Did you just accept the call to be the Nursery Leader in your Ward? Are you wondering what you have just gotten into and how you will ever manage two hours each week with the youngest children in the primary? By planning ahead, you can take charge and have a wonderful experience each week. Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your nursery:
Develop a Schedule
Few things will make as big a difference with children in this age group as developing a schedule for your nursery. This helps to establish order and helps the children to feel secure. In Doctrine & Covenants 88:119 we read, "Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God".
In our nursery, I created a schedule that would provide structure and promote learning. I wanted to limit the time with toys and create an experience of group learning and play. Here is the schedule I set up for our nursery: (This is the schedule for us starting in January. Our ward meets beginning at 8 am.)
9:15-9:35 Play Time
9:35-9:40 Clean Up
9:40-9:50 Music time with Primary Chorister
10:15-10:25 Story time
10:25-10:40 Activity Time
10:40-10:50 Lesson/Craft-Coloring time
Puzzles or Play Dough
10:50-10:55 Clean Up
We use this schedule as a general outline and try to stick to it as closely as possible. There are times we need to be flexible. But the general idea is that the children always know what to expect. The biggest complaint we have had is that the children do not want to leave the nursery to go home when their parents come to pick them up. I have had parents come in to check on their little one and the child hasn't noticed them because they are engaged in the activities we are doing.
Follow the Handbook
We have been given an inspired manual and handbook to use in the nursery program. Behold Your Little Ones has everything you need in it to effectively teach the nursery children. Read the beginning of the manual thoroughly and become familiar with it.
Keep Lessons Short and Simple
Children at this age need lessons simplified and short. Their attention spans are not long. They do not understand grown-up words. Remember to teach them at their level. There are great suggestions on simplifying the scripture stories in the lessons from Behold Your Little Ones,
In the schedule I listed above, I actually spend about 5 minutes teaching the lesson right after snack time. This works for us because they are already seated and quiet. They are also more agreeable because they have just eaten. You will notice that I list the lesson once again in the schedule. This second time is when we work on the craft or coloring page that goes with the lesson I am teaching. We review the lesson material at this time as we are doing our activity. This reinforces what we have learned about that day.
When All Else Fails...
If nothing seems to be working right that day, if all else fails, bring out a picture of Jesus. The children love Jesus and they know that He loves them. The quickest way to regain control is to bring out a picture of Him. They will quickly respond and are eager to tell you who is in the picture. I keep a picture of the Savior in my nursery bag to use whenever it might be needed.
Finally, remember to pray for help and guidance. Our Heavenly Father is just waiting to help you help his little ones. He knows them best and is always willing to help if you are open to His suggestions through the promptings of the Spirit. Listen closely and you can't help but to have a successful experience during your time as the Nursery Leader.