Jonah: A Toddler Devotion About God’s Mercy

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A few months ago I ran across an article asking whether we should teach our children the story of Jonah. I’m sorry I don’t remember the article name, and I couldn’t find it again. It was another of those I thought I would close out and not think about again. Ha! Caught me again.

It really caused me to put teaching Jonah on the back burner. The writer made several good points. Namely, that Jonah is generally portrayed as the hero when we teach this story to children, when in all actuality he was a racist jerk, that in the end cares more about a plant than a whole people group.

It was a great point. So I needed to sit and ruminate on that for a moment.

Then it occurred to me: The Whale!

Jonah being fed to a whale wasn’t punishment! It was a sign of God’s compassion and mercy. God could have let Jonah drown in the middle of the ocean. Instead, he sent a whale to swallow him and later spit him out on dry land.

That whale is a symbol of God’s character. A symbol of his mercy. And then I had a devotion theme.

We got really into the whales this week. God saved Jonah by sending that whale, even when Jonah was being crazy and running from what the Lord had called him. In the end, Jonah never really learned his lesson. But we can learn from that whale that God loves us, cares for us, and has mercy.

Here’s what we did this week:

Read: Jonah

We read read the story of Jonah every single day. Vale loves fish, so she loved finding the big fish in the story.


Waterplay seemed like an obvious choice for Jonah sensory. To get little baby involved, we filled a sensory tray with water and floated our bathtime fish in it. Then I propped Naomi up on her boppy pillow in tummy time position, so she could see the fish, and even touch it she felt so inclined, but could keep her face out of the water. Watching the fish works on little baby tracking skills, and even if she wasn’t watching the fish, she had a good time watching big sister move the fish around the water.

This probably goes without saying, but if you try this, don’t leave your baby unsupervised. It is water and accidents happen, so stay by their side and make sure they don’t fall into the water.

Hanky Whale

We had gotten this Whale Toy at Marshall’s for a steal. It comes with cloth squares that can be “fed” to the whale and then pop up through the top. It’s a fun motor-skill activity, and we have also used it to help our toddler learn her colors. Plus the high-contrast keeps little baby engaged in tummy time.

Shapes Whale

I adapted this idea from Deceptively Educational. This is also similar to the Alphabet Monster from our Mother’s Day devotion, except we made a whale out of our milk jug, and instead of eating letters (which this whale totally could do) he eats shapes. We’ve been working on identifying shapes for a while now, so we just lay all the shapes out, and say “now feed the whale all the squares.” And we work to find the squares and put them in the whale’s mouth. Then triangles, then circles, etc.

Whale Paper Plate

I found this cute craft on Glued To My Crafts. It was great, because similar to the sheep we made in The Good Shepherd, I just swirled some glue on the plate, and then baby girl more-or-less just threw the tissue paper on the plate.

Melissa and Doug Stickers

Melissa and Dough Reusable Sticker Pads are one of our favorite no-prep activities. This week we pulled out the “under the sea” pad and let Vale go wild with the whales and fish.

Snack: Goldfish Crackers

Goldfish Crackers was another no-brainer in our house this week. They are a toddler-favorite around here. Plus, fish theme! We like the colored ones, because we can work on counting, color sorting, and color names while we eat. Though when the toddler is hangry, we stick to just plain ol’ snack time.


This week we watched Jonah: A Veggie Tale’s Movie. We like this re-telling for a couple reasons. First, the DVD has a Spanish Audio option. Second, this retelling is wonderfully contextualized for the younger crowd. Jonah isn’t the hero in this story. God is. Jonah is actually made out for the jerk he was, and we see that our God is a God of compassion and mercy, and cares for us, even when we mess up.

We also listened to Generacion 12 Kids Jonas. This is a short retelling in song form, and is a fun addition to our daily toddler dance party.

Sea World!

We did this activity the week before we went to Sea World in San Antonio. I knew we would be going to see some whales on our vacation, so I figured this could be a good talking point while on our family adventure.

La Ballena Elena

When we reviewed this devotion later in the year, we also decided to learn a new Spanish poem called “La Ballena Elena.”

Spanish: La Ballena Elena

La ballena Elena

Es gorda y es buena

Nada por los mares

Como una sirena

English: Elena the Whale

Elena the whale

Is fat and good

She swims in the seas

Like a mermaid.

How did these activities work for your family? Were you able to get your baby and toddler to play together? Comment below.

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