God gave us 5 senses for a reason, and we can help our kids connect with our unseen, untouchable God through their physical senses. Here’s how!
I sat in the hard wooden pew with my family, our pet fish, and two stuffed animals.
At the invitation of my sister-in-law (who was training to become a Lutheran pastor), we were attending our first ever animal blessing service. The entire service was a shock to the senses.
- Before the service began, my children gazed in awe at the amazing stained glass windows.
- We discussed which Bible stories were represented in the pictures and marveled at the colors.
- Before and during the service, cats meowed and dogs barked, while adults chuckled.
- Congregants sang with gusto as the pipe organ pounded out old, familiar hymns – poetry set to music.
- When we went forward for the blessing, the pastor chuckled as she dipped her fingers in water and blessed our fish and stuffed animals.
Compared to the bare white walls of our church and silent prayer times, this service was a memory-maker!
God gave us 5 senses: let’s use them to worship!
In a similar way to the naturalist connecting with God through nature, the sensate is moved to worship through the tickling of the senses: art, music, delicious food and smells, new textures and dance.
This may seem foreign in our culture of bare-walled churches, but heaven itself is often described as a beautiful, exuberant multitude of voices praising in every language.
And let’s not forget the many Bible stories where God connected with his people through the senses. In Exodus 19, God appears on Mount Sinai in thunder and lighting, smoke and fire, earthquake and trumpet blast. That was about as far from white-painted walls and cushy pews as you could get.
What kind of kid NEEDS to engage their senses to worship
Some kids can go through life using their heart and mind to worship and not needing to use their physical bodies. But others NEED sensory input, and you CAN give it to them, even though God is invisible and untouchable.
Your child might be a Sensate if she has the urgent need to touch EVERYTHING.
He might also be the one to notice and point out beauty – in a painting, in music, or even when you get dressed up for a date!
The sensate loves sensory stimulation – this might be the child that studies with music playing and or distractedly sucks on his sleeve.
You might have a developing sensate if they put items in their mouth past the toddler years or love loud noises and stimulating experiences. We might often find ourselves telling our sensate child to stop touching, mouthing, and making noise, but these characteristics that often push them away from God can, instead, be used to draw them to God in creative ways.
Biblical Examples of connecting with God through the 5 senses
- In the garden of Eden, God literally walked with Adam and Eve. That might not be how life is now, but I think it shows us what God intended when he created us. He wanted a physical relationship.
- In Revelation, Jesus is described as having a voice like rushing waters, wool-white hair and eyes like blazing fire.
- Ezekiel had many visions and used physical demonstrations of prophecy.
- Mary poured perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair.
- God commanded the Israelites to remember their rescue from Egypt with a meal (Passover), and Jesus recreated that meal during the Last Supper, commanding us to continue to celebrate with a meal!
Help Your Sensory Child Connect With God Through Journaling
One way to engage children in worshipping God through beauty is to teach them Bible journaling. There is an entire community of (mostly) women who create art out of Bible verses. From the outside, this practice can seem odd, but for many people, this is a truly life-giving experience that helps them engage with God and the Bible on a much deeper level.
This practice is something I have just started with my own boys. When they were younger, I encouraged them to draw pictures of Bible stories in a blank journal, but just recently I purchased a journaling Bible for the two older boys.
One of my boys chose a Bible that is illuminated in gold – it has fancy lettering in gold and when closed, the edges of the paper are golden. When the Bible arrived, he picked it up and looked at it with awe. “It’s like God’s treasure,” he whispered.
You can find journaling Bibles at your local Bible bookstore and online. There are ones that have wide margins to create art yourself, and others already have pictures in the margins that you can color.
If you’re looking for out-of-the-box ideas for how to help your sensory children connect with God, the following list contains sense-specific ideas that you can try at home.
1. Experience God through smell
- Use essential oils when you pray, either by diffusing them in your home at certain times of day, or actually anointing your child with oil at prayer time.
- Point out items in creation that are scented.
- Light scented candles during prayer or Bible reading time.
2. Experience God through touch
- Incorporate the sense of touch into your Bible lessons by using sensory bins and crafts. (Check out this article on creative ways to teach the Bible to kids!)
- When praying, hold an item in your hands and pray for what comes to mind. For example, if holding a piggy bank, you could pray to be a good steward of the money God gives you.
- Touch each part of your body and pray that God would use that part. For example, touch your tongue and pray that God would use your words to heal, not harm.
- Make your child a set of protestant prayer beads to help them focus on prayer (or use a traditional rosary if you are Catholic). (See this article for instructions and supplies.)
3. Experience God through taste
- Celebrate the Lord’s Supper WITH your child.
- Celebrate a traditional Passover (Seder meal) with your family.
- Have a tea party with your child while reading the Bible!
- Try this 5 senses prayer with your kids, focusing on the taste portion.
4. Experience God through hearing
- Find some worship music in a style your child loves! This doesn’t need to be kids music – a lot of contemporary worship music is very kid-friendly. (Check out this article on Connecting with Jesus through Music.)
- Sound can also draw us closer to Christ when we hear the gentle whisper of an “I love you,” the first honking of geese after the winter, waves crashing on the shoreline, rain pelting on the roof, or the telling of a good story.
- Teach your child to listen for God’s voice. (Check out this article on listening prayer for kids.)
5. Experience God through sight
- Look up religious art online, or visit a local art gallery. Ask your child to look for God in each picture, even the non-religious ones!
- Point out symmetry and order in architecture and nature, reminding your child that God is a God of order.
- Beauty can also be found all around us in the commonplace aspects of life. The first blade of green grass after winter, the speckles and swirls in a rock, slime glistening in the sunlight, rainbows on the wall, bubbles in the bathtub; all can be seen as invitations from God to take a moment to praise him.
- Light a candle during prayer/Bible reading time.
- Start a collection of items that remind your child of God!
6. BONUS SENSE! Experience God through proprioception
- Play catch while praying – whoever has the ball (or pair of socks!) is the one who prays. Then they pass it to the next pray-er. (Check out this post on praying while moving.)
- Create art while listening to the Bible.
- Have a worship music dance party.
- Create a visual prayer journal.
As another way to engage their sense of proprioreception, I sometimes use different prayer stances with kids. For example, laying prostrate lends to different prayers than standing with arms wide open, and stretching your hands high into the air is different than holding them open in front of you.
Further Resources to Help Your Sensory Child Connect with God
Love Letters from God (Glenys Nellist): A lift-the-flap Bible for preschool/elementary kids. (See on Amazon)
My First Hands-On Bible (Group Publishing): Suggests simple movements to do in the midst of each Bible story so your child can wiggle their way through the Bible! (See on Amazon)
Quinn’s Promise Rock (Christie Thomas): Introduces the technique of putting a rock in your pocket to remind you of God. (See on Amazon)
Big and Little Coloring Devotional (Rachel Swanson): a coloring and devotional book for adults and children. (See on Amazon)
Other Sacred Pathways for Kids
- The Traditionalist Pathway
- A longer article: How to help your child grow spiritually
- A shorter article and video: One practical tip for teaching children about Jesus
- The Sensate Pathway
- A longer article: God gave us 5 senses: Here’s how our kids can use them to worship God
- A shorter article and video: Helping our kids engage God with all 5 senses