Currently in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some members of the congregation are asked to run a nursery for children from 18 months to 3 years old while their parents attend Sunday School and other meetings.
The Church has released a new manual specifically for the Nursery:
A few years ago, my wife and I were called as the Nursery Leaders for our LDS congregation. We had just moved into the ward from another part of town where I had just been a nursery worker for the last year. I spent a total of two and a half years working in the Nursery.
As nursery leaders, we found that it was very important to have a consistent, repeated order of short activities every week. The small children would quickly come to anticipate the order and it made it much easier for them to adjust to having their parents leave them for a while. They were comfortable because they knew what to expect and that it would be the same each Sunday.
In some congregations we had seen a tendency to assume that the children were too young to teach and as a result the Nursery workers would often just pull out a bunch of toys and sit around chatting while the children played, punctuated by a short snack time. Going against this trend, we also felt that it was important not to underestimate the ability of these small children to learn the Gospel and feel the Holy Spirit. So among our weekly activities we would present a short, organized lesson, based on the previous manual, beginning and ending the lesson with a prayer offered by two of the children.
It was great to see that the new Behold Your Little Ones manual clarifies that the “nursery class should provide a loving, safe, organized learning experience for the children.” It emphasizes that “This time should be separated into several segments, such
as lesson time, snack time, music time, and playtime…. Children respond well to consistency, so follow the same order each week.” It also suggests that you “provide the children with a routine that helps them change from one segment to another.”
The Manual also insists that nursery workers “ask parents if there are any foods they do not want their children to eat.” We found that this is really important. Food often has a strong effect on children, and some kids have specialized dietary needs or allergies. Some parents simply have different nutritional standards and you shouldn’t be giving candy to their children without their approval. Even though many nursery workers do it, in general it is probably not a good idea to give the kids candy for a snack at all, even if the parents approve. The new manual emphasizes that the snack should be “healthy” and in our experience the simple sugars in candy can have negative effects on the short term behavior of some children, which can complicate having them in nursery.
The new manual has lessons designed specifically for the nursery age group to “help nursery-age children learn basic doctrines of
the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.” This really should be the purpose of nursery.
Something that we didn’t do that the new manual suggests is using the scriptures during the lesson. “Use the scriptures as you teach the children. When a lesson suggests that you tell a story from the scriptures, open the scriptures and point to the place where the story is found. This helps the children understand that what you are teaching comes from the scriptures.”
Another interesting instruction in the manual is that when teaching lessons, leaders are to “be sensitive to the home and family situations of the children. When a lesson refers to the children’s parents or families, consider the feelings of any children
who are being raised by a single parent, by grandparents, or by other family members.”
The manual also has some great tips for teaching gospel oriented music. Another helpful section lists common problems and suggested solutions.
Also interesting is that the manual includes a letter to be given to parents of children who are about to enter the primary. It outlines things parents can do to prepare their children for nursery and the responsibilities parents have for their children during nursery, including “[remaining] in the nursery class with your child if he or she is afraid.
The letter also emphasizes that the parents should not bring sick children to nursery and includes a list of symptoms that parents should keep in mind.
Being a Nursery worker should be a lot more than baby-sitting. It is an opportunity to teach the Gospel and help children feel the Holy Ghost. It requires as much work, preparation, and inspiration as other callings in the church, and it can be just as rewarding and fulfilling.
Encourage your Primary President and Bishop to get the Behold Your Little Ones manual and implement it in your Nursery.