6 Things You Need to Know About Teaching Preschoolers

thomasTeaching preschoolers is THE BEST! No, seriously. It really is! There’s something incredibly rewarding about rooting spiritual truths in the minds and hearts of young children and then watching the ways they so naturally apply them to their every day lives. If you’re gearing up to teach babies, 1s, 2s, 3s, Pre-K, or kindergartners this summer in VBS, here are 6 things you need to know about teaching preschoolers.


  1. If you don’t have a plan, THEY will! Preschoolers are hands-on, experiential learners. In other words, they LEARN as they DO. Every preschool (Babies–Kindergarten) leader guide is filled with ideas and activities you can use to teach preschoolers in the ways God made them to learn. Get together with the other teachers in your room before VBS, go through the leader guide, and divvy up responsibilities. This will keep any one teacher from bearing the full weight AND will help create an environment where both learning and fun can take place!

  2. Teaching begins when the first child arrives. Preschoolers need routine, boundaries, and clearly defined expectations. If they walk into a room where teachers are waiting with fun things planned for them to do the moment they walk into the room, they will be less inclined to run wild. You’ll be able to head off a lot of behavioral challenges simply by being ready to go as soon as kids are in the room.

  3. Attention spans are SHORT! A child’s attention span is roughly equal to one minute for every year of age. Be prepared for kids to tire quickly and be ready to move on to something else. The good news is that preschoolers also love repetition… so even if they move to another activity before you feel like they’re done, they’ll likely be back before too long to finish up or take another turn.  This is the reason many preschool teachers like to set up activities in “learning spots” around the room and let kids move freely from activity to activity.

  4. The teacher is “the lesson.”  As a teacher, you use a variety of tools (music, games, play, activities, even Bible stories) to teach preschoolers Bible truths. Children are ALWAYS watching and listening… even when you think they are not. They will learn more from your actions than your words. Remember that everything you do (or don’t do) and everything you say (or don’t say) is teaching something.

  5. The process is often more important than the end result. Preschoolers are still developing their motor skills and are still in the discovery phase for many things. It may be more important to them to simply enjoying the experience of cutting or coloring or painting or stacking blocks than actually “making” something. Don’t stress if a craft project ends up less than Pinterest worthy. If kids enjoyed doing it, then it was a success!

  6. YOU are their example of what God is like. As you talk with and listen to them, play alongside them, hug them, protect them, help them work through challenges, and meet their basic needs, you are demonstrating God’s love in practical, tangible ways. So pour everything you’ve got into your kids during VBS!

Agency D3 for Preschoolers & Kindergartners

thomasFoundational Bible teaching is always the goal with LifeWay’s preschool VBS, and this year is no exception. Agency D3’s Bible content sets up a firm foundation for preschoolers and kindergartners to build upon for the rest of their lives. As you teach them who Jesus is and what He did, kids will learn the basics about why we want to love and follow Jesus.

Every single day of VBS, kids will discover that Jesus is who He says He is (God’s Son) through an example from His life. Day 1 uses the story of Jesus’ baptism to show kids that God, in dramatic fashion, declared audibly to everyone present that Jesus is His Son. John told people the same thing everywhere He went for the rest of his life! On Day 2 kids will discover that Jesus is unlike anyone else who ever lived. He is God’s Son so He can do things no one else can do! On Days 3-4 preschoolers will hear how much Jesus loves people as they hear about His death & resurrection. (Younger Preschoolers will use the Bible stories of Jesus’ last supper with His helpers and His post-resurrection meeting with two men on the road to Emmaus.) On Day 5 kids will learn that they can tell others the things they know about Jesus, just like Peter did in the Bible.

In other words, the entire week for preschoolers answers one singular question: Who Is Jesus? This is the perfect Bible content for preschoolers coming to VBS who may have never even heard of God, much less of His Son. It’s all about Jesus… and that’s a great reason to be excited about Agency D3!

Unpacking the New VBS 2014 Starter Kits

VanCleave - new (1)

They are here! We are so excited about the new Kids Starter Kit (for Grades 1-6) and the new Preschool Starter Kit (Babies through Kindergarten). We’ve listened to your comments that you want “everything you need to get started” in one box, so here it is.

Starter Boxes

Special packaging created just for the Starter Kits makes the VBS Director’s job super easy. Let’s unpack those kits and take a look.

Preschool Box open

Inside the Preschool Starter Kit, the three age group resources have been carefully packed together and labeled for your “Amazing” Babies to 2s teaching team, your “Fantastic” 3s-PreK teaching team, and your “Incredible” Kindergarten teaching team. As your teams meet, the label also explains what additional resources will be needed based on the number of classes, teachers, and preschoolers you will have. The 3s-Kindergarten Rotation Pack is included for easy distribution to your preschool rotation leaders. A sample set of craft packs and a “mystery” bag of fun items for preschoolers is also included.

Preschool Mystery

Ok, ok … I’ll tell you what’s in the mystery bag. =) A sample picture frame, samples of the sticky foam shapes, one sheet of the new Agency D3 Stickers, a set of the Daily Mission Insignias (for ages over 3), and a fun pair of the Special Agent Rearview Glasses!

Kids box open

Now, let’s take a peak in the Kids Starter Kit. The three Bible study age group resources have also been carefully packed together and labeled for your “Marvelous” Grades 1-2 teaching team, your “Fabulous” Grades 3-4 teaching team, and your “Phenomenal” VBX teaching team. Once again, as the teams meet, the labels will help them know how many additional leader guides, leader packs, and Kids Evidence Kits they might need. Individual rotation leader guides for Missions, Music, and Crafts are included plus Recreation Rotation Leader Cards and Snack Recipe Cards.

kids mystery

A sample set of craft packs and a “mystery” bag of fun items for kids are included. The kids fun items bag includes a sample picture frame, one sheet of the new Agency D3 Stickers, a set of Daily Mission Insignias, the cool glow-in-the dark ABC Wristband, and a fun pair of the Special Agent Rearview Glasses!

You are ready to grab a kit and get started! Have fun!

And don’t forget Jump Start Kits are also available.  Check out this post where we unpack them!

VBS 2014 Tour Stop 2: Starter Kits

wooley1 2013For the next several weeks Tuesdays are for Touring! Join me as together we tour the improvements, updates and changes to LifeWay’s VBS resources you will discover with Agency D3: Discover. Decide. Defend!

Our first tour stop was last Tuesday with the all new Jump Start Kit that will be available in October. This kit contains everything you need to start planning, enlisting workers, and getting your church pumped for VBS 2014.

Tour Stop 2 is the Preschool Starter Kit and Kids Starter Kit.

As I said last week, “You spoke and we listened!” We have made getting the right resources to the right age-group leaders easier than ever. Inside the starter kits you will find one of every teaching resource for ages Birth through Kindergarten in one box, and one of ever teaching resource for Grades 1 through 6 in another. Unlike the Samplers and Super Samplers that contained Leader Guides but not Leader Packs, the Preschool Starter Kit and Kids Starter Kit each contain everything you need to get started, pre-packaged by age group in easy to identify and distribute zip-lock bags.

The Preschool Starter Kit (005610212) contains one of each of the following resources:

  • VBS 2014 Babies-2s Leader Guide, Babies -2s Leader Pack, and Kid’s Activity Pak: Babies-2s
  • VBS 2014 3s-Pre-K Leader Guide, 3s-Pre-K Leader Pack, and Kid’s Activity Pak: 3s-Kindergarten
  • VBS 2014 Kindergarten Leader Guide, Kindergarten Leader Pack, and Kid’s Activity Pak: 3s-Kindergarten
  • VBS 2014 3s-Kinderarten Rotation Pack

The Kids Starter Kit (005610211) contains one of each of the following resources:

  • VBS 2014 Grades 1-2 Bible Study Leader Guide, Grades 1-2 Bible Study Leader Pack, and Kids Evidence Kit
  • VBS 2014 Grades 3-4 Bible Study Leader Guide, Grades 3-4 Bible Study Leader Pack, and Kids Evidence Kit
  • VBS 2014 Grades 5-6 Bible Study Leader Guide, Grades 5-6 Bible Study Leader Pack, and Kids Evidence Kit
  • Missions Rotation Leader Guide with DVD, Crafts Rotation Leader Guide, Recreation Rotation Leader Cards, Snack Rotation Recipe Cards, and Music Rotation Leader Guide with DVD

Each Starter Kit also contains samples of cool Agency D3 swag and comes packaged in a convenient box that is easy to carry and super easy to store.

And as before, all resources will be available individually as well as in Starter Kits.

Next week, Tour Stop 3: Kids Evidence Kit.

 Learn more about Agency D3 at www.lifeway.com/vbs

In Plain Open Sight

ruth smallToday our friend and VBS writer, Joey Scruggs, Pastor of Preschool Ministries, shares a Colossal story from his church’s VBS at The First Family (First Baptist Church), Columbia, Tennessee. Joey will do just about anything to reach kids for Christ (as evidenced on Tacky Tourist Day!)

Tacky Tourist DaySometimes the best place to hide a special gift is in plain open sight. There are many times in our ministries we spend so much time recruiting and planning events that we overlook the obvious opportunities.

Such was the case in planning for Colossal Coaster World at our church this summer. Supplies were purchased, decorations were created, registrations were rolling in, our staff was recruited, and even special theme days were planned. This coaster was off the ground! It was at that point that I received a call from the pastor of our Hispanic ministry saying, “Do you think it would be possible to have a Hispanic class during VBS this year?” pic3

We have had a growing Hispanic ministry at our church for many years. For the most part, this ministry has worked parallel with all of our other ministries. As I pondered this minister’s question, I began to think, “Our church has supported their ministry, their children participate in our programs, they place their children in our nursery.” It was then that these seemingly simple thoughts brought me to complete halt. Their ministry is our ministry. We are not two church families, but one.

pic2Once I reached this revelation, plans began to fall into place. We acquired Spanish curriculum and our Hispanic pastor recruited bilingual teachers and assistants who were available just in case there were any language issues.  We established a Hispanic class for Bible teaching, but incorporated the Hispanic children into our rotations because we wanted them to have interaction with all of the other children.

We had great success! This overlooked, obvious opportunity became a very special gift and has now created a bridge between our ministries. pic1



Why Will Preschoolers Love Agency D3?


How many preschoolers in your church know how to swipe mom and dad’s iPad until they find their game?
The weekend after we developed the content and theme for Agency D3 I visited my family. My sister-in-law arrived with her sweet 2 year old who was carrying iPad in hand (in a very stout protective case, of course… and I must say it was almost as big as he was). Shelby knew how to swipe to his favorite games or how to launch the movie he had been watching in the car, and he was only two! That moment, I knew that preschoolers of all ages were going to love Agency D3!

At VBS last summer, I was so impressed with the ability of the Babies-2s group to seek and find what I asked them to find and repeat back to me the truths that I taught. As preschoolers interact with sensory elements, discover Bible story pictures under water or shaving cream mats, and seek and find pictures and obejects at Agency D3, I know they will have an experience learning about Jesus that they will remember!

As a teacher, decorations with shiny surfaces, bright colors, and interactive screens will engage a preschooler. You could even create a sensory wall of shiny, sticky, carpeted, and textured surfaces to make your room high-tech and a ton of fun for kids! Be creative as balloons can become a wall of big buttons or gauges and a row of push lights become a monitoring gadget. Preschoolers are going to love interacting with the different decorations at Agency D3.

Not only will the theme connect, but the Bible content sets up a firm foundation for our preschoolers to build upon for the rest of their lives. As we discuss who Jesus is and what He did, preschoolers will learn the basics about why we want to love and follow Jesus. I am so excited about the activities and learning that is going to happen with our youngest agents at Agency D3!

What is the most exciting thing about Agency D3 to you? What do you think will be a preschooler’s favorite part?

The Power of Preschool VBS

photo-2The following post was written by Ronette Burnett, preschool VBS leader at Hilton Terrace Baptist Church in Columbus, GA. Wife to pastor John Burnett, and mom to eight year old Jack and ten year old Meg, Ronette says, “Each year, the VBS theme tends to consume our whole family which is why we still have a ring toss game and juggling balls in the foyer!”  

Preschool VBS takes a lot. It takes more workers; each of the activities requires a heavy amount of adult to child interaction. It takes more supplies.

During my non-VBS life, I teach language arts to sixth graders, and if I had to, I could teach my whole first unit with a couple of Post-Its and a dry erase marker. However, I would not dare enter my VBS classroom without most of the items listed in the front of my Preschool VBS Leader Guide. I do get a few strange looks when I roll my supplies in on my handy Radio Flyer wagon, and I try not to compare myself to the school-age teachers who have packed stylish totes with all of their supplies.

Preschoolers also have their own unique crafts, music, missions, and recreation. Yes, Preschool VBS can be quite an effort, but I can truthfully say, no problem is too big and no price is too high for such a powerful way to touch families with young children.

As I plan for VBS, I try to think about ways to send children home so excited about what we have done that they will ask their parents to please, please, PLEASE take them back. When we are closing out each day, I often take my dollar store microphone in hand and I ask children to answer the question all parents ask, “So what did you do today?” They love to talk into the “mic” and we get lots of conversation starters going that I hope they will use on the ride home. (Can’t wait for the Takin’ It Home CD in VBS 2014!)

I also try to have what I call a “moment with mom” when children are picked up each day. I try to talk to each parent about something I’ve noticed about the child like “Matthew is so persistent when working puzzles,” or “Lauren always takes such good care of our baby dolls.” Parents love to talk about their children, and I love to tell parents all the positive things I see in their little ones. My prayer is that these short conversations are words of blessing over the lives of these families, and that the quality of our Preschool VBS tells families that our church loves and celebrates young children. When you need to build relationships with families who need to find faith or re-connect with church life, look no further than the power of Preschool VBS.

Read why Ronette “Always Says Yes to Preschool VBS” on her personal blog, From Baptist Mom.

Why do YOU think preschool VBS is important? 

Top 10 Ways to Use the Kid’s Activity Pak Books

ruth smallYou just never know what you are going to learn at our VBS Preview Events! This past January, I got to hear Kelli McAnally share some creative ways to use the kid’s activity paks with preschoolers. Kelli wrote the 15-page storybooks for the VBS 2013 Kid’s Activity Pak: Babies–2s and the VBS 2013 Kid’s Activity Pak: 3s–Kindergarten.




  1. Act out the book—kids choose colored craft sticks to determine which character they will be.
  2. Match colors in the book—kids draw pieces of colored paper out of the VBS 2014 Inflatable Coaster Car.
  3. Match letters and words—match foam letters, clothespins with letters, or tiles with letters to those in the book. Easy words (such as “God”) also can be matched.
  4. Listen for a word—kids clap or raise hands when they hear the word.
  5. Make up a finger play or hand motions.
  6. Create cards with review questions on one side and answers on the back. Use with a flip chute.
  7. Record the book on your phone—Play the tape while kids follow along in the book.
  8. Put the story in order—talk about what happened first, next, and so on.
  9. Make a flap book using sticky notes.
  10. Count items—use craft sticks to tally.

Kelli also gave us some great tips for reading with preschoolers.

  1. If preschoolers are on the floor, you should sit on the floor.
  2. Hold the book so kids can see it as you read.
  3. Encourage children to talk about the pictures during the reading.
  4. Allow a child to turn the pages.
  5. Guide children to ask questions about the book.
  6. Respect the child who chooses to look at the book alone.
  7. Provide time after a book is read for kids to respond to the plot and characters of the book.
  8. Read a book many times for kids to connect with the characters.
  9. Encourage children to play out the story from a book.
  10. Allow a younger child to skip around in the book if he wants.

Thanks, Kelli, for the books you’ve written and for teaching us how to use them!

Happy reading with your kids at Colossal Coaster World!

A Lesson in Trusting God

Esther, Joy, Elijah, and Josiah

Esther, Joy, Elijah, and Josiah

When Esther and Joy were newborns, they moved to Peru so that their parents (my niece and her husband) could serve as missionaries with the International Christian School of Lima. Today the twins are five years old! Along with their younger brothers, Josiah and Elijah, they are always on the go—attending Sunday School and church, going to preschool, learning to speak Spanish, or eating at McDonald’s!

Recently, their parents had some exciting news for them! This summer, when they go back to the states, they won’t be there for just a few weeks. They will be there for a whole year (while daddy and mommy are on sabbatical)!

Listen to a bit of the girls’ phone conversation with Nana and Papa (two of their state-side grandparents):

Joy: I will be sad to leave my friends.

Esther: But, we don’t have to worry when we leave Peru because we won’t leave God in Peru. He will go with us.

Joy: Yeah, Nana, God has a plan for us.

What great insights! For these preschoolers, coming back to the states is both exciting and a little scary. But in the midst of their uncertainties, they are learning to face their fear and trust God. After all, He’s the One with the plan, and He will be with them wherever they go.

Our preschool Bible verse is “God helps me. I will not be afraid.” Hebrews 13:6 Do you have a story about a preschooler in your life who understands this truth? Share it with us!

5 Reasons to Teach Babies–2s

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard preschool Sunday school referred to as day care or babysitting. I know none of you have ever said that… but just in case you need some help recruiting teachers for these small ones or want to encourage current teachers with how they are making a difference in these little lives, here are 5 reasons to teach our youngest, sweetest ministry participants.


  1. Bible teaching as infants and early toddlers lay the spiritual foundation for those children for years to come. Even babies can begin to recognize Jesus as a familiar name. They will learn that church is a safe place where teachers care for them. They will learn that they can trust what teachers say at church. These are formative years not to miss!
  2. Children as young as 1 year old can remember simple events. They can remember reading from the cool Bible with all the pictures when that action is repeated week after week.
  3. When their needs are met at church, they develop trust for the teacher and the truth that they are speaking to them. This builds into them trusting that their spiritual needs can be met by Jesus.
  4. At 1 year, most children are beginning to make simple choices. Red or green. Cheerios or bananas. Talking about Jesus and making decisions that honor Him can become commonplace. As they develop their ability to make choices, they will know that Jesus wants to be a part of those decisions.
  5. Children will associate God’s name with love and trust. Again, these associations lay a solid foundation for preschool teachers to build on.

Teaching Babies–2s is like a jump start into knowing about God. As they trust and love God, they will begin to understand what a relationship with Him looks like as they continue to grow and learn. Babies–2s are learning at church, too. They may not be able to use their words to thank you, but they are daily growing as they use their senses and develop skills at church to discover who Jesus is!