4 Tips To Teach Kids How To Make the Sign of the Cross

When I was volunteering at Vacation Bible School over the Summer, my station met in the church, so we taught each group that came through how to genuflect and make the sign of the cross before entering. I was surprised at how many kids (up through 5th grade!) could not do these basic things correctly. We had to re-cap with each group every day that week before entering. Sometimes I think the simple things can be overlooked when looking at the big picture, but it’s important to check and make sure your children are doing this correctly. So here are 4 tips to teach kids how to make the Sign Of The Cross.

If you are teaching Religious Ed, I would definitely encourage you to check each year that children can correctly make the sign of the cross! Here are some ways you can help them learn correctly, especially preschoolers and toddlers who may need the extra help. 

Sign Of The Cross Cheat Sheet

I always say that you can’t fully teach something until you understand it yourself, so I love to touch on the basics! Here is what you need to know about The Sign Of The Cross: 

Is The Sign Of The Cross A Prayer?

Yes, The Sign Of The Cross is a prayer! A full and complete prayer all by itself. In our house, we call short prayers that you can say quickly and shoot straight up to heaven “Golden Arrow Prayers”. 

When Do You Pray The Sign Of The Cross?

Catholics pray The Sign Of The Cross often, especially at the beginning and the end of other prayers, such as the prayer before meals. The rosary starts and ends with The Sign Of The Cross. Mass also begins and ends with The Sign Of The Cross. Sometimes people even pray The Sign Of The Cross when they see something terrible or shocking or when an ambulance goes by. Some make the Sign Of The Cross each time they pass by a Catholic Church to acknowledge the presence of Jesus there. There is no wrong time to pray The Sign Of The Cross. It is a basic and useful prayer and it is used often. 

How Do You Say The Sign Of The Cross?

The prayer word for word is…

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

While you pray this prayer, you make a cross on your body starting with your right hand on your forehead for the word “Father”, in the middle of your chest for the word “Son”, on your left shoulder for the word “Holy”, and on your right shoulder for the word “Spirit”. You can end with saying “Amen” and placing your hands together in the middle, like traditional “praying hands”. So the motion is forehead, chest, left shoulder, right shoulder. 

In some cultures, especially the Hispanic culture, they kiss their hand at the end. In the Eastern Church they also hold 3 fingers together on their right hand to further symbolize the Trinity. 

What Does The Sign Of The Cross Mean?

In this prayer, we are remembering that there are 3 Persons in 1 God, otherwise known as the Trinity. 

Video About The Sign Of The Cross

This video from Fr. Mike Schnitz is under 3 minutes and is a great watch!

If you are teaching Catholic preschoolers, I would encourage you to take a look at my book, Catholic ABC’s! It’s a fully Catholic curriculum for preschoolers that is hands on and full of fun crafts! You can read more about it here.

Catholic ABC's Curriculum
How To Teach Kids To Make The Sign Of The Cross

1. Use a mirror! They had this mirror in Lydia’s preschool class last year. Tape pictures of the sign of the cross around the edge and let the kids see themselves as they practice. A mirror like this could be a great addition to a classroom prayer table!

You can use this sign of the cross coloring page
for the pictures- it’s free to print!
 

2. Use a sticker! Kids often get mixed up with which hand to use. That is easily corrected! Just put a cross sticker on your child’s right hand. Tell her that this is her right hand- the hand we use to make the sign of the cross. I use these cross stickers because they’re cheap and perfect for this.

3. Do it backwards. I found that when standing in front of a group of kids, teaching them to genuflect and make the sign of the cross, it really helped if I did it backwards with my left hand. This way I was a mirror image of them. (This is tip I gleaned from doing exercise videos. It’s so much easier that they do it backwards for you!) Alternately, you can stand in front of the group and face the same way as them to help.

 

4. Make a craft! You knew I was going to suggest a craft, right? I’m actually planning on making this with my kids this afternoon- a sign of the cross necklace! Isn’t this great?!

BONUS TIP!!! Write the prayer! I find that this is important with all prayers because sometimes we think we are hearing or saying it right, but we actually aren’t. It can happen to the best of us. Here is a sample from Lydia’s prayer journal when she was little. 
 
 
If the kids aren’t old enough to write it yet, I have some great free printable Sign Of The Cross pages for preschoolers here. They can just trace the missing word.
 
 
If you would like to teach your kids more Catholic prayers by writing them out, you should definitely take a look at my ebook for kids, Learning Your Prayers The Write Way.
 
 

Trinity Book For Kids

If you are looking to teach kids more about the Holy Trinity, you should definitely check out my printable book Teach Catholic Kids About The Trinity! There is a page in the book dedicated to the Sign Of The Cross as well. 😉

Comments

  1. I taught myself a song when I started studying Catholicism in college – unfortunately I can’t upload the music file here, but I can tell you the words.

    “Father God, be on our minds;
    Christ, his Son, be in our hearts;
    Holy Spirit, surround us – your wisdom to impart.”

    Basically, it not only reminded me of where to touch and in which order, but it gave me something tangible to think of when I make the sign of the cross, as to why I’m making this somewhat awkward gesture. It’s habit now, and I don’t always think about why I’m crossing myself, but when I catch myself doing things by rote and without thought, I can sing myself this song. (:

  2. The song to accompany the sign of the Cross is precious and so perfect–children learn so well when something is put to song or rhyme. thank you for sharing and I hope you don’t mind if I teach this to my students in our Religious Education program at my church.

  3. Thank you Sanda for the little song. I am going to take it and put to to the tune of “Mary had a little lamb” and teach it to my Gr. 2’s. I hope that is okay, thanks in advance!

  4. Laura Focaracci says

    I tell my three year old students:
    We think about God the Father, (touch forehead)
    We love like Jesus the Son, (touch heart)
    We are strong with the Holy Spirit. (touch shoulders)

  5. Catherine Baranek says

    I heard an idea for the “Holy Spirit” part of the prayer. Children always get confused which shoulder to touch. Tell the children to give themselves a hug. They have to reach across to the left shoulder and give themselves a hug.

  6. Just used a lot of your ideas with my little kindergarteners during a lesson on the Holy Trinity. We used the “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” melody…
    “Head, tummy, left to right, left to right!”
    “Head, tummy, left to right, left to r-i-i-ght…
    “Father, Son and Ho-o-l-y-y Spirit,”
    “Head, tummy, left to right, left to right!”
    I put those neon circle stickers on their foreheads with “Father” on them, etc. Then I put them on myself and they followed me. It was a lot of fun!

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