by Karen Apple
The story of Moses begins as a “baby’s story” but continues as a story of rescue for a nation. The story of Jesus begins as a “baby’s story,” but continues as a story of redemption for the world.
Hold a baby, hold the future. Nurture a baby, nurture his future. Sings songs to a baby, encourage him for today and tomorrow. We are the grateful few who can impact the hearts and lives of these “littlest learners”.
We begin by knowing the heart of God and listening to the voices of the children.
I am convinced I heard a baby in the crawler nursery say, “Talk to ME, not the lady in the next rocker!” It is so easy to talk to a person who talks back. That is why even the most organized nursery with a top notch recruiter needs to repeatedly remind leaders that infants are tiny kids with a huge capacity to learn. “Hold me, touch me, move me gently through space and look me in the eyes.”
“Yeah, and I love it when you sing my name in a song,” lisped a wide eyed toddler.
Infants and toddlers sense caring “connection” so give it a word, “LOVE.” Say it and sing it often. “Abby, Abby I love you. Abby, Jesus loves you too. Abby, Abby, I love you and Jesus loves you too.” Add a hand held mirror reflecting her image and it helps cement the concept.
“I love to play when you are on the floor with me. It informs my heart and mind you care for me,” said a scrappy crawler. Push busy box buttons, make animal sounds or mimic baby sounds with them. Infants and toddlers will enjoy the fun and the subliminal message, “I understand you. I love you.”
Play is a child’s most important work.
- Cognition develops
- Vocabulary is stimulated
- Skills are learned
- Social awareness improves
- Memories are accessed
“Sorry, an important activity is drawing me. I cannot stay for the story wrap up.” A busy crawler shouted over his shoulder. Just because he cannot sit still does not mean he cannot learn lessons from God’s Word.
- Play Bible based music from the moment children arrive. The message of the songs build “precept upon precept, line upon line; here a little, there a littleâ€¦ (Isaiah 28:13)”
- Plan your lesson for the same time and the same space every time. Infants and Preschoolers want to know what comes next.
- FIRST put the toys away. Toddlers will help if you sing a clean-up song.
- Sing the same song or poem each time you gather kids and leaders on a rug or quilt. Be sure all leaders know the song so it remains the same each week.
- Tell the Bible story briefly and sing a song (use the same song for four or more weeks).
- Toddlers can do a simple craft while you tell the story again.
- Approach each child while he is playing. Tell the story over to him as he touches the Bible, the story figures or the puppet you used.
- Diaper changing time provides another opportunity to sing a Bible song or retell the Bible story one to one.
- Sing a song while you rock a baby. It is comforting and it sends a message to his heart.
Partner with parents by providing information about resources you use in the classroom. Music CD’s, poems, books and Bible story points to remember can be used in the car or home with these littlest learners. Parents are scrambling to gather kids, crafts and belongings when church is over. Rather than stopping them as they fly out the door, many churches are successful using email, Facebook and Twitter to spread the news about nursery resources.
“I heard that song in the church nursery,” cooed a happy infant listening to his mother’s voice.
“Tell it again,” a crawler babbled as his daddy ended a Bible story.
A dad, a mom or a leader are way ahead of the rest when they are convinced of God’s truth. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:6-7”
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’.”
Know the heart of God and listen to the voices of the children.
Karen, a former children’s pastor, is a speaker, writer and church consultant. She lives in Charlotte, NC with the “apple of her eye,” Steve.