson. Children learn a lot through songs as well, so I will be gathering songs that can help teach these attributes. (Please share any that you know!) Because Psalm 145 also mentions several of these attributes, I like to sing the chorus of Shane & Shane's song "Psalm 145," which you can hear by clicking here. 

A book that we have and like is "My Little Golden Book About G-d," which talks about some of G-d's attributes. It also helps little children by making comparisons, such as comparing G-d's love to the strong arms of a daddy's hug or loving kisses from a mother, which makes it much clearer to a child. I will look for other books as well, and appreciate your recommendations. 

While this version of the attributes is meant for very small children, you can tweak it and include all of the 13 attributes for older children, which I plan to do in the future. I think that this is a good starting point for the little ones, though. It is my hope that you find the concept helpful in teaching your children as well. 


  1. you are blessed, and your offspring are doubly blessed! i was just wondering yesterday if you had posted again. :) thanks for the great craft idea!!! <3

  2. and thank you for your sweet comment! :) I will email it to you!