"The purpose of the nursery class is to help children learn the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and live it. The nursery class should help the children increase their understanding of and love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, have positive experiences in a Church setting, and grow in feelings of self-worth." - Behold Your Little Ones: Nursery Manual, (2008), 1–6
I believe that those little ones have the capacity to "...increase their understanding of and love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ..." It is the responsibility of the leaders to help make sure these precious children are having such an experience and that they know they are loved by their Heavenly Father, Savior and their leaders. I recently had the opportunity to teach a special Easter lesson to the little nursery children. I was so impressed by their excitement to learn about the Savior. They understood what I was teaching them and fully participated in the learning experience. It was an experience that I was grateful I was able to have.
I have been so blessed as I have served in primary presidencies to have fellow members of my wards understand the importance of primary and nursery. That see their callings as opportunities to help the children learn about the Savior and their Heavenly Father. It makes me so sad when I hear of other wards or branches who struggle to get people to serve in the nursery or primary. For me I have always enjoyed serving in the primary. What an amazingly important calling, to set the foundation of testimonies in each child. The key is to love them, pray for each one and rely on Heavenly Father to help us as we prepare each Sunday, that he will guide us as to how to teach in a way that the children can understand the gospel principle. The children are like little sponges, they want to soak up all the information we have to give them about the gospel. As I have served in primary I am absolutely amazed at the strong testimonies that even the youngest little children have.
I thought I would share some of the ideas we use in our Nursery Program. It's always great to hear or read ideas and let them spark some of our own ideas. We met together, myself and the nursery leaders and discussed ideas and ways we could make the nursery the best experience for the little nursery children in our ward. It's nice to have everyone have an input and know what is going on. Here are some of the ideas we have implemented in our nursery:
Nursery Welcome Packet: (This is given to the parents of the children as the child enters nursery. The plan is that we will also, at the beginning of each year give this to the parents of the children that are in nursery, so they know the schedule, who the leaders are and also so we will know if any info on the child has changed. Our wonderful nursery leaders did this and also took each child a little treat and introduced themselves to the children and their parents.)
We combined the letter that you find in the nursery manual with some other things we felt would help our nursery run more smoothly. The lesson schedule is for the 9:00 am church block. Click HERE for the letter in the nursery manual.
Along with the parent letter we give the parents this questionnaire to fill out for their child. Then we keep it in a binder in the nursery, where it can be easily accessed.
The Nursery Schedule: We thought it would be nice for the kids to have a routine. So we try to follow the schedule each week. Here is what our Nursery leaders do (this is figured on the 9:00 am block):
9:00-9:10 - Gathering Activity (nursery children arrive they will find their picture and do an activity together)
My counselor that has the nursery as her responsibility, made a cute poster Here is a link to that poster. The idea is that as the children arrive at nursery they find their picture and put it up onto the poster. (before hand a picture was taken of each child)
Then the children have a little gathering activity that they do together. Some ideas that they do are color pages, puzzles, play dough, etc.
9:10-9:30 - Spotlight/Birthdays/Music Time
Each of our little nursery children take turns being the spotlight. Their parents are told the Sunday before to have them bring a picture of their family, to show the rest of the nursery.
For Birthdays, they have a birthday poster that has each nursery child's name and birth date on it.
Music Time: This is one of the best ways that these little children can learn a gospel principle!
Some fun ways to get them involved during music is:
Let them hold little props. For example when you sing "I Am Like a Star", let them hold little paper stars that have been glued or taped onto Popsicle sticks. Or when you sing, "Smiles", give them each a paper face that has a frowny and happy face on it and have them move it as they sing the song.
Give them little instruments: You could put some rice or beans in some Easter eggs and glue or tape them shut and let them use them as shakers as they sing a song. They could also clap the rhythm or hum through a song before they sing it.
9:30-10:00 - Play Time and Clean-up
This is the time they are able to play with the toys. When it is time to clean up, sing a fun little clean-up song. Encourage each child in a loving way to help clean up.
10:00-10:20 - Lesson Time (song, opening prayer, lesson & activity, closing prayer)
We have each of our little children sit on a small chair, I have also been in wards where they have a piece of carpet for each child to sit on. We begin our lesson times with a song that goes along with the lesson, then we invite one of the children so say prayer with the leaders help, then lesson and activity and we close with a prayer. The children love visual aids and they love to do actions to help participate with the lesson. Get each child involved. Activity is usually a color page that goes with the lesson.
10:20-10:35 - Snack Time
Our nursery leaders give each of the children a small cup with a small amount of water in it and then a few healthy snacks. It is important to make sure there are not any food allergies or special food concerns. When they are finished, encourage children to clean up their area and throw any garbage away.
10:35-10:40 - Good Bye Activity
The good bye activity could be to read a story together, or to do an action song, etc.
Nursery Child Pick up:
We made this sign and put it on a manila folder closed off all ends except for the top and laminated it and put it on the front of the door. Inside of the folder are each child's hand print with their name written on it. The parent finds their child's hand print and slides it under the door and that is when the nursery leader knows to get that child ready to leave.
Cleaning of the nursery:
We have three wards in our building, that use the same nursery toys. So we have come up with a cleaning schedule and a checklist. Our ward has assigned our Activity Day girls and the Cub Scouts to do the cleaning. By doing so they fulfill a requirement in their Faith in God Booklet.
I hope some of these idea were useful. The most important thing is to remember that our responsibility as leaders for these little children is to help them have a good experience, to help them know and understand their Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ love them and to help them learn and understand the gospel. If we do these thing with love for each child, then nursery will be a great place to be for everyone involved.