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.

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

How to Put Together Ready-to-go Emergency Lessons

childrens-ministry-emergency-lessonAn emergency lesson is one that prepped and ready to go for situations where a substitute is required and has no time to prepare a lesson. The sub should be able to open the envelope or small container and easily follow the lesson inside.

So, emergency lesson kits should be simple, require no preparation, include no complicated activities, and need little supplies or equipment.

These kits should fit into an envelope or small container with everything ready (unless items needed are kept in the classroom the lesson will be used in – pencils, markers, etc)

Put together one lesson kit for preschool kids and one for elementary kids.

Putting Together a Lesson for a Preschool Emergency Kit

The lesson should include a Bible story, song, game/activity/craft, and coloring sheet.

1. Choose a key theme and write it in a simple sentence. For example, God made everything.

2. Choose a Bible story and write it out or even better provide a Bible story book. With a Bible story book the volunteer simply reads the story and the visuals are included. For example, tell the story of creation from Genesis chapter one.

3. Choose a simple song that the volunteer can sing acapella that reinforces the theme. Pick a song that has music familiar to the volunteer. For example, change the lyrics to “God is So Good” to

God made the day.
God made the day.
God made the day.
And He said it was good.

It’s easy to add verses changing what God made (God made the night; God made the stars, etc).

4. Choose a simple activity/game/craft that reinforces the theme. For example, set out play dough – encourage the kids to make trees, animals, whales, etc.

“You’re making a horse. God made the horses. God made everything.”

5. Choose a coloring picture and photocopy enough for an average size class.

6. Gather all the supplies that will be needed. Consider what will definitely be available to the substitute volunteer in the classroom. For example, if crayons and play dough will be in the classroom, then you don’t need to include them in this kit. You will want to include a short introductory letter stating what is expected of the volunteer and what they will find in the kit (include the key theme in this note and where to find any items they will need that are stored in the classroom), clearly print out the song to sing with the tune used, if you are printing out the Bible story, format it so that it is very easy to read – big font and space between paragraphs, photocopy enough coloring pages. If identification is required in your program, include a blank nametag that the volunteer can fill out.

Putting Together a Lesson for an Elementary Emergency Kit

Each lesson should include a Bible story, game/activity/craft, and/or activity sheet.

Since the teacher will not have time to prepare the lesson, you want to give them a lesson that is Biblical and meaningful yet easy to present. I would recommend choosing a Bible story that the class can act out.

Example – Jesus Wants Us to Trust Him

Key Theme – Jesus Wants Us to Trust Him.

Hook – Ask a volunteer to come to the front. Stand behind the volunteer and ask if they trust you. Say, “I want you to trust me and fall backwards. I will catch you.” After the demonstration talk with the group about whether the volunteer demonstrated trust in you or not. Say, “Today we are going to be talking about trust. Trust is confidence in something that is true or belief in someone. Jesus wants us to trust Him.

Bible Study – Split the class into two groups. Each group is going to read a different passage of Scripture and present a skit to the other group. Give each group a passage of Scripture (Mark 2:1-12 or Mark 4:35-41) to study and 15-20 minutes to come up with a skit. Tell the kids that the skits should emphasize how the people in the story showed they trusted Jesus or showed they didn’t trust Jesus. Each group will present their skit.

Discussion – Jesus wants us to trust Him. Why is He worthy of our trust? (because He loves us; knows everything about us) What does trusting Jesus look like? (obeying Jesus even when it’s hard; choosing to do what is right; doing the right thing even when we are scared).

Application – Is it hard to trust Jesus? Can you think of a time when you didn’t trust Jesus? What are some ways you can trust Jesus this week? Pray with the kids encouraging them to ask God to give them an opportunity this week to show that they trust Jesus.

Activity/Game/Craft – provide copies of an activity sheet related to the memory verse. A maze or code is always fun.

Memory Verse – Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:4

Gather all the supplies necessary for this lesson. If the classroom doesn’t have a prop box, include a few props to make the skits more engaging for the students. Include the instruction sheet for the volunteer (a thank you note, the key theme, lesson outline, where to find any items stored in the classroom), index cards with one Bible passage reference written on each one, photocopies of the memory verse activity sheet.

2 Important Last Steps

1. Once you have a complete lesson in an envelope or small container, label it clearly and store it in an easy-to–access place. Find a spot to store your emergency lessons that is easy to remember for your volunteers and easy to get at when needed.

2. Let everyone know what it is and where it is. This includes your team of volunteers, all substitutes, and the pastor.

Does Curriculum Lose its Value When It Becomes Dated?

childrens-ministry-dated-curriculum

I have found a curriculum book among my resources from 1993. It has 52 lessons for kids ages 6-9 on the life of Jesus but it’s 22 years old!

Finding this curriculum book got me thinking. Does curriculum lose its value when it becomes dated?

As I previewed this particular curriculum I found a well-thought out year of lessons focused on the life of Jesus. The curriculum was designed with three aims for each unit (knowledge, attitude, and action) and goals for each lesson that helps the kids reach the unit aims. The lessons build on the previous ones guiding children toward the unit aims. The lessons were Bible-focused and all about Jesus. The lessons get kids into their Bibles and the development of Bible skills is built right into the lessons. There was also a great focus on group application.

This curriculum also suggested cassette tapes for music!

In the end, if the curriculum is Bible-based, Jesus-focused, and educationally sound, the rest can be updated or customized.

In the curriculum example that I used, the music was very dated, but the core of the material was solid. Had it lost its value because it was dated? No! I would teach this curriculum. I would add some updated resources (especially music!) but the most important part was exactly what I would want the kids in my Sunday School class to be learning.

So, before you throw out that material because it is a few years old, take a good look at it. Does it focus on Jesus? Does it encourage kids to get into their Bibles every lesson? Is it educationally sound? Does it teach Bible skills? Does it teach theology and Bible study skills? If so, it has not lost its value. The rest can be updated.

 

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