“Meeting the Needs of Younger Children,” Come, Follow Me—For Primary: New Testament 2019 (2019)
“Meeting the Needs of Younger Children,” Come, Follow Me—For Primary: 2019
Little children are ready and eager to learn the gospel if it is presented in a way they can understand. If you teach younger children, consider these activities that can help them to learn (some older children may also benefit from these activities):
Listen to or act out a story. Young children love stories—from the scriptures, from your life, from Church history, or from Church magazines. Look for ways to involve them in storytelling. They can hold pictures or objects, draw pictures of what they are hearing, act out the story, or help tell the story. Help children recognize the gospel truths in the stories you share.
Read a scripture. Young children may not be able to read very much, but you can still engage them in learning from the scriptures. You may need to focus on a single verse, key phrase, or word. As you read a scripture out loud, you could invite children to stand up or raise their hands when they hear a specific word or phrase you want to focus on. They may even be able to memorize short phrases from the scriptures if they repeat them a few times. As they hear the word of God, they will feel the Spirit.
Be active. Because young children are often energetic, plan ways to let them move around—marching, jumping, skipping, bending, walking, and other actions that relate to the principle or story you are teaching. These actions can also be effective as you sing together.
Look at a picture or watch a video. When you show children a picture or video related to a gospel principle or scripture story, ask them questions that help them learn from what they are seeing. For example, you could ask, “What is happening in this picture or video? How does it make you feel?” Biblevideos.lds.org, medialibrary.lds.org, and children.lds.org are good places to look for videos.
Sing. Hymns and songs from the Children’s Songbook teach doctrine powerfully. Use the topics index at the back of the Children’s Songbook to find songs that relate to the gospel principles you are teaching. Help the children relate the message of the songs to their lives. For example, you might ask questions about words or phrases in the lyrics. In addition to singing, children can do actions that go with the songs or just listen to the songs as background music while they are doing other activities.
Share experiences. Young children may not have as much to share as older children do, but if you give them specific guidance, they can share their feelings and experiences about what they are learning.
Create. Children can build, draw, or color something related to the story or principle they are learning. Encourage them to take their creation home and share it with family members to help the children remember what they learned.
Participate in object lessons. A simple object lesson can help children understand a gospel principle that is difficult to comprehend. When using object lessons, find ways to let the children participate. They will learn more from an interactive experience than from just watching a demonstration.
Role-play. When children role-play a situation they will likely encounter in real life, they are better able to understand how a gospel principle applies to their lives.
Repeat activities. Young children may need to hear concepts multiple times to understand them. Don’t be afraid to repeat stories or activities often, even during the same lesson. For example, you might share a scripture story several times in different ways during a lesson—reading from the scriptures, summarizing in your own words, showing a video, letting the children help you tell the story, inviting them to act out the story, and so on. If an activity used in class is also repeated at home, the repetition will help the children learn and remember.
Interact with others. Children are developing social skills and often enjoy learning and playing with their peers. Create opportunities for them to share, take turns, and cooperate while they learn.
Participate in a variety of activities. Young children typically have short attention spans, and they have different learning styles. Use a variety of activities, and pay attention to signs that the children need a change of pace. For example, you may need to alternate frequently between quiet and lively activities.
Part of your role as a teacher of young children—in addition to teaching gospel principles—is to help the children learn how to participate appropriately in a Church class. For example, they may need to learn about taking turns, sharing, respecting others, and so on. Some teachers create charts with an assignment for each child to participate in the class in a specific way (such as by saying a prayer, holding a picture, or passing out papers). The assignments can change each week. This helps the children take turns and focus on appropriate classroom behavior.
Children—especially younger children—often benefit from a regular, predictable routine. Because young children have short attention spans and sometimes struggle to focus for an entire class, it’s usually best if this routine includes frequent transitions from one type of activity to another. For example, your class routine might include occasional breaks to play a game, color a picture, sing a song, and so on.