Prayer and young children

Children and prayer

Early in the 20th century, the Italian educator Maria Montessori began a new way of thinking about education. Instead of making up theories, she thought it would be better to observe children to work out how they could learn best.

- Dr Gerard O'Shea, Kairos/CAM

One aspect of her observations, however, does not receive much attention from contemporary educationalists. Montessori noticed something that many attentive parents and teachers of early childhood have seen as well. She claimed that children from the ages of three to six years seemed to be in a natural ‘sensitive period’ for religious faith. In other words, just as children of this age have an extraordinary capacity for learning a language, so too do they have a deep interest in the concrete aspects of religion.

The way these insights have been adapted by Sofia Cavalletti and those who promote the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has been presented several times in Kairos over the past few years. But how does this apply to helping young children to pray? Is there some simple key for helping parents and teachers in developing this aspect of the child’s relationship with God?

It is obvious to those who deal with young children that their primary focus is on individual things and people in the real world around them. They are fascinated with all of creation and are capable of taking in a vast amount through their senses. Young children want to see, touch, hear, smell and even taste all they see around them. According to Cavalletti, all of this interest in the real world has an effect on them, as well as an important purpose. It brings forth a kind of wonder, a joy and serenity that is hard to explain, but observers of young children have seen it on their faces many times.

Adults can feel this way too, but we are less likely to be attracted to simple things like a snail crossing the path or a spider spinning its web. To feel this way, adults would probably need to be standing in a place like a viewing platform looking towards the Twelve Apostles standing majestically amid the crashing waves of Bass Strait at sunset.

FULL STORY Prayer and young children (CAM)

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