Image courtesy the Smithsonian American Art Museum Child Playing by Frances Foy 1964 Oil on Fiberboard Chicago, IL
Children can seem overwhelming to adults, which is funny because well... we used to be children. We need to get back to our roots. Back to the fun. Back to really living life and Nursery is just the place!
2 year olds are NOT alien life forms from Mars. Unless they are dripping green snot. Then you can promptly remind mom or dad of planet reality where Swine Flu is an epidemic. See ya'll next week and God bless Texas. 2 year olds can not be expected to play nicely by themselves for 2 hours while adults just sit around, chat and ignore them. Adults need to learn how to play with children. It's not too hard. It might feel unnatural at first, but practice makes perfect!! And your Sunday (and life) will be awesome if you choose to fully commit yourself to your calling.
How to Play with a Child
1. Sit on the ground not on chairs. I know some people have back problems, if this is the case fully ignore me and do yo' thang. Sitting on the ground makes it easier for them to climb/pounce on you. You will be at their level and they'll be more comfortable.
2. Ask silly questions. Are you wearing yellow socks? Let's see. Oh wow, they're black. If I had a real live horse, I'd get really big yellow socks and put it on him. If you had a horse what color socks would you give him? Have you ever had purple hair? I wonder if ducks ever wish their feathers were purple... what do you think?
3. Toy cars make great babies. You can put cars down for nap or burp them. You can sing to the cars if they happen to start crying or rock them until they calm down. Cars don't have to be cars. Cars can talk and dance and pretend they are elephants. Pretty cool, huh?
4. Books are fantastic. I repeat - books are fantastic. You don't have to read books word for word. You don't even really have to tell the same story, just look at the pictures and make it up as you go along. There is a catch to books though... if you read like a zombie no one will pay attention. Be peppy.
5. Burst into song. Yes. This is Ok. It is Ok to sing other than when the music leader comes in. If you can't sing on pitch, that's OK too. You can make up fake songs. The children won't judge you. And who cares what the adults think! You are the next American Idol, so sing it girl. My favorite is if a toy gets an ouchie singing Jacko's Heal the World. Rest in peace dear King of Pop.
6. Nothing is something. Air is magical. It can be transformed into a vacuum or a set of drums. It's crazy but true! Is someone shouting "MINE!!", flip through your air magazine and say "Can you keep it down... I'm reading a magazine that says children who use the word "mine" too much end up on the FOX TV show Cops. (Referring to tip 5... Whatcha gonna do when they come for you!!! You chuck it down yo' mother, you chuck it down yo' father... etc.)"
7. Match, sort, group different toys. The cars are getting in a line to go to Disneyland and the dolls are going to get in a circle to play ring around the rosies. All the toys with green need to get behind Juanito because he's wearing a green tie! Juanito's the leader, let's do the bunny hop little green toys!!
8. Mitchell the Rainbow fish has awesome manners. Sometimes Mitchell farts glitter but he ALWAYS says excuse me. Can you say excuse me little nursery child? Oh, it's snack time? Mitchell the Rainbow fish always says please and thank you... can you use your best manners too? Why are we arguing over this stuffed shark... Mitchell the Rainbow fish never argues and always tries to make others happy. There are lots of stories about good ol' Mitch that only take about 30 seconds to tell and it's amazing how the children will listen. He's just glitterific.
9. Praise the art! Praise the play! Praise the child! Praise the Lord! NOTICE. PAY ATTENTION. Look for every opportunity you can to tell the children how wonderful they are. It's their job to play and your job to notice how wonderful they are doing and SAY SO. Give high fives or one of my personal favorites (using a fist... gently) pound it!
10. Bring on the doctrine. Make at least 5 attempts to bring in Christ centered doctrine while you play. Playing puppets who are going to get baptized when they are 8. Trains that encounter a mountain and say I think I can!! Endure to the end... Persevere little trains!! Little people who are having Family Home Evening. How should dolly pray? Little bear, it's time to read scriptures and then go to the temple. Hi, meet Moses the mouse... he was named after the great prophet who parted the red sea. You can do it! The Lord will help you!!
If this seems overwhelming, just breathe. Breath again. Life is good. Choose one or two things to work on each week and you'll be pleasantly surprised how much fun this calling can be! Remember, children need fun but they also need structure. Once you've learned how to play, you'll need to work on setting up some sort of routine to follow. Check the manual and pray!! God will help.