Child Development Principles for Sunday School Teachers

Picture1 Development Principles for Sunday School Teachers

  1.  God made individuals.  At 24 hours after conception, the unique combination of genes from a mother and a father will be present in the new creation growing in a mother’s womb.  At 40 days after conception, a baby in the womb has a unique brain wave which will be consistent for a person’s life.    We must think of the children we serve as individuals, fearfully and wonderfully made by an infinite Creator for a specific plan.
  2. There is a wide range of ability in any group of same-age children.  (Among my friends’ children, one boy waited to age two before saying anything, then spoke in whole sentences.  Another friend’s child, a girl, spoke in whole 4-word sentences at 11 months old.)  So, if you have a group of “young three’s”, you will likely have children who act in some areas like a mature 4 year old, along with children who act in some ways like young 2 year olds.  Young two’s may barely be verbal while mature fours may already by reading.  This creates a real challenge for teachers.  One solution?  Allow for plenty of individual choice by using a ‘center-based’ classroom—lots of choices children can make for themselves.  Observe!  See who is mature and who isn’t.
  3. Stages of development are generally consistent in their order, but the rate of progress is experienced very differently by each child.  For example, all children go through a progression in the social stages of their play, from solitary (alone) to parallel (side by side with similar toys) to associative (side by side working on a common construction) to cooperative (assigning different roles, like playing mother/child).  However, one child may linger in the first stage, solitary, until they are four, while others go quickly through the stages and play cooperatively when they are only three.
  4. Traumatic events will cause a child to regress to earlier stages.  That’s why a four year old whose family moves to a new town, or whose mom has a new baby, may go back to bed-wetting as they experience ‘trauma’.

All these principles should cause us as teachers to have great patience and seek the Lord’s wisdom as we first observe*, then interact with His magnificent creations.  The children we serve are of infinite worth to God.  He knows them inside out and has a unique plan for them.

Here’s my challenge to you:  Keep a notebook with you as you teach.  Each time you have class, pick a child to observe and make it a goal to record something they said or did that made you appreciate their uniqueness.  Maybe they hopped on one foot.  Maybe they showed empathy for another child.  Maybe an infant grabbed something then intentionally let it go (that’s a big deal for a 4 month old!)  Share that observation with their parents if you get a chance that day, or call them later.  You will have given glory to that child’s Creator and made an important connection with a parent.  Do it once and I guarantee you will want to make it a habit.

* Proverbs 18:13 -  He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.