Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Devil in the Toy Chest

In case you were wondering about the long silence on this blog, I apologize. Things got a little hectic. First there was Stake Conference = Break from Nursery, Hurray! Then I came down with the flu. Then I got in a car accident. Nothing serious, but it was thoroughly unpleasant. This string of bad luck has me thinking of all the stories about temple attendance. You know, how everything in the world will rise up to stop you. It has felt like everything in the world has risen up between me and my one, tiny, righteous desire to clean out the nursery toy cabinet.

I have spent weeks looking forward to this Tuesday. It was the day appointed to sort clean and organize the jumbled, mangled, and disfigured mass of toys inhabiting our toy cupboard. Sunday after Sunday the kids pull out every single piece of junk, throw it on the floor, step on it, trip on it, and smash it in order to find the three or four decent toys that all 12 kids want to play with. I was SO ready to get rid of the germy junk.

But after swells of nausea and the car collision, I was not in the mood to wade through infested mounds of plastic. With the assistance of my angelic friend who came along to help, I went anyway. It was a pretty good time. There is some sweet satisfaction in throwing out some of the toys that have haunted me. We ended up with four very large trash bags of junk. (I'm sorry great North Pacific Gyre--that's the oceanic vortex where plastic trash ends up) I wanted to bring my camera to document a few of my favorites but forgot. Here's a description of a few of the highlights:

Child sized baby doll: This thing might actually have survived the cut because baby dolls are so loved by the kids, but I hate it. I'm fairly certain it was used as a CPR dummy before becoming a "toy." It's just about as large as the kids, has on a pair of raggedy cut off shorts that are way way too small for it, and has these suspiciously hideous scratch marks on it's scalp. The really terrible thing about this toy is when seen out of the corner of my eye, lying prostrate on the ground, I have mistaken it for a crumpled child and rushed over to "save" it. Sadly, I have made this mistake more than half a dozen times.

Second most hated doll: She has hair the color of red jolly ranchers and neon blue eyes, a kind of neon blue that can look into your soul and fill it with a feeling of florescent doom. I would be fine if I could keep my distance from her, but one very kind little girl in my class always tries to get me to hold her. I do not know why. It's started giving me bad dreams.

Over a hundred magnets: I love magnets, but for some reason we had a huge bag of them--each a little smaller than a marble. PERFECT choking hazard. Is someone trying to kill these kids?

Every ugly figurine ever given out in happy meals in the last forty years. Some are fine; most made no sense. I liked the purple and yellow green octopus. Didn't like the Polly Pocket whose hair had all been pulled out.

There were a lot of really wonderful others but it's hard to remember them all. Still, by the end of the night we had made a lot more room, organized the toys, and wiped everything down with disinfectant. I think play time and clean up will be a lot more fun.

We do have a few really wonderful toys that are staples. They are:

Large wooden puzzles with pieces large enough for the kids to handle.

Very large hard plastic car and truck. These are just big enough that the kids try to sit and ride on them. It doesn't really work but the kids love them.

Balls. The kids love balls.

A toy kitchen. Great for fun and fights. Three kids always try to play with it at once, it's so much fun.

The baby dolls. No matter how ugly, they are cherished.

The baby stroller. The kids love filling it up with anything they can find and wheeling it around.

Fisher Price Cash register. I played with this thing when I was a kid so it warms my heart to see it still in action.

I have a little money in the budget to make a few responsible purchases. Any suggestions for toys for 1-3 year olds?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What to Wear?

After nursery today, I noticed my shirt was smeared with snot. Lots and lots of snot, in multiple places. I also had a piece of scotch tape and a blue foam sticker pig stuck to me. I pulled off the pig and the tape and I really hope all the snot washes out okay.

I know church is supposed to be Sunday best, but working in nursery has made me adjust my wardrobe. I've found myself reaching into the back of my closet for clothes that are old or ugly. I try to pair those clothes appropriately in order to avoid dumpiness but I can't say I get many compliments on my style. I feel a little sad because I know I look a lot better when I go to work than when I go to church these days.

What I need is a SUPER kid-proof outfit. If anyone could produce this outfit, I'm sure they could make a million, billion dollars. I think Project Runway should try to tackle it. Here's a few of the requirements:
Resistant to staining
Resistant to the absorption of any type of body fluid.
Flexible enough to run in place, jump up from Ring around the Rosy, do Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, lift screaming and kicking small children
Fit perfectly so I don't have to worry about accidently flashing or mooning anyone
Look Amazing
And I suppose it should look appropriately feminine, although pants seem to make a lot more sense.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I have a testimony of finger play

This week I turned the lesson over to my lovely and very capable nursery assistant so I'm enjoying a little more peace of mind than usual this weekend. As soon as I russle up a hiking companion I'll be hitting the trail.

Anyway, I looked through the lesson in the manual this week, 6: Heavenly Father Loves ME. It's a good one. It has a lot of finger play-little poems with accompanying hand motions. When I first started trying to do nursery lessons I thought the little finger play activities were impossible. I rarely knew the poems and I doubted the kids would know them or do them. Time for another slice of humble pie. I tried one just for fun and the kids LOVED it. It's by far, the MOST successful part of my lessons. The kids actually demand to do them over and over again.

Now just because I have developed a devoted adoration to finger play doesn't mean I'm able to remember the poems. Sadly, I'm not President Monson. So I cheat. I write the outline of my lesson and all the poems on a 5x7 note card. I used to hold the card in my hand but that can get in the way of the motions, so I tape it to my wrist. It's my personal game plan. The tape makes me look crazy but it's SO helpful. And next time I got to the sporting supply store I'm going to buy myself a real football wrist band. I expect it will be exactly what I need.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


This may be the most successful nursery craft I've done yet. I did it last Sunday because I hung out at a party a little too long Saturday night. Turns out contact paper can be difficult to find at 11:30 Saturday night. I was ready to panic. I needed an easy craft I could make from grocery store supplies. As I roamed the aisles I had no idea what to do.

I honestly believe this idea was a blessing from God. It was time consuming in a good way, not too difficult and the kids absolutely loved it.

Here's what you need:
2 small dixie cups, masking tape, a bag of dry beans and some stickers.

Here's what you do:

Get two small dixie cups and tape them together with masking tape. Cup one facing down, cup two facing up.
Like this:

Once FIRMLY taped together cut a small x in the bottom of the cup, just large enough to push your small finger through. You now have a tiny hole about the size of a dry bean.

Here's what the kids do:

Give each kid a set of taped cups and a small handful of beans.

Let them fill the cups with as many beans as they want. They really love shoving the small beans in the hole.

Let them decorate them with stickers. I recommend the foam ones.

When the kids are content with their bean load, help them put a sticker over the top so the beans won't fall out.

Then the shaking will begin!

Here's how it happened in my class:
I made my own shaker before class. I passed out the empty taped cups to each kid. Then I held up my cup and said see my shaker? Ready? Listen! Then I shook it really loud. The kids were amazed and immediately jealous. Then I told them to shake their cups and asked them if they heard anything. They shook hopefully then admitted they did not. Then I told them all they had to do was add the beans. I was amazed how excited they were. As soon as I put a few beans on the table they leaped into action. They liked it so much, a few started fighting over beans.

As pointless as these may seem, they are great to keep around for singing time. The kids love being able to shake them to the beat of the song. I plan to do it on the lesson I am Grateful for my Ears and any other time I need a craft.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Getting Past No

I have a little boy in my class who has a favorite word. That word is NO. Any question I ask gets a furrowed brow, a scowl and an emphatic little NO.

I'll say:
Do you want to sing a song?
Do you want to play?
Do you want to eat a snack.

At first it threw me off, but I think I've gotten better at getting past no. Mostly I just pretend his no is the answer I wanted to hear: Yes! And I try to ask less yes or no questions and more which one questions.

So we'll have singing time and I'll ask the class, Should we sing Head, shoulders, knees and toes?
I'll get no response except that solemn little NO.
So I'll say, Great! Where's your head? and then start singing the song.

When coloring time comes I'll ask Do you want to color?
Okay, which crayon do you want? Red?
He'll take it if it's a good day.
If it's a bad day I"ll just leave a crayon and paper in front of him and avoid looking at him so he can take it without feeling like he lost the standoff. It's worked pretty well.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Lesson 5: Jesus Christ is the Son of Heavenly Father

So I mentioned earlier that I've been trying to figure out how to open the lesson. Here's my plan.

Opening: Picture time

I'm going to show the kids a picture of my Dad and Mom holding me as a baby. I'm going to show them the picture and ask them:
What is this a picture of?
How do you think the Daddy and Mommy feel about the baby?
Do they love the baby?

Who Loves You?
Pull out a bean bag or small ball. When I throw the bean bag to a kid, they have to tell me someone who loves them and throw it back. I'll make sure to give every kid a chance to name someone who loves them. I'll also make sure to bring a spare bean bag so I can continue the game if someone won't give up the bean bag.

Someone Else Loves You
Tell the kids there is someone else who loves them. Have them guess. Tell them it is Heavenly Father. Talk about how he is the father of our spirits. Tell them there is someone else who loves them: Jesus. Explain that Heavenly Father is Jesus Christ's physical father. I plan to try to find a picture that shows both of them so I can point to the one I'm talking about.

Nativity Story:
I'm going to try to find a very simple picture book that tells the story of the nativity and read it to the kids. While I read I will ask them who the different people are.

Alternate Idea: Place plastic figurines in a brown paper bag. Let each child come up and draw a figure out of the bag and let them say who that is. Have the kids build the nativity together or pretend to be the different character.

Jesus Grows Up
At this point I plan to raid the library for pictures of Jesus and run through several of them with the kids.

Rhyme -from the lesson manual
Young Jesus went to the temple (walk in place)
Before he grew strong and tall (stretch arms up)
To do the work of his Father (hold hands out)
Because he loves us all (hug self).

I think I might try to add a few verses to do with the kids.

i.e Jesus was baptized in river Jordan (make a flowing river with hands)
To be obedient in all (make a grand gesture) . . .

That's my lesson plan so far. Anyone have any ideas to add? I LOVE the suggestions

I'm planning on trying to do a small craft afterwards. My friend Sarah discovered this AWESOME glueless collage idea that is perfect for toddlers. Check it out here on her blog. You basically get the sticky contact paper, let the kids stick stuff all over it, then fold it in half so it seals shut. It is BRILLIANT. There's a butterfly spinoff idea which is also really cool. Contact paper is totally my new favorite substance on this earth.
I'm trying to think of objects I could provide that would relate to the lesson. Any suggestions?