Preschool article: Faith Development of Children

Faith Development of Children ©

BY Marge Hampton

It is essential that developing faith be as intentional as are a child’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. Just as these other areas of the child’s growth develop in stages, so does his or her faith. In most early childhood programs, the philosophy in the area of faith development is often based on the work of James W. Fowler. His studies and writing clearly shows that faith is developmental. A congregation is better able to respond to children and incorporate them into the life of the community when it broadens its awareness of children’s developing needs and abilities .

Implementation in an Early Childhood Setting

(1) A child’s developing faith can be influenced when they are provided a place where they feel safe and secure. The program must ensure that safe haven through the weekday preschool.

(2) Understanding that young children are concrete learners and gain more knowledge of their world through exploration than through explanation. By touching and feeling their environment they make sense of their world. Staff must be knowledgeable and they plan activities that reflect that knowledge.

(3) Through showing children both patience and praise. As we show patience children will learn to control their “wiggles”. Remember that praise must be genuine and merited. Whether in church or in school “wiggles” are normal in young children and as we are accepting and patient with young children, they grow and mature in their ability to control that impulsive behavior. The loving guidance of adults they have come to trust encourages appropriate behavior.

(4) Young children are “either-or” learners. They tend to think in terms only of “good” or “bad”. Staff respect children’s needs for positive words and images. Stories, pictures, and conversations shared with them, must use words that do not generally encourage “either-or” learning. The “worship and wonder” centers in the room provide appropriate stories and images.

(5) Children model the behaviors they see, so adults must be sure their behaviors reflect the beliefs and values consistent with our faith. Adults must be consistent in their interactions not only with the children, but also with the adults they work with. Children “watch” and “hear” all that is around them and may take it in as “the way to be”.

The goal should be to have the child come to know this is God’s world and to discover his/her place in it. Also, to realize the responsibility each of us has to care for God’s world. At the school I directed and taught in we had a “worship and wonder” center in each classroom. Teachers place books, pictures, items from nature, etc. on the table in the center and help the children focus on that in relation to God’s world. They talk about how they can care for one another and often pray for each other. Children of many different ethnic and faith backgrounds learn to celebrate the differences in one another and thereby come to realize that we can all live in harmony in God’s world. He created each of us and made each of us different and unique, but all “very special in his sight”. When the children go to chapel they learn more about God’s son, Jesus, and hear stories about him and the way he wants us to live in his Father’s world.

Article copyright by Marge Hampton © 2004-2005

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I Am A Child (poem)

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