“Homespun Nursery,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 72–73
One of the most entertaining and least expensive ways to teach young children is to create your own nursery school on half-hour tapes. All it takes is a simple tape recorder, some tapes, and some inexpensive children’s books.
Choose stories that are short, entertaining, and worthy of being heard dozens of times. Two themes for each tape is about right. Not all of your books will neatly emphasize the themes you want, but you can comment, or even better, question, as you read. (“See Sally’s dress. What color is it? Yes, it is red. It is a pretty red dress.”)
To choose themes, consider the developmental stage of your child and what he should be learning. Preschoolers could be learning sequential information (days of the week, months of the year, books of scripture in order—taught by songs); love of music (classical music as background for some stories; the scales); cleanliness; order (“After you get up from the table, what do you do? That’s right, you carry your plate to the sink. Then what do you do? Of course, you brush your teeth”); directions (up, down, around, over: “Where is the doll on this page?”); and courtesy.
Include some physical activities your child would enjoy as a break for a minute or two, such as, “Jack Be Nimble,” walking like an elephant, hopping like a rabbit, marching. Also select hymns, Primary songs, or other material that emphasizes your gospel values, so that you can ask the child to sing with you. One verse will probably be enough.
Your child also needs to know his full name, address, telephone number, parents’ names, and what to do when lost. Short scripture verses, one to a tape, are easily memorized.
Before you start recording your nursery tapes, get a looseleaf notebook with a page for each theme and then list the materials you want to use with each tape: Each tape will take quite a bit of material, since you cannot repeat yourself as you would in a live nursery-school situation.
Choose the two themes for which you have the most material. Mark in the notebook the materials you might like to use and the order in which you will present them.
Gather up the child and the materials. Explain to him what you are going to do. Speak slowly and distinctly into the mike on the tape recorder, using good grammar and simple vocabulary. Start the tape off with a story. Animate each character with your voice.
Children like stories best but also need activities, comments, and questions. As you turn the page, say “please turn the page,” as a cue for the child when he is alone with the tape. Allow the child to interrupt as you go. Children are fascinated by their own voices on tape.
Listen to every tape the first few times with the child to ensure good participation. Later, when he listens alone, you can tell if the child is really listening to the tape by watching to see if he actually follows along. If he does not participate or is bored, do not hesitate to tape over that section with something else.
When listening those first few times, listen to your delivery—enunciation, loudness, variety, and transitions—and learn from it. Keep your notebook handy to jot down comments or new ideas. You may want to turn off the tape to instruct the child when necessary.
Attach to each tape a label listing the books and equipment needed (like the stuffed animal needed for “Ring-Around-the-Rosy” for a lone child. Color-key your books to each tape so the child can select his own books. This can be done by putting a colored label on the book that matches a similarly colored label on the tape; even if children do not read, they will still be able to match colors. When taping, to make sure he selects the correct book, say, “We are going to listen to ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf.’ There are sheep on the cover, and it has a blue label.”
Date each tape and identify yourself. Some tapes may very well survive as an important part of your family history! Marty Smith, Carthage, Missouri