Teaching children how to appreciate the tenets of your faith can be a daunting task. Many adults wrestle with the scriptures and how to apply them to their everyday lives, and if this pertains to you, you may not know how to pass on the ways you live out your convictions. Whether you are guiding the education of your own children at home or are responsible for the lessons for young ones at church, there are several ways to communicate the values of your beliefs in a way that they are able to understand and remember.
The developing brains of children tend to take on information like sponges, and stories are a great way to help them process that information. Unfortunately, many of the tales contained in religious texts contain more violence than is likely appropriate for young, active imaginations. For example, perhaps a story wherein God drowns all of humanity except for Noah and his family is better left for when they have advanced beyond their preschool years.
Just because the details of the week's narrative are harrowing, however, doesn't mean the lesson can't still be effective. Pick out the virtue, such as gratitude or taking responsibility for animal friends, that the story is meant to illustrate, and go from there. Use engaging methods that make the point memorable:
- Felt or other types of story boards
- Multiple voices
It's also a good idea to keep each conversation short. As a general rule for preschoolers, try to limit the time they must sit and listen to a minute for every year of their age. An even better tactic is to incorporate questions and opportunities for interaction within the story itself so that they can play along. Making the stories you tell engaging and age-appropriate is a good way to keep children's attention and help them learn.
Listening is not the only way children learn. In fact, many may learn more easily during activities that, on the surface, don't seem to be lessons at all. Arranging the classroom or playroom with several different stations where children can interact with each other and play in small groups can be instrumental in instilling values. Each station can have its own simple activity or theme that relates to the week's lesson. During this moderately structured play period, the kids learn other values, too, such as sharing with their friends and cleaning up when they are ready to move to the next station so that the next group has a nice place to play. While this method may work best in a classroom with many children, it can also work at home on a smaller scale when your kids are playing together or during playdates.
Art is a great way for people of all ages to express themselves, explore novel topics and learn new things. It works especially well with children, however, because unlike adults, they usually don't have to be convinced that they are creative before they can enjoy the process. Most children are naturally curious, and art thrives with an inquisitive mind. Drawing or painting is a common way that children respond to what they learn in the classroom, but other types of art can be just as effective as teaching tools. Music, movement and playing make-believe are all ways you can illustrate each week's lesson. Art goes beyond simple play; it allows children to create their own games and discover new ways to respond to what they're learning.
If you are in charge of the children's ministry at your church or if you just want more ideas for getting your kids interested in how you live your faith at home, there are several ways to accomplish this. Find the way the children in your care learn best and incorporate it into the lessons.