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There’s nothing like a couple of messages from blog-readers to motivate you to write a blog post you’ve been meaning to write for a year.
Talk about a kick up the backside.
It has FULLY been my intention since early last year to compile a whole load of fabulous individual Bible devotionals for children, but there were so many other important blog posts to write, resources to share, books to promote – oh, and a world pandemic.
When I got a message from one reader, then another, I knew I had to get myself in gear.
The problem is: current trends are for family devotions. Resources are coming out all the time to help us lead our family in Bible time and prayer together – which is all well and good (I mean, it definitely is a time-saver, as well as being a great uniting factor for families) – but what about encouraging children to develop their own independent Bible reading habit?
So – excuses aside – here is it: a round-up of some fantastic resources to help nurture a daily Bible reading habit in your children.
My usual disclaimer: each child is an individual. I will give broad age sweeps here, but you know your child best. There is no shame in using a resource designed for a older or younger child, if it’s helping them to engage with God. You may find it helpful to look at the age range below and above your child’s age to help with your decision-making.
It’s also worth saying that in our family we’ve often found that even the best resource probably only has a few months’ shelf-life before our children need something different to add variety and interest. I’m not sure if this is widespread or not, but in case your kids seem to get disengaged quickly, please don’t worry – just change up the resource and see how they get on!
Preschoolers and early-schoolers (2-6)
1. Pens (2-5ish)
This gentle introduction to daily Bible reading was a big hit with my boys when they were 5 and in Reception. There’s a daily Bible verse, plus a related story featuring the ‘Pens’ characters, which continues across a few days (this really hooked my children in as they wanted to find out what happened next!), and a simple prayer. The whole thing is super short and story-based, so would be a great choice even for a 2 or 3 year old.
2. Beginning with God (3-5ish)
These devotionals for very young children feature a wide range of different activities you could do each day. It seems a bit daunting initially, but you don’t have to do everything! The variety and engaging content are a real win. And they come with stickers – bonus!
3. My Bible Animals Storybook (4-6ish)
My boys loved moving on to this book after they’d had a few months with Pens! It’s particularly great for children who enjoy facts and/or animals, as each Bible story is followed by facts about the animal which is featured in the story, plus a little piece of application/questions/prayer. Brilliant for older preschoolers or early-schoolers who have a slightly longer attention span.
Primary school age (6-11)
4. 101 Devotions for Girls/101 Devotions for Guys (6-14ish)
We haven’t tried these, but I’m fascinated by the angle of basing Bible devotions on the lives of key Christians through history, and believe this could be hugely inspirational for children and young teens who enjoy real-life stories. Definitely one to look out for! (And when we’ve tried it, you can be sure we’ll update this review!)
5. XTB (7-11ish)
Perfect for children who enjoy puzzles and active Bible reading, these notes lead a child through different books of the Bible with a great mix of context, explanation and puzzles (like code-cracking or crosswords) to help children understand what’s just been read.
6. Snapshots (8-11ish)
This takes you through a whole year of Bible reading, and each day’s entry is nice and succinct: a Bible passage, puzzle, short explanation/questions and prayer. The colourful pages are appealing, and each day’s reading is a little shorter than XTB, which is good when we’re struggling to find time to fit in a devotional habit with our kids.
I like the fact that some days the format is something quite different: an answer to a typical ‘apologetics’ type question, for example, or a map of ancient city walls with contextual explanation.
7. Exploring the Bible (7-11ish)
We used this with our older two when they were 9 and 7, and may go back to it at some stage. What we appreciated was its no-frills simplicity, and its open-endedness in allowing children to start drawing out applications from the Bible themselves. If you follow it for a year, you’ll have covered the whole Bible. Check out our full review of Exploring the Bible.
(NB The same author has also written Meeting with Jesus which we haven’t tried but which looks good!)
8. 3-minute Devotions for Boys (9-12ish)
If you can get past the cringeworthy title, this comes highly recommended by Mister (11). He was given it for his birthday and, with very little encouragement from us, has kept reading it daily and has just finished (the book contains 90 days). I think the key has been the brevity: a short passage (usually just one or two verses), a short, relatable commentary and a prayer.
There is also a 3-minute Devotions for Girls which we haven’t tried, but would be keen to get for our daughter to try, on the basis of how much her brother enjoyed the boys’ version.
9. Best News Ever (9-12ish)
This devotional book goes through Mark’s gospel in 100 days. It’s a great option if your (probably older) child is wanting to study an entire book of the Bible – but it’s also very readable. The Bible passage isn’t included, but when we read this book with our son, we found this was good as it made him get to know his Bible better by looking up the related passage (and it was easy to find as the book goes chronologically through Mark!).
Each day’s commentary connects well with tween-aged children, and helps them to apply what they’ve just read to their lives. We did around 30 days then had a break to look at other resources, but an older child might manage it all in one go.
10. Soul Fuel for Young Explorers (10-13ish)
This is a different kind of devotional, and would be particularly great to an older child who was becoming disillusioned with traditional Bible reading notes. Bear Grylls gives a ‘thought for the day’, then links it to a Bible verse or two. It’s instantly readable, drawing you in with familiar, no-nonsense language and quirky illustrations on every page.
Secondary school age
11. Discover (11-13yrs)
We haven’t yet tried these notes, as our 11 year old has had plenty of devotional material these last few months, but this is definitely on our radar for when he runs out. It follows on nicely from XTB, with a few puzzles/questions to fill in, but greater depth coming out of each Bible passage.
I love that it’s so comprehensive: twelve books cover three years’ worth of devotional time for this age group (each book covering three months). They systematically go through the whole Bible, and look like they’d set up a tween or young teen brilliantly for future Bible study and application.
12. Engage (14-18yrs)
This follows on from the Discover notes, and – impressively – cover every chapter of the Bible – across 20 books! So it would be an amazing foundation for a Christian teen (or adult) to go through all of these. The puzzles found in XTB and Discover have now disappeared, and we get more Bible commentary, more questions to ponder, and helpful articles on all sorts of apologetics and real-life issues.
13. Head, Heart, Hands (14+)
This is aimed at the 14+ age group, and I’d suggest it would be a good resource for any teen who was up for some more in-depth Bible study. Each day’s devotional is longer and more meaty than ‘Engage’, but the focus is very much on nurturing the skills of Bible application – again, setting up a great foundation for adult Christian life and leadership.
I hope this compilation of children’s Bible reading notes has helped you see what’s out there and available.
If you have a teenager, why not try the fabulous Engage Youth Bible or Good News Youth Edition? Both of them having Bible reading plans contained within their pages which, although not a long-term solution, would definitely help a teen get into great habits with the Bible.
If you’re looking for something to do as a family, check out my recommendations for family devotion resources.
And of course if you’re really stuck, don’t disregard simply reading through a decent children’s Bible together. I’ve compiled the best ones for all ages, from toddler to teen, in this post: What is the best Children’s Bible to buy my Child?
What Bible reading notes do you use with your children? What have I omitted from this blog post? Let me know – I’d love to include it when I update this post!
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