In a world where learning comes through the senses—taste, touch, smell, sight and sound—communicating abstract concepts such as love, generosity, and compassion requires creativity. Perhaps we agree that children should learn these traits as early as possible, but teaching an abstract concept, such as compassion, could pose quite a challenge. For preschoolers, who are egocentric, sensory learners, meaningful learning happens by connecting highly personal, sensory experiences with the abstract concept. Since Christmas celebrates one of the greatest acts of compassion—God sending His Son to earth—it offers a great opportunity to teach children this concept. The question, then, is how to connect this abstract concept with their real life experiences.
Begin by talking with preschoolers about the importance of helping others. Developmentally, preschoolers are constantly learning new things, trying to exert their independence, and looking for ways to help. Often, we overlook that “help” because it generally slows down the rate of work or creates a mess to clean up later, which multiplies the work. Creating opportunities to teach preschoolers about compassion through helping means that the job may take longer and it may not be done according to our standards, but a little time and messiness are small prices to pay for the chance to help a child become more like Jesus by showing compassion. (Repeat this phrase quietly while taking slow, deep breaths to minimize the frustration the “help” might cause.)
Thank you to Wyndi Labrecque for this guest post.