I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably asking “How can you even put ‘toddler’ and ‘serving others’ in the same sentence?” While it may seem kind of silly, our children actually learn quite a bit at a really young age. My son recently started using a fork and spoon when he eats because he sees me and his daddy eating with a fork or spoon. Maybe he’s not actually getting anything into his mouth because he turns the spoon upside down as he’s getting it there, but it’s a start! Kids start to model our behaviors and actions at a very young age. If your child can mimic you, they most certainly can learn from you. And what better thing to teach than to teach your toddler to serve others joyfully?
How do you serve your children?
To serve means doing something for the benefit of someone else. Usually we think about things that we can do physically to meet a need. And while this is what it means to serve, sometimes serving others includes meeting needs that aren’t always visible or known. As Christians, we should always be looking for where a need might be and be ready to jump in and serve. And as a wife and mom, I can tell you that I already know that I am called to serve my husband and my children. But what does it look like to serve my children?
Sometimes it’s stopping what you’re doing and reading a story to them when they bring you a book. It can also be doing something with them that they love doing, even if you don’t. And other times, serving your children means praying for and with them, disciplining them biblically, and teaching them how to serve others.
How to Teach Your Toddler to Serve Others
Teaching our children to serve others is a major step toward them developing a servant’s heart toward God. When we teach our children the value of serving and how God has called each and every one of us to serve others, we’re helping our children to grow stronger in their faith. Here are 5 steps to teaching your young child to serve others.
Let your child help you.
Have your child come alongside you and teach them not just about what exactly needs to be done and how to do it, but teach them the attitude they should have when they serve. Talk about what a blessing it is to serve your family when you fold the laundry or make dinner. It’s not just something to be checked off a list, but a blessing that you’re offering.
Whenever my son plays in his room, I’m usually folding laundry and talking to him about how nice it is to have fresh clean clothes. He may be young and not fully understand yet, but he gets the concept of helping Mommy with the laundry. Before I was even intentional about teaching him anything, he noticed what I was doing and started giving me his bibs. Now he takes his freshly washed bibs from me and takes him to the basket where his bibs go.
Teach your child to take notice.
Your toddler may be too young to notice things around them. Point out something that needs to be done and give them a chance to do it. Or ask questions that point them in the right direction like “Do you think daddy would like to read you that story?” or “Wouldn’t it be nice if Daddy saw the house clean? Let’s surprise him by putting your toys away.”. Asking rather than giving orders is a great way to encourage your child to serve with a joyful attitude. Once they start talking, teach them to ask “What can I do for you?”, and let them serve you. Actively searching for ways to help others is a big part of what it means to develop a servant’s heart.
Show them what joy serving brings.
Show your child how their service benefits others. If they helped clean by putting their toys away, be sure to tell them how grateful you are for their help and why. Let them see what pleasure their service brings.
Cheer them on as they continue to serve.
Recognize your child’s efforts. Don’t criticize or get upset, even if they make a mistake. If they drop something, help them clean it up and tell them how much you appreciate their help. The act itself isn’t as important as their desire to serve. My son constantly unfolds the laundry I just folded just to try to fold it himself. It’s cute and I always tell him “Good job” and “Thank you!”
There are many ways we can serve our children, but the most beneficial way is by teaching them how to serve others.