I decided this would be a good verse to teach Isaac young as well. I taught him the song I learned as a child and we did a couple of little activities to help him remember it. I learned the song in the KJV, and the version I taught Isaac was NKJV. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." The other translations were too different from the song I learned to make it work and I actually really like the NKJV of this verse.
Using "light" in various forms for this verse is an obvious choice. BUT, though it's REALLY fun, it's a bit abstract for a little one. Are they supposed to shine flashlights at people? Are they going to physically glow themselves? When I asked Isaac what he thought, he had no clue. So, I took some time to explain that being a "light" was showing others Jesus. If you read Matthew 5:16 in context, it talks about how we are the light of the world and that people don't put lights (lamps) under bowls, but rather put them up on stands so that it gives off light throughout the house. We did a fun activity to help bring this all down to a three year old level. I grabbed a birthday candle, chunk of playdough and a plate and a large metal bowl (make sure it's not plastic). I stuck the candle in the playdough and placed it on the plate and lit it. (I had the boys sit on the couch and placed the plate on the coffee table. They were good to sit back and watch, but you know your kids best, so please use your judgment on how close your child can/should be for this activity).
I gave Isaac a bunch of hypothetical situations and let him tell me if he thought the situation was a good way to "let your light shine" or if it was "hiding it under a bowl." I said things like "Is sharing your toys a good way to shine your light or hide it under a bowl?" "What about having a bad attitude about eating your vegetables?" If it was a "light shining" example we left the candle uncovered, but if it was a "bowl hiding" example, I'd turn the bowl upside down and place it over the top of the plate with the candle on it to block the light.
(Note: I used a large bowl, so there was plenty of oxygen for the flame to burn for 20-30 seconds while we came up with the next scenario and when I took the bowl off, the flame was still burning. This way I didn't have to keep relighting the candle and it fit with the verse better. As my pastor has pointed out, it's not about trying to be light... as believers, we ARE light. The question is what do we do with that light? And I know, that opens a big can of worms for some about kids and salvation and teaching them this verse. That's another post for another day. :)
We did this over and over again and then he came up with a few scenarios of his own! At the end we placed our light high up on a "hill" (the bookcase in our living room). It illuminated the room for a few more minutes until it burnt out. It was definitely a memorable way to help him begin to understand this "deeper" verse. It is one of those passages that started as a favorite for me and has just become more and more meaningful as I've grown. I'd love for it to be the same in the lives of my children.
We also did our verse cards to help us visualize and more easily memorize this verse. You can read a little more about how we use these cards and how they can work for any age here. I wanted to do something fun using "light" so we learned our verse song using a couple of different activities. I waited until close to bedtime so that Isaac's room would be pretty dark if we turned out the light. We got out flashlights and they turned them on and danced around with them while we sang the song.
Then they took turns turning the bedroom light on and off as fast or slow as they wanted to while we sang. To download free printables of this verse, click here. And here's our videos of us singing the song in the dark with our flashlights. The first one is pretty much just me singing and them dancing . The second one is pretty much all Isaac, but because he's running around the room while he sings, it's hard to catch the tune.
The last activity I'm going to share is just plain fun. I got the idea from You'll Thank Me One Day (via I Can Teach My Child!) a while back and it has become a bath time favorite at our house. We take glowsticks from the Dollar Tree, shut the door and turn out all the lights and play! (Awesome note: One glowstick will last for 3 or 4 baths... put them in a baggie and stick them in the freezer when you're done. When you get them back out the next time you want to use them, they'll begin to glow again as they thaw!) It was nothing super elaborate. We just played with the glowsticks in the water while we sang Matthew 5:16 and "This Little Light of Mine."
Many of the verses I work on with the boys are to teach them about the gospel and Christian living, but I never cease to be amazed by how meaningful these activities are for me as well. As I struggle and think through how to put truth into words that their little hearts and minds can understand, I am always blessed by the Word and benefit as much as they do.
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