Can They Really Understand? (Talking to Preschoolers and Children About Easter: Part 1)

Easter is a special time of the year for believers. Those of us who have taken to heart the reality of Jesus’ mission as the fulfillment of God’s plan are often moved to tears of joy. We are amazed at God’s loving and sacrificial character while, at the same time, we are moved to tears of sorrow by the cruel mistreatment of our loving Jesus. We know the crucifixion and resurrection are important, even if we don’t fully understand all that it means. But for parents and teachers of young children we may wonder, “What can young kids understand about the crucifixion and resurrection? Can young children really understand Easter?”

Can Young Children Really Understand Easter?

How does a young child understand conversations about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? Let me answer this question with an analogy.

Right now I am siting at my desk pressing keys with my fingers and seeing letters. As I type, words appear on the screen in front of me. I know by experience that if I follow prescribed guidelines this new content can be saved and brought back to my screen at a later time. I can even print it on a sheet of paper. I can send it to other people via email, or make it available for you to read right now by using the World Wide Web. Now, do I understand what is happening underneath these keys to make all that amazing stuff happen? Not in the least! I know by experience that it works, and I trust that it will continue to work. It works without me knowing what all the little transistors, diodes and drives are doing.

In a similar way young children do not have the life experience and mental development to understand the reality and meaning of all the Bible tells us about the death and resurrection of Jesus. They do, however, have the amazing ability to repeat words that they have heard without understanding their meaning.

For example, in any of the 4 or 5 year old Pre-Kindergarten classes this Sunday I could hear boys and girls say things like: “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.” “We have to take Jesus into our hearts.” But even though these sweet children can say these phrases, they have no context for the meaning.

In reality, children this age have had little, if any, experience with or understanding of death. They do not have a full understanding of the end of earthly existence at death. They do not understand that a cross was a cruel form of torture, ridicule and execution. And, most significantly, they really don’t understand that sin is intentional rebellion against God and His plan for our lives.

These precious children growing up in a Scripture rich environment will hear phrases over and over at church and at home. They will hear them enough that they can repeat them as easily as singing the ABC song. But, just because they can say it does not mean that they can understand it or live it.

So, what does that mean for the parent, and Bible teacher at church? Do we avoid all mention of these stories till they can be understood? No! We must begin at this stage to help them understand what they can understand, and that’s the subject of the next article!

David Morrow
Preschool Pastor
Long Hollow Baptist Church
Hendersonville, Tennessee

Read other articles by David Morrow.

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