July 2023 Preschool leader article
Missions Discipleship

Preschoolers Are Creative and Have Short Attention Spans

A friend’s older preschooler collected loose parts such as old buttons, bolts, and discarded wire. He glued these together to make small tabletop sculptures which he called “Thing-a-ma-jigs.” His creativity and imagination led him to make his artwork, along with the desire to make a little money. He actually sold a few!

Let’s explore preschoolers’ creativity, as well as another general characteristic of preschoolers—short attention spans. How can we best teach preschoolers with these general characteristics?

Creative and Imaginative

Preschoolers have creative minds and use their imagination as they play. They show their creativity as they do activities for the first time. Their play is original and shows their creativity. They use their imaginations in pretend play and artwork.

How can we foster creativity and imagination?

    • Encourage preschoolers to create on their own without having to follow a rigid pattern.
    • Provide art materials for preschoolers to access on their own.
    • Provide a variety of materials to encourage creativity.
    • Add props to interest areas as suggested in Mission Friends Leader to encourage creative play.
    • Change props and materials periodically.
    • Spark a preschooler’s imagination by asking questions such as “What if … ?”

Short Attention Span

A leader was experienced in teaching older children in church. One day she was asked to teach four- and five-year-olds. The biggest difference she noticed was their short attention span.

Preschoolers have the ability to focus on a task for a short amount of time. This usually grows as preschoolers mature in their development.

What are some tips for teaching preschoolers with short attention spans?

    • Provide choices of activities.
    • Allow preschoolers to move between activity choices on their own time.
    • Provide a balance of noisy and quiet activities.
    • In Group Time, play a movement game immediately before the mission story to help preschoolers get their wiggles out so they can focus on the story.
    • When telling the mission story, gauge when preschoolers are becoming restless so you can bring the story to a close.

Joye Smith is the national WMU preschool ministry consultant.

This article first appeared in June-July-August 2023 Mission Friends Leader. Each quarter of Mission Friends Leader, the curriculum piece for preschool missions discipleship, provides practical information on working with preschoolers, achieving effective teaching and learning opportunities, and growth and development of preschoolers.