Six Tips for Teaching Four Year-Olds

four-asian-glasses-400x400Four year-olds are my favorite age to teach. Here are six things I have learned about 4 year-olds that will help you better communicate with them:

1. Fours don’t understand the flow of time.
As with all preschool ages, they don’t string together, in time order, the Bible stories told from week to week. To them, yesterday was a long time ago. Therefore I prefer to tell simple Bible stories which support age-appropriate themes. The four year old, for the first time, realizes that he is growing and will not always be little. Fours will often come to class every week and announce their age. So themes focusing on growing: growing up knowing God is with me, growing up praying, growing up helping, and so on, are excellent choices.

2. Fours interact more cooperatively with classmates.
Unlike three year olds (who play side by side with others, yet not really together), four year olds are usually ready to play with a friend or classmate. They are learning how to cooperate. They are better able to control themselves than they were at three. However, fours are still quite focused on their own wishes, and they are usually very active and assertive in pursuing their interests. You can take advantage of these changes, encouraging children to include God in their everyday exploits, helping them learn that God is in control of life and that even growing children can choose to honor Him.

3. Fours learn by action and repetition.
Fours are active and learn by hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching and doing. As with younger preschoolers, if fours hear words, rhymes, and songs repeated over and over again, they will repeat these words, rhymes, and songs themselves. So it’s a good idea to utilize a variety of sensory activities and repetition in your lessons. You can model and repeat the important themes of the lessons and guide the children into experiences that enrich their understanding of how to grow up knowing God.

4. Fours are sensitive to music: melody and rhythm.
A preschooler’s short attention span can often be held and strengthened by songs when the child seems oblivious to spoken words. The simple melodies and rhythms repeated in childhood stay in the heart and mind for a lifetime. So when possible present key truths, themes, and verses not only in spoken words, but also in song.

5. Fours are attracted to sensory experiences and action.
The attention span of a four year old may be noticeably longer than it was at three. But fours are exuberant and often have trouble sitting still and focusing on an activity. They are more likely to stick with an activity or story if it’s interesting, active, musical, colorful, tasty, and fun. Occasionally children need someone to draw their attention to these activities. Teachers may find that when they themselves engage in the desired activity and have fun doing it, the children will be drawn in naturally.

6. Fours need supervision and (sometimes) help.
Fours enjoy doing as much as possible for themselves. However, they still need help and/or supervision as they learn. A teacher-child ratio of one teacher for every six to eight four-year-olds is very important for quality care-giving. When recruiting helpers and teachers, remember that grandparents and teenagers are often overlooked, but can be valuable members of a teaching team.

Happy teaching!

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PS- See my Bible Time curriculum for FOURS

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