Sunday, July 13, 2008

10 Tips for Making Nursery a Happy Place

The first time I took my daughter to Nursery, I was a bit overwhelmed. We lived in Northern California and there were about 800 kids in the nursery. Ok. I exaggerate. But it was a small area for about 30 kids. The nursery leaders were wonderful. But I was afraid... of the biters. Of the snotty noses. Of the screaming. I decided that the handbooks said nursery was optional, so off to gospel doctrine we went. I think a week later I was called as an assistant. In we went. I didn't know if we'd return. But we did! And it was awesome!

So here are some thoughts on one of the most wonderful callings I’ve ever had in the church. How do we make nursery a happy place?

Benjamin Bloom (from Stability and Change in Human Characteristics. New York: Wiley, 1964.) has said, "...from conception to age 4, the individual develops 50% of his mature intelligence, from ages 4 to 8 he develops another 30%, and from ages 8 to 17 the remaining 20%. ...As much of the development takes place in the first 4 years of life as in the next 13 years."

1. Pray for Nursery to be a happy place.
Pray for Nursery to be a place where children will want to come. Where children will have their first formal experiences with the gospel and the spirit will attend. PRAY!

2. Try, try, try... and if you don't succeed, don't force the kid.
Some children are tender souls. They love their parents, and with good reason they want to stay close by! Often, you can find a child who doesn't want to go to nursery and will let the whole nursery know so.
*If you have enough workers, try taking the kid out for a walk to the drinking fountain. Let him (I know perfectly well it could be a girl, I choose not to write him/her though every single time I use a pronoun) play with the handle and squirt some water. Show him the pictures, have him touch the wall and try to pick out some of the loose stringy things... DEVELOP a RELATIONSHIP!! DEVELOP TRUST!! It will take time. Often parents will stay, this may help, it may make things worse. If you are a nursery leader, pray and ponder about it. Decide what you want while you are in nursery, then make sure the parents know. I think at one time there were about 5 little ones in our nursery that just couldn't handle other mommy's and daddy's being around and their's weren't there. 1 little one crying = Woah. 5 little ones crying = I am a child of God singing time! Here's my point, in the Primary 1 manual (ix) it says, "Children who are at least 18 months old but who are not yet 3 years old on 1 January may attend nursery a
the discretion of their parents." Try the best you can. Use all the resources and creativity you can muster. Pray! Fast! (Don't forget those 2 very important things!) And then if you have exhausted every single means possible and the child still does not want to come-Don't force him. Hello, remember the little thing called agency that Heavenly Father gave us?

Post notes, send notes home to parents, bear testimony of the importance of spreading the gospel, not the snots. I cringe when I see boogers handing down to a kids toes and the nursery leader is wiping their nose. In one nursery we were in there was an outbreak of German Measles and Roseola.... BABESTER! Make it known that nursery is not a festery. Keep sick kids at home or with parents.

4. Be organized. Have a schedule and a plan.
The best nursery experience is one that has purpose. DO LESSONS! Have singing time- wands with ribbons, instruments, carpets for them to sit on. Have some sort of activity they can participate in. Bubbles, sticker art, book time, puppets, a stroll around the church using rope for them to hold on to. See what they like. Ask parents for suggestions. Personalize the nursery. READ your Primary Manual!!

5. Invite the elderly once in a while to read a story or do a puppet play or sing a song.
Ahhhh the lessons we can learn from those of the aged and matured. How sacred an experience to watch as children develop respect and love for those senior in life.

6. Talk to the children not the other adults.
Perhaps you are tempted to catch up on all the happenings in Sister Excitement's life, but really at what cost. Am I saying never talk to the other adults? NO. Please. Read on. All I'm saying is watch that you are interacting PLENTY with the kids. Joy is found through them, and the key to it all is talking and acknowledging them. They have wonderful things to say, listen. And if they don't talk, well teach them!

7. Make sure there is enough space and room to play.
No one likes to be caged or trapped. We had a nursery in an overflow and I guess a few people complained that it distracted from Gospel Doctrine. Our 1st counselor in the bishopric said if anyone had a problem with the placement of the nursery they needed to A-stop having kids or B- deal with it. The nursery was to stay in a place where the kids could have an open and free experience.

8. Check yo' attitude.

Do you dread going to nursery? Does the screaming and crying just make you want to not come to church? 3 words. Check yo' attitude. I feel like if I have to explain the meaning of check yo' attitude, it just loses all meaning and flavor. So.... check yo' attitude.
* And as a side note to this, what can you do to magnify your calling. Send home letters with FHE ideas for young children!! Tell the parents what they learned so they can reinforce at home!!

9. Ban the biters.

This is personal to me. My baby was bit. Hard. There was red teeth marks. My daughter cried for a minute, I cried for 5 in the bathroom. I say biting warrants immediate attention and banning to outer darkness. Nursery needs to be a safe place and parents need to teach their children not to bite. Since the handbook doesn't specify whether muzzles can be used in nursery, I won't comment further.

OK. I will. Muzzles completely out of the question and aside, hitting, kicking, biting DO need to be addressed. It happens, you are a teacher. Decide what your policy will be on things like that (like will you ask the kid to leave nursery for the rest of the day or allow him back in), but make sure to ALWAYS teach proper behavior and kindness, don't ignore it. It's not just going to go away magically. And it's not fair to the victims.

10. Love, love more, then love until your heart is so full you can't love any more, but you still love more.

This is charity. This is the key to nursery, this is an opportunity to come closer to the Savior and grow in wisdom and knowledge. Beauty is when you can look at a child and feel the spirit whisper to your heart, "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead them."


Stina said...

These are wonderful suggestions. You are so spiritual and so insightful.

Chrissie said...

I love these suggestions. We're praying about nursery leader/asst at the moment (I'm Primary Pres in our ward) and I've printed this off to give to them the second they've been set apart :D

Sofia's Primary Ideas said...

Thank you ladies, you are kind! Nursery is such an important part of primary! Sometimes I get a little riled up about it because I hear so many complaints or whining from the leaders! Tsk tsk. Hopefully though, these ideas can help foster some meaningful meditation for Nursery Leaders which will lead to a wonderful experience for the children.

The Stephenson Family said...

So true! Nursery is the starting point about how our children feel about church. I feel so incredibly blessed to have such an amazing nursery in our ward. Seeing Liam's experience makes me realize what a truly important calling it is. These are wonderful tips for overwhelmed nursery leaders(because I'm sure it is overwhelming...) These are also great tips for at home. :) Thanks!

Sofia's Primary Ideas said...

Sister Stephenson I couldn't agree more- our Sister Salls and Sister Zappe are truly one of a kind! I love learning and watching them interact with the kids. I remember when little John P. would run into Sister Salls arms and fall asleep if he was tired. He trusted her, he loved her.

~shari~ said...

Thanks for posting this! I was just called as the Nursery leader in my ward -- for the first time in my life! So...I am excited and a bit nervous. But it was really great to read your advice on how to make it a happy place!

LouandAngela said...

Thank you SOOOO much for your blog. I check it out every time I have to do a sharing time, need singing time ideas for my chorister, nursery ideas for my nursery leaders, etc. I can feel your testimony through your loving words and ideas.

Now, a question for you. We've been having trouble with parents staying in the nursery with their children. It has been our experience that the children adapt more quickly if the nursery leaders are allowed to establish a relationship with the child without the parents present. Do you have any suggestions for wording something to the parents to encourage them to trust the leaders and leave their children?

Julia said...

You are an angel! I love and agree with your suggestions and comments on Nursery and what to and NOT to do or accept. I am a nursery assistant and I love being with the kids! I have been in nursery callings for what seems like most of my life and find it such a great opening to get the young kids engaged in the gospel and help them learn about the Saviour. Julia, New Zealand

Anonymous said...

I've just been called to Nursery and these are great suggestions! Just one thing, there's a "pin it" button but no image so I can't pin the post.

life in red shoes said...

Thank you so much for this great post. Tomorrow is my first week in the nursery. I'm not new to this calling but it's been years! I'm a new grandma so I'm seeing this through new eyes, those of a child :)

Haley said...

Thanks for this great post!! I've written a book for helping little ones transition to nursery, so this post was close to my heart!