Allowing preschoolers to choose
“Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).
Guiding Children to Succeed
As adults, when we momentarily think about making an inappropriate choice, telling a little fib to a telemarketer on the phone or receiving too much change from a store clerk and perhaps not returning it, there’s that little voice inside our heads that tells us what we’re about to do is wrong. Most of us have an uneasy feeling. Well, that’s not a little voice—it’s a big, powerful voice. It’s the voice of God telling us that whenever we are about to make the wrong choice to leave His path of righteousness, He will correct us.
How does God correct us? Even with His infinite wisdom and supreme power, God doesn’t yell at us or belittle us. In fact, He doesn’t seem too surprised that we’ve veered off track again and He lovingly guides us back in place. Imagine if the Isaiah 30:21 scripture read, Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a booming yell so loud that you’ll think lightening hit you and you’ll want to run crying to your mother. And the voice will yell again, “How many times have I told you what to do? You don’t listen to a thing. What’s the matter with you? Stop walking the wrong way. Get back in line!” But God doesn’t treat us like that, does He?
God Allows Us to Make our Own Choices
It was not God, but us, who decided whether we would go to the left or to the right and God was behind us, not in front of us. Remember that the scripture says, “Your ears will hear a word behind you.” Little children need to be led and they are certainly not capable of making too many choices on their own. However, if we set up a safe environment that allows for lots of kid choices, we can give them the opportunity to learn how to make the right choices all by themselves.
Little Choices are the Foundation for Big Choices
We expect children to make the right choices, but so often we strictly dictate actions of children, never allowing them to make choices. Children who do not have lots of opportunity to select their options will have a hard time learning to make the right choices in the absence of adult intervention. Think about it. Life is full of choices. Little choices, What will I eat? What will I wear? And big choices, How will I act? Whom will I marry? How will I treat others? Will I be obedient to Christ?
Offer Preschoolers Choices
Allowing children to make simple choices as preschoolers prepares them to make more difficult decisions as they grow. Giving children choices also helps show them that you value their input and thoughts. So what kind of choices can you give preschoolers?
Choices Preschoolers Can Make
- Whom to pray for
- The color of construction paper
- Which activity to go to during free choice
- Which song to sing
- Where to sit at group time (unless you are trying to separate certain children because of behavior)
- Where to glue pre-cut craft pieces. The end result doesn’t always have to look like we intended. Allow for variation and individuality.
Tips for Guiding Preschool Choices
With every choice comes a consequence and that’s one of the greatest lessons we learn from choosing. Giving preschoolers choices will require more time and children will need guidance, but it’s worth the effort.
- Some children are hesitant or indecisive and may need your guidance to learn how to choose activities, especially during free choice or open play.
- Offer children choices only when a choice is possible. If everyone is going outside, then staying inside may not be a choice. “You have to go outside. Do you want to play on the swings or kick the ball?’
- Try to offer only two choices when possible. Instead of “Where do you want to sit?” ask “Would you like to sit here or here?” and point to the options.
- Realize that children make very few choices and allowing them to choose prepares them for making greater life choices in the future, like whom to marry and what job to take. All that from preschool? Sure thing! The foundation of character begins in preschool.
- Encourage children to pray about big choices, like a special project that they want to do or how they can help others. “Ask God to help us decide if we should collect clothes or food to give to other people.”
- Be flexible with a child’s choice unless he is always changing his mind. If he chooses green paper and decides blue, give him the blue. How many times have we changed our minds when ordering from a menu or trying to pick out clothes?
Preschoolers need to make little choices to prepare them for making greater life choices. The biggest choice any of us will ever make is deciding to follow Christ. Isn’t that what we want for all the preschoolers we guide? Start now with little choices to help them make wise big choices.