Early Childhood Jewish Education Parenting Young Children

Nurturing the Whole Child: Spirituality’s Role

Equipped with a Master’s Degree in Education, decades of childcare experience, and a profound understanding of human development, I’ve only recently come to fully appreciate the pivotal role spirituality plays as one of our developmental domains, uncovering the extraordinary benefits that our focused attention on this aspect can yield.

As a steadfast lover of data and a lifelong learner, my journey into understanding the spiritual development of children deepened profoundly upon reading “The Spiritual Child” by Dr. Lisa Miller. Her description of spirituality as “an inner sense of relationship to a higher power that is loving & guiding” not only captivated me but also illuminated the path ahead. This exploration, deeply rooted in scientific evidence and personal experience, has shown me the transformative power of nurturing our children’s spiritual growth. 

Understanding Spiritual Development

Spirituality encompasses far more than religious adherence; it’s about fostering a deep connection to something greater, a quest for meaning, and understanding our place in the universe. This journey is as unique as each individual, reflecting the diverse ways we experience and interpret the world around us.

The Scientific Link Between Spirituality and Well-being

Compelling research, including that by Dr. Lisa Miller, illustrates a clear, scientific link between spirituality and health. Engaging with one’s spiritual side is associated with enhanced emotional resilience, academic success, and notably, a reduction in anxiety and depression. In fact, spirituality has been shown to make individuals 80% less likely to commit suicide, underscoring its critical role as a protective buffer against life’s adversities.

Why Support Spiritual Development in Children?

Nurturing spirituality in children isn’t about instilling a specific belief system. Instead, it’s about encouraging their innate capacity for awe, wonder, and inquiry, helping them:

  • Develop a strong sense of self and confidence.
  • Build resilience, notably reducing anxiety and depression.
  • Cultivate empathy, compassion, and a sense of justice.
  • Appreciate life’s interconnectedness.

Jewish traditions and rituals have been nurturing spiritual individuals for millennia, offering time-tested pathways to spiritual growth. As caregivers and educators, you’re likely already contributing to this journey, and I hope the insights shared here further validate and enlighten your efforts.

How to Nurture Spirituality in Children

Create Reflective Spaces

Encourage children to engage in reflection and mindfulness. Simple practices like spending quiet time alone or discussing the big questions in life can stimulate spiritual thinking. 

In my home, I created what the kiddos call the ‘comfy cozy calming corner’ in an under-stair nook, where we share bedtime. I recently had an incredibly validating exchange with my four year old who sat down in the little chair next to the feelings chart, took a deep breath, then said “When my friends would not play with me on the playground at school, I felt left out. I felt invisible. Then, I told my teacher and she said ‘just go play’ and I felt DEFEATED”- this advanced language was made possible by the feelings chart practice (and the Feelings Spots book series that provided the chart).

Foster a Connection with Nature

You already know this one. Allowing ourselves to be inspired by children’s natural sense of wonder in nature invites us to slow down and connect over the true beauty of our world. This mutual exploration can deepen our spiritual connections, reminding us of the simplicity and purity of experiencing life through a child’s eyes. Add a bracha (blessing)from our tradition or your own making to add ritual and grandeur.

Encourage Expressive Arts

Participating in a congregational service is one of the many ways to invite artistic expression that leads to spiritual connection. Whether through music, dance, or art, engaging in these activities can yield great joy and a profound sense of belonging, illustrating the diverse avenues through which spirituality can be explored and expressed.

Model and Share Your Spiritual Journey

It’s essential to recognize that not having all the answers about spirituality or what we believe is not only okay—it’s relatable. Sharing your journey, including the curiosity that led you to explore articles like this, can be incredibly powerful in nurturing a child’s quest for meaning. It’s powerful to grow and explore alongside your child in this realm. 

Find Your Village

One of the greatest gifts we can offer our children is a community of like-minded, loving adults who reinforce the values we cherish at home. This supportive network is invaluable, creating a nurturing environment where spiritual and moral values can flourish. It’s about cultivating a space where children feel seen and heard, ensuring they have access to diverse role models who exemplify the virtues of empathy, kindness, and compassion. Engaging with such a community encourages children to extend their spiritual exploration beyond the confines of home, enriching their understanding of the world and their place within it.

Encourage Big Questions

Children are naturally curious, often pondering some of life’s biggest questions. It’s important to honor this curiosity by actively listening to their questions, appreciating the depth of their inquiry. Avoid dismissing their complicated questions with responses like “I don’t know” or “Ask someone else.” Instead, embrace these moments as opportunities for shared exploration. Feel free to say “That is such an incredible question! I need some time to think before I’m ready to answer it.” Though it may feel awkward, sharing your own uncertainties or underdeveloped thoughts can be incredibly powerful, demonstrating that the pursuit of understanding is a journey we all share.

Elevate, Consecrate, Celebrate

In the rich tapestry of our lives, rituals serve as threads that connect us, not only to each other but to something greater than ourselves. Our Jewish heritage offers an incredible array of rituals that can deeply enrich our spiritual lives and nurture our development in this realm. It’s about finding those practices that resonate with you and adapting them to fit the rhythm of your life.

In my own journey, I’ve found ways to weave these rituals into the everyday moments of family life. In the minivan on the way to carpool drop-off, we sing ‘Modeh Ani,’ expressing gratitude and identifying a specific source of it each day. When something new or exciting happens, we say ‘Shehechiyanu,’ marking the moment with a blessing that celebrates new experiences and milestones. And on Fridays, our Shabbat playlist fills the car, setting the tone for a day of rest and celebration.

These practices are more than just rituals; they are opportunities to elevate the ordinary, consecrate the moments of our lives, and celebrate the beauty of our traditions. I encourage you to explore our traditions for rituals that speak to you and embrace the flexibility to adapt as you see fit. By doing so, we not only connect with our spirituality but also pass on the richness of our heritage to the next generation.


Supporting a child’s spiritual development gifts them a compass for life’s challenges and joys. As we continue to explore and nurture this essential aspect of growth, we not only enrich their lives but also pave the way for a more compassionate, understanding, and connected world. Please consider checking out The Spiritual Child but Dr. Lisa Miller for a deep dive! If you would like your community to explore this in depth, I’d love to bring a workshop! Book a connection call and we can discuss.

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