“What can I do to help my child entering the Primary nursery have a positive experience?” Ensign, Mar. 1994, 53–54
Shirley Call, Primary General Board, and member, Layton Second Ward, Layton Utah South Stake. When questions arise regarding Primary, the Primary General Presidency advises leaders to base their decisions on the question What is best for the children? As a parent preparing your child to enter the Primary nursery class, you can be guided by asking the same question.
The nursery class is for children ages eighteen months through three years. In January following their third birthday, they enter the Sunbeam class.
Nursery-age children have been to some Church meetings with their parents. Though the meetinghouse may be familiar to your child, the nursery itself may be entirely new.
Since children can develop long-lasting attitudes and feelings about church while in the nursery class, it is important that parents ensure that the child’s first experience there is positive. The following ideas can help you prepare your child to come to the nursery class with happy anticipation.
Before taking your child to the nursery, you may wish to visit the class without your child. Get acquainted with the teacher, the room, and the children’s activities. Then when you introduce your child to the class, the adjustment for your child will be easier because you will be able to give him or her your undivided attention. (The Nursery Manual, 1986, p. 25, has a parents’ checklist to be used in an orientation meeting with the nursery leader.)
It is a good idea to explain to your child what he or she will be doing in the nursery. Be enthusiastic. Make the class sound fun and inviting. Tell your child the names of the teacher and some of the children. Though your child may be too young to understand all of what you say, he or she will likely understand enough to look forward to the class, especially if you begin talking about the nursery a few weeks before your child enters the class. If possible, take your child to the nursery room when it is vacant. This will help alleviate the fear of being in a new place.
Children enjoy make-believe activities, and playing nursery at home is a good way to acquaint your child in advance with nursery procedures and activities.
As the time draws near for your child to attend nursery class, you can increase his or her awareness of the approaching occasion each day by saying good things about the class. On the day before class, remind your child that nursery class is the next day. If you sense apprehension in your child, you will still have time to calm fears and create a feeling of excitement about the new experience.
Avoid giving your child the impression that he or she will be left with a baby-sitter. The nursery class is nothing less than a child’s first structured gospel experience in church. Children who expect to learn about Heavenly Father and their world will respond differently than those who expect to be baby-sat. In the nursery class, teachers teach the gospel in ways the children can understand. Stories, music, and varied activities set the stage for meaningful interactions and friendships.
Children feel more secure in the nursery if they know where to find their parents or another family member. It is also helpful to pick them up right after class, so they will not feel neglected or afraid when the other children leave and they are left behind with the teacher.
If possible, plan your Sunday schedule to allow plenty of time for your child to nap if necessary, eat, dress, and make bathroom visits before going to the nursery. Resist letting your child take toys to class. It is usually difficult and frustrating for a child of nursery age to be asked to share a favorite toy with the other children.
If your child does not want to stay in the nursery, it may be necessary to remain with him or her for a few minutes after class begins. However, when parents are not present, it is often easier for the nursery leader to help the child to adjust to the class.
Keep in touch with the nursery leader so that you both will understand each other’s expectations regarding your child.
It is helpful if young children talk with family members about their gospel learning experience. Each Sunday, set aside some time after church when your child can share with you what took place in the nursery that day. Did your child bring artwork home? Did he or she enjoy the activities and make new friends? What did your child learn about the gospel? Commend your child’s accomplishments, and continue to speak highly of the nursery experience.
Whatever you do to help make nursery time a welcome, valuable experience will provide abundant rewards for your child.