Stroll down the hallway of the kids’ area at church and you’ll pass inviting classrooms, cheery volunteers, and at least one parent consoling a kicking, screaming child – ah, the peaceful sounds of preschool emotions on a Sunday morning!
As adults, we understand that moving into a new class on your birthday or at the start of a new year means more opportunity for fun. But for three- and four-year-olds, the emotion of the moment—not logic—reigns supreme.
So, let’s get ‘em ready for the moment! As parents and leaders of preschoolers, we can work together to encourage excitement for all that church has to offer. There are a few things you can do to help your child manage their preschool emotions as they transition to a new class at church.
Parents: You’re in Charge of Prepping for Preschool Emotions
Your energetic preschooler no doubt adores her leaders. She hands out hugs each week as she leaves, and gushes about what she’s learned on the car ride home. It’s no wonder, really, that she’d be upset by a change in the church routine.
You can prepare your preschooler for a new church class in the following ways:
Firm up reality.
For three- and four-year-olds, the imaginary world might as well be the real world. It seems like every day you make discoveries about the inner working of their little minds. What a fun age!
Still, with a growing imagination comes a strong capacity for fear and other vivid preschool emotions. To ward off the worries of a new class, make the unknown known. A few weeks before the move, you might:
- Give your daughter a heads up about the new class–all smiles as you share the news.
- Walk over to the new class, if possible. Have a look around the room and introduce your daughter to the teacher.
Get in the game.
Want to motivate your preschooler? Toss the persuasive speech and focus, instead, on play.
Sit down with your daughter and say, “Did you know that your new class at church is for big kids only? You have to be three to go to that room. In a few weeks, you’ll be three, too! Should we pretend like we’re big kids? Big three-year-olds?”
This fun charade will hopefully change the preschool emotions from fear of the unknown to excitement about their new class!
Use imagination for good.
Reality set, it’s time for you and your preschooler to dream. Encourage her imagination with a few thoughts about the new, big-kid class at church:
- I wonder how many friends you’ll make?
- What toys do you think you’ll play with?
- I bet your teacher serves some tasty snacks!
Leaders: You’re in Charge of Bringing Fun to the New Class
A parent’s persistence can only take a preschooler so far. When the kids hit the hallway, it’s time for you to take over. Luckily, you’ve got the best job around: you’re a merry machine.
Break the ice.
Right away, work to get on the level of the three- or four-year-olds entering your room. You can do this best by tapping into your inner jokester to change those nervous preschool emotions to comfortable ones. Our favorite at-the-door moves?
- Ask for a high-five; and, when delivered, act as if the pain is nearly unbearable.
- Say, “Wait a minute. Are you in the right class? You’re so tall. You must be at least 7!”
You’ll likely get a laugh and a chance at connection, right from the start.
Create a safe space.
You might be surprised to learn that preschoolers–the rule-breaking bunch–crave boundaries and consistency, but they totally do. In fact, researchers name this as their top physical need.
In order for a new classmate to feel at ease in their new class, she needs to know that you won’t put up with negative behavior from anyone. You establish trust and communicate love by putting routines and guidelines in place that preschoolers can easily follow.
Wanna seal the deal? Remember that three- and four-year-olds think like artists.
This means they’re big on activities that utilize the five senses, and they love to be physically involved in learning. Offer plenty of opportunities for tactile play, movement while you teach, and tangible objects they can take home to reinforce the lesson.
As leaders, work to provide the best first week, every single week, so you’re ready for any new preschoolers who come your way.
This content was contributed by Phase. Discover all the resources available for your preschoolers in the Phase store.