Tag Archives: kids

Top Christmas Toys for Christians 2016

Get a head start on your Christmas shopping with Christ-centered toys for kids.

Christmas is just around the corner and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season will be here before you know it. Get a head start on your Christmas shopping with these Christ-centered toys your children will be excited about on Christmas morning.

Fisher-Price Little People Nativity Set
Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus share the stable with their animal friends in this Little People re-telling of the Christmas Story. Place the angel atop the stable to activate the light-up star and hear the holiday favorite “Away in a Manger” play. The perfect size for little hands, the Fisher-Price Little People nativity set is the perfect introduction to the story of the birth of Christ for young children.

Prayer Dolls
Prayer Dolls are the perfect friend for your child during prayer time or play. Your little one can pray along and even hold the dolls hands together as she recites four different prayers. They are cute, cuddly and colorfully dressed with stylish hair.

VeggieTales In The House DVD
Shiver Me Timbers! Ichabeezer has lost his toy pirate ship! Guess what? Larry the Cucumber found the ship and wants to keep it for himself! Can Bob the Tomato help Larry decide to do what’s right – or will Larry’s friendship with Ichabeezer’s be lost at sea? Find out in this all-new VeggieTales In The House story about sharing and caring.

Plush Toys
Bears for Humanity plush toys are perfect for keeping your kids company on long car rides or just hanging out around the house. The bear, lion and eagle toys are made from 100% organic cotton and are hand sewn right here in the United States. Looking for something a bit bigger? Our 22’’ Barnabas Bear is sure to make a big impact on Christmas morning.

My First Green Toys Shape Sorter
Made in the USA from food-safe, 100% recycled plastic milk jugs that save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Shape Sorter helps develop recognition of shapes and colors while also encouraging eye-hand coordination, problem solving, and fine and gross motor skill development. The two-part elliptical Shape Sorter and 8 colorful shapes (2 stars, 2 circles, 2 squares, 2 triangles) are the perfect size and weight for little hands.

Bibleman Putting on the Full Armor of God
Meet Bibleman and his team and find out how they use the Shield of Faith, the Sword of the Spirit, and the rest of the armor of God to defeat dangerous villains like Dr. Fear and the Master of Mean. Then create your own adventure scene using the foldout “Put Your Armor On” poster and stickers!

We hope you enjoy the excitement as your children open these Christ-centered gifts on Christmas morning and encourage you to use these gifts as an opportunity to remind your little ones that Jesus is the reason for the season.

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3 Kids Bibles that will Engage Your Child

6 Guidelines for Encouraging Your Child’s Spiritual Growth

5 Biblical Lessons to Teach Your Kids

3 Kids Bibles that will Engage Your Child

Get your little ones engaged in God’s Word with a Kids Bible they can understand and encourage them to personalize their faith.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14 NIV

God has a heart for children, and His Word makes it clear that He desires to be in an intimate relationship with them. Teaching your kids about their Lord and Savior is one of your greatest responsibilities as a parent – but it’s also one of your greatest blessings. Encourage your little ones to draw near to their Father with a Kids Bible they can easily understand.

The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories

The Beginner’s Bible has been a favorite of young children and their parents for decades. The easy-to-read text and bright, full-color illustrations on every page make it the perfect way to introduce young children to the stories of the Bible. With new three-dimensional art and compelling text, more than 90 Bible stories come to life. Kids ages 6 and under will enjoy the fun illustrations of Noah helping the elephant onto the ark, Jonah praying inside the fish and more.

NLT Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible

Scripture memorization grounds kids in their faith, equips them for the future and solidifies their relationship with Christ. The NLT Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible was designed to encourage kids to read God’s Word and hide it deep within their hearts. One hundred of the Bible’s core verses have been set to music by renowned children’s author and songwriter Stephen Elkins. The 100 songs include a variety of genres and are available in the New Living Translation, New International Version and King James Version.

NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers

Now available with full-color throughout, the bestselling NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers includes the complete New International Reader’s Version written for a third grade reading level—for children just beginning to explore the Bible on their own. Kids ages 6-10 will be even more captivated with learning about the Bible and growing closer in their relationship with God. Enjoy 30% Off All Adventure Bibles now through November 17.

Give your child their very own Bible as a gift or choose a Bible together. Challenge them to read a whole chapter of the Bible, memorize their favorite verse or have them read their new Bible to you.

How do you encourage your kids to spend time in God’s Word?

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7 Bible Verses to Share with Your Daughter about her Identity in Christ

5 Biblical Lessons to Teach Your Kids

6 Guidelines for Encouraging Your Child’s Spiritual Growth

5 Biblical Lessons to Teach Your Kids

Math, science, art and history – your kids learn a lot in the classroom but what about at home? As parents who are raising ambassadors for Christ, it’s important to make sure an understanding of God’s Word is part of the equation. That’s why we’ve outlined five lessons to teach your children that align with God’s will for them.

Love God
There’s a reason this is the first commandment. Jesus instructs us in Mark 12:30 to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind and soul. This is a lesson that children can begin to grasp at an early age and will serve as the foundation for all other principles.

Be Kind
The golden rule taught in grade school has more biblical truth to it than you might have thought. In Matthew 7:12 Jesus tells us to do to others what we would want them to do to us. Kindness is rooted in a deep love and respect for all of God’s people.

Respect Authority
Whether it’s a parent or the president, the Bible is very clear that we are to respect authority. Romans 13:1 reminds us that the authorities in place have been established by God. We are to teach our children that we don’t have to fear authority if we ultimately trust our Lord and Savior.

Tell the Truth
Help your child understand the importance of honesty. Ephesians 4:25 commands us to speak truth to our neighbors because we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Similar to kindness, the ability and desire to tell the truth stems from love and respect.

Give Thanks
We serve a good God who delights in blessing us. The enemy is quick to attack our thoughts in an attempt to consume us with negativity and unmet needs, but it is so important to drown them out with praise and thanks to our Father in Heaven. Psalm 100:4 says that we are to enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise His name. Instill a heart of gratitude in your child and be quick to point out all of the good things God is doing in their life.

While these lessons are important, they’re not all-inclusive. The Bible offers more grace and guidance for parents than we could fit into a blog, so we encourage you to ask for wisdom and spend time in the Word as you seek to raise children of God.

We believe something great happens when a child applies the Bible to their life and begins to understand who God has called them to be. That’s why we’ve created an exclusive line of superhero-inspired kids’ decor called Small But Mighty. This line is designed to remind your little ones that while they might be small, their faith makes them mighty — especially when they use their powers to serve and love others.

What biblical lessons would you add to our list?

6 Guidelines for Encouraging Your Child’s Spiritual Growth

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. – Proverbs 22:6 NIV

This verse is both a command and a promise – a command to raise children who know Jesus, and a promise that God will be faithful in holding up His end of the deal. He doesn’t ask us to be perfect but He does ask us to be purposeful. Encourage your kids to pursue Jesus with these guidelines for fostering spiritual growth.

Teach Them To Be Thankful 
Use everyday moments as opportunities to teach them gratitude. Go around the dinner table and take turns sharing something positive that happened that day. Use their response as an opportunity to show your children how God has blessed them.

Get Them Involved In God’s Word
Introduce your little one to God’s Word with a kid’s Bible. Get them excited about their faith by taking them with you to pick one out. Have their name imprinted on the cover to personalize their Bible and explain how God’s Word speaks directly to them.

Practice Prayer
Teach your children about the power of prayer. Whether it’s first thing in the morning or as you tuck them into bed, make sure you and you set aside a consistent time every day to pray. Encourage them to explore prayer on their own and document their conversations with God in a prayer journal.

Cultivate Curiosity
Kids ask a lot of questions. Do your best to answer them and introduce Christian principles to their everyday curiosities. The more often you initiate conversations, the more comfortable they will feel coming to you when they need direction.

Create Community
Faith flourishes in the presence of community. Encourage Godly friendships by getting them involved in a youth group and other activities with the church outside of Sunday service. Surround your children with kids and adults who model Christ.

Lead By Example
Whether they admit it or not, your children look up to you. They are watching and learning your attitudes and actions. You have a unique opportunity to show them what it means to live out their faith. Go to God in prayer and ask him for guidance and wisdom as you seek to raise children who love the Lord.

We hope you feel inspired to foster your child’s faith in new and exciting ways. Tell us how you encourage your little ones in their spiritual journey.

6 Bible Verses to Pray Over Your Kids as They Head Back to School

Your babies may be walking to the bus stop or driving themselves to high school for the first time. Either way, the end of August can be an anxious time for kids (and parents too!) Calm those back to school jitters and put your trust in God. Pray these verses and leave your little ones in the capable hands of the Father.

Pray for Understanding
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. – Philippians 1:9-10 NLT

Pray for Maturity
Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. – 1 Corinthians 14:20 ESV

Pray for Perseverance
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. – Galatians 6:9 NKJV

Pray for Courage
Have not I commanded you? Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9 AMP

Pray for Opportunity
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. – Galatians 6:10 NIV

Pray for Godly Friendships
Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family. – Proverbs 18:24 MSG

Use these verses to combat your fears and ask for favor during this time of transition. Looking to go deeper? Moms in Prayer will help you further explore how to pray for your children using Scripture. This bestseller is included in our Buy One Get One 50% Off sale on all books now through August 25!

What Is It About Small Children?

Have you noticed the super powers small children wield?

I was riding the NYC subway one morning, when the doors opened and into the car walked a little child.

She was maybe 2.

Instantly, all of us—these defended New Yorkers, all avoiding eye contact, all guarding our space—were transformed. We smiled at her. At her mother. At each other.

Her gentleness disarmed us. Barriers of race and age and status vanished.

She changed everything.

When people asked Jesus, “Who’s the greatest in your Kingdom?” Jesus showed them a little child and said, “Become like this little child.”

It’s not always all about what we teach children.

It’s about what they teach us.

I’ve learned that from writing for children. Writing for children keeps you honest. You have to dig deeper. Work harder. Understand it better. Your job is to distill—to take the profound and make it simple enough for a child to understand.

When I was writing THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE, I couldn’t rely on jargon. A little child has no concept of what sin is, for instance. I had to find other ways to describe it. I wrote that: sin is not just about breaking the rules, it’s breaking God’s heart; it’s like poison that makes your heart sick and stops it from working properly; it’s like running away from God and hiding in the shadows.

Writing for children demands nothing short of excellence.

The funny thing is—if you write with the excellence that children deserve you reach everyone. C S Lewis said: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”

Excellence, it turns out, is the most inclusive thing.

THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE has broken out of the boundaries typical for a children’s bible storybook—read by college students, theologians, pastors, couples; read in schools, prisons, old people’s homes. (It’s so popular with adults that we have published their own edition: THE STORY OF GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU.)

I think it has something to do with that place inside of us all that remains a child still, the place God loves to speak to us—the place where we are undefended, humble, open to wonder. Open him. The place that tiny child spoke to us all, in that NYC subway car that morning.

In THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE I captured the plotline of the Bible. As adults when do we ever hear that plotline? Even if we go to church regularly, we may never hear the whole story in one sitting.

But when you distill the story down so that you can read it in one sitting, immediately it is startling. Because most of us think we know what the Bible is about—and it’s not good. We think it’s a book of rules you follow so God will love you. Or a book of heroes you copy so God will love you.

But it’s none of those things.

It’s most of all a Story.

The Story Of a God who breaks into History and comes down to rescue his children. A God who moves heaven and earth to be near them, to love them—though it would cost him everything.

The Story of a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. The Story of a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves.

The Bible is simply this: THE STORY OF GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU.

And I don’t know anyone—young or old—who doesn’t need to hear that story.

Sally Lloyd-Jones is a New York Times bestselling author whose books include: Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing, a children’s devotional which won the ECPA Christian Book of The Year award in adult inspiration, and The Jesus Storybook Bible, now available in a format for adults with a new design and title, The Story of God’s Love for You. Sally also has a new picture book coming this spring, Baby Wren and the Great Gift.

Happily Ever After?

sally jones DECEMBER 8, 2015

Happily Ever After?
SALLY LLOYD-JONES

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me.” Psalm 18:16a (NLT)

SALLY LLOYD-JONESSALLY LLOYD-JONESRemember when you were little and fairytales were true? Don’t you sometimes wish they still were?

My niece Ellie was about 3 years old and living completely inside fairytales. She dressed up as a princess for breakfast. She dreamed. She sang. She twirled. She danced her way through her days.

But she was also in a playgroup and had already been called names. Fat, ugly … though she was none of those things.

The real world, she discovered, was no fairytale.

My nephew dreamed of being a fierce, brave hero, but was struggling at school.

Watching them discover this wonderful, magical world of fairytales they loved so much just wasn’t true broke my heart.

And then a thought broke through. What if my niece’s wonder and joy wasn’t a lie at all? What if my nephew’s dreams of bravery weren’t just fantasy? What if they were actually pointing to the Truth?

What if they were pointing to the ultimate truth of the Gospel: the great Good News of a God who loves us and broke into history to come down and rescue us? Who moved heaven and earth to be near us, to love us — though it would cost Him everything He had?

As a child, I thought I knew what the Bible was about — and it wasn’t good.

I thought it was a rulebook filled with things I was supposed to do so God would love me. Or a book of these heroes I was supposed to copy so God would love me.

And so I wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible for my niece and nephew and every child I will only ever meet on the shared page so they could know what I didn’t — that the Bible isn’t a rulebook or a book of heroes.

“The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from far away to win back His lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves His palace, His throne — everything — to rescue the ones He loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see the best thing about this story — it’s true!”*

Why do we love fairytales? And long for them to be true? Are they just fantasy, a way to escape our lives? I believe they are the opposite.

These longings of ours are not fantasy. They are signposts. Pointing us beyond what we can see. Leading us into the heart of things. Into Hope and Joy and Love.

There is a Prince.
There is a Hero.
We are loved.
We are chosen.
We are beloved.

There is a Love we all long for.
There is Joy at the center of everything.
And Hope beyond the walls of the world.

There are Hands that hold us.
There is a purpose in the middle of it all.

And one day, God will heal His broken world and His children’s hearts, and wipe away every tear from every eye.

When we read this true story we are not escaping from life, we are escaping into life that is truly life.

But mostly we don’t believe it. We think it’s too good to be true. Happily ever after?

That just sounds like a fairytale, a mere children’s story. And after all, we are adults. We have outgrown fairytales. Fairytales, as anyone can tell you, just aren’t true. We live in the real world.

Stories don’t end happily ever after.

Or … do they?

Dear Father, thank You for sending us Jesus. Thank You that He didn’t just look down … He came down. Our Rescuer. Our Prince. Our Hero. All of our dreams come true! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 1:4, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (ESV)

Romans 15:13a, “… the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope …” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
The Jesus Storybook Bible turned out to be a children’s book that adults were reading. So Sally Lloyd-Jones created a beautiful new edition especially for adults called, The Story of God’s Love for You. Pick up a copy for you and a friend.

To learn more about Sally and her writing, visit her website.

Enter to WIN a copy of The Story of God’s Love for You by Sally Lloyd-Jones. In celebration of this book, Sally’s publisher is giving away five copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select five winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, December 14.}

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How might believing the True Fairytale of the Gospel … believing that the Brave Prince, the Young Hero has come … has moved heaven and earth to be near you and love you, change how you live today?

*The Story of God’s Love For You, page 2, copyright Zondervan 2015

© 2015 by Sally Lloyd-Jones. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Ciera Horton

The ‘Write’ Way: Instilling a Love of Writing In Your Child

“Hey, can I read your book?” I looked up at the face of a young boy watching intently as I worked on my newest novel manuscript. Ben lived in my dorm with his family, the community counselors. I smiled and passed the book over and three days later, he became my youngest reader. Over the course of the semester, I began helping him in creative writing and motivating this budding artist. It was incredibly rewarding to have the chance to invest in a young person’s life, but I was truly touched when I received a letter from Ben that moved me to tears.

 

“Ciera, thank you so much for always encouraging me with my writing…I am doing an assignment called ‘whose shoes’ where we write to someone we look up to as a hero. I just want to thank you for the time you have spent with me helping my stories progress and grow…I hope that when I grow up, I will be as generous and loving like you…I will never forget you.”

 

Young people are highly impressionable and the smallest amount of encouragement can go a long way. In this case, I discovered that sharing my work with him and reading his writing in return gave him the necessary motivation to further pursue his dreams of finishing a book.

 

Writing is an integral part of life in that it helps young people learn to appreciate language and culture and formulate their thoughts on the world in a way that is both creative and formative to their development as an individual.

 

As parents, you have an even greater opportunity to instill a love for writing in your children. Not only will they learn by watching you as their role models, but you have the unique ability to touch their hearts with encouragement and challenge, which is both gracious and inspiring. Whether or not you yourself were raised to have a love for the written word, if you desire for your child to have a greater appreciation for the art and discipline of writing, there a few key ways you can encourage them.

 

  1. Expose your child to quality literature at a young age.

 

Consider ways to make books a part of your child’s life, such as making regular trips to the library, giving books as gifts or encouraging your child to read every day. When I was growing up, my mother scheduled reading time for an hour every afternoon. This practice helped me gain the ability to focus intensely for longer periods of time. In addition, it widened my palette of vocabulary and helped me fall in love with the narrative art of storytelling.

 

Furthermore, children who are read to daily are found to test higher in cognitive skills such as language, mathematics, memory and the process of understanding and recalling facts. A study from the University of Melbourne showed that parental reading increases a child’s cognitive skills and reading abilities from the age of six months to age 11. In other words, you can start reading to your baby to help instill a fundamental understanding of cadence, language and object recognition! This basic understanding of reading is the first step toward leading your child to love writing. Words become meaningful to them and they will ultimately have a greater desire to use their own words to express and communicate.

 

  1. Have them keep a journal.

 

Journaling for personal meditation or along with devotions and Scripture is a good life practice for any Christian no matter the age. This is beneficial for any child, both because it helps them learn structure and responsibility and also because they become more naturally self reflective. Furthermore, the progress is tangible and they can see their own growth as a writer as they fill up the pages.

 

I have personally kept journals since I was five years old — granted, the subject matter of my entries has changed greatly, but to look back into the thoughts of a younger me is a beautiful gift. Reading over my old notes is like stepping back in time, having a conversation with myself and it gives me insight to see how certain events shaped me. The practice of journaling can be creative, too, and I often include pictures, sketches or poems, anything that is a personal reflection on what I’m thinking or feeling.

 

  1. Celebrate when they ask questions.

 

Before answers can be found, questions must be asked. That truth is at the very heart of writing. To write is to question, to analyze, to seek truth and to strive to examine what you observe. The heart of this, though, is the art of experience and the acquired ability to reflect what you see in what you write.

 

Questions like, “What does it mean to be a girl? Why do I have to love my brother? Why do we go to church?” are life shaping. Let them thrive on the “why” questions and explore answers though the process of putting thoughts into words.

 

  1. Praise the work ethic.

 

I’ve heard it said “Praise the process, not the product!” But the truth is that we should affirm both. The journey is just as important as the destination and the same truism applies to writing in that we should value the method and time spent working on our craft just as we should appreciate the end result. When your child shows you a story he has written, praise him for the effort, encourage him in his endeavors and challenge him to grow. Illustrate ways in which he can learn more or become better, but understand that the truth is loving and to love is to be truthful. So affirm his desire to use his gifts and interests and show him how to practice his skills humbly.

 

  1. Help them see writing as applicable to various interests.

 

There is a place for the writer in everyone’s world. Not every child will have the same artistic imagination to write their own fairytales; others may prefer journaling or nonfiction or poetry. But the understanding that writing is both expression and communication is key. It’s both deeply personal and can be made public. It is an art and a discipline. Encouraging your child to learn how to think analytically and write critically about the world around them will sharpen important life skills and even help them formulate their recognition of identity.

 

When I received Ben’s letter about his project “Whose Shoes”, I was incredibly honored to be selected as this boy’s hero because of our writing mentorship. His note continued, “Our writing teacher asked for a pair of signed shoes from you, for our ‘whose shoes’ display that we have in class so we can literally walk in your shoes.” He asked for old, worn shoes that I wouldn’t miss.   Instead, I gave Ben my favorite pair of Chuck Norris Converse. Being selected as Ben’s role model has continued to be a reminder to me that we as Christians have the blessing of being able to speak deeply into others’ lives, especially children. I truly believe that leadership skills are not determined by how much we accomplish, but by how much those we lead accomplish. As a parent, recognize that you have the ability to lead, challenge, humble and encourage your child in both the writing process and whatever endeavor they undertake. The “write” way looks different for every child, but to instill a love for the written word in them is to share a valued appreciation for stories, both those of others and their own.

 

Bio: A sophomore at Wheaton College, Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, she grew up hanging out with Christian music stars, artists and writers who greatly influenced her culturally-engaging outlook on life, which she writes about at www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.

Ciera Horton

What can churches realistically do to make families of special needs children feel welcome?

When you have a child with autism or other special needs, even the simple everyday tasks most take for granted can present their own set of unique challenges and issues. Trips to the grocery store, outings to the zoo…and yes, even church! Between the noises, the lights and the crowds, churches can be a lot for kids with sensory issues to handle.

For parents, this can be very isolating. We find ourselves feeling looked down upon in social situations when sensory issues lead to meltdowns and ‘inappropriate’ behaviors. Even in church, it’s easy to feel a little unwelcome at times.

 

In an ideal world, every church would offer a sensory friendly service… a special service where families of those with sensory issues could come and worship without fear. Music would be turned down, there’d be no crazy lights, no booming speeches and moving around would be not only acceptable but even welcome. Or perhaps they’d offer a special room (like a cry room, seen in many larger churches) or even a special needs classroom available during the church services. All options would be ideal…but let’s be honest, most churches simply do not have the resources available.

Which leads to the question: what can churches realistically do to make families of special needs children feel welcome?

One very simple way is by offering a sensory box to use during services to those that need them. This box would contain both sensory products aimed to help deal with sensory overload, as well as fun activities that can help children stay occupied. Here’s a look at some ideas to include:

 

  • Weighted Products. Weighted/compression vests, lap pads, etc can be a great for calming and helping kids to stay still.
  • Noise Reducing Headphones. One of the big issues for kids in a church setting is the noise- be it the music, the blare of speakers or just the crowd in general. For my son, we have found noise reducing headphones to be essential in public places when it becomes too much. These are similar to what one would wear at a shooting range and does not block out all noise but rather filters out some of the background noise.
  • Oral Sensory Toys. These would of course be specific to each child (to be stored with a plastic baggie with their name), but can also be a great addition to your sensory box. For my son, I’ve found that having something to chew on such as this can help him to focus…as well as keeping his mouth off of everything around him!
  • Books. For the child that can read, books can be a great distraction! Fill with bright, vibrant books for various age levels. Consider Veggie Tales comics or fun Bible storybooks. I loved featuring a book called ‘God Made Me Special’ to remind those differently-abled children that God made them perfect just as they are.
  • Art Supplies. Crayons, coloring books, pencils, etc can all again provide great busy work to make the wait a little easier. Color Wonder papers and markers can be ideal for younger kids or those with fine motor issues to prevent messes. Clay and/or playdoh when possible can also serve as a great sensory experience.
  • Small Quiet Toys. Of course there is no better way to occupy a child’s attention than with toys! For this box, the key thing you want to look for is toys that can be played with quietly! Plush toys, soft balls, etc are great options. For the sensory seeking kid, offer a variety of textures. Find toys that have colorful lights. Spinning parts are also popular among kids with sensory issues (gears, wheels, tops, etc).  Inexpensive novelty toys are fantastic for this type of box…they can be replaced easily and inexpensively and because they are not played with every day still keep their appeal. (We used this types of toys often as reinforcements in therapy).
Of course, every child will be different and what helps one child might not for the next, but this list will give you a great starting point to build upon. The sensory therapy products can all be found at stores specializing in therapy or education, but many great sensory friendly toys and books can be found right where you shop for your other church supplies- Family Christian.Just by letting families know that you have thought of them and want to make their church experience as easy as possible can go a long way in letting them know that they are in fact welcome. But don’t let the welcoming end there. Offer support where possible, ask questions about how you can make church a better experience for each individual family and above all be understanding. Even creating the perfect sensory-friendly church experience may still prove too much for some children- reach out to these families where they are. A little bit of compassion can go a long way in making this journey with a differently-abled child a little less lonely.

Randi Sampson is a Christian wife and autism mom. She blogs at A Modern Day Fairy Tale– sharing stories of motherhood, life, product reviews and everything in between.

On Dealing with Special Needs

brat

I will guarantee that many of you have said, overheard or seen sentiments like those pictured above. I know I did. I was one of those moms who had a perfect first child, and therefore thought I knew everything. I had no problem blaming the parents, blaming the doctors, blaming society for allowing “brats” who try to solve the problem by medicating them vs. discipline.

Then, I had to eat my own words.

I now find myself one of the first people to defend the child with the invisible disabilities. My second daughter was entirely different from my first. She was far more exuberant, and head strong. She had quirks about her that would make me question, from a very early age, if she suffered from some sort of disorder. I would find myself searching the internet, taking those “how to know if your child has _____” quizzes. My daughter was always the square peg in a world of round holes. Even within the scope of various disabilities, she didn’t quite fit the profile. I would think briefly that she must be fine, but then with each developmental milestone we would (or should) hit … I was searching again.

When she was just around two years old, we got our first diagnosis. “Speech Delayed”. We attended a few assessments, and had our sit down meeting to talk about her treatment plan. This was the first time someone referred to my daughter as disabled. It rocked me to my core. It doesn’t matter what the diagnosis is, hearing that your child is disabled … it takes your breath away. I cried the whole ride home. Someone actually put words to something I suspected all along. But, clearly, it wasn’t just a speech delay. Many of the behaviors she was exhibiting, it was assumed, would correct themselves as she became more verbal.

Her speech cleared up, but the quirks didn’t. In some respects, it got worse.

I remember, time and time again, telling people THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH HER. I actually wanted to know what it was, so I could help her. Answers evaded me. It was her second grade teacher that first mentioned autism, but my daughter didn’t fit that profile either. Our next diagnosis was a positive one, GIFTED.

I knew my daughter was exceptionally smart, which I think was part of what frustrated me about her behaviors. I couldn’t wrap my head around why someone SO smart, couldn’t see or correct her behaviors.

It would not come until 5th grade that we would get another diagnosis. ADHD. You know the “brat disease”, “excuse for parents who don’t want to discipline their children disease”, the “too lazy to parent their children disease”…. yeah, that one. We would work our way through figuring out medications and dosage. What I couldn’t be prepared for, was the response of others.

“She is just being a kid, she doesn’t need medication.”

“Have you tried changing her diet? I have read that _____ causes ADHD”

“You don’t have to give her medication. Mountain Dew or strong coffee will work just as well.”

“She is just head strong. You need to set firmer boundaries.”

They have no clue what it is like to live with a child that has ADHD. Let alone a GIFTED child, with ADHD. They live in a world, where their brains NEVER shut down. They are constantly on the go, on the move. They talk non stop, about everything, to the point of parental exhaustion. They are extreme about how they respond to everything. She is loud. She is intense. She is extreme. She is, exactly how God made her. And, she will happily tell you that.

When you talk to someone about your child being disabled, and they say “She doesn’t look disabled…. it hurts. They do not know what it is like to get a letter home EVERY DAY about your child’s behavior, and the calls to the doctor that it may be time to increase her medication. Again. The same medication you were hoping to wean her off of in time, with the grand hope that you can help her learn to control her behavior.

It is devastating to hear members of your own family speak about her disability. The one who calls her a “zombie” when she is on her medication. And the one, who says they can’t handle her off her medication. When people who are her own blood won’t babysit her because she is “too much” for them. She will spend the rest of her life unaware of the number of times she was rejected by her own family members. A burden my heart bears, to spare her.

They also do not know what it is like to open your child’s planner at the end of the school year… to find a note taped in the back. In her handwriting you see the words “Read Every Day”. And, as any mom would, you open up the note to see these words written on a cheap valentines day class swap card….

“I know some people thing you are weird,

But I think you are awesome.”

It is great to see that someone sees the AMAZING side of your child. It is heart wrenching to know that your child needed that affirmation so much, she would put it into her planner… making sure to read it every day. She needed to know someone other than her parents (and God) liked her. She was alone, lonely.

Everything changed when she started her medication. The notes stopped coming home. She started making friends. She was able to focus, and her behaviors stopped or at least were minimized. She has best friends now.

In the church, it is easy for us to know how to respond to the child with a visible disability. We not only see it, but we are prepared for (or at least expecting) that we are going to need to be more patient, more hands on, more helpful and more understanding. We would be more cautious about what we said to the parents. Those parents hear things like “He had a hard day today, but we got through it” or “He did so well today!”.

When you are a parent of a child with an invisible disability, you hear things like…. “Wow, that one… she’s a handful”, usually accompanied by a look of complete exasperation on their face. When well meaning people off up a litany of suggestions on how to raise this child, you feel defeated. You feel judged. You feel like you are failing as a parent.

We are now in the middle school years, and our daughter sits with us during Saturday night service. We do not give her medication on days when there is no school, we still hold out hope that she’ll learn the coping skills to live off medication one day. Sitting with her, un-medicated, at Saturday night service is the equivalent to sitting with a toddler.

She fidgets. She talks. She interrupts. She draws. She goes through the papers in the pew pockets. She touches people, gently. She asks a million questions. She hangs on you, pulls on you, sits on you. She sits up, she lays down.

She can’t help herself.

She also sings with all her might. She raises her hands to the Lord, as she praises. She smiles bigger, and has a twinkle in her eye … that melts your heart. She laughs with every muscle in her body. She is the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. She may ask a LOT of questions, but they are good questions. Pastor, despite her fidgeting… SHE HEARD EVERY WORD YOU SAID. With certainty, we will be discussing it later. You deposited that information into a vault, a bank she will pull from one day.

How does the church minister to people like me, to my daughter?

1) Recognize that unseen disorders are still REAL. These families need support too, they need help… they parent the child no one wants to babysit. When mom walks into the church late (again), looking like she just went through WWIII…. Smile at her, hug her, and connect to that child. The more you make the child feel welcome at the church, the easier it is for us to get them motivated to come.

2) Be mindful of the words you speak, and the assumptions you make. You have no idea how hard it is to parent these children, every day choosing which battles you are going to fight. While yes, there may be parents who abuse the system, most of us do not. We love our children. We are doing everything we can for them to be successful now & in their future. We need your words of encouragement. When people make comments like the one in the picture above, they have no clue WHO they are saying it to. I’ve heard it. It makes me cringe. I’m that parent you are calling lazy, and unwilling to discipline. You don’t even realize it.

3) When you see the parent trying to wrangle them in, understand that THIS child REQUIRES different techniques and parenting. We are not being harsh, we are holding firm boundaries. We are still teaching them, and we appreciate your willingness to teach them as well. We appreciate your patience, and that you see the best in our kids. Don’t let them get away with something, just because they have a disorder or disability. Just keep it in mind, as you choose how to handle it, that you are not dealing with an average kid. When in doubt, ask the parents.

I know there are times when my daughter will be a distraction, and you will look. I expect the look. I appreciate the smile.

For those of you reading this, who may have a child like mine sitting in your Sunday Service, there is HOPE.

When the pressure is removed from the parents, when they understand that you love their kids… imperfections, quirks, and all… there is an enormous release. We can engage in your message, without worry about what our kid is doing every second. And you set the tone for others, when you (especially as Pastors and Elders) say it is ok… the body will follow. Your smiles, become their smiles. Your acceptance, becomes their acceptance.

Use your knowledge of members in the body to connect us families together, but also with people in the body that have the skills. Tell us about that occupational therapist that can give us suggestions on getting through the service, or help train the Sunday School workers on how to deal with kids that have disabilities and disorders, particularly the invisible ones.

And, consider having some of the following:

juniorshieldGIVE THEM JOBS!!!! – Just because a child or teen has a disability or disorder, doesn’t mean they don’t have gifts and talents. Giving them a job as part of the service will allow them to plug in, feel important, and something to focus on. Many would love to be a greeter, pass out welcome packets, help pass out the offering baskets, etc. Even something as simple as having a few kids restock the pens and response cards in the pews between services, it can mean a lot. Be sure to speak with the parents first, to help identify the best area to serve.

actionbible Have a few copies of The Action Bible tucked sporadically under pews or available as the kids come in the door. They are easy to follow, and can help capture the child’s attention during the service. Mom and Dad will get to enjoy the message, and their child has something appropriate to keep them engaged.

worshipbulletins Take a lesson from the Pros! Any restaurant that serves kids has special menus and packs of crayons for kids. Why? Because, they know that kids have a short attention span & patience is not one of their strong points. Children who are disabled will often find these same activities helpful, regardless of their age. Have something like, Worship Bulletins for Kids, available at the pews, in a basket near the door, or being distributed by greeters; they are cost effective and won’t take up much space. You can choose to provide crayons, or just let the kids use the pens/pencils already in the pews.

stickersEven something as simple as stickers is HUGE for kids, it’s positive reinforcement & fun. The stickers can be kept at your Information Desk, and after service Mom, or Dad, can bring their child to pick up a sticker for sitting well through service. The parents can come up with a reward system for at home (certain # of stickers collected = reward). For many special needs kids, the sticker is enough. Parents will appreciate that it is not candy too! These Very Veggie Values stickers are perfect because they are fun, but also are learning tools.

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The great news is that you can find these resources all in one location, www.FamilyChristian.com , they also have an entire section of books for Families with Special Needs Kids including: autism, add, adhd, overeating, fragile x, downs syndrome, and more.

These books not only are helpful to parents who have children that are special needs, but are great resources to children’s ministry leaders and church staff. When you take the time to make an investment to understanding these kids in your church… you minister to our hearts in ways you never will truly understand. There are times when you will treat our kids better, kinder and more lovingly than some of their own relatives. You matter in their lives.

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Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.”

Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”

Mark 10:14 He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

This was a guest post from blogger Gena M.  You can find from Gena on her blog:  www.genamccown.com

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