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Navigating the Three Phases of Elementary School

When we understand the phases that elementary schoolers go through, we can influence them where they are. Read to find out more!
Phases of Elementary School

Phase Defined: A time frame in a kid’s life when you can leverage distinctive opportunities to influence their future.

  • The phase that should matter most to you is the phase they are in now.
  • The phase that matters most happens before or after this phase.
  • Adults tend to assume, “They are like me now.”
  • Adults tend to assume, “They are like I used to be.”
  • Every kid at every phase is changing in six ways: physically, mentally, relationally, culturally, emotionally, and morally.

Your Role | Engage Their Interests

Read Their Mind…

So kids in the three phases of elementary will believe they can win.

  • Know what can be expected of them and know how they think so they will hear what you say and know what to do.
  • BIG IDEA: Elementary-aged kids think like a scientist.
  • Elementary-age kids want to see how things are working and learn best through concrete evidence.

“Children are most like adults in their feelings. They are least like adults in their thinking. More information does not make them think like us.”

— Catherine Stonehouse

Discover Their World…

So kids in the three phases of elementary will feel they belong.

Kindergarten & First: Do I have your attention? The Goal: Improve abilities.

Second & Third: Do I have what it takes? The Goal: Broaden competence.

Fourth & Fifth: Do I have friends? The Goal: Develop friendships.

DON’T MISS THIS: The buffer in every crisis is love.

Interpret Their Motives…

So kids in the three phases of elementary will discern what they should do.

  • Moral emotions are instinctive. Moral development is not.
  • If you want to help a elementary-aged kid develop a moral conscience, you have to interpret and influence their motive.
  • The ultimate motive is love.
  • Elementary kids are motivated most by fun.

Play To Your Audience…

So kids in the three phases of elementary will discover how to relate to God.

  • Your job is not to redefine God to an elementary-aged kid. Your job is to help kids rediscover God in a new way in the elementary phases.
  • How elementary kids related to God: God’s story inspires my story.
  • When you engage their interests you help an elementary-aged kid trust God’s character and experience God’s family.

Three Ideas to Help Elementary-Age Kids Mature in their Relationship with God.

  1. Tell one story. Pre-decide the one thing you want them to know.
  2. Use “real” illustrations. Make it concrete and avoid abstract metaphors.
  3. Make it fun. Have more than one way to say the same thing.


Learn about the phases of preschoolers on our blog!

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