God’s 10 Commandments are the same for everyone. But this article shows what they mean for kids. They show how to get along with God and other people. They tell us the way to be happy.
God gave His law for our good (Deuteronomy 10:13). His 10 Commandments are not just for one group of people or one age group. They can be helpful to kids and adults. And if we break these good laws, we will have bad results.
The 10 Commandments show us how to love God. He made us, and He loves us deeply. So knowing the first four commandments helps us know how to love Him back.
The last six commandments show us how to love other people. It starts with our parents in the Fifth Commandment. Then the last five show how to get along with others. Thinking about what they mean can help kids be good neighbors and good future husbands and wives. Obeying them can help make other people happy. And we will be happier too.
What are the 10 Commandments for kids—and for everyone?
10 Commandments, short form
- You shall have no other gods before Me.
- You shall not make idols.
- You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet.
The full list includes many more important words, but this short form is a good starting place. But even in this list there are some words we don’t use often today. So it can be helpful to look at the list in a different translation of the Bible.
10 Commandments simplified
Here is a simple version of Exodus 20:2-17 from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Some of the words may make this long form of the 10 Commandments easier to understand:
“I am the LORD your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves. Do not worship any god except me.
“Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the LORD your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations.* But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.
“Do not misuse my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.
“Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. You have six days when you can do your work, but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day—not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns. In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That’s why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.
“Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.
“Do not murder.
“Be faithful in marriage.
“Do not steal.
“Do not tell lies about others.
“Do not want anything that belongs to someone else. Don’t want anyone’s house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.”
*Note about the Second Commandment: God doesn’t punish one person for someone else’s sins. The lesson here is the importance of parents’ choices. The negative consequence of sin can extend to the next several generations.
Now let’s take a quick look at each commandment as it applies to kids.
The First Commandment for kids
No matter how old we are, we must put God first in our lives. He is more important than anyone or anything else. He loves us deeply, and so we should love Him with all our hearts.No matter how old we are, we must put God first in our lives. He is more important than anyone or anything else. He loves us deeply, and so we should love Him with all our hearts.
The Bible gives many examples of young people who loved God.
For example, as a young boy, Samuel worked hard at God’s tabernacle. When God called, he answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” (That’s in 1 Samuel 3:10. Read more in our Bible story “Hannah’s Gift—Samuel.”)
The Second Commandment for kids
God is so great, no picture or statue can represent Him. And images of other false gods are worthless. They lead people away from God.
Josiah became king at age 8. Even when he was young, he learned about the many idols of false gods. He made a plan to get rid of them all over his kingdom. Read more in “Josiah: The Boy Who Became King.”
The Third Commandment for kids
God’s name is special. We have no right to use it carelessly or to use it to curse other people. Sadly, people today misuse God’s name all the time. We must avoid letting that get into our minds. Jesus even said, “Do not swear at all” (Matthew 5:34).
The Fourth Commandment for kids
God rested on the seventh day, and He wants us to rest too. It is a day to focus on God, on His beautiful creation and on our families.
Kids and families can do many things to make the Sabbath special. We share a number of these in the article “The Sabbath: A Blessing for Families.”
The Fifth Commandment for kids
Paul pointed out the blessing God gave along with the Fifth Commandment:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’” (Ephesians 6:1-3).
God wants us to treat our parents with respect. He is our Heavenly Father, and we must learn to treat Him with great respect too. If we do, we will be blessed.
The Sixth Commandment for kids
God gave us life. He wants us to realize how precious life is, and not to even think about hurting or killing others.
Cain got very angry and jealous of his brother. He allowed himself to get angrier and angrier. He murdered his own brother. We can learn why we should not think like that in the Bible story “Cain and Abel.”
The Seventh Commandment for kids
God created the family. He wanted a man and a woman to love each other and get married before they have children. He wanted the husband and wife to be faithful to each other before and after marriage.
Today Satan is attacking families. He tries to make people think it is okay to have sex before marriage. He tries to make pornography seem okay. He wants people to do things that seem fun but will hurt them and their families.
Kids can obey the Seventh Commandment by deciding to avoid Satan’s traps. They can decide to save sex for marriage.
The Eighth Commandment for kids
Everything we have comes from God. We should be thankful for what we have and try to work toward getting other things when we can afford them. But kids and adults can be tempted to take things that are not theirs.
God tells us not to steal. We should not focus on getting but on giving. God is the great giver, and we should learn to give, not take.
The Ninth Commandment for kids
It can seem so easy to lie. We can lie to try to avoid getting in trouble. We can lie to make ourselves look better. But lying will always have bad results in the end.
God is the God of truth. He loves honesty, and He wants us to always be honest. Study the lesson “Shepherding the Heart: Honesty” with your parents.
The 10th Commandment for kids
Most of the 10 Commandments discuss what we do. The 10th Commandment discusses what we think. (Of course, what we think often becomes what we do.)
Coveting—really wanting things we can’t or shouldn’t have—is another trap of Satan’s. He wants us to focus on what we can’t have. He wants us to be dissatisfied. He knows thinking like this will make us unhappy. It is the opposite of God’s way of thinking. It is selfish. God wants us to be loving and giving.
When we really think about all of God’s laws, we see that they are good. And they are for our good.When we really think about all of God’s laws, we see that they are good. And they are for our good.
Singing the praises of God’s law
David enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation as he cared for sheep. He wrote songs about the earth and the sky and the laws of God. Singing about God’s commandments helped him remember them and live by them.
Here is part of one of his songs about God’s laws:
“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
“More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).
David loved God’s law. In the next verse, though, David admitted that he still had faults. He knew he needed God’s help when he sinned.
What happens when we break God’s law?
God knows we make mistakes. He knows we can fall into traps set by the devil. He knows that everyone sometimes breaks His law. The Bible calls this sin. It says everyone has sinned, even the heroes of the Bible. Only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, didn’t sin.
As the Son of God, He was willing to pay the penalty of our sin for us. He was willing to die! If we repent—commit to change—God forgives us.
So the 10 Commandments show us what we did wrong. We tell God we are sorry for breaking His law. We tell Him we don’t want to do it again. We ask Him for His help to obey His good law. We think about His law. We figure out what to do to avoid sin. We commit to living by His good and pure commandments.
God loves to hear from kids. Jesus Christ made time for children. He pointed out their good examples. And He will help you. He can guide you by His Holy Spirit being with you. He can lead you to the time when you are ready as an adult to make the lifetime commitment of baptism. From then on, God’s Holy Spirit will not just be with you, but in you (John 14:17).
Notes to parents
The Bible encourages parents to teach their children about God and His ways, including His laws.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
The 10 Commandments should be a foundational aspect of that teaching.
Here are some tips for teaching the 10 Commandments.
- Memorize the short form of the commandments along with your kids. This can involve repetition, humor, making a game of it and perhaps offering a reward.
- Be sure to also go over the long form of the Commandments occasionally, so your children have a fuller picture of the longer commandments. Discuss how the additional material adds to the meaning.
- Discuss news events through the lens of the 10 Commandments. Ask your children which commandment or commandments were broken. How did the breaking of these commandments lead to bad conditions?
- Read our Bible story “Moses and the 10 Commandments” with your kids.