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{LDS How-to} Teach (Not Babysit) Nursery

Jordan Green and Jenny Spencer - July 19, 2012

Teaching Nursery Class brings with it special challenges – use these tips to help make the most your time with the youngest Primary children.

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Nursery worker—it can be a very challenging calling in the Church. But it can also be one of the most fulfilling. You don’t have to be the children’s babysitter; instead you can be a loving teacher who helps them learn gospel principles in doses that their short attention spans can handle. Here are a few different ways to make your Nursery into more than just a room filled with scattered toys and toddlers with cookie crumbs in their hair. It may take some extra thought and preparation, but the benefits will far outweigh the costs.

1.Teach them Spirituality
Teaching two-year-olds the gospel may be incredibly challenging, but it’s not impossible. Their little spirits are very perceptive, especially to visual and audial reminders. Having pictures of Jesus Christ around the room will help you teach them about who He is and who He wants us to become. Children will be able to see His face and know that He always watches over them. When a child misbehaves, we can remind him or her that Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be obedient.

Two-year olds are not known for their reverence, but you can help them improve this trait by teaching them that reverence is important to the Lord. Designating one song to be the “reverent song” and teaching the children to be respectful and quiet when they hear it will help them and you feel the Spirit more. Gradually, the children will recognize the song and model its expected behavior.

2. Teach them Kindness
Sometimes, one of the most difficult challenges that toddlers struggle with can be sharing. While some children naturally enjoy sharing their toys with others, more often than not, those little hands just want to cling to their precious toys. This creates a problem in nursery since no toys really belong to any one child but to the nursery.

Show them how to share by sharing with them yourself. If you have a bowl of apple slices for a snack, share them with the children and call attention to your actions so they will see your good example. When you share, show the children how you say “please” and “thank you,” and encourage them to do the same. If children begin to bicker over a toy, have a timer on hand to time a turn with the object for each child.

3. Teach them Creativity
Toddlers’ minds are rapidly growing as they mature and develop. As their teacher, you can help them harness and cultivate their creativity with your lessons and games. Teach them games with balloons, play dough, blocks, bubbles, clothespins—the possibilities are endless. Just make sure that each game is safe enough for toddlers.

Have a few extra games on hand that can be accessed during lag time. Teaching them a cute dance that they can sing and dance together will help them have fun together. Help them learn to draw or color pictures that they can later show their parents. Though this is a common activity, you can always spruce it up by making pictures with a little glue and cotton balls, popcorn, puffed rice, feathers, or whatever else. Having the pictures depict what they learned in the lesson will help them remember the principle throughout the week.

4. Teach them Order
Children may feel more secure in places that follow a routine and an orderly pattern. A bulletin board with the names and photos of each child will help them feel important and make friends faster. Different areas of the room can be designated for specific activities, such as the reading rug or coloring corner. It may be difficult at first for them to understand that one activity belongs in a specific area, but they will soon learn and (hopefully) obey.

Trying to keep the room clean can be rough after some wild toddlers have torn their way through a game closet. At the end of class, show the children that it’s important to keep the church neat because it’s the house of the Lord. Creating a “clean-up song” and teaching it to them before the actual clean-up time may help them be more cooperative when class winds down. The children will then be more willing to clean as they sing together at the same time.

Want more ideas for teaching nursery and Primary? Check out our article on music you can incorporate into your lessons here.

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© LDS Living, 2012.
Comments 2 comments

bridget said...

09:17 AM
on Jul 19, 2012

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The idea to have a clean-up song works well. We do that and it helps the little ones understand that it's time to put things away, plus it makes clean-up something of a game. Another thing we do is use puppets to teach lessons (i.e., listening to the Lord, not to Satan) and that always seems to get their attention and keep it for a while.

grandmagraduate said...

11:24 AM
on Jul 19, 2012

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In 1985, I was called as a nursery leader and served for 5 years. I am a nursery leader once more and have served, so far, for more than 3 years. The Primary president at the time I was called this time had been one of my nursery students in the '80s, and her son was then one of my students. I am grateful for this article and so hope it will encourage those called as nursery leaders and teachers to put forth the effort on behalf of these little ones. One suggestion, though: Please refer to "nursery" by its proper name, "The Nursery Class." One of the problems with members attitudes toward the Nursery Class is that they view it as a babysitting service. The manual tells us differently. It is the first class they will attend within the Church and should be a positive experience. Parents please don't leave diaper bags. We aren't allowed to change diapers and that is not what we're called to do. We are there to help you plant those first seeds of faith in the Gospel and to teach them that their Father in Heaven, their Savior Jesus Christ, and the members of their ward love them and want them to be happy. We do this with music, short lessons, playtime, snack time, and other activities. Thanks again for this wonderful article.
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