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Nursery is a program set up by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for children between the ages of eighteen months and three years to attend during Sunday classes, though not Sacrament Meeting. Children younger than eighteen months stay with their parents, while children older than three years attend Primary.
Nursery is not to be considered a baby-sitting service provided for parents. The Church's Nursery Guidebook says the purpose of nursery is “to serve the children,... to provide a safe, organized environment where young children can learn and play and have a happy church experience.” The children should feel that church is a good place to be and they should be able to feel the love and respect due to every child of Heavenly Father. The Nursery Guidebook states, “The children’s welfare should guide all the teacher’s efforts. The children come first, not the program.”
Guidelines to provide a good nursery environment include:
- One teacher for every six children
- Groups should be no larger than 16 children. If there are more children attending nursery regularly, a second room should be enlisted for nursery use.
- The teachers are there consistently to provide security and predictability for the nursery children.
Because an hour and forty minutes is a long time for young children to remain in nursery, nursery leaders are encouraged to follow this format:
- Greeting time lasts between fifteen and twenty minutes. Teachers greet each of the children and spend time with them individually.
- Gathering time is also between fifteen and twenty minutes. It is started with a prayer, followed by singing songs, finger plays, and other group activities. Although there are no formal lessons, the Nursery Workbook and Resource Book provide good suggestions for activities that will teach gospel principles.
- Activity playtime takes up the bulk of the time, lasting from forty-five minutes to an hour. The children are able to play with toys. They are taught to take only one toy out at a time and to return it before playing with another. This time is supposed to help promote interaction between the children, teach them verbal skills, discipline, and problem solving. The toys provided in a nursery are meant to be educational and not encourage disruptiveness.
- Closing time is the time children prepare to meet their parents. Teachers may review what was talked about during gathering time, then close with a prayer. The children then engage in quiet activities such as singing songs or reading stories until their parents come.
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