"Religion should never be forced on children", I have heard this quite a few times. I totally agree. Never force kids to accept your religion. Never force them to perform rituals or visit the place of worship etc. But does that mean you don't teach them about religion? I don't think so.
Children are like a piece of white paper. The first few strokes on that piece of paper are always drawn by the parents. They dictate to a large extent what the painting is going to eventually look like.
I believe that parents need to teach their kids about religion like they teach them so many other things. Parents don't say they're not going to force their kids to go to school, do they? They make sure they go. Similarly, parents should make sure their kids are exposed to the religion they're following.
This should be done till a point the child is big enough to decide on things for himself or herself. At this point, let the child make the call on religion too. But let the parents not make this call so early in the child's life that he or she does not even know about the option so that a decision can be made later in life. By teaching kids about religion, the child is given a choice on whether to follow it or not. It is too unrealistic to expect the child to discover religion without any such exposure.
Religion often offers a way of experiencing peace. However unscientific it may be, it gives a means to achieve 'closure' on many of life's problems. We don't have to prove or disprove anything as long as it gives us peace of mind. Spending time in a temple or with a 'sadhu' often gives us respite from the daily grind.
This opportunity should be given to a child. Parents should not snatch this away forever from a child's life. Teach them about religion. But don't force them once they're big enough. That, I believe should be the mantra.