If you’ve had a Sunday morning when you left church feeling like your biggest accomplishment was preventing major bloodshed or permanent scarring, then you’ve asked this question: “How do I keep my preschoolers more engaged?”

Don’t feel alone! Everyone who has ever served preschoolers has had the same question, and there is no foolproof method. Even when you are 100 percent prepared, preschool chaos can happen, but the key is to be prepared!

Should we have toys in the room, and if so, how do I refocus attention after playtime?
First Look provides amazing ideas in “Make It Fun,” and they really are fun! If you begin with one or two of these ideas instead of having toys out you will probably find it is much easier to transition and focus your kids on the Bible story when it’s time for Make It True. Make it Fun is written with the intent of always calling your preschoolers’ attentions back to the Bible story they are going to hear. A key point here is realizing Make It Fun is designed to be about 10 minutes—long enough to have fun and stay focused! If you need more than 10-15 minutes, then consider using two Make It Fun activities.

How do we keep our kids engaged while using a live Storyteller during Make It True?
We can probably not say it enough, but the BIG key here is BE PREPARED! If the first time your Storyteller has looked at the Bible story for the day is 10 minutes before the kids walk in the room, don’t be surprised when your kids don’t stay engaged! The scripts in Make It True are intended to be told, not read. The more you can interact with your kids, the more involved they will be. It’s difficult to interact when you have a script in one hand. When you are able to look at your kids when telling the story, you quickly see who is “with you” and who is getting distracted. The great asset of a live Storyteller is they can always repeat a motion activity (march with me again or look through your pretend telescope) to refocus wandering attention. If Make it True calls for props, use them! It is not realistic to expect most 3-year-olds to sit quietly with their hands folded if someone is just talking to them (or at least no 3-year-old that ever lived at my house). But if they are part of the story, that changes everything.

Another suggestion for focus during Make It True is to expand your team. If one person does the worship, introduction and teaching, your preschoolers may become less attentive. Sometimes a limited volunteer base makes expanding the team difficult, so get creative! One of the best volunteer pools you have is middle and high school students. They make the absolute best Worship Leaders and Storytellers for preschoolers! Tapping into this resource not only benefits your preschoolers, but the students as well. What a great opportunity for students to see that they are part of the church by finding the place they can serve, and it can be a priceless opportunity for discipleship and mentoring as an adult pours into their lives!

How can we keep our preschoolers more engaged in Small Group?
We sometimes lose them after the Make It Stick activity.

Make sure you are challenging them enough! Keep a continual gauge on their overall maturity level. For example, if you start the year with pre-K 4- and 5-year-olds, by December many of them will probably be ready to do more of a hands-on craft (e.g., cut out pieces, write their own name, pass out supplies). Also, if you have the volunteers, try to work in Small Groups as you do Make it Stick activities. If you have a group of 10 kids, you will keep their attention longer if there is one leader with each group of five instead of one leader trying to keep the attention of 10 preschoolers. Again, this is another great opportunity for middle and high school leaders. (Do you see a theme here?)

If you have a snack time, that is the perfect opportunity for Make it Real with your older preschoolers. When they are sitting and eating, it is much easier to take a few minutes to review the day, repeat the Bottom Line and memory verse and write in your prayer journals. These journals are an amazing way to build continuity from week to week, even if you don’t have the same leaders each week. Small Group Leaders can pull out the journal and know that Sally wanted us to pray for her cat who was missing—even if she wasn’t there last week.

What are ways you have found that best engage your preschoolers?