Partner Questions: How should we group children in our preschool environment?

  • How can I possibly implement Small Group activities for one-year-old to four-year-old children who are in the same room?
  • What is the best way to divide into groups? Multiple three-year-old groups? fours and fives together? Separate boys and girls? Place them in a room as they arrive?
  • What is the ideal class size and adult-to-child ratio for Small Group activities?

These questions may seem random and unrelated. In reality, they all ask the same basic question. What works best when grouping preschoolers in our environments? Unfortunately, there is not one best way to achieve perfection in grouping preschoolers.

You need to start with knowing your children and what works best for them. Do you have a group of extremely active three-year-old boys who need to move (a lot) and need space away from toddlers and quiet little girls who want to sit and do Activity Pages? Those boys will be best served by creating a Small Group just for them. As much as possible, babies (non-mobile and crawlers) and toddlers should have separate spaces from more active preschoolers for health and safety reasons. If one room is what you have to work with, use shelves or half-walls as room dividers. The preschoolers are short. They won’t be too distracted by what is happening on the other side!

Then, look objectively at your environment and the space you have to work with. If you must have twos, threes, fours and fives in the same room, use the Make It True Bible story from the two-year-old materials. You can then enhance the Bible story learning with the older preschoolers by choosing Make It Fun and Make It Stick Small Group activities that are age-appropriate for them. A hallway can work as a Small Group environment for one or two activities with five-year-olds. And, music is the universal language for children. Our songs span across the learning spectrum from babies to five-year-olds. Lots of music equals lots of learning!

Finally, consider what your volunteers and Small Group Leaders are most comfortable doing. Which age group do they respond to best? Are they enthusiastic about movement activities, games, role-play? Or, is their role serving as a rocker of babies, wiper of noses, changer of diapers more fulfilling? Adult-to-child ratios are another key to the success of your Small Groups. An ideal guideline is to have one volunteer for each year-of-age in the group. So, one Small Group Leader for every two two-year-olds, one volunteer for every five five-year-olds, et cetera.

Know your preschoolers, know your space, know your volunteers. Then, create an environment based on that knowledge that serves the children and your leaders well.

What tips do you have for serving multiple age groups within your ministry? 

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