6 Tips for Teaching Preschoolers

I love teaching preschoolers! They are fun and complicated and joyful and eager to learn. Here are 6 tips that will help you teach these wonderful little people:

1. Routine is King.

This is true for all children, but especially preschoolers. Preschoolers face change daily. Their bodies are constantly changing as they grow. They experience new food, new places, new people. They learn new skills and information constantly., While kids love learning new things, it can also be stressful. A routine gives preschoolers a sense of security. and confidence. Certainty and predictability help toddlers and preschoolers feel comfortable. A predictable routine makes preschoolers feel safe. When preschoolers feel safe, secure, confident, and comfortable, then they are ready hear about the God who made the world and who made them, the God who loves them and wants a relationship with them.

2. Use the Two Minute Rule.

I don’t mean the famous”two minute rule” that is supposed to help fight procrastination (although I think many of us struggle with procrastination!). Whenever it is time to change activities, give kids a warning two minutes before it happens. Abrupt changes in activity do not work well with preschoolers. First, toddlers and preschoolers play hard! They really get into whatever it is that they are doing and don’t like to suddenly be pulled away from it (actually, adults don’t much like that either!) Second, preschoolers take longer to do pretty much anything! Give them time to finish what they are doing and adjust to the idea of a new activity. For example, if it is the beginning of your Sunday School class and the children have been playing with toys, get their attention and say, “In two minutes, it’s storytime!” Then, “It’s storytime in one minute. Let’s clean up our toys!”

3. Keep Your Attention-Getting Technique Simple.

When you want kids to stop what they are doing and listen, keep it simple. “Hands on top. Everybody stop.” Put your hands on your head when you say this. Kids hear the call to action and respond by stopping whatever they are doing and putting their hands on their heads. It’s important that you have the attention of the classroom before you say anything. Make sure they are listening first with a simple call to action. Once you have chosen one, stick to it. Kids need to learn the proper way to respond and then they need the predictability of responding the same way to the same call every time. To avoid confusion, only use this technique for getting attention. Don’t dilute it’s effectiveness by using it for other purposes. Other ideas for calls to action are :

  • Clap in pattern and have the kids repeat the pattern back.
  • “One, two, three, look at me.” “One, two, look at you.”
  • Use a rainstick or train whistle or bell.

4. Use Story Time Transitions.

Preschoolers need time to transition between activities In Sunday School, it’s important that preschoolers are ready for story time. We want them hear the Bible story, but more importantly, we want them learn something new about :God through the Bible story.. In order to help them get ready to hear the Bible story, use a story time transition. Make this part of the routine so that when kids hear it, they will know exactly what is happening next. A short song or rhyme is ideal. I don’t remember where I found this one, but I really like it (and I can easily remember the tune to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star!)

Hands go up and
Hands go down
I can turn myself around
I can stand up
On one shoe
I can listen
So can you
I can sit. I’ll show you how
Story time is starting now.

5. Have Clear Expectations for What the Children are to do in the Classroom

Preschoolers (unless they go to daycare) will not know how to behave in the classroom. It’s another new thing that they have to learn. They won’t know if they should leave their shoes on or take them off. They won’t know when they can play with toys and when it’s time to participate in group activities. Tell them simply and clearly and often what is expected of them in Sunday School. And remember to keep your expectations reasonable. Preschool children can sit for story time, but it’s unreasonable to expect them to sit for 15 minutes of storytime without changing the activity.

Here are some examples of reasonable expectations:

  • I expect everyone to sit on the story blanket during storytime.
  • After playtime, I expect everyone to help clean up.
  • Before we eat snack, everyone washes their hands.

6. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition.

I can’t repeat it enough – preschoolers love repetition! They want to hear the same story over and over. They hide in the same spot during hide and seek over and over. They look in the same spot during hide and seek over and over. They sing the same song over and over. Preschoolers love repetition!

I teach a preschool Sunday School class and we always sing the same song after the story – always. They love it! A few weeks ago, I finished the story and one two year old stood up and said, “Now touch finger nose.” That’s the song we sing. Preschoolers don’t mind learning new songs, but they want to keep singing the old ones too.

As adults we tend to groan if we have to sing that song again or read that story again. But repetition is the practice preschoolers need to master a new skill and gain confidence..Through repetition, preschoolers start to learn to predict what will come next and develop sequencing skills (like before and after) and understand cause and effect.

Do you remember Blue’s Clues? It was a show for preschoolers that clearly understood that preschoolers need repetition. They aired the same episode 5 days a week. They got it. Kids watched it over and over and understood more each time, becoming more interactive and confident each time they saw it.

Sing songs over and over. Share the same Bible story over and over. Provide the same activities over and over. Preschoolers love repetition!

Hands on top. Everybody Stop! – Crowd Control Tips for Group Leaders

You’re in the middle of the lesson and from the back of the room you hear a loud burp. The room erupts with laughter and chatter. Suddenly you have lost the attention of the class and the focus of the kids is now on the child that burped. What do you do?

Crowd control is a skill that everyone who works with kids needs to develop. Whether running games, teaching a Sunday School class, or leading a small group, as the leader you need to have control of the group.

There is a difference between crowd control and individual misbehavior.

When kids are chatting and messing around – that’s crowd control. Use crowd control techniques to get everybody back on track.

When a child is not keeping his hands to himself and distracting other kids – that’s individual misbehavior.

Crowd Control Tips

Use an Attention-Getting Technique

I am the games leader for kids in kindergarten to grade two at our mid-week club program. The first week of clubs we were in the gym playing. I didn’t tell the kids what to expect or what it meant. I just said it – in the middle of a game. The gym was loud and the kids were running around and I said, “Hands on top. Everybody stop.” I put my hands on my head. The kids stopped and put their hands on their heads and looked at me. Amazing!

There are many different ways to get kids’ attention. You can dim the lights; blow a whistle; use a call and response; clap a sequence that the kids have to copy. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you pick one and use it consistently for that situation. So, for game time, when I need the kid’s attention, I say, “Hands on top. Everybody stop.”

Positive Reinforcement

Crowd control is all about teaching kids how to behave in group situations. One great way to do this is to reward those who are behaving well.

If you notice kids doing what they are supposed to be doing, let them know it! Thank them for behaving well. Reinforce positive behavior rather than negative behavior.

Verbal affirmation is great. Every once in a while, reward the group with candy or a fun activity. Mix it up and have fun with it.

Coming Soon – Free VBS Available for Download in the New Year!

Are you looking for a VBS for your Children’s Ministry this summer? Sometimes VBS’s are expensive or are not created with your church’s needs in mind. Then you’ll love this…

In January 2018 I’m releasing a free, customizable VBS that has been used in small and large VBS programs.

UPDATE! It’s published and you can find it here: The Totally Covert Top Secret Classified School Of Spying.

School Of Spying VBS

This VBS includes the following:

  • evangelistic Bible teaching
  • fun games
  • cool crafts
  • delicious snacks

Kids love this program and some of the kids who attended have talked about it for years after. Even though it’s fun, we haven’t scrimped on clear gospel teaching.

You’ll get all of the customizable files in Microsoft Word for you to use in your church, no cost and no strings attached.

A Simple Strategy to Manage Your Kidmin Music Library

childrens-ministry-musicIf you are anything like me, you have a lot of songs and videos of kidmin music! It’s hard to remember all the songs and it is even more difficult to remember what type of songs you have. In order to help you choose a good balance of songs for Sunday morning worship, put all your songs into categories. Categories are helpful because they give us a way of organizing music that help us create balanced sets for worship times.

Here are the song categories I use. The first three categories are for specific kinds of songs – Christmas, Bible verse, Hymns. The next five categories are more related to the style of song – pace or theme. You might want to use something similar or add to it for your own situation:

Christmas

This category is for all songs that relate to advent and Christmas. We tend to only sing Christmas songs at Christmas, so it’s helpful to put them together.

Some examples of songs that would be in this category include:

  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • He Made a Way in a Manger
  • Joy to the World

Bible Verse

These are Scripture songs; Bible verses put to music. These songs may fit any of the next 5 categories but I find it helpful to put them together.

Some examples of songs that would be in this category include:

  • Wherever You Go – Joshua 1:9
  • Eternal Life – John 3:16
  • Life and Breath – Acts 17:34-35

Hymn

These are hymns or any song found in a hymn book.

  • Standing on the Promises of God
  • Holy, Holy, Holy
  • This is My Father’s World

Fun

These songs are usually high-energy songs with lots of actions. Kids love to sing these songs because it’s an opportunity to maybe be a little silly and to get some wiggles out.

Some examples of songs that would be in this category include:

  • Boom-Chaka-Laka (Overflowing)
  • Every Move I Make
  • Superstart

Active

These songs are usually high-energy songs that are accompanied by clapping or actions. The difference between fun songs and active songs is the content. Fun songs can be silly whereas active songs are more serious in their content. They are about who God is or they are songs of praise.

Some examples of songs that would be in this category include:

  • Almighty Creator
  • Friend of God
  • My Redeemer Lives

Bridge

These songs are not as fast or high-energy as active songs and are used as a bridge to slower, more worshipful songs.

Some examples of songs that would be in this category include:

  • All the Earth
  • Blessed Be Your Name
  • God is Great

Worship

These songs tend to focus on who God is. God is holy. God is great. These songs are generally mid-tempo or slow. Songs that are full of this content yet are fast paced are probably better in the active category.

Some examples of songs that would be in this category include:

  • Here I am to Worship
  • Amazing Love
  • You’re Worthy of My Praise

Commitment

These are songs that speak of our commitment to obey Jesus and to follow Him. These songs talk about what we will do. They are our response to God and have messages like: “Thank you;” “I will serve you;” and “I will follow you.”

Some examples of songs that would be in this category include:

  • Make Me Wise – SovereignGraceKids
  • Holiness (Take My Life)
  • I Give You My Heart

Now that you have categorized your songs, it is easier to put together a set of songs for your Sunday morning worship time.

How do you evaluate the music you use for worship with kids? These 6 questions will help.

What’s your goal when leading kids in singing? Stir reverence and evoke worship.

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