I have held several callings: Nursery teacher, Primary Presidency member, and Primary chorister—in which I was responsible for conducting singing time with the toddlers in the Nursery. As far as tasks go, this is a pretty nice one. Singing songs with babies is quite fun. Even so, it has its challenges.
Nursery kids love movement songs like “Do as I’m Doing” and “The Wise Man and the Foolish Man” but songs that are more reverent in style can be a tougher sell. Anything longer than “Jesus Said Love Everyone” and “Kindness Begins with Me” might outlast their attention spans.
At home, I would usually sing songs to my kids like “Heavenly Father Loves Me,” “I am Like a Star” and “Jesus Once was a Little Child” in a rocking chair, but I can’t rock a dozen toddlers at once.
I have found an inexpensive solution that adds the toddler-pleasing element of motion to slower songs. I have made simple wands using materials I already had at home: duct tape, ribbons (mostly saved from Christmas and birthday gift wrappings) and popsicle sticks. (Yes—they were used too. I sanitized them—I promise.)
The wands work like magic. I start singing time with more upbeat songs with hand and body motions, and then pass out the wands for the slower songs. Even kids who are not yet verbal enough to do much singing enjoy waving their wands to the music and watching the ribbons glide through the air.
There is one caution when working with wands. Every now and then, a mischievous toddler realizes how fun it is to swish their neighbor with the ribbon. They never do any damage—ribbons are not very effective as weapons—but even so, it irritates the targeted neighbor and distracts virtually everyone.
To lessen the odds that this will happen, as I pass out the wands, I ask the kids if they remember the rule for the wands.
“No touching other people!” they all shout. (At least, all of the ones who are verbal.)
And they usually follow the rule. When they don’t, I have found that the best strategy is to skip wand time the next week, before breaking the rule becomes a pattern.
The kids always notice when I skip the wands and they are not pleased. “You forgot the wands! Where are the wands?” they cry in despair.
But the next week, when the wands come out again, all is forgiven. And more importantly, that little experiment with naughty wand behavior is forgotten, and the wands work like magic again.