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the body, the names of the objects around them,the names of people, feelings, and letters of the alphabet. They absorb the world around them through their senses and learn to name it. Therefore, early childhood learning activities emphasize physical development, eye-hand coordination, general body coordination, and balance, as well as naming activities.The world of younger children buzzes and hums with feelings, activities, and people that they can perceive only in unconnected episodes. “And then, and then, and then,” the young child says, enthusiastically connecting unrelated sense impressions.Young children can be great companions on long trips, telling a story in the car for miles by adding on everything they see: “There was this boy that saw a blue silo and then he went away and found a horse that had a colt with it and they were eating grass and running around.”“Why” questions abound for children of this age. “Where does the wind go when it’s not blowing?” “Why are we driving over the wind?” “Who is your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother?” They asklong strings of why questions which no answer can satisfy because they are not really asking cause and effect questions yet.Promise suits its Gospel concepts to the needs of prereaders who need sense-involving waysto experience as well as hear stories. Puppets, illustrations, real objects, show-and-tell—these concrete approaches to telling stories and talking about our world enable young children to experience Gospel stories, too.Young children learn from hearing these stories in a warm and loving atmosphere. They are too young really to try to imitate Jesus’ ways but can recognize he is a loving person who loves them. Catechists and religion teachers can wind up moralizing if they try to lead younger children beyond their intuitions of who Jesus is.The seven-year-old recognizes cause and effect. With this discovery he or she can put experience in some order. Around the age of seven the word because makes the world make more sense.The first grader begins to recognize and recall sequence. With the ability to recall sequence, the narrative or story becomes a primary way forchildren to put experiences together. Stories can answer the wonderful why questions they ask of themselves and of adults. First graders will benefit from using illustrations in Promise to retell Gospel stories on their own.Seven-year-olds depend on their five senses in their concrete learning. When we as adults think back to our early religious experience, we remember the grate in the aisle of the church, the smell of incense, the gilded rosettes on the altar, the bald head of the man who always sat a pew ahead ofthe family. These memories can help catechists understand the concrete way in which children learn.Children learn concretely also by doing, by dramatizing feelings and stories with their bodies, by cutting and pasting, by handling objects, by seeing pictures, and by hearing stories. Children learn through experience—to pray by praying, to worship by worshiping, to share by sharing, to cooperate by cooperating, to love by loving and being loved.SymbolS and RitualPrimary children’s ability to symbolize, like their ability to think, is very concrete and literal. For the preschool child God is vague and magical, often like air or sunlight. In developing the ability to think concretely, the primary child will understand God concretely in human terms.First graders will understand God’s love asbeing like the love of parents, teachers, and friends. They will draw God perhaps taller, bigger, higher, or older than other human persons, but human nonetheless. Prereading children use their concrete thinking ability and sense-ability to explain God.Young children benefit from experiencing symbols and rituals. They can experience the importance of the Bible when a catechist treats it with reverence, or the gathering power of a candle at the center of a prayer service. Children cannot understand the candle as a symbol of Jesus’ risen presence. From such an explanation children will understand literally that Jesus is a candle.The Catholic Church initiates children into full membership by including them in its sacramental life. The colored vestments; the red and gilded books; the bread and chalice; the songs and incense;10

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