Schools usually divide children into classes according to chronological age and churches often do the same for teaching programs. Ages are helpful indicators of development and understanding child development will help you be a better teacher. But teachers must remember that groups of children are really just a collection of unique individuals each having been created by God with gifts and personalities all their own.
If you are the only teacher and the students in your class represent a wide range of ages it is not realistic to think each child or age group is going to receive age-specific teaching. My suggestion is to teach to the level of the older children and set them to some classroom work. Then “catch the younger ones up” by providing a simpler re-telling of the story and age appropriate activities.
When possible encourage older children to help the younger ones but try to avoid a situation where the older children feel like babysitters.
Infants, toddlers and some pre-schoolers would benefit from another adult in the room being their dedicated carer during class.
No Two Children are Exactly Alike
Each child is unique in areas such as development, skills, intelligence, personality, background, interests and energy levels. Even identical twins are not truly identical. Just because you have five 6-year-olds in your class don’t expect them to all act the same.
Development Does Not Follow a Rigid Calendar
Even if we were to completely understand the unique qualities of a child he or she will be different the next time we see them! Children are growing and changing at an amazing speed.
Milestones toward maturity can vary according to where you live in the world and even from family to family. For instance, being able to perform certain actions alone and independently may be a sign of maturity in one culture but a sign of immature socialization in another.
Relationships Say More than Birthdays
So, basically, there is no substitute for getting to know the children you are teaching. The following guidelines will help you better understand children and they will help you choose appropriate learning activities. But always be open and attentive to each child.
Teaching Tips for Various Age-Groups
- Infants and Toddlers (0-2 years)
- Pre-Schoolers (3-5 years)
- Younger Primary (6-7 years)
- Older Primary (8-10 years)
- Pre-Teen (11-12 years)
References and Other Helpful Online Resources
- The ABC’s of Spiritual Growth
- Power Point Slides about Age Characteristics
- Collection of Child Development Articles
- Child Development Information
- Play and Developmental Stages