Catholic Activity: Religion in the Home for Preschool: January
AIM: To make the home Catholic in atmosphere.
PRACTICE FOR THE MONTH: Teach the morning offering.
VISITS TO CHURCH: Take your child at least twice this month.
LESSON: Scrapbook of holy pictures.
SOMETHING TO DO: Create cutouts of Creche figures for the child to play with.
GOOD-NIGHT PRAYER: Start night prayers with the child.
VIRTUE FOR PARENTS: Keep smiling!
PEDAGOGY FOR PARENTS: Repetition is all-important.
BOOK FOR THE MONTH: A Child's Rule of Life
HYMN FOR THE MONTH: We Three Kings of Orient Are
REMINDER FOR THE YEAR
We learn to pray by praying.
To make a home so Catholic in atmosphere that the baby will have a chance of noticing holy things just as early as he notices his mother and his rattle. Why not give the Baby Lord Jesus the honor of being among the first impressions made on the infant mind?
PRACTICE FOR THE MONTH
This month teach the morning offering, one of your own, or one like the following, composed by Father Hugh Benson:
My God, I offer up to Thee
My soul and heart, Thine own to be;
And all I do or hear or say
And all my work and play.
If the child is too young for this, have him say:
My God, I give You myself and my day.
Or you may prefer to say, "Whose baby are you?" and teach the child to answer, "God's."
Have a picture of the Infant Jesus or a Madonna on the wall beside your child's crib or cot—not above the head of the bed, where the child cannot see it, but within reach of his glance. Every morning when you go to the bed, look at the picture and say, "Good morning, Jesus," and then say the Morning Offering.
STORY OF THE MONTH
One baby a year and a half old learned to throw a kiss to Baby Jesus and to say His Name. She would pull herself up by the bars of her crib, wave her tiny hand at the picture, and say, "Morning, Jesus."
There is a difference of opinion as to just when babies commence to notice things; but if you do begin to teach the baby a little too soon, what possible harm can be done? A reverent attitude whenever you yourself say the Holy Name will make an impression very early. And if, by one year, most babies can say, "Da-Da," "Pussy," and such words, they can also learn the name "Jesus," although they will probably say "De-su" ("D" is easy to sound).
VISITS TO CHURCH
Take your child for a visit to church twice this month, once on New Year's Day for another look at the Christmas crib, and again on Epiphany, January 6, and say with him,
Jesus, my God, I adore You and I love You.
If the child is old enough to observe—some are at one year—point out the tabernacle and the figures in the crib. Always speak with a tone of reverence so that the baby senses that the church and things in church are sacred.
Get a good strong scrapbook—looseleaf or any kind you like—and a pot of paste. Let the child paste in one holy picture a month—this month a picture of the Three Wise Men. Tell the story of the Wise Men who came from far-off lands to look for the Baby King. Show how the Wise Kings believed they would find the newborn Saviour. Show that they loved God and so trusted Him to show them the way. If you explain this you will have given the child the first idea of the great virtues of faith, hope and charity. If the child is old enough, read the story of the Wise Men from the New Testament (St. Matthew, Chapter 2).
SOMETHING TO DO
If you have had a Crib on display for Christmas, let the child, if old enough to use scissors, cut out some figures of kings and camels from Christmas cards and set them up. They can be made to stand by bracing them against toy blocks, as children do with paper dolls. Some parents buy handsome Crib sets; but cutouts of any kind are dear to a child's heart, if he has made them himself.
Children too young for night prayers should say a word to God before sleep. After the little one is in bed, tell him to close his eyes, cross his arms, and say:
Mother of God,
Keep me safe in your arms
All the night long.
Do this every night, just as you also say the morning offering every morning.
VIRTUE FOR PARENTS
Keep smiling! Since children learn most from imitation, be as you wish your child to be, gentle and smiling. No matter how exasperating things are, try to smile on and speak softly.
PEDAGOGY FOR PARENTS
Here is a principle emphasized by experienced educators and teachers: one small act repeated faithfully is imprinted on the mind. Repetition is all-important.
"Day by day" and "A little at a time" are our mottoes. If you want to learn a language, you master a few expressions a day and keep using them. To learn to play the piano, you practice faithfully with a few new scales and a few new keys added gradually.
One obstacle that keeps us from progressing is the thought of the whole task to be undertaken. We already have too much to do. We think we can do no more. But really most people who accomplish things do so because they go along slowly and steadily, never yielding to the temptation to give up.
The child who is taught something ten minutes a day for eight days will retain the knowledge far better than one taught forty minutes a day for two days.
During this month try to apply that principle of education. Do a little experimenting. If your child is old enough to learn "Three Little Pigs," or any such rhyme, see whether you cannot teach him the morning offering by saying with him every morning for five days the first line of
"My God, I offer up to thee"; (see January).
For the next seven days, say the first two lines, For the next ten days, say the first three lines, For the next eight days, say the four lines; On the thirty-first day you will have finished.
And from then until he is old enough for a more grown-up offering, the child knows what to say the moment he opens his eyes. You will have actually accomplished one great deed, you will have trained your child to link his little life to God.
BOOK FOR THE MONTH
A Child's Rule of Life1is a small paper-covered book describing in rhyme the day of a child of four or five from the moment he opens his eyes until he falls asleep at night. On each page there is a lifelike picture of the kind that children love.
HYMN FOR THE MONTH
Family singing is an excellent habit and this month we suggest that you learn We Three Kings of Orient Are,2 that well-known old carol found in a collection of Christmas carols.
1 A Child's Rule of Life, by Robert Hugh Benson.
2 Old Christmas Carols, edited by S. Archer Gibson, 1st Set (No. 4374). New York: G. Schirmer, Inc. Or Singalong Carols for Christmastide. New York: Paull-Pioneer Music Corp. [Editor's Note: It is not necessary to get the exact book for Christmas carols, as there are myriads of editions that contain these carols. Choose one that suits your needs. --JGM]
Activity Source: Religion in the Home: Monthly Aids for the Parents of Pre-School Children by Katherine Delmonico Byles, Paulist Press, 1938