Ages and Stages: Pre-School Sponges—

“. . . but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’” (Matt. 19:14).

To a seasoned teacher or a new volunteer joining your team, preschoolers can be terrifying because of their energy or they can be an exciting opportunity to share about Jesus and watch them soak up the gospel, just like a sponge.

Before teaching this age group, it’s really best to find out what to expect. Whichever curriculum you choose should have information specific to the preschool age. It is helpful to know how they learn, what to expect, and the needs of this age as learners. This will also help guide your prayers for each child in their physical, emotional, and spiritual readiness. Ask the Father to help meet each child where they are and challenge them to know and understand the concepts and themes of the unit of study.

Environment and safety are very important to preschoolers and their parents. Creating an atmosphere and space that they know is their classroom can be inviting and helpful. It is connecting them to the place where their covenant family meets to learn about Jesus. Making “centers” or activity spaces in your classroom can help children to connect and belong with each other and with their teachers.

Transitions are essential to this age group. Preschoolers are just beginning to learn about a classroom’s structure. Following a schedule is beneficial for children to feel safe because it helps them know what to expect.

Welcome children into the classroom, help them see what is coming and remind them what to expect. They will feel confident to be a part of the class. Be prepared and ready. Coloring sheets or activities should be on the tables, building blocks or an animal puzzle out for free play time, and music ready to play when needed. Have a Bible and visual aids in the story circle, crafts and take-home papers ready to hand parents at pick-up. Once everything is in place, you can then think about introducing the day’s story topic.

One of my favorite things to hear is when a preschooler says, “I’ve heard this story before!” Whether they know the basics or not, we have the opportunity to teach them great truths, help them understand new concepts to add depth and meaning to the story. As you are teaching the lesson, allow them to repeat the story and the main concepts or teaching points. Preschoolers are sponges—just soaking up information. We can help them line up the truth of a Bible story and learn what Jesus has done and is doing and where they fit into this big story.

Repetition and consistency are important to discipling preschool-aged children. Always read to them from God’s Word, show that the story comes from the Bible, repeat that it is true, remind them that God gave it to us for building and creating His family of which they are a part. Preschoolers also need connections. Show them how all the truths from God’s Word are about Jesus.

When it’s time to prepare for class to dismiss, keep in mind the “send-off” with the preschool age. Remember that teaching preschoolers is also an opportunity to serve, support, and partner with their parents. Dismissal can be a time to encourage the child’s participation that morning and to appreciate the parents’ efforts. Take-home papers are also a great way for parents to connect the lesson at home during the week. There are many ways to encourage both parents and children to use these resources. Remind the children of the focus of the lesson as they bounce off with their parents. Encourage them to remember what they learned.

Jesus welcomed children. He made them and loves them. They can grow and understand that message. And we have the privilege to teach them and help them thrive in the classroom with their church family.

Preschoolers are little sponges, soaking up the truth of Jesus’s love, grace, and forgiveness as we encourage little hearts to respond with faith, trust, and obedience when life is challenging and may “squeeze” them.

Betsy Palm’s  heart for children stems from Psalm 74:8  “…tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” Her ministry is Family Care Coordinator at Valley Presbyterian Church in Madison, AL.  Betsy and Kevin, her husband of 40 years, have three married daughters and two adorable grandsons:  Hank and James.