Preschoolers have 3-5 years experience in our world. They are beginning to use language with some fluency.
[from Preschoolers (Yust p. 4-5)] My challenge to you, hopefully without rambling as badly as I did before - look at worship in your church and look for opportunities to include your preschoolers in activities that capitalize on the things they're good at. Did I mention that these moments in an infant, toddler, or preschool child's life fly by? These life stages only last a year or two. These parents won't have wide-eyed babies in arms, active inquisitive toddlers or observant imaginative preschoolers for very long. The challenge is, as individuals and as a community, how we capture these moments to share the God we believe with the children we love and let them approach the Savior as He interacts with us.
"[they] have new developmental capabilities for interpreting the relationship between faith stories and their personal stories."
We use it in Sunday school. Can we use it in worship or in a church newsletter? How can a preschooler share with a larger community ways that a story from scripture intersects with his/her own faith story?
They "anticipate routines. . .[and] . . .negotiate competently among the variety of rules and expectations represented by these familiar systems."
Rules, routines, expectations. This shouldn't be hard! We want this, right?
"They use what they have observed about the world as material for pretend play . . . they are magical thinkers...not bound by what they observe...they have active imaginations that allow them to reconstruct their observations in creative ways. . . "
This is also used in Sunday school. Dr. Yust has some good ideas for this beyond the walls of the classroom. Can we use it other places? Can we use it in worship? Can we better equip families and parents to enjoy this time and understand it's significance as a faith-forming tool?
"They need opportunities to witness their faith community in action . . . worship. . . the congregation's activities."
Our keen, articulate, honest observers actively involved in the activities of our faith communities! Real life and stories they associate with are fuel for imaginary play. Helping grown ups also gives them a taste of service. How can they be more than observers? Are there ways they can participate? Do you have a list for parents of ways their child can help them do the jobs they sign up for - different tasks for different ages?
"They need to hear the vocabulary and see the symbols of their faith tradition used frequently so they can identify the particular structures and practices that characterize this social system and distinguish it from other social settings in their lives."
Those of you in less-liturgical situations may need to take a few minutes to recognize/ identify/define the words and symbols that your kids see and experience in your worship and faith community that distinguish this social setting from others.
"They need opportunities to explore their environment where they worship, learn, and serve, and chances to ask questions . . ."
Chances to explore this life of faith - more concretely, the building. Chances to ask questions! Hopefully, they have LOTS of opportunities as they journey with the adults in their lives.
The world of TV metaphor that Dr. Yust uses is excellent though I'm not a big fan of marketing. Immersing them in the faith story they way they immerse themselves in the other stories they hear is the big challenge. We believe in and serve an unseen God. The joy and glory of childhood is that given their imaginative abilities sometimes they are closer than we are to "knowing" - not intellectual knowing or mature adult knowing but childlike non-verbal "knowing. The immersion factor is the tough one. She has wonderful suggestions!
Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers are probably least welcome in adult gatherings unless they are among people who just enjoy children. I've grown to appreciate all the different developmental stages of life as my children mature but I still think preschool is my favorite age. I'm not sure we give them enough credit. They are verbal, inquisitive, thoughtful, feeling and each of them is seeing this new-to-them- world with new eyes!
I'm not going to keep going with the other ages. I think I'm past overkill as it is. It was a great article! Lots of ideas for churches. Lots of ways to welcome children - to extend hospitality. Lots of age appropriate ways to pursue God in the context of the larger community. As I say. I think we've come full circle, here. Happy holidays!