Solving Behavior Problems in the Sunbeam Class (ages 3-4)

The purpose of the three-year old (Sunbeam) class is to help children:

  • develop an understanding of and love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ,
  • be involved in positive experiences in Primary, and
  • grow in feelings of self-worth.

Source: Primary 1, Teaching with This Manual, p. v

The Three-Year-Old

Characteristics at this AgeSuggestions for Parents and Teachers
Walks and runs, but is still uncoordinated. Likes doing things with his or her hands but does them awkwardly.Use activities that include jumping, skipping, walking, and bending. Use simple art activities such as pasting, molding clay, and coloring. Avoid activities that require refined skills and coordination, such as tying or cutting. Be prepared to clean up messes.
Has more language skills. Likes to talk and learn new words. Has a short attention span. Is curious and inquisitive. Often misunderstands and makes comments that seem off the subject. Enjoys pretending. Likes finger plays, stories, and musical activities. Is unable to distinguish fantasy from reality.Teach ideas in a simple, clear way. Use summaries and visual materials to reinforce ideas. Encourage questions and responses to the lessons, but have the child take turns with other children. Use a variety of teaching methods such as stories, songs, discussions, dramatizations, finger plays, and simple games. Alternate between quiet and lively activities.
Enjoys working alone. Does not engage in much cooperative play with others, but likes to have friends around. Is self-centered. Has difficulty sharing. Prefers to be close to adults, particularly family, because they provide security.Provide opportunities to play with others. Use activities that encourage sharing, taking turns, and cooperating. Develop a close relationship with the child, and frequently give the child opportunities to talk about his or her family.
Wants to please adults. Needs their approval, love, and praise. Strikes out emotionally when afraid or anxious. Cries easily. Is sensitive to others’ feelings. Is developing some independence. Has intense, short-lived emotions.Show approval and confidence in the child. Avoid criticism. Emphasize the love you and the child’s family have for him or her. Help the child understand others’ feelings and solve conflicts. Encourage the child to be self-sufficient.
Is interested in simple gospel principles such as prayer and obedience. Is more aware of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and has simple faith in Them.Teach the gospel in simple, concrete ways. Teach that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live and are kind and loving. Share simple expressions of testimony. Help the child recognize the beauty of God’s creations.

The Four-Year Old

Characteristics at this AgeSuggestions for Parents and Teachers
Is very active. Moves quickly. Likes to skip, jump, race, climb, and throw.Alternate between quiet and lively activities. Help the child learn to control and be responsible for his or her actions. Teach appropriate ways to express emotions.
Enjoys talking and learning new words. Asks many questions. Is able to reason a little, but still has many misconceptions. Has trouble separating fact from fantasy. Has a short attention span. Uses artwork to express feelings. Enjoys pretending and role playing.Use discussions and activities that will encourage thinking, such as simple riddles and guessing games. Clarify misunderstandings. Use pictures, objects, and actual experiences. Introduce new words. Have the child draw pictures that relate to lessons. Accept and encourage the child’s creative efforts. Allow the child to explore his or her surroundings. Use role-playing activities.
Plays more cooperatively with others. Is sometimes physically aggressive, bossy, impolite, and stubborn, but can also be friendly. Is learning to share, accept rules, and take turns. Responds to sincere praise.Provide opportunities for the child to play and work cooperatively with others. Teach kindness, patience, and politeness. Help the child follow simple rules such as taking turns. Help the child learn positive social behavior without punishing or scolding him or her.
Often tests people�s limits. Is boastful, especially about self and family. May be agreeable one moment and quarrelsome the next. Has more self-confidence. May have fears and feelings of insecurity.Establish and firmly follow limits. Allow the child to talk about self and family. Teach the child that he or she is special to Heavenly Father and Jesus. Express the love you and the child�s parents have for him or her.
Is becoming aware of right and wrong, and usually desires to do right. Blames others for his or her wrongdoing. Has a natural love and respect for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and asks many questions about Them. Likes to pray, and wants to be good. Is becoming more interested in gospel principles.Help the child be responsible for his or her own behavior, and teach the importance of making good choices. Teach that Heavenly Father loves His children and that we can communicate with Him through prayer. Help the child discover how to be reverent at church. Teach basic gospel principles.

Source: Teaching, No Greater Call, C: Teaching Different Age-Groups, 2: Age Characteristics of Children, p. 110

(This information is in list form in Teaching, No Greater Call, but I thought it was better to see the characteristics of the child beside the way to adjust teaching methods to best fit the needs of the child. – Jenny)

Potential Problems and Solutions for this age group

ProblemPossible Solution
A parent tells you the child does not want to come to the nursery. The child screams and cries when the parent tries to leave.Encourage parents to prepare their children for the nursery ahead of time (see Primary 1, “Preparing Children for the Nursery,” pages x-xi). Invite the parent to stay until the child is calm and settled. It might be helpful to invite other adults to hold crying children to help them feel more secure.
A child seems afraid of you or the other children, wanders aimlessly around the nursery, and will not talk to anyone.Be patient; do not pressure the child. Give him or her time to get to know you, the other children, and the environment. Occasionally reassure the child and suggest one or two activities to try. Help the child have a successful experience of some kind.
During the entire nursery period, a child clings to your leg or tries to sit on your lap.Young children need warmth and attention. A minute of holding and talking to the child periodically will usually satisfy him or her. Then encourage the child to become involved in the nursery activities.
During lesson time, several children stand up and walk away before the activities are finished.Be alert and aware of each child’s needs, interests, and attention span. Look for signs of boredom or restlessness so you can adjust the activity to fit the children’s interests. Do not force a child to participate in any activity. If some children want to return to playing with toys, let them do so.
A child will not sit quietly and listen. He or she pushes and pulls at the children sitting nearby.The second teacher can direct the child’s attention to the activity the first teacher is conducting. Give the child something to hold so he or she is actively involved in the lesson or activity.
Several children start fighting over a toy. One child kicks, hits, or bites in order to keep the toy.Children can sometimes resolve disagreements themselves, but you should step in if necessary to prevent them from hurting each other or damaging property. You might suggest ways for the children to solve their problem.
A child starts to play roughly — swinging a toy around, pounding it, or throwing it. Then he or she runs to another part of the room.You need to stop this behavior. Explain to the child why he or she cannot act this way; then direct the child to another activity.
A child takes one toy after another from the shelf, refusing to put any of the toys away.Gently but firmly restate the expected behavior. Show the child how to put the toys away. Encourage the child to put each toy away before taking another one.
A child begins to whine and cry. When you try to give comfort, he or she says, “I don’t like you,” and pulls away.Young children are usually easily distracted. Show the child a special toy and suggest that it might be fun to play with. If that does not work, try a story or book. Wiping the child’s eyes sometimes helps stop the crying. If the child continues to cry, take him or her to a parent.
A child asks, “When will my mother come? When can I go home?”Reassure the child that his or her parents will come back. Talk about some of the things that will take place before it is time to go home.

Source: Primary 1, Adapting the Manual for Use in the Nursery, Who Attends, p. ix

chevron-downenvelopemenu-circlecross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram