“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”—Proverbs 22:6
Young children are especially attentive to what we teach, not just with our words, but also with our lives. Most of a child’s character is developed before he is five years old.
The Bible tells of families who only had a short time to influence their children, but who did so very successfully. Even with limited time, these parents helped their children develop godly character early in life.
Moses was hidden from soldiers, found by Pharoah’s daughter, cared for by his own mother, weaned, and then taken to be raised in the palace of an ungodly, heathen king. Still, he grasped several important truths:
- He knew who God’s people were.
- He knew that sin was only pleasurable for a season.
- He knew about the coming Messiah.
- He understood heavenly values were more important than earthly treasures.
- He believed an invisible God could protect him from an ungodly king.
- He had the character to do what was right.
- He lived by faith.
Samuel left his family at the time he was weaned (probably five years old). Though he was raised by an ungodly family, he became a great force for righteousness.
If you want to teach preschoolers, you must:
1. Take Time
Teach them to listen (they need someone to talk to them) and to obey. Teaching the difference between right and wrong is different than training them to do right by habit.
2. Talk to Them
Take advantage of teachable moments to play, inspire, encourage, discipline, observe, and reassure them. Answer their “whys,” ask them questions, and discover their interests.
3. Read to Them
Give them a desire to read. Associate books with pleasure and being loved by sitting them on your lap while you read to them. Reading helps expand their knowledge of the world and helps you get to know them better.
During preschoolers’ teaching times, you should concentrate on the spiritual, as well as virtue and integrity. Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.”
Preschoolers are great imitators, because of this, we have a great responsibility. Whether we are parents, teachers, helpers, or babysitters—we are teaching by example. Just as the song says, “I saw Jesus in You,” the way they are taught to respond to us is the way that they will respond to Jesus someday.
Below you will find a list of characteristics for three, four, and five year olds that deals with their ability to learn.
Characteristics of Three Year Olds
- Need lots of praise
- Some mental maturity and control over emotions and body
- Should be expected to obey simple commands such as “Come here,” “Go to the chair,” “Bring me your shoes,” “Put the toys in the box,” and “Don’t do that.” At the end of this year, they should be able to obey two commands together.
- Is aware of what is expected of him
- Walks, runs, and climbs with confidence
- Rides a tricycle and plays on slides and swings
- Walks up steps as an adult would
- Goes from using two hands on a drinking cup to one hand
- Starts to use scissors, scribbles with crayons
- Able to learn to button buttons, wash hands, dress, and feed himself
- Learns between fifty and several hundred words this year
- Talks in complete sentences
- Shares needs, problems, and feelings
- Will enjoy simple stories and ask for favorites to be read again
- Able to make up stories from pictures when asked simple questions: What do you see? What is this person doing? Where is this person going?
- Continues to learn from what he sees, feels, hears, and tastes
- Manners can be learned—saying “Yes, ma’am,” “Yes, sir,” “Please,” and “Thank you.” Boys can learn to shake hands with the preacher and other men.
- Some development of character qualities
- Short attention span—able to sit for about 2–3 minutes
- Can be taught to pray simple prayers
- Learns nursery rhymes, songs, hymns, and simple Bible verses
I think it’s fun to be polite
To say “Good morning” and “Good night”
And “Thank you, sir” or “If you please.”
There are no nicer words than these.
Unless it is perhaps “Hello.”
Or “Sorry, I stepped on your toe.”
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”— Genesis 1:1
“Let us love one another.”— 1 John 4:7
“Be ye kind one to another.”— Ephesians 4:32
“Children, obey your parents.”— Ephesians 6:1
“God is love.”—1 John 4:8
“The Lord our God is one Lord.”— Deuteronomy 6:4
Educational Tips for Three Year Olds
- Great activities are puzzles and matching games (matching like colors, shapes, and sizes). You can use buttons, socks, blocks, and balls for objects.
- Mention the color of everything.
- Take walks and describe what you see.
- Consistency is a must at any age but especially with young children.
Characteristics of Four Year Olds
- All of the above continuing to be taught and enforced
- Continuing to learn manners
- Can put on outer clothes with little assistance
- Free from baby-talk
- Learns to keep fingers and objects out of mouth
- Able to follow 2–3 step directions
- Able to relate sequence of events and order
- Able to handle pencils, crayons, and scissors comfortably
- Increased interest in books, stories, numbers,and music
- Willing to obey authority
- May start to ask questions about spiritual things
- Short attention span—able to sit for 3–5 minutes
- Writing and coloring still difficult—doing it is more important than the quality of the finished product
- At the end of the year, vocabulary could be up to 1500 words
- Recognizes time—past, present, future
- Can count 1–10 objects
- Can count 1–20 orally
- Interested in letters and sounds
- Able to pray on own; pray for others
Educational Tips for Four Year Olds
- Speech and grammar should be corrected
- Flashcards and games with pictures are very helpful: things God made (sun, moon, flowers, trees, birds, etc.) Easter Story, Christmas story, animals, people, etc. These can be used in many ways such as:
Bring a card that shows where a bird would build a nest.
Bring a card that has leaves.
Lay 3–4 cards out—one card is missing, which one?
- Memorize God’s Word—take verses from three year old list and expand:
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”— Isaiah 53:6
“I am the good Shepherd.”— John 10:11
“The Lord our God is one Lord.”— Deuteronomy 6:4
“Thou shalt not steal.”— Exodus 20:15
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”— Ephesians 4:32
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) ”— Ephesians 6:1–2
“Speak every man truth with his neighbor.”— Ephesians 4:25
“Give and it shall be given unto you.”— Luke 6:38
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.”— Ephesians 4:29
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. ”— John 3:16
“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: ”— 1 Corinthians 15:3–4
“Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”— Luke 24:5–6
Characteristics of Five Year Olds
- They will have “ups and downs”—sometimes cheerful and outgoing, other times, shy and rebellious. Don’t brush them off, but be loving and understanding; stay consistent.
- Better concept of time—days of the week, months of the year, special events
- Able to count 20+ objects
- Able to write numbers and to tell how many fingers are held up
- Able to learn names and sounds of letters
- Able to learn to read simple words
- Able to learn how to set the table, tell right from left, pour liquids, answer the phone, flush the toilet, and tell simple time
Educational Tips for Five Year Olds
- Games of development should include:
The world around them
Small muscle coordination
Recognition of colors, shapes, sizes, opposites, differences, and similarities
- Bible memorization—all of the verses from the three and four year old list and more! They are able to learn many verses a week with proper teaching and review.
- Some are ready to be saved