I learned to play the piano when I was 12 years old. I took some lessons and I taught myself a lot out of old books we had. One of the things I did was take old hymnals and pick out the melody (using one finger!). Don’t forget, I grew up in Canada and the winters were long! This was a great way for a young girl who doesn’t like the cold to spend her afternoons! After a few months of doing that, I added the alto note and eventually I learned how to play hymns using both hands! (My parents were really thankful when my plunking started to sound… well… musical!)
I have always loved music! Now that I’m an adult I can honestly say those hours plunking with one finger were well spent! Not only did I learn to play the piano, but the words of the hymns that I played over and over and over and over and over again… those words and the messages in the songs have stayed with me all these years.
What a richness there is in our heritage of hymns! As a mother, I want to do all I can to encourage my children to love music and to learn those old hymns of faith. So often, when I’ve been facing a difficult time I have turned to an old hymnal and read through some of the verses for encouragement. I want my children to also have the same love-affair with hymns that I’ve had!
FarmGirl (age 3) and FarmBoy (age 1) playing a “duet” from the hymnbook. Lest you get the impression that they are musical prodigies – they’re not. Let’s just say they were truly “making a joyful noise unto the Lord”!
Even very young children can memorize hymns! One of my favorite memories happened when FarmGirl was about 3 years old. My parents live in Canada and twice a year they make the 1400-mile drive to see us. Well, one time they had just arrived and that evening we had family worship together. We were singing “Trust and Obey” and 3 year old Farm girl sang all the words to all the verses with gusto! My mom said, “If we turned around and drove home now, it would have been worth the drive just to hear her sing that!”
I have discovered that if children are going to learn hymns, their parents are going to have to be very intentional! Just taking them to church and hoping they “pick it up” hasn’t worked for us. Here are some things we do to help the children memorize all the verses:
Instead of bedtime stories and lullabies, we sing hymns! We started by choosing 4 or 5 hymns and singing those same hymns every night until the children were very familiar with them. Then we added more.
We have a time where the family comes together to sing every day. For us it has worked best to have a family worship time before breakfast and after supper. (If we try to eat breakfast before our family worship time, we don’t seem to get our day started very early!)
I keep a couple of CD's of children's hymns in the car. Every time we go somewhere we play them! Sometimes my children will ask to go somewhere… just so they can hear the special CD’s that we reserve for road-time-only!
During read-aloud time, we read the stories behind the hymns. We have been enjoying the Then Sings My Soul Series by Robert Morgan and I’m looking forward to one day reading Ira Sankey’s autobiography My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns. (I think Sankey’s book will have to wait until my children are a little older!)
Another favorite resource we have found are Visualized Songs from a ministry called My Bible First. These are beautifully illustrated cardstock books that have the lyrics to some old, well-known hymns in a picture-book format. The pictures help my non-reading children to remember the words to the hymns and the whole family enjoys singing from them!
If you teach your children hymns, I’d love to hear some of your ideas in the comments! If this post has inspired you to teach hymns to your children, I’d love to hear about that, too!
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