How_a_Preschooler_Learns_About_God by sgr8ful2god

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									How a Preschooler Learns About God
As five-year old Bert looked intently at the birds in the nature area, Mrs. Brown sat on the floor beside him. “What do you see, Bert?” she asked. “A bird’s nest,” Bert replied. “Bert,” Mrs. Brown asked: “Did you know that the Bible tells us ‘God made the birds’ and takes care of them? God made you and cares for you, too, Bert.” Bert’s eyes sparkled and a smile expressed his delight at the teacher’s comment. Mrs. Brown then said, “Let’s say thank you to God for taking care of us and the birds.” Mrs. Brown understood how to use an activity to communicate biblical truths. She had prepared the learning environment and used Bert’s curiosity to accomplish the Bible teaching aim.

How Does a Preschooler Learn About God?
Implied in the question are at least two ideas, which are not clearly settled in the minds of many persons. The first idea, which is not understood, is that the preschooler does learn. Not everyone is convinced that preschoolers, especially young preschoolers, can learn. Perhaps you have heard statements like the following concerning teaching preschoolers: “All you have to do is feed them, change them, and rock them.” The implication of this attitude is that physical care or “baby-sitting” is all that is required. The second idea, which is not understood by many, is that preschoolers can learn about God. While some will admit that preschoolers do learn, they are not sure what, if anything, the boys and girls can learn about God. God seeks to make Himself known to persons of all ages through whatever means they can become more aware of Him. The preschooler is no exception! He, too, can learn about God.

How a Preschooler Learns
The preschooler, birth through five, does not understand abstract concepts. His learning is limited to the concrete, “here and now” experiences of life. For example, as a teacher feeds a baby, he says: “Jeffrey, God made the milk. Thank You, God, for the milk.” The baby does not understand these words; however, if they are used consistently with the child, the words will take on significance for the child just as the words mama and daddy do. As a child crawls to her teacher, the adult says: “Look at Meiko. Meiko uses her legs to crawl. Thank You, God, for Meiko’s legs.” As a two-year old puts a puzzle piece in the right place, the teacher says: “Nathan used his eyes and hands to put the puzzle together. God planned for Nathan to have eyes and hands.” As four-year old Michelle cleans the home living table, her teacher says: “Thank you, Michelle, for cleaning the table. I think you must help your mommy at home. Thank You, God, for Michelle and her mom and dad.” As the child grows older, he will have increasingly positive feelings about God if he grows up hearing how God planned for him. Thanking God for His involvement in daily experiences will be natural because this is now an integral part of the child’s life. God’s name is associated with positive feelings because it was used to affirm the child in his growth. The preschooler is literal-minded and, therefore, does not understand symbolism. Statements such as, “Jesus lives in your heart” cannot be properly translated by the young child. What he hears is taken at face value. The preschooler who hears “Jesus lives in your heart” usually interprets this to mean that Jesus lives in the physical organ referred to as the heart. A child’s limited thinking gives rise to all types of misunderstandings when he cannot understand the deeper meanings of words. Care should be taken to relate to the preschooler through the means by which he learns best. How can we teach preschoolers? 1

The preschooler learns through relationships. People provide, by far, the most important avenue through which he learns. Through relationships, a preschooler learns about the importance of himself as love is provided or withheld. He learns values as they are modeled. In essence, his whole outlook toward life is influenced by people who are important to him. “I love you and God loves you” is a powerful statement as the teacher demonstrates love in relationships. The physical senses provide the means through which the preschooler learns about the world God made. The child learns by seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, and listening. These physical processes are the preschooler’s way of dealing with the world around him and offer excellent opportunities to relate the world to God. A teacher may say, “Johnny, let’s thank God for the goldfish.” Providing sensory experiences for the preschooler will increase his ability to discover the natural world. “Teacher, tell it again,” the eager three-year old requests. This comment highlights another avenue of learning for preschoolers, that of repetition. Did you ever wonder why a preschooler never seems to tire of the same story or song? It is because he learns from hearing something repeated. The preschooler has little concern for detail. He learns quickly, but not in depth. Repetition gives him the opportunity to build upon previous learning. Familiar sounds and stories seldom seem to lose their appeal to the preschooler. The preschooler learns through play. Play is the work of a child. Through play he is learning about people and things in his world. He learns the “give and take” of relationships and acts out roles in which he imagines himself. For example, the child may pretend to be a police officer, nurse, mother, father, or any number of other persons. Playing is experimenting with ideas through which the preschooler gains personal confidence and an understanding of life. “Me do it,” is a declaration often heard from a preschooler. Participating in hands-on experiences is one way a preschooler learns. Allowing a child to take responsibility for what he is capable of doing enhances his confidence. Through doing, he experiences personal satisfaction and develops independence. The preschooler also learns by doing what others are doing. Imitating is the primary way of learning to talk and to do many other important things. Preschoolers learn from other children, as well as adults. Curiosity leads the preschooler to explore the unknown world around him. Curiosity prompts him to smell, taste, and touches almost any object. Therefore, a variety of materials stimulates the curiosity of the preschooler and enhances his sensitivity to the world around him. Receiving satisfaction from an activity or relationship teaches the child to have positive feelings. Adapting activities to the ability of the child will ensure that only a minimum of frustration will be involved, thus helping the child discover that he can do many satisfying things.

Approaches to Learning
Every preschooler is unique and also develops various approaches to learning. Preschoolers of all ages approach learning in one or more of the following ways: Relational – These preschoolers make friends easily and may be very good talkers. Relational children recognize how people feel and they are able to respond accordingly. They are drawn to activities that allow them to cooperate and interact with others. Musical – Some preschoolers from birth seem more sensitive to rhythm and pitch than others. Movement and singing are their natural responses to music. They express themselves through making up songs and performing for others. 2

Logical – Enjoying games and puzzles is how logical preschoolers approach learning. They quickly understand concepts such as “less than” and “same as” and will want step-by-step explanations with details. Natural – Investigation, exploration, and taking care of God’s world is important to these children. They may relate well to stories in the Bible that allude to elements in nature. Physical – These preschoolers use their entire bodies to learn. They are very active and often have good coordination. They may be inclined to learn through mission projects or other helping activities. Reflective – Preschoolers who have this approach to learning often work alone and choose activities that allow self-expression. They are comfortable with extended periods of solitude and may internalize concepts by personalizing them. Visual – Visual learners “see” in their imaginations as well as in the concrete world. Interacting with teaching pictures is a preferred experience for these preschoolers. Verbal – Verbal learners like the sounds of words and may have large vocabularies. These preschoolers like to talk, play word games, and listen to stories and poems. Provide a variety of approaches to learning to the same Bible truth during a session. In this way, you will be guiding preschoolers to learn in the way God created them to learn

The Bible and Preschoolers
Obviously, the preschooler is an active learner. For this reason, appropriate activities must be used to teach the Bible to preschoolers in an effective way. Carefully choose curriculum that reflects biblically based educationally sound approaches to teaching preschoolers. Another consideration in teaching the Bible to preschoolers is teaching on the child’s level of understanding. Communicating to a preschooler that God loves him is not nearly so detailed as explaining the implications of that love to an adult group in Sunday school. Biblical ideas must be reduced to the most elementary level in order to communicate on the preschooler’s level. Biblical truths must be communicated to a preschooler without doing an injustice to the biblical truths – a difficult balance. The following nine general concept areas are suggested for teaching the Bible to preschoolers. God – We want preschoolers to have positive feelings about people and things associated with God. We want them to associate the created world with God. Jesus – We want preschoolers to sense that Jesus was born, grew, belonged to a family, and was a very special person. Bible – We want to help preschoolers think of the Bible as a special book which tells about God and Jesus. God's Creation – Our aim is to teach the preschooler that God made everything in the world and that it is good and beautiful. Saying, "Thank you, God" is an appropriate response. Church – We want preschoolers to have good experiences at church and to have positive feelings about church.

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Self – The biblical view of the importance of oneself should be communicated to preschoolers. Personal relationships, environment, and Bible-related activities can enhance the child’s appreciation of himself as a person of worth. Family – We desire to help preschoolers become more aware that God planned for families and to learn some ways in which families are special to them. Community – Preschool teachers try to help preschoolers become more aware that the people around them are important to God. With proper guidance, the preschooler should begin to act and respond to others in appropriate ways. World – People throughout the world are important to God. Preschoolers can learn about people in other countries and learn that God wants all people to know about Him and Jesus. Because of developmental differences in preschoolers, the content of the biblical areas mentioned above is adapted to meet the needs of the child. For example, a toddler and a five-year-old do not have the same level of understanding, and accommodations must be made for these differences.

The Importance of the Preschool Years
How important is the task of teaching preschoolers about God? Should we make deliberate efforts to teach the boys and girls basic facts and attitudes about God? Consider the following information about the importance of the preschool years, and draw your own conclusions about the correct answers to these questions. A preschooler is just beginning his life. A beginning usually determines the health or strength of the final product. Is the beginning stage of a house, a flower, or a tree important to the total outcome? Preschoolers are no different – early impressions influence their total lives. Is it not reasonable to believe the early impressions about God and things related to God are important? Intellectually, the preschool years are highly productive. The preschooler enters the world aware of little other than his own needs, but he leaves the preschool period able to walk, talk, enjoy the world around him, and engage in satisfying, self-directed activities. There is no other comparable span of life in which a person learns so much so fast. Why not use this intellectually fruitful time to introduce the child to some attitudes and concepts related to God? The preschool years are also important in relation to character formation and personality development. Patterns of thinking and acting, good and bad are set which affect later life. The preschool years are important in the development of qualities which lead to a happy and responsible life. Obviously, from all that is stated above, the preschool years provide the time to lay foundations for the child’s spiritual development. Our goal should be to prepare the child for a later personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior. We assist the child in building little by little upon previous knowledge and understanding, laying a good foundation for a life of commitment and service to the Lord. When the Lord is ready, He will call the person to Himself, using the foundations of attitudes and knowledge which parents and teachers have helped lay.

Implications
What does it mean to parents and teachers that the preschooler learns about God? Parents must model good relationships. The preschooler must be accepted and sense this acceptance from his parents and teachers. He must have consistent, loving guidance. He must feel that he is loved no matter what he does. 4

Parents should also attempt to relate positive spiritual attitudes to the child in the home. The Bible, church, Jesus, God, and prayer take on importance to the child as parents live and demonstrate the importance of these elements in their lives. Teachers of preschoolers at church must understand their vital role in helping families. They can serve as resource persons to acquaint parents with helpful materials concerning the development of the child. Teachers should have a growing knowledge of how the preschooler learns and develops. This knowledge will enable the teacher to use appropriate biblical concepts with the child at church. Teachers must plan consistently to meet the needs of preschoolers. Last-minute preparation will not produce consistently good learning experiences for preschoolers. Much attention must be given to deliberate planning in order to reach our Bible teaching aims with preschoolers. Churches need to provide adequate space and equipment for a good learning environment for preschoolers. While the teacher is the key to learning, a good teacher can do more with adequate space and equipment that he can without it. Training opportunities need to be sponsored and promoted for all preschool workers. Churches can have clinics or participate in those offered on an associational or state level.

Conclusion
Yes, preschoolers do learn about God. The important question is: How will you help them learn about God?

Written by Cos Davies, Ed.D., Franklin, TN Updated by Janet Ivey, 9/02 Reference: Teaching Preschoolers: First Steps Towards Faith, Thomas Sanders and Mary Ann Bradberry

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