The Loveliest Job in the Ward
October 1989

“The Loveliest Job in the Ward,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 54–55

The Loveliest Job in the Ward

The first time I was called as nursery leader, I went home and cried. I thought the bishop had made a mistake. How could the Lord call me when I so loved Relief Society, when I needed the chance to learn the gospel on an adult level, when, with small children at home, I wanted desperately to be free of them for a few hours, not be responsible for a dozen more? It would mean seeing only one adult, the other nursery leader, until sacrament meeting.

I was not prepared to like the nursery. I thought it was merely babysitting, and I approached it that way: I spent the first hour chatting with the other leader over the heads of the children as the time dragged slowly and tediously by. But then I noticed the little jumbles the children were making with blocks and decided to build a high tower with them. It was fun, and I liked seeing how my own children acted in a group with others. The time went rapidly, and I left that day feeling content. In the weeks that followed, I came to enjoy my calling as I learned my duty.

Experience taught that when a child comes to nursery, his father or mother should come with him the first time. This helps the child feel more secure as he gets to know the nursery leaders and the other children. If both parents have callings that preclude their being with the child, and if some other trusted person can’t be found to come in with him, perhaps he needs to wait a while before coming alone. Some children simply are not ready for the nursery, despite their eighteen months.

In our nursery program, we believe that toilet training is the parents’ responsibility, not the nursery’s, although we do keep a box of disposable diapers in the cupboard to deal with training mishaps. We also depend on parents to deal with sickness or uncalmable crying.

Because our main job is to provide a pleasant, comfortable atmosphere in which the child can learn that Primary is a pleasant place to be, we leaders never use sharpness or force except to prevent a child from hurting himself or others. When we learned to use persuasion and distraction to change behavior, people who came to our class remarked upon the peaceful, loving atmosphere. Older children longingly asked to return to the nursery.

Because the children can listen only for short periods of time, I have learned to use singing, action games, pictures, flannel-board stories, and a variety of other aids to keep their attention.

All eyes are on me when I bring a box of items to illustrate the lesson and take them out of the box one by one. They love it when I bring worms, insects in bottles, leaves, snow—anything real to show them.

I have learned not to expect too much from the children. It isn’t as pleasant when they come cross, marginally ill, or tired. Sometimes crying breaks out like an epidemic. Then quiet music on a cassette or on a record player can be calming—and mask some of the noise.

As I learned to simplify wherever possible, the job became easier. For instance, snack time improved when we chose to serve plain, easy-to-clean-up water and a packaged, uniform treat we can keep on hand in a locked cupboard. But the key to my thoroughly enjoying the nursery was to play with the children. I discovered that some children do not know how to play, and getting down on the floor or at a low table, teaching them how to play with toys and each other, was the best part of Primary for them—and for me.

As my service came to an end, I wanted to do something to show how sorry I was for doubting that my calling was inspired and important, so I volunteered to continue serving. It was not a sacrifice, but something I wanted to do because I cherish the privilege of seeing the children develop physically, mentally, socially—the growth between eighteen months and three years is astounding! I simply enjoy being allowed to associate with beings as meek and pure as small children are and feel that being the nursery leader is, perhaps, the loveliest job in the ward. When the bishop released me, I cried.—Penny Allen, Bountiful, Utah