Mummy, God’s pretend!
It's really common - but unnerving - to hear that your toddler puts God in the same category as the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny.
In an episode of the Parenting for Faith podcast, Rachel Turner reassures a listener that this is a totally normal part of her three year old’s development, and makes some suggestions for their next steps. This is the question:
“Hello! I have been listening to your podcasts and felt encouraged to email in my question. A few days ago, during lunch, my three year old said to me “Oh Mummy, God’s pretend!” I was suddenly aware that my daughter sees God like one of the characters in her stories. She loves reading her Bible, will tell me Bible stories and asks to pray for friends. I know she’s still so little, but do you have any tips for explaining to a toddler how the God who we cannot see is absolutely real? Thank you!”
You can listen to Rachel’s answer here, and there are brief notes of what she said below.
Under five life is all about establishing reality as their brains work out what is real and what is not. You’ll see this in their talk and in their play. So this stage is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. As they explore their world and their imaginations, they will make weird connections. But here are a couple of things that may help:
Label what is pretend and what is real
Help them understand the difference by referring to things you do, or see in movies, or read in books. You can then use this to talk about God and Bible stories as real. All children are different and some will grasp this quickly, others may take longer and you might want to reflect on how this might impact handling things like Santa or the Easter Bunny.
Show them that lots of things they can’t see are real
For example, grandma talking on the phone, electricity, air, gravity. Talk about how you know God is real, and act like God is in the room, not just because he is, but because it helps establish that he is real.
Check out episode 3 of the course
This session is all about spotting when our kids get a wrong view of God and how to help gently unwind it, and is a really useful tool that you will use throughout your kid’s childhood.