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Age Level Insights: 3-5

Children's Ministry Magazine

You Can't Make Me!
As preschoolers become more independent, they can also be less cooperative. Kids this age take pride in making some of their decisions, such as which friend to play with, what clothes to wear, and-a bit defiantly-which limits to stretch. Help preschoolers explore their independence while maintaining a productive learning environment with these tips.
• Maintain a routine. Preschoolers may be exploring independence, but they still find comfort in predictability. Keep a regular schedule, such as free play, singing, story, craft, snack, and cleanup. Within scheduled activities, offer kids choices such as which songs to sing or area to tidy up.
• Keep it simple. Don't overwhelm kids with too many instructions. Provide simple rules and guidelines that are easy for preschoolers to understand and live by. Preschoolers can become frustrated and stubborn when their newfound independence is inundated with instructions, choices, or rules.
• Make good choices. Preschoolers need guidance when learning to make decisions. Teach kids to use the principles they're learning from the Bible as a guide for choices in every aspect of life, from play to attitude.

Thank You, God
Use this stand-up action-play prayer with preschoolers before snack time.
Thank you, God, for birds with wings, (Flap arms)
For worms and snakes and squirmy things. (Wiggle fingers)
For puppy dogs and waggy tails, (Move hand side to side like a windshield wiper)
For tiny fish and great big whales. (Measure little fish with fingers, extend arms wide for whales)
For the family that we love, (Place hands over heart)
For earth and sea and sky above. (Cup hands to make a globe, then waves, then point to the sky)
For clothes and shoes upon our feet, (Point to shoes)
And for the food we soon will eat. (Pretend to eat)
Ellen Javernick
Loveland, Colorado


The Humongous Book of Preschool Ideas
The book is packed with Bible lessons, games, crafts, finger plays, songs, prayers, and snacks-specifically geared for preschoolers. Customize a lesson, add an extra, or find quick ideas to fill leftover time. $14.95; Group; www.group.com

Valentine Hug
Kids can make this huggable gift for a valentine.
You'll need yarn, white construction paper, red paint, sponge brushes, scissors, tape, glue sticks, envelopes, and copies of the poem.
Paint preschoolers' hands with washable red paint, and have them leave a left and right handprint on the paper. Cut out the prints and attach each to one end of a 30-inch piece of yarn. Tuck the "hug" into an envelope with the poem glued to the front.
I made this great big hug just for you,
To share my love, it's true.
Wrap it around you, all snug and tight,
Hold it with all your might!
For Valentine's Day and all the year,
God loves you-that's reason to cheer!


Play Smart
A study of three different preschool models-play-based, academic, and middle-of-the-road (not following any specific philosophy)-found that children in a play-based preschool had stronger academic performance in all subject areas and were more enthusiastic and creative.
Source: University of North Florida

Preschool Dreams
Preschoolers love to be inspired, and January is a great time to do just that. Not only is it the start of the new year, but it's also the month we honor Martin Luther King Jr. And like King, preschoolers have big hopes and dreams.
• Talk with preschoolers about their dreams. Preschoolers are very concrete about their wishes. They wish for toys, treats, and things to do.
• Talk about Jesus' dreams and wishes, too. When preschoolers discover that Jesus had wishes, their eyes light up-they're curious about what Jesus wished and hoped for. Preschoolers may know a bit about Jesus' wishes, but they need to know more.
I tell preschoolers that Jesus wishes for everyone to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love their neighbor, too (Mark 12:28-31). We talk about Matthew 5:44, where Jesus wishes people will love their enemies. I tell kids how Jesus was kind to people others didn't like, such as the poor, sick, and hurting. Jesus wishes others will follow his example.
When I finish sharing Jesus' wishes, I give kids paper and crayons and ask them to draw a big cloud on the paper. Then I tell kids to draw one big wish they think Jesus has for us inside the cloud. I'm always surprised by what preschoolers draw. There are always clouds filled with hearts and smiles. But I've also seen clouds filled with people helping the sick or helping those who are hurt. I've seen clouds filled with disturbing items such as guns and knives, with a big red X drawn over them to show their wish for things to change. One preschooler drew two hands and told me that Jesus gave us two hands so we could help lots of people.
Preschoolers have big dreams. They have big wishes.
When we talk about these important things, preschoolers begin to help and love each other more-a great wish for the new year.
Jolene Roehlkepartain is the author of 25 books including Parenting Preschoolers with a Purpose (Search Institute). She's active in children's ministry in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

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