Where to start? This is a common question parents have when considering the idea of bringing their children up Pagan. We are fortunate that the idea is not so radical anymore, perhaps we can attribute this to the fact that more people are doing so and being open about it, or perhaps just to the fact that there are now several books on the market offering advice in this area (so that means it must be okay! *shakes head*) Either way, more and more people are choosing to Pagan Parent, and personally I am thrilled by this.
Within my own family, we've implemented a few fairly straightforward guidelines as to when we start teaching and what we teach at that age.
We start fairly young, at 6 months we try to get our babies to look up at the Moon and blow Her a kiss. Usually, this works, our daughter, however, was stubborn and refused to look up in general until about a year old. Now, she loves looking for the Moon, whom she calls, "Boon!"
By 18 months, we start teaching appreciation and respect for Nature. This is done primarily through something we call the "Flower Game." It's really simple and can be adapted as the child gets older. You go outside and ask your little one to find you a flower, but no picking! As they get bigger, you make it more complicated ("Find me a white flower!") until you have them searching for specific plants ("Find me a Dandelion! Find me Plantain!") Our kids love this game and it also teaches them to be aware of the natural world, to look closely, to focus, and leads to discussion on the uses of plants, too.
We also stress things like being nice to animals and plants. Specifically, with plants, this means no stripping them of their leaves, picking the bark off of trees, or hitting trees with sticks. If they do, the child must apologize, and yes, that means they must hug the tree.
Three years marks "official" teaching, where we begin reading myths, start saying prayers at night (though our daughter has taken to this early, we've an entire nighttime "ritual' that the kids love, and we couldn't leave her out, not when she asks so nicely...) and begin exercises to recognize energy.
That's right, you heard me, we do energy exercises with a three year old. But it's not as complicated as it sounds. At this point, the child has already learned that plants and animals have a spirit, too. This comes about from conversations started by the "Flower Game" (your kid will ask why they can't pick the flowers, why they can't hit the trees, a simple explanation is because they are alive just like you are, they have a spirit, just like you do, and that causes them pain.) So we just expand upon that. The children can lay their hands on large trees to feel the "tingle," they can hold a stone or crystal in their hands and feel that same warm "tingle." This teaches them to recognize the energy, which is the first step in being able to manipulate that energy and work magick.
The Gods that we introduce to the children to at this time are the Lady of the Moon and the Lord of the Sun. They're fairly simple concepts that the children can grasp. As they get older, we introduce other Gods, such as the Horned God, the Greenman, and Gaia. On our frequent nature hikes, we also start looking for faeries now, as well as whatever animals we can find, and we talk about the changes we see, what's different from our last hike.
At four years, our child has their Dedication Ceremony (i.e. non-Wiccan Wiccaning) and is then allowed to participate in ritual and explanations, of course, get a little more complex. We also work a lot more magick together (kids are great at chanting and dancing, you wouldn't believe how much energy they can raise!)
And that's pretty much our curriculum for the first four years. The proof that it works for us is in my eldest, who at five years old can cast and hold a Circle, call the Lady of the Moon and the Lord of the Sun, commune with a Slavic Wind Spirit, make protection wards, and heal energetically, just to name a few things. Best of all, though, every day he asks me to teach him something new, everyday he has more questions about what he's been taught, and everyday I learn something new about my path from him.
Throwing the Bones