Age-Level Insights – Bible Stories

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How children learn Bible stories–and ways to teach them.

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AGE
2 to 5 years

HOW CHILDREN LEARN
Young children like to be read to with age-appropriate books. They
like pictures, age-appropriate terminology and simple wording.
Their attention span is only two to 10 minutes. Preschool children
like to interact with objects. They learn by touching objects and
through repetition.

WAYS TO TEACH
Paraphrase Bible stories and highlight only main points. For
example, say: “God chose Noah to save all the animals from the
flood. He told Noah to build an ark. An ark is a large boat. Noah
brought in the animals. The flood came. Finally the ark landed on
dry land and God made a rainbow.” Tell the story using objects,
such as storybooks, stuffed animals or a wooden animal and boat
set. Allow children to play with the objects after the story.
Remind children about or repeat the story as they play. Reinforce
the story with an activity such as an animal craft, song or
game.

AGE
6 to 9 years

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HOW CHILDREN LEARN
By this age, children’s attention span is 10 to 20 minutes. They
understand more details. Objects hold their attention during story
time. Children love to be a part of and interact with the story.
Children think concretely and focus on the parts and actions of the
story.

WAYS TO TEACH
Provide details. For example, say: “God wasn’t happy with people on
earth. But Noah made God happy because Noah obeyed. People made fun
of Noah and his family when Noah obeyed God.” Have children act out
the story, playing different parts such as Noah, his family,
friends and animals. Let children tell the story in their own
words. Highlight only one main point with one direct application.
For example, say: “Noah obeyed God. We can obey God too.” Reinforce
the story with crafts, games or other activities. For example, play
Simon Says, and focus on the importance of obeying the
leader.

AGE
10 to 12 years

HOW CHILDREN LEARN
By this age, children have heard many of the Bible stories over and
over. And when they hear the stories again, kids ask “So what?”
Older children need modern-day applications to Bible stories. They
learn more when they see how stories apply to them
personally.

WAYS TO TEACH
Introduce the story with a question or personal anecdote kids can
relate to. For example, ask, “How do you feel when someone tries to
make you do something wrong?” Or describe a peer-pressure issue.
Then get into the action of the story as soon as possible to arouse
identification and emotion. Identify and highlight one main issue
in the story. For example, Noah was obedient to God in the midst of
peer pressure. Weave personal explanations and applications into
the story. Relate the story to events in kids’ lives. Say, “Just as
Noah’s friends tried to get him to disobey God, sometimes our
friends try to get us to disobey God.” Build the story’s climax,
identifying the main point in the struggle and the result. Show how
Noah resisted the pressure. Conclude with an application by having
kids identify personal examples of peer pressure and ways to handle
it.

Brent Van Elswyk is associate pastor of family ministries in
California. He has worked with children for 18 years.

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