Preschoolers are so much fun! Of course, they can be challenging, too. Inexperienced teachers who are suddenly thrown into the lions’ den…errr…the 3-year-old room are probably frightened at first. That’s why anyone ministering to children ages 2 to 4 needs some training and tips for teaching preschoolers.
Regardless of the challenges, we have to remember this is one of the most critical age groups in terms of spiritual formation. What happens during this developmental stage will largely shape who people are and what they believe for the rest of their lives.
Now, ideally, their primary spiritual influencers—Mom & Dad—are making significant investments at home. But for church workers, here are a few tips for teaching preschoolers in Sunday school and children’s church:
5 Age-Related Tips for Teaching Preschoolers
1. Truth matters.
With this age group, you’re not going to go into great detail about the Bible. But I’ve seen people translate this understanding into, “Well, it really doesn’t matter how we tell the story.” Yes, it does! The truth of God’s Word is just that—truth! And it matters in our teaching regardless of the age of the audience…even preschoolers.
2. Brevity rules.
A good rule of thumb is that you have about one minute’s worth of attention per year of a child’s age. So you have roughly three minutes with a 3-year-old. Of course, that varies, and a truly engaging activity or a well-told story might extend the time frame. But this means that, in planning your teaching, you should plan to move on to a new activity within those age-related parameters.
3. Flexibility rocks.
The name of the game with preschoolers (and, really, any age group) is flexibility. If you’ve ever taught younger children, you know they ask some amazing questions! And they’re capable of understanding far more than we often give them credit for.
When a great question occurs, or when an activity is obviously failing, or when circumstances are different than expected (class size is much larger, a “screamer” shows up to class, etc.), be ready to flex.
4. Questions abound.
As I said, preschoolers can ask some amazing questions. What’s your plan? Be ready to know how you want to respond to unexpected questions from children.
A good template might be something like this:
- Affirm the question positively.
- Answer briefly, if you can.
- If it’s a significant question (i.e., regarding salvation), “flex” and take the class in that direction in order to share the truth with all your kids.
- Follow up with the child later, either to answer more completely or to ensure understanding.
- Share with the child’s parents so they can continue the conversation at home.
5. Repetition reinforces.
I’m so glad my boys are grown now, if for no other reason than I don’t have to watch The Lion King over and over and over. But there’s a reason preschoolers love to watch things on repeat. It’s a learning mechanism that helps reinforce what they’re seeing or hearing (often for the first time).
So in your classroom, keep the main point short and simple. Then find ways to reinforce it through repetition over and over again. Do different activities with the same point. Tell the story and let kids act it out. Then watch a short video with the same point.
Throughout the class session, let your conversations lead back to the main point. Repetition reinforces learning, especially among this age group.
I’m not an expert when it comes to preschoolers, but I’ve learned that these few ideas really do work.
What tips for teaching preschoolers would you add to this list?
This article originally appeared here.