Preschoolers are ready for anything! Classrooms for young children are busy places of colors, words, dramas, simple memorization, and budding social skills. As children learn truths about God and His story, they discover what living as a child of God looks like—mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Preschool teachers engage children with enthusiasm, but can easily grow weary seeking to keep the classroom culture in line with the principles the children are learning. Setting standards of social interactions and attitudes is just as valuable as what they teach the children. The tips and reminders below are simple ways to invest in building a Kingdom-centered classroom culture for your preschoolers.
Expect and train for quick, complete, cheerful obedience. Establish and reinforce the truth that obeying parents and teachers is part of learning to obey God.
Every child who enters your classroom has learned a standard of obedience and behavior in his or her home. Those various standards should not dictate what takes place in your classroom! Be prepared for “teachable moments” that help you establish your standards. You cannot control the home environments of the children, nor can you completely re-parent them during 1-2 hour weekly sessions. But when the children are with you, you can (and must!) establish solid expectations for church behavior so they learn to obey you the first time.
One of my teachers, Bree, consistently set high expectations and reinforced this standard with kindness and excitement. Each time she taught, she reminded the kids during the first circle time, “Here at church, we obey teachers the first time quickly. Obedience pleases God. Obeying teachers and parents is how we practice obeying God.” Bree called the preschoolers to a high standard. Though it took consistent reminders during the hour, the children adapted their actions to the standard.
Capitalize on Teachable Moments regarding “feelings” and emotions. Encourage children to go to Jesus for comfort when they are sad.
Much of a preschooler’s world centers on forming social skills, building a sense of self, and navigating emotions. Young children change dramatically when they face disappointment, classroom conflict, or sadness about leaving Mom or Dad. One second a child is playing happily and in a blink he or she is sobbing uncontrollably. Finding constructive ways to help children express their feelings is essential for a peaceful Sunday morning.
Jack was a passionate preschooler with a firecracker personality. One morning, Alyssa, the new teacher, watched Jack mutate from “happy-go-lucky” to “miserable mess” right beside the new slide. After crying for several minutes, Alyssa finally learned that Jack was simply disappointed that he didn’t get to go next on the slide. Throughout the morning, Alyssa worked with Jack’s emotional ups and downs. The preschooler tried to move past his strong emotion, but he was stuck.
Our preschool staff often used the term “Happy Hearts” with children. When someone was upset (and no other remedy seemed to work), we told the child that only Jesus could comfort and give him or her a “Happy Heart.” People couldn’t fix it, things couldn’t fix it, and the sad child couldn’t fix it. Only Jesus could actually change a heart from sad to peaceful.
Alyssa calmly asked, “Jack…do you need to spend some time with Jesus? He can help when you are sad. Only Jesus can help you have a happy heart.” Jack sniffled, but nodded in agreement. He walked to a safe, private spot in the classroom. The bustle around him didn’t prevent him from pulling away and spending some time with Jesus. Five minutes later, the tears were gone. Jack re-engaged with the group and joined in. After finding comfort in Jesus, Jack was able to move forward emotionally with a “happy heart.”
Develop a sense of “wonder and awe” by highlighting ways the Lord has been involved in everyday situations.
Each week you see God show up in small and miraculous ways in your own life. God may have comforted you, provided financially, given you wisdom, helped you resolve a conflict, or encouraged you through His Word. Seeing God perform these wonderful “minor miracles” is a skill that your preschoolers can also develop. Authentic testimonies about your week can create wonder and awe about the Lord. Heart-felt, relational stories impact young children, helping them discover what God is like and what He can do.
As part of a lesson one Sunday morning, I shared with the children about God’s provision for an upcoming missions trip. Raising support had typically been a challenge and a journey of faith for me, and the Lord had just provided in a very obvious way. After I told the class what God had done, several little hands shot up. The preschoolers wanted to tell what God had done for their family. A round of testimonies followed—simple, silly, and heartfelt—from precious 3 & 4-year-olds. Though I often needed to redirect their stories to the topic, the children were eager to share real stories from their own families.
Expect your children to participate in classroom setup and cleanup.
Most preschoolers love to be involved. Training them to help with activities such as cleaning up, preparing the snack, and assisting with crafts takes tons of time. But the investment is well worth it! Involving them in basic activities establishes a culture of service and teamwork. Try not to slip into the mode where you are serving the children and not giving them opportunities to help. Don’t miss an opportunity to include them in the team dynamic. Celebrate each child’s role and praise them liberally as they help with each task.
As this culture of serving one another becomes ingrained into the weekly flow, your youngsters will begin to do it automatically. This cuts down on the work, saves a teacher from doing everything, and builds a healthy “family” dynamic that is easy to invite new preschoolers into.
Your church has the wonderful privilege of supporting children and families who are learning to live as “new creations.” Our model for behavior is Jesus—not the world. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Discipleship Begins With Our Children
Children need meaningful, shared-life relationships. That’s the heart of discipleship. DiscipleLand’s family of Biblical resources forms a complete Children’s Discipleship System™ – an intentional, relational, and transformational process designed to help children know God intimately, love Him passionately, and to serve Him selflessly. Click here for your Free Catalog
Learn more by clicking on the following: