Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Keeping The Kids Engaged During Family Prayer Time

I love using social media to find practical solutions to everyday dilemmas.  Last week, we noticed that the novelty of our family rosary time was gone for the kids, and they were getting really squirrelly.  Jane and Walt would erupt into a fit of giggles by the third Hail Mary, and we would spend the rest of the decade trying to get them to stop giggling.  

Instead of doing away with family rosary time altogether, I decided to switch things up a bit.  Somehow, through all of my mental cobwebs, I remembered reading this post by Catholic Missionary Family called "The Rosary and Kids - Part 2."  They list some great tactile ways to keep little ones involved as you pray the Rosary.  (Check out their adorable blog!  There are a lot of great posts!)

I thought the pipe cleaners and pony beads would be appealing to Jane and Walt, so I went that route.  While Philip was giving the kids baths, I set up the kitchen table for family prayer time.

Each night, we:

  • Light two candles.
  • Record each family member's response to "What made you happy today?" on looseleaf.  (We started this in November with, "What are you thankful for?" but the kids didn't understand that question.)
  • Introduce 1 mystery of the rosary with a picture.
  • Pray that decade of the scriptural rosary from Rosary Army
  • Close with bedtime prayers ("Angel of God" and "God bless Daddy, God bless Mommy, God bless...each member of the family by name")
  • Jane and Walt each blow out a candle.

Instead of setting out rosaries, I set out pipe cleaners and a small bowl with 10 pony beads for each kiddo.

I don't know if you can tell, but I tied a knot at the bottom of each pipe cleaner.  The idea is that the kids can string a bead onto the pipe cleaner for each Hail Mary without them falling off.

When the kids saw the pipe cleaners and beads, they were SO EXCITED!  They quickly got into their chairs, and they started stringing the beads right away.  They didn't really grasp the concept of only adding one bead for each Hail Mary, so they were out of beads by the time we got started.  I didn't want to spend our prayer time correcting them with, "Just one bead for each prayer," so I dumped more pony beads into each of their dishes and let them keep stringing as we prayed.  

I decided we'd let them string as many beads as they wish for a week, and then we'll try re-introducing "one bead per prayer" next week.  We'll see whether or not they're ready for it then.

Even though their hands were much busier then usual, their minds were more focused.  They said the words to the prayers very reverently, and we didn't have to redirect them like we usually do.  At one point, Walt dropped a bead that he was stringing.  Without saying a word, Jane left her chair, picked it up for him, and resumed stringing her beads.  Usually, an interruption like a dropped Rosary would throw everything off, but their focus on stringing their beads kept them chugging right along.  

At the end, I asked the kids to put their beads down so that we could finish with our bedtime prayers, and Walt said, "One more bead, please?"

They were very proud of themselves and happily posed with their beads at the end!

I love Walt's new-found phony smile and squinty eyes for the camera.

This is what's working for now.  We'll see if we're sticking with it next week or if it's deteriorated into them throwing the beads at each other or eating them!  We're content to meet them where they are. 

Apparently it's all starting to sink in for them because that night the mystery we prayed "The Presentation of the Lord."  When Jane saw the picture, she said, "That's Simeon!"  Considering I didn't know who he was until three years ago, I'd say we're off to a good start around here.   

How do you keep your kids engaged during family prayer time?  

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