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!

Choosing Curriculum for Toddlers

Young children have a huge capacity to learn! Young children have a sense of wonder and awe about just about anything!

I have taught preschool Sunday School for years. I love watching children learn and explore. I love giving them opportunities to discover new things & I absolutely love telling them about God.

I believe that young children should be given opportunities to learn and grow. I also believe that children have the ability to understand more than we give them credit for sometimes. But I also know that children have limitations.

It’s important to take into consideration the age characteristics of young children when choosing curriculum. Toddlers love routine and repetition. They are literal and concrete thinkers. They have not developed the capacity yet to think abstractly or to understand symbolism. It’s important to choose curriculum that embraces these truths about little ones.

The best curriculum I have ever seen for toddlers is Biblical, focused on teaching kids what God is like, and fun. The story takes about 2 minutes to tell – this shows an understanding of a toddler’s attention span. The story using short sentences and language that makes sense to toddlers; the illustrations are soft and colorful and appropriate. The themes teach big truths about God in ways that toddlers can understand. God is big; God made everything (God made you); God loves you; God is strong. This shows an understanding of toddlers literate and concrete thinking. The lessons are to be repeated 2 or 4 times before you move on to the next one. This shows an understanding of toddlers love of repetition and routine.

I have also come across toddler curriculum that does not take into consideration toddler characteristics. The purpose of this curriculum was also to teach toddlers about who God is – His character and attributes. But this curriculum focused solely on symbolic truths. For example, the main theme of one of the lessons is that God is my light. When a toddler hears, “God is my light,” they will think literally of a light. So, now God is light. They will think sun or flashlight or light bulb.

When looking for curriculum for toddlers (or children of any age) always evaluate it with the age characteristics of the children it will be taught to. Set children up to succeed by choosing curriculum that will challenge them to learn big truths about God in ways that fit their stage in life.