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Growing Season


PRESCHOOLERS: At Their Level
When one of my children was 4 years old, I found her searching her bedroom--in the closet, under the bed.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

She drew her hand to her hip and replied, "You said God was everywhere and I can't find him anywhere."

Unlike their younger counterparts, preschool children are able to understand something exists, even if they can't see it. That's a huge developmental step in spiritual growth and understanding God's existence. At the same time, preschoolers are also literal in their thinking. If you tell a preschooler "Jesus is in your heart," he's likely to ask, "How does he fit in there?"

With all the work and effort that goes into teaching preschoolers about Jesus, ever wonder, "Do they really get it?" You bet they do. Preschoolers have many spiritual capabilities and emerging skills. Consider that they can:

• Express love for Jesus and others
• Exhibit an intense wonder about God's world and everything in it
• Understand and often retell Bible events
• Memorize and understand simple Bible verses
• Pray to God
• Differentiate between right and wrong
• Understand the consequences of behavior
• Try to please adults
• Have compassion for others
• Ask many questions

You might be thinking, "If preschoolers can do all that, then couldn't they just be quiet and sit still for a few minutes so I can teach them more?" Well, preschoolers learn on the go. With the best intentions, teachers have a tendency to focus on teaching--which is what we do--rather than on learning--which is what children do. Knowing how preschoolers learn will let you share God's love and biblical truths in a way they can understand.

Keep preschoolers moving through active, hands-on learning. Play games, sing songs, create hand motions for Bible time, use choral responses, and allow lots of time for child-choice to explore their environment.

Show God's love through your actions. Preschoolers learn by imitating us. I once heard a preschooler say, "If Jesus loves us so much, why are some of his teachers so mean?" For a child, an adult without a smile or one too busy to answer questions can signal mean.

Make every child feel special. Greet children with excitement. Spend time having conversations with each child. Praise preschoolers for successes and efforts.

Love what you do! What could be more important than telling and showing children about Jesus in a way they can understand? Many preschoolers may be too young to become followers of Jesus, but they can learn about his unfailing love for them. Kids come to church with trust, open hearts, and the kind of attitude needed to approach God. Are you willing to let the children come as they are, often noisy and active? Just bring a big heart, lots of patience, and a smile that doesn't quit!

Gigi Schweikert has published seven books on parenting, child development, and children's ministry. She directed the United Nations Early Childhood Program in New York City and developed and managed the Johnson & Johnson System of Family Centers. Gigi has also hosted a cable television show, "Today's Family."
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