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.

Three Things to do Five Minutes Before Every Event

It is five minutes before VBS/Sunday School/Children’s Church/Mid-week clubs and you are trying to finish setting up while two volunteers want to discuss their schedules and the kids are running around screaming. Does this scenario sound familiar?

I think it is all too familiar for most Children’s Ministry leaders. Rather than letting the chaos control you, take five minutes to reset. There are three things that all leaders should do 5 minutes before every program or event.

Three Things to do Five Minutes Before Every Event

First, check the schedule. Look over what is about to happen. As the leader, you need to know what is scheduled and who is responsible for what.

Second, pray. Ask God for wisdom, love, and creativity. Most importantly , ask God to give you clear focus during the event to see opportunities to share the gospel and to build relationships with kids and volunteers.

Third, remember that it is all about making disciples. No matter the purpose of the specific program you are leading, everything in Children’s Ministry is about making disciples. What is going to happen during this event that will help you do that?

This is a good habit to develop but it’s not going to work unless your volunteer team knows that this is important to you. Tell them what you are doing and how long you need to do it. Then suggest that they develop the same habit.

Duck out of the room and find a quiet place to go through these three steps.

If everyone on the team is doing these three things and understands the importance of them, prep work will get done sooner so that there is time for this reset.

8 Reasons Why I am Thankful for Children’s Ministry Volunteers

childrens-ministry-be thankful

Children’s Ministry volunteers spend extra time with kids who need it.

I saw this happen during VBS. One child was pushing the limits and required extra attention. Two of my volunteers didn’t even hesitate. They spent the time needed with him and even spoke with his parents when they came to pick him up. By the end of the week, that child showed respect for those volunteers who spent that extra time with him. Another child who attended VBS had just lost an 11 year old friend and was grieving. One of the volunteers listened when he needed to talk, forgetting the schedule and what everyone else was doing. He gave that extra attention and care to a child who desperately needed it. I am thankful for Children’s Ministry volunteers who spend extra time with kids who need it

Children’s Ministry volunteers add fun and laughter.

VBS was scheduled to start in 2 days. The stress level was high and decorations still needed to go up and the team doing it was small. I pictured myself and my husband pulling an all-nighter in the church basement hanging streamers and ocean creatures from the ceiling. And then 8 volunteers showed up (of all ages) and a stressful evening turned into an evening of fun and laughter. The work got done (and it looked great!) and we had such a good time! Volunteers add fun and laughter to jobs that need doing, but they also bring joy to events with kids. Kids need to see joy from volunteers and they need people in their lives who add fun and laughter. I am thankful for Children’s Ministry volunteers who do both.

Children’s Ministry volunteers are committed.

These volunteers commit to a wide variety of roles with a wide variety of time required to fulfill those roles. Not only that, but they are committed to learning and getting better at what they do. I am thankful for volunteers who are committed to serving God with the gifts He has given them for His glory!

Children’s Ministry volunteers are creative.

There is a whole spectrum of creativity and I have worked with volunteers on both ends of that spectrum! I have worked with volunteers who are creative in designing décor and classroom. I have worked with volunteers who are creative in building a team and accomplishing goals. I have worked with volunteers who are creative in finding ways to connect with and relate to kids. I am thankful for the creativity of Children’s Ministry volunteers.

Children’s Ministry volunteers are willing to get down to a child’s level.

They tell terribly unfunny (to adults) jokes because they know that kids will laugh uproariously. They do skits and puppet shows. Our song leader recently told me about how his family was laughing at him because he was in his living room dancing around learning actions to new songs for our Sunday School kids. I am thankful for Children’s Ministry volunteers who are willing to put aside their pride and connect with kids on their level.

Children’s Ministry volunteers often spend many hours outside of their specific role preparing, decorating, and building relationships.

A Sunday School teachers responsibility may be for 1 hour on Sunday morning, but they spend a couple of hours preparing during the week. They also spend extra time decorating their classrooms and getting to know their students. I am thankful for Children’s Ministry volunteers who are willing to spend time outside of their primary responsibilities.

Children’s Ministry volunteers support each other.

I am currently responsible for a team of Sunday School teachers (and a fantastic team they are!). I have discovered over the last few months that I am often the last person to know if someone is going to be away. And that’s not a bad thing, because they are finding replacements, switching schedules, and stepping in to help each other. I love it! On top of that kind of support, volunteers support each other when life gets hard – praying for each other and offering to help where needed. I am thankful for Children’s Ministry volunteers who support each other.

 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:4

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