Solving Behavior Problems in the Nursery Class

The purpose of the nursery class is:

  • to provide a loving, safe, organized place
  • where young children can increase their understanding of and love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ,
  • have positive experiences in a Church setting, and
  • grow in feelings of self-worth.

The nursery class is the first Church experience where very young children are taught the gospel and interact with other children and adults.

Source: Primary 1, Adapting the Manual for Use in the Nursery, Who Attends, p. ix

The Eighteen-Month-Old

Characteristics at this AgeSuggestions for Parents and Teachers
Walks, climbs, crawls, and runs. Enjoys pushing and pulling things. Is able to take things apart more easily than he or she can put them together. Is uncoordinated. Tires easily. Is usually not toilet trained.Vary activities to keep the child’s interest. Use activities that involve walking, pushing, and pulling. Use finger plays and musical activities.
Makes many sounds. Has developing language skills. Uses one-word phrases, particularly “mine” and “no.” Gathers knowledge through sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Understands more than he or she can express.Provide many opportunities for talking and participation. Teach how to be reverent during prayers. Use visuals with stories. Provide toys the child can move and experiment with, such as stacking toys, balls, simple puzzles, dolls, and figures of people and animals.
Enjoys playing alongside other children, but often does not interact with them. Has difficulty sharing.Provide toys and activities that allow the child to play alone. Help the child learn to share and get along with others.
Cries easily, but emotions change quickly.Hold the child when he or she is upset or feels insecure.

The Two-Year-Old

Characteristics at this AgeSuggestions for Parents and Teachers
Is very active. Jumps, walks, and runs. Can clap hands and kick a ball. Can handle small objects, but cannot button or zip clothing or care for himself or herself in other ways. Gets irritable and restless when tired.Use rest activities such as finger plays and those that use music. Provide activities such as beanbag tossing, marching, and jumping. Avoid activities that require skill and coordination, such as cutting and pasting.
Is able to put two or three words together in a sentence. Says “no” often, even when he or she does not mean it. Has simple, direct thoughts. Cannot reason. Can make simple choices. Enjoys repetition. Has a short attention span (two or three minutes). Is curious. Moves from one activity to another. Likes simple toys, art materials, books, short stories, and music activities.Keep discussions simple. Help the child participate. Use repetition. Do not leave the child alone; children this age can easily get themselves into unsafe situations. Provide opportunities for the child to make choices.
Likes to play alone. Is developing an interest in playing with others, but is usually more interested in playing near them than with them. Often argues over toys. Has difficulty sharing and cooperating. Asks adults for things he or she wants from another child. Provide opportunities for the child to interact with others, but do not pressure the child to do so. Offer the choice to participate in activities. Provide warm, caring direction. Redirect misbehavior.
Is loving and affectionate. Enjoys sitting on laps and holding hands. Likes to be close to his or her mother. Uses emotional outbursts to express emotions, to get what he or she wants, and to show anger and frustration. Has moods that change quickly. Likes independence.Show love and affection. Redirect the child’s attention in order to stop undesirable behavior. Encourage the child to be self-sufficient, but provide help when necessary. Allow the child to practice making choices.
Likes to pray. Understands that Heavenly Father and Jesus love us, but has difficulty understanding most spiritual concepts.Allow the child to pray. Focus spiritual concepts on the family and the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus.

The Three-Year-Old

Characteristics at this AgeSuggestions for Parents and Teachers
Walks and runs, but is still uncoordinated. Likes doing things with his or her hands but does them awkwardly.Use activities that include jumping, skipping, walking, and bending. Use simple art activities such as pasting, molding clay, and coloring. Avoid activities that require refined skills and coordination, such as tying or cutting. Be prepared to clean up messes.
Has more language skills. Likes to talk and learn new words. Has a short attention span. Is curious and inquisitive. Often misunderstands and makes comments that seem off the subject. Enjoys pretending. Likes finger plays, stories, and musical activities. Is unable to distinguish fantasy from reality.Teach ideas in a simple, clear way. Use summaries and visual materials to reinforce ideas. Encourage questions and responses to the lessons, but have the child take turns with other children. Use a variety of teaching methods such as stories, songs, discussions, dramatizations, finger plays, and simple games. Alternate between quiet and lively activities.
Enjoys working alone. Does not engage in much cooperative play with others, but likes to have friends around. Is self-centered. Has difficulty sharing. Prefers to be close to adults, particularly family, because they provide security.Provide opportunities to play with others. Use activities that encourage sharing, taking turns, and cooperating. Develop a close relationship with the child, and frequently give the child opportunities to talk about his or her family.
Wants to please adults. Needs their approval, love, and praise. Strikes out emotionally when afraid or anxious. Cries easily. Is sensitive to others’ feelings. Is developing some independence. Has intense, short-lived emotions.Show approval and confidence in the child. Avoid criticism. Emphasize the love you and the child’s family have for him or her. Help the child understand others’ feelings and solve conflicts. Encourage the child to be self-sufficient.
Is interested in simple gospel principles such as prayer and obedience. Is more aware of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and has simple faith in Them.Teach the gospel in simple, concrete ways. Teach that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live and are kind and loving. Share simple expressions of testimony. Help the child recognize the beauty of God’s creations.

Source: Teaching, No Greater Call, C: Teaching Different Age-Groups, 2: Age Characteristics of Children, p. 110

(This information is in list form in Teaching, No Greater Call, but I thought it was better to see the characteristics of the child beside the way to adjust teaching methods to best fit the needs of the child. – Jenny)

Potential Problems and Solutions in the Nursery

ProblemPossible Solution
A parent tells you the child does not want to come to the nursery. The child screams and cries when the parent tries to leave.Encourage parents to prepare their children for the nursery ahead of time (see Primary 1, “Preparing Children for the Nursery,” pages x-xi). Invite the parent to stay until the child is calm and settled. It might be helpful to invite other adults to hold crying children to help them feel more secure.
A child seems afraid of you or the other children, wanders aimlessly around the nursery, and will not talk to anyone.Be patient; do not pressure the child. Give him or her time to get to know you, the other children, and the environment. Occasionally reassure the child and suggest one or two activities to try. Help the child have a successful experience of some kind.
During the entire nursery period, a child clings to your leg or tries to sit on your lap.Young children need warmth and attention. A minute of holding and talking to the child periodically will usually satisfy him or her. Then encourage the child to become involved in the nursery activities.
During lesson time, several children stand up and walk away before the activities are finished.Be alert and aware of each child’s needs, interests, and attention span. Look for signs of boredom or restlessness so you can adjust the activity to fit the children’s interests. Do not force a child to participate in any activity. If some children want to return to playing with toys, let them do so.
A child will not sit quietly and listen. He or she pushes and pulls at the children sitting nearby.The second teacher can direct the child’s attention to the activity the first teacher is conducting. Give the child something to hold so he or she is actively involved in the lesson or activity.
Several children start fighting over a toy. One child kicks, hits, or bites in order to keep the toy.Children can sometimes resolve disagreements themselves, but you should step in if necessary to prevent them from hurting each other or damaging property. You might suggest ways for the children to solve their problem.
A child starts to play roughly — swinging a toy around, pounding it, or throwing it. Then he or she runs to another part of the room.You need to stop this behavior. Explain to the child why he or she cannot act this way; then direct the child to another activity.
A child takes one toy after another from the shelf, refusing to put any of the toys away.Gently but firmly restate the expected behavior. Show the child how to put the toys away. Encourage the child to put each toy away before taking another one.
A child begins to whine and cry. When you try to give comfort, he or she says, “I don’t like you,” and pulls away.Young children are usually easily distracted. Show the child a special toy and suggest that it might be fun to play with. If that does not work, try a story or book. Wiping the child’s eyes sometimes helps stop the crying. If the child continues to cry, take him or her to a parent.
A child asks, “When will my mother come? When can I go home?”Reassure the child that his or her parents will come back. Talk about some of the things that will take place before it is time to go home.

Source: Primary 1, Adapting the Manual for Use in the Nursery, Who Attends, p. ix

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