Let’s look at some basics about toddlers and two year-olds (18 months to 2 1/2):
• Toddler-Twos don’t understand the flow of time.
For a toddler-two, 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, that was a long time ago. So it is not a priority to tell the Bible stories in biblical order. In my curriculum I like to incorporate very simple Bible stories which support age-appropriate themes, like God’s love, God’s care, and the toddler-two’s response of thankfulness.
• Toddler-Twos are self-focused and independent.
At the beginning of the toddler-two stage, children are still very self-focused. They are becoming aware that they are individuals in their own right, separate and apart from parents and caregivers. So they assert their independence. However, at about age 2 1/2, preschoolers begin “perspective taking.” That means they begin to realize that others have rights, feelings, opinions, and possessions. The self-focus is still there, but a sensitivity to others begins.
• Toddler-Twos learn by imitation and repetition.
Toddler-twos 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, toddler-twos will begin repeating these words, rhymes, and songs themselves. Toddler-twos also learn by touching and doing. So I like curriculum that relies heavily on teacher interaction with the children. Teachers model and repeat the important themes of the lessons and guide the children into experiences that enrich their understanding of God’s creativity, love, and care.
• Toddler-Twos 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 in your classroom can be presented not only in spoken words, but also in song.
• Toddler-Twos are attracted to sensory experiences and action.
Toddler-twos 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 must sometimes bring activities to toddler-twos. At other times, teachers will have to help toddler-twos go to where the activities are.
• Toddler-Twos need supervision and help.
Toddler-twos need help and/or close supervision as they learn. A teacher-child ratio of one teacher for every six toddler-twos 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.
• Toddler-Twos have a very short attention span.
While some children are more distractable than others, most toddler-twos 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. So choose a curriculum with many activity choices which can expand and contract to fit children’s needs.
God does equip you for everything good!
PS- Here is my Bible Time curriculum for TODDLERS and TWOS:
Text © Karyn Henley. Photo: lightfoot at morguefile.com. Used by permission.
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