1. Arrange the room so that you have some table space and some floor space so that during the session, the children will have the chance to move around the room. Moving periodically from one area to another will help keep the children engaged in the lesson. Use the floor space to present the lesson or scripture story and the tables for a craft project or snack.

2. Prepare a special area in the room for prayer. Incorporate story props that reflect the lesson.

3. Prepare the lessons ahead of time by having all the materials ready to go. This means having all the props ready for presenting the scripture lesson, all the pieces cut and ready for the craft project, the CD player set to the appropriate song, the snack prepared in individual baggies or cups, and so on. Young children can become distractible and overly active during transition times. Advanced planning will maintain the flow of the learning session.

4. Young children have shorter attention spans, so it is important to divide the lessons into short segments. Here are some examples:

  • Have a few religious puzzles or other items on the floor so that the children will be engaged in activities while the other children trickle in for class. (5-10 minutes)
  • Gather the children with a song and begin the lessons with a short and developmentally appropriate prayer. (3-5 minutes) 
  • Present an interactive lesson and engage the children in learning about Jesus. (10-15 minutes) 
  • The children will have for some time and will appreciate music and movement. Do not be shy, the children will not critique your singing however, they will pick up or your enthusiasm! There are many sing along CDs and finger plays available. (10 minutes) 
  • Transition to a craft activity at the table. The activity should be a reminder of the main theme of the lesson. (10-20 minutes) 
  • Have a few other items out to engage the children who finish their crafts early. The children will enjoy puzzles, puppets, makers and paper, religious books, play dough, or they may enjoy retelling the lesson with your props.  
  • Gather the children again for a one to two sentence review of the lesson. Close with a prayer and invite them to come again. (5 minutes) 

5. Remember, prayer is the best preparation for any catechist. Pray for each of the children by name, asking God to help them hear his word for their lives.

Book recommendations:

Teach It, Early Childhood by Ana Arista White/Joseph White

Written and designed specifically for volunteer catechists teaching 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds, here are both an examination and explanation of the six tasks outlined in the Vatican's General Directory for Catechesis: doctrine, liturgy, moral decision-making, prayer, community life, and mission.

It includes:

  •  Know It pages, providing the catechist with an overview of the topic.
  • Teach It pages, discussing specific techniques for getting the material across to the children.
  • Share It reproducible pages, (in Spanish and English) giving parents additional background on the topic and suggestions for activities that will reinforce the material at home.

Bible Stories to Draw and Tell by Julie A. Petras

Here's a marvelous way to keep the attention of a roomful of squirmy children. All you need is a chalkboard and some chalk - or a dry-erase board, or even a big piece of paper. Then you're set to keep children spellbound with a few simple lines, swirls, dashes, and dots.

As you tell a story from Scripture, you gradually add the marks on the board. By the end of the story, you've drawn a picture that illustrates the meaning of the Scripture. Children will be delighted. Older children can even draw along with you to make the same picture.

This is the first book of its kind with a Catholic theme. It includes 25 stories from Scripture, carefully chosen to help children deepen their understanding of the Catholic Faith.

Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children by McNamara/Robinson/Neuburger 

With the same classroom-tested style that made our Big Book of Ideas for Children's Faith Formation so popular, this book shows you step-by-step how to make learning fun for children ages 3 to 8, and beyond.

Your favorite characters from the first book return to lead us through Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and a few secular holidays, too. Short stories, crafts, games, and traditional decorations remind them of the time-honored customs of the season. Prayers and devotions - some new, some traditional - keep all the fun centered on faith, and might just become lifetime habits.

If you teach in Catholic schools or CCD classes, you'll wonder how you ever got along without this book. If you're a homeschooler, this is just the help you've been looking for. If you're a parent or grandparent looking for some rainy-day fun, here's fun you can feel good about.