There are two things that have really been impressed on me in the past few years regarding teaching young children. First of all, that they are really sponges for facts. Since young kids can't think abstractly yet, their brain is like a huge filing cabinet where all day long they are filing away facts. The more facts that you can help them to file away now, the better their abstract thinking will become in the future.
The second thing I have been learning is that most parents have way too low of expectations for their children in many areas (including especially behavior) but in this case academically/intellectually. Esther may not understand all of these questions and answers, but she has the capability of memorizing them, which will help her in the future when she can think more deeply of questions about God and life.
I was looking on YouTube for recordings of these question and answers for us to listen to as another way of helping her to learn it. This video of a two year old answering the first 12 catechism questions is a good reminder that even little children can be expected to learn much more than we usually expect of them.
This video of another two year old is even more impressive, as she does the first 20 questions with great clarity and annunciation. I can't get the video to come up for some reason so I can only link to it.
Now, if it sounds like you would need to be some kind of drill sergeant to have your 2 or 3 year old memorize all of these questions, let me assure you that its not at all like that. All it takes is lots of repetition. We work on these questions for about 5 minutes per day, usually at lunch time. I read the questions over and over, and then start leaving words blank for Esther to fill in. After just over a week of this, Esther has about ten answers memorized. Not only does she find it fun, but she often asks to practice at other times. "Let's do questions, Mom!" I hear several times each day, and I'll ask her a few of the ones she knows. Not only does she enjoy it but I can tell she feels a sense of accomplishment for what she has learned. This is a satisfying feeling that I hope will spur her on to continue to challenge herself in many areas throughout her life.
Relatedly, small children are also sponges for scripture memory. Just as with catechism questions, repetition is key. I try to recite verses while doing menial tasks with the kiddos, like changing diapers and brushing teeth. Esther can recite most of Psalm 1 because of this method.
Making scripture and spiritual teachings the topic of convesation throughout the day like this is one of the ways to be obedient to this command:
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul... You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied..." Deuteronomy 11:18-21I love the promise at the end... that "the days of your children may be multiplied". What good parent doesn't want that for their children?
So, where is the bar set for your children? Maybe your New Year's resolution for this year should be to set higher goals for them and take the initiative as a parent to make it happen.