Tell me the difference between ("teaching") 4-year-olds and 2/3-year-olds

So my church just called me to be a teacher for the 4-year-olds. Four boys, two of whom seem fairly sweet and biddable (at least, y’know, for four-year-old boys), the third of whom is extremely cheerful and also rather high-energy, and the fourth of whom… well, at the low point this Sunday, “Aaron” informed me that I was mean and that he hated me. So any help would be welcome!

“Teaching,” in this context, involves a) preparing a 30-45 minute lesson (which is supposed to involve some simple concept, but at this age probably involves coloring or some other activity-ish thing to keep them busy) which is just me and the boys, and b) supervising them as they’re sitting in a room with about 20 other children, for about an hour. (This was the only part I did last week, and it was the one where Aaron told me he hated me.)

I’m quite worried about this. The last time I taught kids at church, they walked all over me (and they were girls, too!) – it was ten years ago, and I wasn’t a parent then, and am now, and thus have cultivated some methods of discipline, but I’m still worried. Also, I’m around very few four-year-olds, and when I have been, it’s almost never been in a teaching-surrogate-parental-ish role. I feel fairly comfortable with looking after 2-3-year-olds – I’ve looked after up to eight other kids besides my own (with one other adult) most Sundays in the last year, but not 4-year-olds, and I don’t know how they’re different.

With the 2-year-olds I’ve been around, I mostly try to be very patient and consistent with consequences (if the rule is that yelling won’t get you a toy, yelling louder will definitely not get you the toy). I don’t know how to be with four-year-olds except the same way. (Aaron was angry at me because I sat between him and another boy he was poking, and he kept insisting that he needed to sit next to the other boy, and I kept insisting that he had to show me he could sit still quietly first, which apparently was too onerous a demand.)

I know one thing that’s different, I was informed when I was talking to our nanny, is that with two-year-olds I generally can use touch to enforce discipline (e.g., one of our nursery rules is that when you upset a basket you need to pick up the toys in that basket, and I usually have to enforce this by taking the kid’s hand and picking up at least one toy) – and four-year-olds don’t really stand for that sort of tactile control (and get upset when you try). So that’s one thing I know I need to work on.

Any tips?

Hi, Raspberry Hunter…you appeared to put this thread as a reply in another topic, so I’ve split it off from there and made it its own topic for you.

Is there any way you can get those kids up and moving around? I realize that it’s tough with so many other kids in the room, but kids that age (especially most boys) really need to be moving.

If not, try some action rhymes so they can at least be using their hands. Yes, coloring’s great, but it’s also tricky for some kids who need to develop their fine finger control more.

Oh, and don’t let “You’re mean. I hate you!” bother you. If your own kid(s) haven’t said it yet, he/she/they will.

4 year olds, as I’ve said in other threads, are assholes. They’ve got the impulse control issues of toddlers and the gross motor skills of small human beings, which means they can get into way more trouble way more quickly than you’d ever believe.

Of course, they’re also incredibly sweet and loving and most of them want to be helpers. Exploit that. If sitting still next to you is too much for his impulse control, give him something to do. Bring a stack of colored index cards, all mixed up, and tell him you desperately need his help sorting them so all the reds are together and all the blues are together. Thank him profusely when he’s done, of course!

If they have some free reign to move around, I’ve had good luck sending them to find things: “I need a pen. Not a pencil, a pen. A green one. Can you find one for me?” “I need a yellow sticker. Please find me a yellow sticker.” “I need a snipe desperately! Help me, you’re my only hope!”

Keep. Them. Busy. Plan six times what you think they could possibly accomplish in 30 minutes, and if something isn’t holding their interest, switch activities.

You’re right on about the sticking to your rules thing. Whining does not change my mind. Asking nicely and giving me a clear, logical, non-whiny reason why I should change my mind *may *work, but whining, pouting, stamping of feet and the like will not. Period.

I’ve got to run at the moment, but I’ll post some more specific activity ideas later. What do you have to work with, in terms of toys/supplies/budget/space/noise allowance?

I help with the 4yo group at our church.

Don’t make them sit still the whole time for your lesson (especially if they’re going to have to sit quiet for an hour later). Run some of that boundless 4yo energy off. Especially if there’s a bunch of boys.

Bone up on the rules of “Duck Duck Goose” , “What’s the Time Mr Wolf” and musical statues. Our mob love all that.

If you’re telling them a story, don’t just tell them the story. Involve them in it. Use some sort of action figures. Silly ones are good. Gloves, baked potatoes with faces, stuffed pandas… Ask them questions (“what do you think happens next?”). Make it clear you only listen to ONE voice at a time - a rule they’re hopefully mostly familiar with from preschool.

Have something fun for the end. Use it as your bribe for good behaiour(“gee, only people who have helped tidy up get a special stamp. Lucky there’s still a crayon lying around under the table, isn’t it?”)

That’s mostly what springs immediately to mind. Four year olds are harder work than littler kids. Don’t expect a minute’s relaxation for the whole hour and a half.

Did anybody else read this OP and think for a second that raspberry hunter was referring to two-thirds year olds instead of 2-3 year olds (and then think, why didn’t he/she just say 8 months?)?

Church? There are a ton of songs that can involve movement as well. (I can send you some if you want as I still have my camp songbook, just PM me).

And ‘Human Pretzel’ isn’t terribly loud, but is fun and takes a little bit of problem solving.

Can you do crafty things? That takes more concentration than coloring. If you want something that won’t make a mess, Lincoln logs or Legos (the big ones).

At very least, can you take them outside to run around for a bit half-way through? As I recall from my camp counselling days, an hour is a long time for somebody that age to be sitting.

…I somehow missed this entire thing (I think because I didn’t realize I’d posted it in entirely the wrong place, and was all “Why didn’t this topic show up,” thanks Idle Thoughts and sorry for making such a dumb mistake)!

THANK YOU for the suggestions. My 2.5-year-old is so different (and also we’re starting to have some control issues, like she WILL NOT let me sing) that I hadn’t even thought of some of these, like the action songs.

I will have to see if I can take them outside for a bit. I think I’m a little afraid of being able to herd them back together again… but I agree, it’s a LONG time to sit still. I can barely do it myself, and I’m an adult!

Toys: not really so much. I’m buying class supplies myself, but I totally don’t mind spending a bit of money on crafty-things (especially since the Little One will inherit whatever they don’t use), though I’d prefer what would fit in a large tote bag because, well, I have to tote it around. I have a fairly small classroom (we could probably play Duck Duck Goose, but probably not anything more space-intensive). Noise… well, no one expects us to be silent, but probably not super-noisy either. There are a couple of grassy lawn-like parts outside, but nothing that’s really conducive to real outside games.

CRAFTS. What a great idea! FINDING THINGS. awesome!

They’re really sweet kids. (Aaron is also very sweet when he’s not angry.) Just… SOOOO much energy!

THANK YOU again. These are all GREAT suggestions.

Are they old enough to decorate popsicle-stick crosses yet? That would be a fun sit-down activity after playing a more physical game, and their parents would love it (you would probably want to glue the sticks into crosses beforehand, so you don’t have to wait for the glue to dry). If their fingers aren’t dexterous enough to wrap with yarn yet, you can just get some pipe-cleaners in crazy colors and have the kids twist the pipe cleaners around the sticks. No glue required, it’s a very low-mess craft (avoid macaroni art!).

Human pretzel is a great game, but they might not be old enough for it yet. All the kids have to be able to stand still for awhile without anybody letting go of anyone else’s hand. But I DO think the “Head and shoulders, knees and toes” game would be good for burning off excess energy, because it can be done in place and it’s easy for even very small kids to mimic your movements.

You can also do a jogging conga-line around the room and let the kids take turns being in front. This is another way to burn off energy indoors. The kid in front gets to pretend to be an airplane and runs around in random directions, and the kids behind all hold on to each other’s shoulders. Switch leaders by sending the front kid to the back every couple miuntes.

The difference between teaching two-year-olds and four-year-olds is that you can actually teach 4s some academic stuff rather than spending all your time picking them up when they fall over and keeping them from braining each other with toys. I completely disagree with WhyNot, two-year-olds are assholes, and four-year-olds are my favorite age of kids that I’ve ever taught.

This is Sunday school as opposed to school-school, right? Check out some of these sites for activity ideas. This sort of thing goes over big with kids that age, for example.

Flannelboard!! I LOVED flannelboard when I was that age! (Yes, Sunday school, not school-school. No way would anyone hire me to teach 4-year-olds – fourth graders, maybe; high-schoolers, probably – but I think they’d take one look at me in the Sunday school classroom and start laughing.)

ooh, popsicle-stick activities! That gives me some ideas…

I love the Dope! You guys are great! I’ll try to remember to report back after Sunday…

I used to work with 4 year olds at a daycare. The advice about trying to get them moving is great advice. IF you can do singing try songs with motions such as Father Abraham, His banner over me is love, The Lord’s Army, etc.
Do not worry about being too mean. The teachers I worked with were shockingly mean, one told me that the meaner you were the more the kids liked you. They like structure and need to know the rules are enforced to feel safe.

OK, checking in after two weeks, if anyone cares; results of Doper suggestions were excellent; results of me are, well, can still improve…

Last week we did a crafts activity involving taping a face that could act as a smile or frown (that they drew with crayons from a template I provided) on a popsicle stick. We then sang a song they all knew about smiles and frowns using the popsicle smiles. That was a huuuuge hit. I think crafts are definitely the way to go with this group.

This week we acted out the story of the Good Samaritan and sang songs about kindness. This was… less successful. It got them moving around and interested, which was good, but they tended to start talking and shoving each other rather than pay attention to the story (and they turned out not to know the kindness songs). Also, they kept wanting the Good Samaritan to fight the priest and the Levite and beat them up because they were the “bad guys,” which, okay, was hilarious :slight_smile:

And I just realized I forgot entirely to do the activity songs I had intended to do.

So, work in progress. But thank you guys SO much for the suggestions.

Yeah, simple crafts are really good in that age range. So are toy trucks and Barbies, but perhaps they’re not as educational. :smiley:

I know my mom still has a wreath I made out of construction paper and glitter in 2nd grade, over 20 years ago! She has it carefully boxed and still hangs it up every Christmas. And ornaments I and my sister made as little kids get trotted out, too. The stuff you make in Sunday school might become treasured family decor. :slight_smile: