Not everyone is convinced that a preschooler can learn about God. While most will admit that a preschooler learns, they are not sure what, if anything, he can learn about God. Others, however, insist on “teaching” the preschooler more than he is ready to learn. Understanding how a preschooler learns about God will help you challenge him to learn in ways in which he is capable. This knowledge of how a preschooler learns will also help you be careful to use only appropriate content and activities with him. How, then, can a preschooler be taught about God?
The preschooler learns about God through relationships. People provide the most important avenue through which he learns. From birth, the preschooler is greatly influenced by people. He learns he is important to you and to God as love is provided. “I love you and God loves you” is a powerful statement as love is demonstrated in relationships. He learns values as they are modeled by significant people in his life. In essence, his whole outlook toward life is influenced by you .and other people who are important to him.
The physical senses provide the means through which the preschooler learns about the world God made. The child can be taught to be thankful as she sees the color and shape of an orange, smells the orange, and tastes the orange. These physical processes are the preschooler’s way of dealing with the world around her. They also offer excellent opportunities for teachers to relate the world to God.
Another avenue of learning for the preschooler is repetition. While you may tire of hearing the same story, the preschooler learns from hearing something repeated. Repetition gives him the opportunity to build upon previous learning. Little by little he is putting important ideas together.
The preschooler learns through play. Play is the work of a child. Through play he learns about people and things in the preschool department. He uses play to learn the give-and-take of relationships and act out roles in which he imagines himself.
Doing is yet another way a preschooler learns about God. Allowing a child to take responsibility for working a puzzle and putting it away builds his self-confidence. The child sees himself as a person of worth. This idea is foundational to learning to love God.
Curiosity leads the preschooler to explore the world God has made. His sense of curiosity prompts him to smell and touch the objects in the nature area as his teacher relates them to God.
Receiving satisfaction from an activity or relationship gives the child positive feelings. Adapt activities to the ability of the child to insure that only a minimum of frustration will be involved. The child will soon discover that he can do many satisfying things.
Obviously the four- and five-year-old is an active learner. Activity teaching is best suited for communicating biblical truths to the child. For this reason, appropriate activities must be used to teach a preschooler the Bible in an effective way.
Another consideration in teaching the Bible to a preschooler is teaching on the child’s level of understanding. Communicating to a preschooler that God loves him should not be nearly so detailed as explaining the implications of that love to an adult. Biblical ideas must be reduced to the most elementary level in order to communicate with the preschooler. Biblical truths should be taught to a preschooler without doing an injustice to the biblical truths-a difficult balance to achieve.
Preschoolers are just beginning to learn about life. Early impressions can influence the rest of their lives. That’s why teaching preschoolers about God at their level of understanding through ways they learn best is a must.
Written by Dr. Cos Davis. Originally published as “How a Preschooler Learns About God” in OND (1986). Used by permission of LifeWay Christian Resources. Please review our Permissions Policy when using this material.