Sunday, December 4, 2016

If you chance to meet a frown,
Do not let it stay.
Quickly turn it upside down
And smile that frown away.

No one likes a frowning face.
Change it for a smile.
Make the world a better place
By smiling all the while.

-Daniel Taylor
I have been serving as Nursery Music Leader in our ward for some time now. We have a REALLY successful music time, and several people have asked me to give them details. I've finally gotten it all typed up, and thought I'd post it here. I learned this method while serving as Primary Music leader in the Wilshire Ward in LA. They had a small basket, and I have expanded to offer lots more songs.

There are two keys to this program. The first is that there is something to hold, touch, do, or look at for every song. The second is that the children MUST be seated IN THEIR CHAIRS to get to hold or touch the thing. They learn very quickly to follow this rule, and it is really good practice for them to learn to sit in a chair before they get into sunbeams.

Music time works best with no more than 6-8 kids. Any more than that, and it's hard to give everyone a turn to choose a song. If there are more than that in your nursery, consider splitting the group so that half is singing while the other half is having the lesson.

I generally like to offer only some of the songs in a given week in order to speed up the choosing, and to offer songs that relate to the lesson. The lesson will have at least one song suggestion, but it's easy to find several songs on the topics of "Family" "Thankful" "My Body" "Scriptures" and "Jesus" for instance. I do leave some just-for-fun songs in each week too.

During Music Time, the kids sit in a semicircle, close enough to me that I can lean over and touch them if I want. Other leaders sit in the circle or behind it to help the children (There's usually somebody who wants to be held). We start at one end and give each child a chance to reach into the box and choose a song. The box has all the manipulatives, in envelopes or ziplock bags, so they pick the thing they want to touch or hold. I open the bag and hand one of the things to each child, or let them each touch the item (See below for more details on that). Then we sing the song, doing whatever actions there are, or just waving our thing in the air. At the end, the children bring back the things, I put them away, and the next child gets to choose.

Even though there are pretty strict rules, the kids get so excited when I come into the room for singing time. It is so fun to hear kids that are barely able to make themselves understood humming along happily and occasionally getting out a rhyming sound at the end of a line. I love it when they are happy and they know it and they REALLY want to show it. I am humbled when they carefully choose their favorite picture of Jesus to hold while we sing songs about Him.

I hope this will be useful to you, and if you have other song ideas, post them in the comments.

TitlePage in Children's SongbookActionThingComment
3 Green and Speckled FrogsHoldLittle plastic frogsIt's easy to find little plastic frogs -- hard plastic, squishy plastic, or the ones that jump when you push on the tails. I like to give each child one, and have three in my lap. I toss one onto the floor when it "Jumps into the pool" at the end of each verse.
3 Little DucksHoldPaper ducksAny paper cutouts of ducks will do
3 Little Monkeys Jumping on the BedHold and actionsPlastic MonkeysThese are posable plastic monkeys with wires in their arms and legs. We do the traditional actions while holding the monkey
3 Little Monkeys Swinging in the TreeHold and actionsPlastic MonkeysThese are posable plastic monkeys with wires in their arms and legs. We do the traditional actions while holding the monkey
A Happy Family198HoldFamily member pictures on a stickThese can be heads or whole bodies of Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Grandma, Grandpa, Baby, etc. The Nursery manual has some good line drawings of family members.
Book of Mormon Stories or The Golden Plates118/86See and actionsGold platesI took a few squares of gold colored vinyl fabric and hooked it together with some large jump-rings. After showing the kids the plates, do actions to the song. Make a book with your hands, Clap to the beat, Make ocean waves, Put hands out and then fold arms.
Follow the Prophet110Hold and marchProphet puppets on stickLine drawing pictures of each prophet in the song, laminated and taped to a popsicle stick. I suggest printing the lyrics to the verse on the back of each prophet so you can remember the words. When singing march around the room Follow the Leader style. The Church has these "Follow the Prophet Puppets" on their website:
Fun to Do / Do as I'm Doing253/276ActionsIdea card for each verseKids this little can't think of their own actions, so I have cards that say "Singing a Song" with a picture of a kid singing. Look in the extra verses section of this song in the Children's Songbook for more ideas to put on cards. Sing two or three.
Give, Said the Little Stream236HoldRibbonsI have blue ribbons, about an inch wide and 8-12 inches long. The kids wave them back and forth to represent the flowing water of the stream.
Hinges277TouchJumping Jack / Do actionsThis is an old style wooden toy that has hinged arms and legs that flip up when you pull the string on the bottom. Each kid gets to pull the string and make it jump. Do an image search for "Jumping Jack Toy" if you don't know what I'm talking about.
I am a Child of God2HoldPaper child faceI got pictures multicultural children's faces from the Super Little Singers book.
I am Like a Star / Shine On / Twinkle Twinkle Little Star163/144HoldPaper starPaper stars are the pictures that get the most damage, because the two bottom legs get pulled on and tear. I'd suggest making a star on a circular piece of paper instead. We usually sing Twinkle Twinkle plus one of the other two songs
I Have Two Little Hands272ActionsHandI have a foam shape of a hand in the box for the kids to choose the song, but we do actions while we sing.
If You're Happy and You Know It266Touch and actionsClapping hands dogThis is a small stuffed animal with magnets in its paws that make it clap when you put the paws together. You can buy such a thing, or make one by cutting the paws open and putting strong magnets in. Each kid gets to clap the hands a few times. While we sing we do the traditional actions. During the stomp your feet verse I sing kick your feet because many of them are too little reach the ground.
In the Leafy Treetops240HoldPaper bird and silk flowerThe kids each get a picture of a bird and a little flower. Cheap small ones from the dollar store are the best.
Itsy Bitsy SpiderHold and actionsPlastic spiderI use little hard plastic spiders in many different shapes and colors because I had a lot of bug toys at my house when I was putting the box together. The kids like to choose. If you can't find those, Halloween spider rings work fine. We do the traditional actions while holding the spider. The kids usually can't do the finger spider part so they just move the plastic spider
Jesus Loves the Little Children/Jesus Loves MeHymns 307HoldPicture of JesusA pass-along card on taped to a popsicle stick is great. We use the following words to the tune of ""In Our Lovely Deseret"" Jesus loves the little children All the little children of the world Red and yellow black and white They are precious in His sight Jesus loves the little children of the world Or the old Christian song Jesus loves me this I know For the Bible tells me so Little ones to Him belong We are weak but He is strong Yes, Jesus loves me Yes, Jesus loves me Yes, Jesus loves me The Bible tells me so
Jesus said Love Everyone / Love One Another61/136HoldPaper heartA simple paper heart
Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam60HoldPaper sunA simple paper sun. We lift the sun into the air every time we sing "beam"
My Heavenly Father Loves Me228Touch and seeBird with feathersI got this little bird at the craft store or dollar store. They often go in flower arrangements. Each kid gets to gently pet the bird. They are very careful and in awe of it. I also have pictures for each line of the song (From the book "Super Little Singers" by Ross and Guymon-King -- that book also has a lot of the other paper cutouts I use, though most of them are easy enough to make up)
Old MacdonaldHoldPaper farm animalsMy current box has paper cutouts of different farm animals. I have also used finger puppets or little toys. We usually sing three verses
Once There Was a Snowman249SeeSnowman eraserI have a snowman eraser for the kids to choose the song. After that, we do the traditional actions. We also do the opposite song, especially appropriate for Nursery "Once I was a baby, baby, baby. Once I was a baby, small, small, small. Now I'm getting bigger, bigger, bigger. Now I'm getting bigger, tall, tall, tall."
Smiles267HoldSmile/ Frown facesLook in the manual for what these should look like. Encourage the kids to turn them upside down during the song. Do an image search for "If You Chance to Meet a Frown" to see what I mean. The simpler the better.
The Wise man and Foolish man281See and ActionsBlock house, rock, sandpaperWhile doing the traditional actions, I build a little house out of a square and a triangle wooden block, on top of a flat rock balanced on my knee. For the foolish man, I build the house on sandpaper and when we do the chorus, I bounce my leg enough that the house falls down off my knee. Interestingly enough, the children are incapable of leaving the house on the floor while we sing the rest of the chorus. Someone always helpfully comes to pick it up.
We Bow our Heads25See and ActionsSheep folds arms and bows headThis is a small beanie baby sheep. The front legs are long enough and floppy enough to fold across each other. You can also push the head downward to look like it's bowing. We change the word graciously to reverently