Checklist: Characteristics of Children at Different Ages

Infants

• are self-centered.
• depend on others to care for them.
• learn through their senses. They respond well to music.
• focus on the present.
• do not make conscious choices between right and wrong.
• are sensitive to tone of voice.
• enjoy holding and chewing on their toys.
• may want to be with mom and/or dad.
• may be happy being held by someone else.
• may want someone to hold them and walk them around.
• sense what is going on around them. Let them feel the atmosphere of love, joy, and peace, so they will know they are in a safe, loving place.
• can learn about God. Introduce infants to God by saying: “God made (whatever they are eating, touching).” “God takes care of you” (when you are taking care of them).” “God loves you (when you are rocking or snuggling with them).”

Two and Three Year-Olds

• are wanting to be more independent.
• may have strong wills.
• have short attention spans. They may sit still for only a few minutes. • want to know that mom and/or dad are nearby.
• are still self-centered and self-focused.
• learn by touching and doing.
• play beside but not cooperatively with other children.
• need to know what the rules are.
• need patient, consistent training from adults.
• need to be able to do some things for themselves.
• get fantasy and reality mixed up.
• do not understand the flow of time.
• do not understand symbolism or figures of speech.
• imitate the faith of significant adults around them.
• will wiggle. Be prepared to let them wiggle.
• want to help. Try to find ways that they can help. Let them play a rhythm instrument when you sing or hold a sturdy Bible while you tell them a Bible story.
• have short attention spans. Lead them in and out of activities as their attention ebbs and flows. • need toys to play with. For toddlers, have plenty of age-appropriate toys available.

Four and Five Year-Olds

• enjoy exploring and discovering.
• are usually very active.
• ask many, many questions.
• learn by touching and doing.
• still have short attention spans, although it’s getting longer.
• need to know what the rules are.
• are beginning to be more self-controlled because their conscience is now developing.
• are beginning to be aware that they make mistakes.
• get fantasy and reality mixed up.
• do not understand the flow of time.
• do not understand symbolism and figures of speech.
• imitate the faith of the significant adults around them.
• realize that they are growing and getting older.
• now play with and not just beside other children.
• want to help and like to surprise people with their good deeds.
• need to be actively involved.
• will need help understanding symbolic concepts and language. Explain them in simple ways, relating it to something they know.
• want to lead. For example, let them choose and lead songs or games.
• enjoy activities which involve touching and doing. Choose activities that fit their abilities. • enjoy their curiosity.
• like to hear how proud you are that they are getting so big and growing up.
• want to have their efforts acknowledged and hear compliments.
• want to be listened to.
• enjoy holding a songbook or Bible designed for preschoolers.
• need patient understanding.
• need to hear that Bible stories really happened.
• want to help. Provide opportunities for them to help.
• still need help. Find ways of helping them without making them feel incapable.

Ages 6 through 10

• want to be busy doing productive things.
• enjoy projects.
• like to show their skills and abilities.
• want to feel like a valued member of a group.
• want to hear adults’ testimonies about how God is working in their lives.
• want to tell about what God is doing in their own lives.
• sit still longer but may still wiggle.
• learn best by touching and doing and seeing visual aids.
• easily feel inferior if they are put down or if they feel incapable.
• are seeing their need for a Savior.
• can be very sensitive to spiritual issues.
• want to see how God is real and how he relates to everyday life.
• have a growing understanding of symbolism.
• understand the flow of time.
• are concerned about what’s fair and just.
• are more consistent about discerning right from wrong.
• memorize more easily.
• want to be treated as full-fledged members of a group.
• like to be asked about their schools, sports, and other interests. Listen with interest.
• should be allowed to take an active part in group discussions, activities, preparations, and cleanup.
• can be included in service projects. Try to utilize their skills and abilities.
• like to help younger children. If your class includes children of different ages, ask the older children to help with the younger ones.
• need to be encouraged to pursue their own relationship with the Lord through Bible reading and prayer.
• need help applying the spiritual lessons to their daily lives.
• want to be complimented on their efforts.

-adapted from Child-Sensitive Teaching Training Guide.
© Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.
Illustration by Joe Stites