With reimagined ministries like drive-through VBS and virtual church, new families have been able to participate in church more than ever before. The truth is the experiences they’ve had during the pandemic have made them even more selective of where they go, especially when it comes to children. This is why, now more than ever, we need to re-evaluate our preschool environment.
To make your preschool ministry environment stand out, remember to make it fun, make sure the right people are in the room, and draw families back.
Make it fun.
- Brighten up the environment. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make your preschool environment fun. Consider using brightly colored rugs or fabric for small groups or host a volunteer paint party to brighten up the space.
- View your space from a preschooler’s perspective. Ask yourself, “Is this space fun and inviting?” To see exactly what your preschoolers are seeing, try getting on your knees to look at the space. While you’re there, check the paint on the walls—are the colors warm and friendly or is the paint old and scuffed? Does the furniture scream “preschoolers?” Is the furniture the right size?
- Check that the toys are in good condition. It’s important to go through your toys and dispense of ones that are broken or worn. Broken toys communicate to children that they don’t matter or that they get the leftovers.
- Decorate. To liven up the space, have upbeat music playing as the children enter, and incorporate simple décor items for the theme or holiday. A few well-chosen decorations communicate that something is special, and for a preschooler, that means fun!
- View your space from a parent’s perspective. Parents notice the environment they are choosing to put their kids in, and they want it to be safe and fun. Check your space and ensure it’s clean, freshly decorated, warm, and exciting.
- Make activities engaging. Preschoolers need opportunities to learn through sensory activities. Incorporate activities with touch, smell, sound, and even taste. Sometimes messy means fun too!
Make sure the right people are in the room of your preschool environment.
- Greeters. The first people children see when entering the preschool environment are your greeters at the door. These people should be outgoing and full of personality. While we can’t give hugs or high fives right now, we can use fun hats, outfits, and smiles to make a first impression!
- People at check-in. Volunteers at check-in can make the drop-off experience smooth and reassuring for anxious preschoolers. A simple but important question to ask is if these volunteers have a smile. For many families, it can be a struggle to get out the door. That’s why check-in volunteers should smile at families and let them know they’re welcome as they are.
- Small group leaders. We want these volunteers to be relational and caring, able to get eye to eye with a preschooler and talk to them about their dog, new sparkly shoes, and the Bible! Think about people who are willing to go the extra mile to care for children outside of church with a postcard or attending a birthday party.
- Bible storytellers. These volunteers communicate God’s Word, lead worship, or lead large group activities. We want these people in your preschool environment to be engaging and energetic to make children get excited about coming to church.
Draw families back.
- Draw preschoolers back with belonging. Everyone wants to be a part of something greater than themselves—even preschoolers. We can give children a sense of purpose at church by allowing them to pray aloud, pass out crayons, wipe the tables down, or participate in service projects. Keep in mind to refrain from phrases like, “When you’re bigger, you can . . .” Preschoolers have a purpose, even at two years old. When children feel valued, they’ll be drawn back week after week.
- Draw parents back with support. Preschoolers depend fully on parents to bring them back to church, so it’s important that parents feel cared for and supported. One way to alleviate the pressure parents feel from our culture and social media is to show them that we’re here for them. This means that we never shame them, but partner with them through valuable resources.
- Draw families back with what you send home in the children’s hands. We love crafts in preschool environments, and it’s crucial that our crafts are excellent. Rather than giving them a coloring sheet each week, try to give them crafts that convey a valuable message and can be played with repeatedly. My personal favorite is the little donkey with clothespin legs. Not only is this craft fun and different, but it reminds children that God made them, God loves them, and Jesus wants to be their friend forever.
At the end of the day, families can take their children to dozens of great places. We want to make our place stand out. Our hope is that when you reimagine your preschool environment, you’d draw families back with excellence.