Like a dandelion . . .

Like a dandelion, the child…

  • is full of potential
  • is carried by the winds that influence his life
  • can be rooted and grounded in the soil of love
  • digs deeply into what nourishes him
  • grows quickly and steadily toward what enlightens him
  • can be tenacious, holding onto life with all he’s got
  • can wither if he’s uprooted, or if the soil does not provide nutrients
  • can be resilient, bouncing back from hardship
  • can grow to spread seeds of himself–his ideas–near and far
  • must bloom to become all he’s meant to be
  • sometimes looks like a weed, but is really a flower


“Children need roots to grow and wings to fly. The dandelion has both.”

© Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Tips for Teaching Three-Year-Olds

teachingthrees2017-3001.  Threes don’t understand the flow of time.
For a three year old, the time from one Sunday to the next seems like an eternity. This age child doesn’t string together, in time order, the Bible stories told from week to week. When you say, “A long time ago, there was a man named Abraham,” the preschool mind interprets it as yesterday. To them, yesterday was a long time ago. So I suggest you tell very simple Bible stories which support a weekly age-appropriate theme. The three year old wrestles with his will versus God’s will (most often in the form of parent or teacher authority), so themes focus on God’s ways: obeying, helping, sharing, and making wise choices.

2.  Threes are self-focused and independent.
Threes are usually somewhat more compliant than twos, and many threes have a desire to please.  However, threes are still quite self-focused. They still assert their independence.  So threes may have a hard time relating with others.

3. Threes learn by doing, imitating, and repeating.
Threes often imitate the significant adults in their lives. If they see parents and caregivers pray and read their Bibles, they will usually imitate them.  If they hear words, rhymes, and songs over and over again, threes often will repeat these words, rhymes, and songs themselves. Threes also learn by touching and doing. So lots of teacher interaction is good. Teachers can model and repeat the important themes of the lessons and guide the children into experiences that enrich their understanding of God’s ways.

4.  Threes 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 key truths, themes, and verses can be presented not only in spoken words, but also in song.

5. Threes are attracted to sensory experiences and action.
Threes will gravitate toward any place where there is something going on that’s interesting, active, musical, colorful, tasty, or fun to touch or hold.  But occasionally they 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, threes will be drawn in naturally.

6. Threes need supervision and help.
Threes need help and/or close supervision as they learn. A teacher-child ratio of one teacher for every five or six three 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.

7.  Threes have a very short attention span.
While some children are more distractible than others, most threes move quickly from one interest to another. They live in the immediate present and will pursue whatever catches their attention. In order to present and guide activities and stories to young children, teachers must catch and hold their attention. Teachers must also be ready to move to a new activity when the children are ready to move on.

Happy Teaching!


PS- See my Bible Time Curriculum for Threes

BT05 Spread Drop_150




Text © Karyn Henley. Photo by DTL courtesy of All rights reserved.

Featured Folder: “God Made My Family”


Young children like stories about things that are familiar to them. They are curious and want to explore and learn more about what they see every day. Their families are a very familiar part of their world. Teach the children that God made families and planned for us to be part of a family. Some children may not have a traditional family with a mother and father at home. You can ask them who is in their family. Be encouraging and positive even though their family situation may not be ideal.

Theme Scripture: “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 (ICB) Before you teach this verse, talk about what it means to serve. It means to obey and help. Ask the children, “What are some things we can do to obey and serve God?”

Unit Goals: By the end of this unit, the child should:
• Know that God gave us our families
• Feel thankful for his family
• Thank God for his family

Bible Stories
• Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel (Genesis 2:18-23; 4:1,2)• The Twins: Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:21, 24-26)
• David Is Anointed (I Samuel 16: 1-13) Focus: God gave Isaac and Rebekah twins in his family.
• The Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25, 57-66) Focus: Zechariah and Elizabeth were old, but they were still part of a family.

Art Activities:
-Cup Family
Cookie Cutter Print
-Family Portrait
-Shoe Print

Science Activities:
-Big Shoes, Little Shoes
-Animal families
-Family Mystery Bag

-Gingerbread Family
-Pizza Faces
-Grandma’s Biscuits
-Family Cookies

Music & Movement:
-I Have a Little Car
-Going to Grandma’s
-God is with Me

-Riding Along
-Packing My Bag
-Chair Train

This folder is designed to give you the ideas you need to teach a unit about family. Mix and match the activities you want with the stories suggested, and enjoy!

BUY THE DOWNLOAD FOR “God Made My Family” $2.99
(sold as downloads only, print not available) Your purchase includes permission to reproduce the pages for ministry purposes at a single location, not for distribution to non-purchasers.

LEARN MORE about the Bible Learning Series

DOWNLOAD the Scope and Sequence for the whole series

Take A.I.M.

TargetMy next door neighbors were having some repair work done on their porch, so I was hearing hammering and sawing.  I looked out my kitchen window to see the neighbors’ two year old grandson watching the repairman intently. Of course, he didn’t watch long before he began asking the repairman questions. Then he picked up some “tools” of his own and began his own pretend work.

Missed opportunities…
That reminded me of just how much children want to “do.” They want to be in the thick of the action, use the tools, spray the water, dig the holes, wash the car, cook the breakfast. It takes time and patience on the part of adults to let children participate in our daily tasks. And the finished product is not as clean or neat or exact as most adults want. Nor does it happen as fast as we want. So adults often brush children aside, pointing out that the child doesn’t know how, or is not strong enough, or can’t do it fast enough, or will be too messy. One mother told me that when her daughter was a preschooler, the little girl kept bugging Mom to let her cook. Mom shooed her daughter out, saying she was too young. Now her daughter is thirteen, and Mom wants help in the kitchen, but the daughter wants nothing to do with the kitchen. The investment of time spent with a preschooler on tasks he finds fascinating will pay off later.

The “I Want to do it” factor…
As I watched my neighbor’s grandson “help” the repairman, I also thought about kids in the classroom. They don’t leave their “I-want-to-do-it” at the door when they walk in. They want to work with their hands, use their five senses, think with their brains. In short, they want to be engaged – and not simply by watching a DVD the whole time. That’s easier for the teacher, of course, who doesn’t have to engage the children. The DVD does that. But there’s no relationship built that way, and it bypasses the natural inclination of children to be busy and learn by doing.

Now, I’ve created some DVD’s that are very popular with young children. So I’m not against using DVD’s. But use them as only a portion of what you do in class. If you look at my curriculum, you’ll see that it’s primarily built around being active – doing – using all five senses – thinking and talking about issues relevant to the kids’ age. As I’ve said many times before, take AIM.  Be:


That goes for whatever age you teach.  Even teens and adults like to get hands-on and engage their brains!

So . . . Happy teaching!


Talking Requires Listening

Girl-on-bars-250It almost goes without saying that we discover the unique personality traits of our children by watching and listening to them, but sometimes we forget this in the classroom – for any of a variety of reasons. Sometimes we’re just tired. Or pressed for time. Or so intent on getting our point across that we lose the connection with the kids and end up simply talking to them instead of talking with them. There’s a big difference. Talking with kids implies listening.

I often write about “the significant adult,” the person(s) who is able to “speak into” the child’s life, to affect the child’s values. A significant adult spends time with the child, plays (and works at chores) with the child, and listens when the child has something to say. I believe one of the teacher’s jobs is to guide the conversation toward the theme of the day by asking questions that engage children and get them to talk, to bat around their own ideas and thoughts about the theme.

Open-ended questions . . .
Questions in general allow you to see how well you’ve communicated your point. You can tell if kids are “getting it.” These questions tend to be closed, with answers that are yes or no, right or wrong. Closed questions = I have the answers and I want to see if you can answer correctly.  While these have their place, open-ended questions are even more important. Open-ended questions = I want to know what you think about this; I want you to think it through; tell me why God might have said this or how this theme might playear out in real life.

It’s much easier to simply ask, “Who was out in the field watching sheep when Jesus was born?” The answer tells you whether the child has understood the facts of the story. But that’s a closed question. To engage in discussion and build relationship, ponder with the child. “How would you have felt if you had seen the angels?  They said, ‘Peace on earth.’  What is peace?” Of course, depending on the age of the child, the discussion takes off from there, and you place yourself in the position of considering these open-ended questions along with the child. (To see examples of this, look at discussion sections in the activities of any age level of my curricula.)

Discovering valuable information . . .
Open-ended questions not only let kids think and express their ideas (some kids need to talk to think), but also allow you to hear who these kids are. You show goldnuggetinterest in their ideas, their feelings, their way of seeing things. Writer Tammy Cravit uses open-ended questions in interviews. She says, “You never know what valuable nuggets of information your sources will volunteer.”

It’s the same with teachers who ask open-ended questions. The teacher often ends up richer for having listened to the valuable things kids have to say. Not to mention getting to know and enjoy their unique personalities as you build togetherness, a common sense of wonder, and a valuable, significant relationship.

Happy teaching!


Are You Teaching the Children, or the Material?

Child:Teacher:trainLife really is all about relationships, and our primary responsibility with children is to give them the skills they need to establish and maintain healthy relationships with God and people, growing “in favor with God and man.” But in order to give those skills, we must live those skills. Which means that those of us in the classroom must place a high priority on building relationships with the children we serve. I have often asked teachers, “Do you go into the classroom to teach the material or to teach the children?” There’s a big difference.  Sometimes in our efforts to cover the material, we neglect the children.

What is “age-appropriate”?
My hope is that the curricula I write will encourage teachers to build a positive relationship with children. To help teachers do this, I try to write material that is age-appropriate. For example, I know that preschoolers don’t understand the flow of time, so I don’t present the Bible stories in order. Preschoolers are very interested in preschool concepts – mommy and daddy, pets, colors, nature, food, houses and rooms, transportation. So I take preschoolers through Bible stories by using themes to drive the train.

When children start into first and second grade, they better understand “first this happened, then that.” Sequence. Time order. Chronology. So I go through the Bible stories in order.  There are still themes that relate to daily life, but the story or scripture drives the train. With older children, I do a mixture of both. I’m convinced that they need an in-depth study of Jesus’ life, the most important chronological component for upper elementary grades. But they also need thematic studies – on prayer, worship, other religions, and apologetics (why believe in Jesus).

But other factors make a curriculum age-appropriate, and those factors bring us back to relationship:

1) age-appropriate activities, and
2) the conversation or discussion that goes along with the activities.

I wrote in my last letter that I hope after teaching each quarter of my curriculum, a teacher will be better trained to teach again. That’s because as a teacher does the activities with the children and engages in the discussion included in the activities, she or he learns how to relate to children at that age level, how to talk with children, how to listen to children, and how to enjoy the company of children.

We’ll discuss talking with children in the next newsletter.  ‘Til then:  Have a happy Summer!


3 Values Behind My Curricula

apple dictionaryI began teaching Sunday school when I was fourteen, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the classroom.  I was raised studying the Bible and continue to read it and ponder God’s teachings, and because of my classroom experience, I’ve always tried to think of how to explain God’s teachings to different age levels.  In college, I took education courses, including curriculum, and graduated with a degree in elementary education and a certificate in early childhood.  Not too long after that, I was recruited to write Sunday school curriculum by a professor at the University of Hawaii.  He was the one who really taught me how to write curriculum, although what we worked on together never saw the light of day.

1. Age-appropriate
Because I was actively teaching, I wrote for myself.  I knew what I wanted for the children:  something that would engage them, relate to their world (age-appropriate), and enrich their spirits with solid biblical teaching that could carry them into their own growing relationship with God. I also knew what I wanted for myself as a teacher:  a curriculum that would be clear, flexible, fun to teach, and re-usable. In other words, once I’ve taught through a curriculum, I have all the materials and the practice to use it again the next year with a different group of kids. I know I’ll do a better job next time. The first year is the hardest, because the teacher is learning how to teach it. But after that, working with the curriculum should be easier.

2. Economical
For this reason all my curricula are non-dated. In other words, teachers can use them for as many years as they wish and not have to purchase something new every year.  This is economical. I’ve used curricula from different companies over the years, and I hate to see a church spend big bucks purchasing lots of fancy material, much of which is left on the shelves, “old” after a year or so only because the curriculum company has come out with their new line of products. I know they have to do this to make money, but as a teacher, I’m interested in being economical. I recommend one teacher guide (about $15) per teacher per quarter–no materials kits to purchase. All take-home pages are included in the guide for photocopying. There are, of course, materials recommended for most activities, but these are items like paper, glue, cotton balls, etc., readily available at discount stores.

3. Teacher-friendly
I also write my curricula with the new teacher in mind. I hope that after teaching each quarter of my curriculum, a teacher will be better trained to teach again.

Meanwhile, happy teaching!