Using Music Effectively in Nursery

There are a lot of great preschool songs with actions that children are familiar with and love to sing.  Many of us sing our children’s favorite songs to them over and over again.  Songs are a great way to get Nursery-aged children involved with the teacher and interested in sitting in the circle.  It’s also a wonderful way to increase a child’s ability to sit appropriately with a group.

There can be a place for popular preschool songs in Nursery but sometimes you give a whole lesson or singing time to the Nursery and realize that you only sang one or two Primary songs and the majority of what you sung were secular songs.   That is a missed opportunity.   While it’s appropriate to sing Five Little Ducks or We’re going to the Zoo you can also sing I am a Child of God and Love at Home.

The transition from Nursery to Sunbeams can be hard for several reasons, not the least of which is sitting longer, having a longer lesson and singing songs you’ve never heard.  If we teach children in Nursery the songs that are sung in Primary, they can sing along as soon as they start Sunbeams.  It is just as easy to sing I am like a Star Shining Brightly as it is to sing the Barney song.

Children love music.  And it is amazing when you realize how much doctrine a Primary song can contain.  One song can be the equivalent of an entire lesson.  One of my favorite songs in the Children’s Songbook is Baptism which is a great example of how well a song can teach a gospel principle.  Children learn important gospel principles from songs that can comfort, teach and bless them.

Children love songs with actions.  I think half of the reason why kids love singing The Wheels on the Bus is because they get to use actions.  So, use actions to accompany lyrics whenever possible!  If the song doesn’t have familiar actions, teach an American Sign Language (ASL) sign or two per sentence.  A couple Sundays ago I taught Nursery and sang A Happy Family.  I taught 3 ASL signs: love, mother, and father.  The children tried to sign along.  I am not a fluent signer.  I learned some sign language years ago when my son was younger but he never signed and I’ve forgotten most of what I knew.  But you don’t have to be fluent.  Learn a couple of signs per song and not only will it help the children learn the songs better (because they are using more than one learning method), they will also be more interested in staying in the circle. (Check out our ASL link here —– on our Link & Lessons Page.)

Nursery class is not babysitting.  It is a Primary class and as important as any other Primary class!  It’s a child’s first introduction to Sunday School.  Nursery teachers are gospel teachers preparing children for Primary.

Suggestions for using music more effectively:

  1. Have Primary songs playing in the background.  Not only does this help calm children and ease difficult transitions, the children are actually learning songs that are played frequently.
  2. Make yourself (or ask the music leader or Primary President in your ward to make) a CD of frequently sung Primary songs.  (All Primary songs can be easily downloaded from lds.org here).  If you put 15 or so songs on the CD and the children listen to them every week, the songs will become really familiar.
  3. Make a copy of this year’s Primary program songs and play it for the children.
  4. Sing the same 5 or 6 songs every week.  Children love routine and will happily sing the same songs all year long.  I teach two pre-school enrichment classes per week at the YMCA and I sing the same five songs every week.  It can take months for some children to feel comfortable singing along even with our familiar routine but their parents tell me that they sing the songs at home.
  5. Sing two or three songs before you start the lesson. A welcome song that uses the children’s names is a great way to help them feel included in the class. I like to sing an active song to get the children’s attention, then sing I am a Child of God right before the prayer to encourage reverence and invite the spirit.
  6. Children like to sing songs that they know the words to.  If they spend one day a week for about a year and a half singing Primary songs they will learn the words.
  7. Make a CD of our suggested songs below.

List of suggested songs for Nursery from the Children’s Songbook:

Active Songs

Popcorn Popping (CS 242)
I am Like a Star (CS 163)
Book of Mormon Stories (CS 118)
When We’re Helping (CS 198)
A Happy Family (CS 198)
Give Said the Little Stream (CS 236)
In the Leafy Treetops (CS 240)
Once There was a Snowman (CS 249)
Fun to Do (CS 253)
Happy Song (CS 264)
Smiles (CS 267)
Two Little Eyes (CS 268)
I Wiggle (CS 271)
I Have Two Little Hands (CS 272)
Roll your hands (CS 274)
Do As I’m Doing (CS  276)
Hinges (CS 277)
Follow the prophet (CS 110)
Stand Up (CS 278)
The Wise Man and the Foolish Man (CS 281)

Reverent Songs

I am a Child of God (CS 2)
Reverently, Quietly (CS 26)
Tell me the Stories of Jesus (CS 57)
Love One Another (ASL signs are in the songbook) (CS 136)
The Chapel Doors (CS 156)
Families Can be Together Forever (CS 188)
I Love to See the Temple (CS 95)

Printable PDF of suggested Nursery Songs Here.

Nursery teachers have a great opportunity to use music to teach gospel principles.  I know from personal experience that Primary songs can invite a beautiful spirit into a room or home.

~Marjorie

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1 Comment

Filed under Music, Nursery

One response to “Using Music Effectively in Nursery

  1. Kalualani

    In our nursery singing time we do the following songs:
    “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” (usual actions),
    Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam (We wave pictures of a smiley sun on popsicle sticks),
    I am Like a Star (“twinkle” star pictures on a wooden dowel by twisting it back and forth between finger and thumb),
    “Do as I’m Doing” (they “play” instruments: shakers, bells, tamborine… while marching around the room)
    “Popcorn” (or “Snowman” in winter)
    “Roll Your Hands” — to get us sitting quietly for …
    “I am a Child of God”

    I have started sometimes doing “My Hands upon my Head I”ll Place” either in place of, or in addtion to “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes”. Sometimes we do “Rain is Falling all Around” (or “Sun is Shining all Around). I am trying to add more seasonal songs, but we mostly stick to the above routine which they are very familiar with.

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