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.

Title Action Thing Comment
3 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed Hold Plastic Monkeys These are posable plastic monkeys with wires in their arms and legs
3 Little Monkeys Swinging in the Tree Hold Plastic Monkeys These are posable plastic monkeys with wires in their arms and legs
If You're Happy and You Know it Touch Clapping Hands Dog / do actions This 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.
Heavenly Father Loves Me Touch Bird with feathers I got this at the craft store or dollar store. They often go in flower arrangements. Each kid gets to gently pet the bird. I also have pictures (From a book like "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)
We Bow our Heads See Sheep folds arms and bows head / Do actions This 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.
Smiles Hold Smile/Frown faces Look 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 Golden Plates or Book of Mormon Stories See Gold Plates I took a few squares of gold colored vinyl fabric and hooked it together with some large jump-rings.
Hinges Touch Jumping Jack / Do actions This 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.
Jesus Loves the Little Children Hold Picture of Jesus A pass-along card on taped to a popsicle stick is great
Follow the prophet Hold Prophet puppets on stick Line drawing pictures of each prophet in the song, laminated and taped to a popsicle stick. The Church has these "Follow the Prophet Puppets" on their website:
3 little ducks Hold paper ducks
I am a Child of God Hold paper Child Face I got these multicultural children from the Super Little Singers book.
Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam Hold Paper sun The suns that I use came from a Teacher Supply Store and are meant for bulletin boards. They have pretty colors, and are already on glossy cardstock. These are a good option for some of your paper things if you have the budget.
Fun to do / Do as I'm Doing Hold Idea card for each verse Kids 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.
Old Macdonald Hold Paper farm animals My current box has paper cutouts of different farm animals. I have also had finger puppets or little toys.
I have two little hands See Hand / do actions I have a foam shape of a hand in the box for the kids to choose the song, but we do actions while we sing.
In the Leafy Treetops Hold paper bird and silk flower The kids like to choose their favorite flowers. Cheap small ones are the best.
3 Green and Speckled Frogs Hold little plastic frogs It'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.
Happy Family Hold Family member papers on a stick These 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.
Itsy Bitsy Spider Hold plastic spider I 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.
I am like a star / Shine on / Twinkle Twinkle Hold paper star Paper stars are the ones that get torn the most, because the two bottom legs get pulled on and tear. I'd suggest making a star on a circular piece of paper instead.
Jesus said Love Everyone / Love One Another Hold paper heart Paper manipulatives are cheap to make and easy to store. They don't get picked as often as other things because they lie flat on top of each other, so they're hard to see. Most kids are careful with paper things when they only have them for a minute at a time. I've been using mine for years with surprisingly little wear. Laminating can keep them looking prettier. Mounting some of the songs on popsicle sticks can make their papers more exciting.
Once there was a snowman See Snowman eraser / do actions I 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."
Give said the Little Stream Hold Ribbons I 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.
Wise man and Foolish man See Block house, rock, sandpaper / do actions While 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 enough that the house falls down off my knee.