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!

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.

6 Questions to Ask When Choosing Songs for Worship with Kids

Worship God SignWhen I was young, there wasn’t a lot of choice when it came to music to sing with kids at church. Recently there has been an explosion of music for kids. And it is easier than ever to find the format that works for you – music, video, lead sheets. There is so much to choose from that it is now more important than ever to be discerning. Evaluate each song carefully before you sing it with kids.

The purpose of singing with kids at church is to teach kids about worship, tell them truths about who God is, and give them opportunities to respond in worship to God. Therefore, songs should be chosen either to express truth about God or as worshipful response to God.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing songs to sing in this setting:

What is the value of singing this song with kids?

Does this song highlight God’s character? Does it magnify Jesus? Does it teach a truth about God, Jesus, or living as a Christian? Is it a fun song with little or no spiritual value?

For example, the song Lord, I Lift Your Name on High is a joyful song of praise. It is simple and easy for kids to sing. The chorus highlights the gospel, thereby focusing on Jesus and giving kids the reason we praise God.

What does this song teach about God or Jesus?

This is an easy question to answer. Look carefully at the lyrics to the song and note what, if anything, the song teaches or highlights about God or Jesus. The song could focus on God’s holiness or Jesus as our mighty Savior.

What does this song teach about living as a Christ-follower?

Songs like this are usually songs of commitment or encouragement. These songs highlight our dependence on God, becoming like Jesus, showing love, patience, and kindness.

How much of this song needs to be explained to kids?

This is a very important question to answer. Some explanation is okay (as long as you actually talk about the song with kids and explain any concepts or words that the kids might not understand). If a song requires too much explanation then it is probably not appropriate to sing with kids. Some songs are written in a highly symbolic, figurative or complex way that younger kids especially simply won’t understand. You want to choose songs for kids that are written simply, literally, and clearly.

For example, Before the Throne of God Above is a song that is about the relationship we have with God because of what Jesus did on the cross. It is a wonderful song full of truth that leads believers to worship. However, it is full of words like “plea,” “graven,” “thence,” “depart,” “counted free,” and “pardon.” It also uses phrases like “before the throne of God above” and “a great High Priest whose name is love who ever lives and pleads for me,” which are harder for kids to understand because of the structure of the phrase.

A better song to sing with kids that focuses on the relationship we can have with God because of Jesus is Mighty, Mighty Savior (from SovereignGraceKids). This song is sung in a progressive order that kids understand. It still has a couple words and phrases that will need to be explained, but in general the song is one that kids will understand.

Is the theology of this song correct in all aspects?

This is really important. We remember what we sing. Kids will develop a theology of God from the songs they sing so it’s really important to make sure that the songs are true. Even if one line of the song is wrong, the song shouldn’t be used.

Is it appropriate for this setting?

Finally consider whether the song is appropriate for the setting of worship time during Sunday School or Children’s Church. Also consider the length of time you will give to worship during these programs. This will help you decide if a song is appropriate or not. For example, some songs are fun but don’t have a lot of real value other than drawing kids in and getting their attention. If you have a short time, you may want to stay away from these songs.

Once you have gone through this process you will have a well-thought out list of songs to sing with kids.

One Way Sunday School Teachers Can Encourage Active Participation in Class

Kindergarten teacher and children with hands raised in libraryIt is well known that kids learn best when they are actively participating in class. One way teachers can encourage active participation is by asking good questions. Good questions give kids the opportunity to think and respond and discuss.

Teachers should respond to the answers students give in a way that will encourage active participation.

What are the most common types of answers kids give and how should teachers respond to them?

Silly Answers

Expect silly answers to questions and plan ahead of time how you will respond in a way that encourages further answers and discussion.

It is best to simply ignore silly answers. Say thank you and then turn to a student and rephrase the question you just asked.

Incorrect Answers

We learn from our mistakes, from being wrong. So, if a student gives an incorrect answer it is a great opportunity for learning for the whole group. You will want to do two things – tactfully correct the wrong answer and come up with an encouragement for the student to correct wrong thinking.

Don’t put-down or embarrass the student. This only makes students less likely to speak up and participate. Instead, point out where they went wrong in their answer and then provide hints, suggestions, or follow-up questions that will help your students understand and correct their answers. “Not quite, but what if…” “Let’s all look at verse 11 again.”

Correct Answers

When students give correct answers, you want to reinforce the answer and encourage the discussion to continue. Students need to learn how to have a discussion in class. One thing that can easily happen is for students to stop participating because a question was answered correctly. As the teacher you need to encourage your class to keep the discussion going even after a correct answer.

So, reinforce the correct answer by paraphrasing it or summarizing it and then ask the kids to provide another example to support or contradict the point just given. This encourages discussion to continue. Direct your students to respond to one another. “What do you think about the idea Emma just gave.” “Can you think of another way to solve that problem?” “Can you think of a Bible verse that talks about that?”

On-the-Right Track Answers

Sometimes, kids will give answers that are on-the-right track, but not quite there yet. They are specific but are just missing a piece. When this happens ask the responder to refine a statement or idea. “Is that response to the situation always the right one?” “Can you think of a Bible story or verse that talks about this situation?”

You want to respond in such a way that encourages students to keep thinking. Ask the rest of the class to respond to the idea that one kid just presented or ask the student who answered to explain the thinking that led to her answer.

Vague Answers

When students give vague answers they may be parroting back something they have heard or giving generalizations of what they have heard in class. Vague answers demonstrate a lack of understanding.

When students give vague answers you want to respond with clear instruction and questions that will help them clarify their thinking.

If an answer is too general, try to draw out specifics. “That’s a good observation, Leona. Can you give me another example of mercy?

Ask the student to clarify a vague comment. “Can you explain what you mean?”

If the kids are parroting answers encourage them to explain or define in their own words. Then you can get a better understanding of what they know and what you need to teach.

No Answers

Sometimes you will get no answers when you ask a question. First, allow for silence. A lot of teachers are afraid of silence, but silence is a good thing. Silence allows students to think before they answer and to put their thoughts together so that what they say makes sense when they do answer. After a minute or so, ask the question again. If there are still no answers you may need to rephrase the question. Maybe the kids didn’t understand it. If there are still no answers, you can answer the question yourself or choose to come back to the question later.

Another idea is to have kids write their answers on an index card. This allows them some time to think and encourages everyone to respond. You can choose to have the kids give their index cards to the person next to them, read them out loud themselves, or hand them in to you.

 

Encourage active participation in your Sunday School class! Ask good questions and respond to the answers students give in such a way as to encourage thinking, learning, and participation.

Recommended Resource – Basic Bible Skills by Susan L. Lingo

Looking for game and activity ideas for teaching Bible skills? Check out Susan L. Lingo’s “Basic Bible Skills.”

childrens-ministry-basic-bible-skills-bookThis book has game and activity ideas for children ages 6-12.

I love the set up of this book. First, it contains books of the Bible cards that you can photocopy onto cardstock. These cards are unique in that they have the name of the book, which testament it’s in, which division it’s in, a sample of what’s in the book, and a key verse.

Second, it contains four sections.

  1. How the Bible is Organized
  2. Scripture is God’s Word
  3. People, Places, and Events
  4. Bible Maps and More!

What I love about this resource is the inclusion of many different Bible skills – not just books of the Bible. Some of the skills included are:

  • Using the Bible’s table of contents
  • Understanding what a “Testament” is
  • Identifying major Bible divisions
  • Identifying chapter and verse numbers
  • Learning visual cues for remembering verses
  • Studying parallel passages
  • Identifying main themes and ideas
  • Using a Bible dictionary
  • Reading Biblical maps
  • Using time lines

Check it out on Amazon!

Have fun with your class learning Bible skills for exploring God’s Word!

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