“What can mothers do when their children are not old enough to be placed in the Relief Society nursery?” Ensign, Jan. 1977, 75
Ann Stoddard Reese, Mother Education Committee, Relief Society General Board This period of time is often a trying one for a mother and her little one. We encourage mothers to bring their babies to the meetings and hope all Relief Society sisters will remember to be tolerant of a mother who is earnestly trying to attend her meetings with a small child.
Children should not be given freedom to run about during meetings. This can be most distracting not only to the teacher but to all the sisters present. However, with proper preparation and an abundance of patience and love, this short time between contentment on mother’s knee and stepping into the exciting new world of association with other small children in a Relief Society nursery can be a pleasant experience for mother and child.
When the child is no longer content to sit quietly and observe and listen to sights and sounds, the mother should be prepared with a few well-chosen items to amuse him in quiet play. These items might include small finger puppets; a favorite book or toy; a small flannelboard with felt figures; a “quiet book” that has zippers, buttons, ties; a mother’s scarf, handkerchief, or rain bonnet in its small packet; or a small treat or cracker saved for just the right time. Be constantly alert to find small, simple, safe, and quiet items that can be rotated periodically so the child will not become bored with the same toys from week to week. Have a special purse or decorated box just for these items for Relief Society. The opening up, taking out, and putting back is an exciting activity in itself for children this age.
The ingenuity of mothers is exemplified in the story of pioneer mothers who used to put a drop of molasses on the child’s palm and stick a small feather on it. This kept him busy trying to pick off the feather and having it stick to other fingers. This would not be practical in church, but young mothers of today are just as clever in discovering ways for encouraging reverence. Be sure to share your successful ideas with other young mothers.
Several ward Relief Societies have found it wise to reserve the back row of their room for mothers with small children. This makes it possible for the mother to stand for brief periods of time if her baby is fussing. A seat near the exit door so that a mother can take out the child who is causing a disturbance is also a good idea.
After consultation with her Relief Society president, a mother might bring a jump seat, stroller, or small portable playpen where there is ample room. Homemaking day with its many activities is usually conducted in a larger area, and this might be a time for mother to bring the playpen so that her hands will be free to work on her homemaking project and baby will be content. Because of health regulations, a Relief Society organization cannot provide cribs or playpens, but this could be done on an individual basis if a mother cared to provide one for her own child’s use if there were room.
It could be that after all else fails, your child is showing symptoms of nursery readiness. As one mother related, “I have struggled for six months with my little daughter who has always been very active. Last month I decided I had reached the end of my rope and I would take her into the toddler class just to see what she would do. To my great surprise, she was a different child. She was ready for the activities there and I hadn’t realized it. I stayed with her for a time or two and now she doesn’t even miss me when I leave. She is completely happy in what she is doing.”
Could it be your child is expressing his desire to enter into the world of shared activities with his own peer group? This would be an excellent time for Mother to volunteer her services to the toddler nursery section so that she might help make this transition a pleasant one. When a child should first go into a nursery situation isn’t a matter of age but of maturity and readiness, and no two children are exactly alike in this. A child needs to be given opportunities to learn independence at this age, and the nursery can help teach it.
The nursery program is designed to make it possible for mothers of young children to come to Relief Society and for the children to enjoy this time. We hope the sisters throughout the Church will provide enjoyable and well-directed activities so that all the children will want to say as one small child did:
“Mommy, it’s very ’portant for me to go to Reef Siety. My teacher loves me.”