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!

Teaching Tip – Pray as you Prep!

A young woman praying with her hands together on white backgroun

How much of your lesson prep is spent in prayer? Prayer should be a huge part of lesson prep.It is all to easy to get focused on the details of making sure you have all the materials needed and forget to pray that God would continue to transform you and the students in your class.

Ask God to do a work in your own heart.

It is all too easy to Sunday School teachers to fall into the pattern of reading quickly through an all-too-familiar Bible story and not spending time meditating on the truth of God’s Word. All Scripture is useful says 2 Timothy 3:16. When you pray, ask God to show you something new. Ask God to open your mind and your heart to understand His Word. From your learning and growth comes something to teach the kids in your class.

Pray also for your students that God would be preparing them to learn the Bible truth.

Pray for the specific needs of your students throughout the week. As you are preparing for the lesson, pray that your students would ready to hear the lesson. Ask God to put situations and experiences into their week that would prepare them to hear and understand the Bible truth you will teach on Sunday.

Make prayer a significant part of your preparation routine when you teach Sunday School.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7


Teaching Tip – Start Early

When preparing for Sunday (whatever your role), start early.

Sunday or Monday night, read through the lesson material. Whether you are teaching the lesson, leading small group application, or both, read through all of the material. Focus on the Scripture passage the lesson is based on. If you read through the lesson early on, it will be in your mind and you will have the opportunity to think about the truth of the lesson, how kids might apply that truth to their lives, and what activities might best highlight the truth taught.

If you start early, you will also have time to pull together props or teaching aids you may need for the lesson.

Once you have read through the lesson, pray and ask God what He wants you to teach. Pray that the truth of the lesson will penetrate your heart. And pray for the students in your class specifically that the Holy Spirit would be working in their lives and preparing them to hear this truth.

And then continue praying throughout the week for yourself as a teacher or small group leader and for the kids in your class or group.