Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers have certain needs, and those needs help us determine what’s truly essential in these ministries. Here’s a list of the must-haves for your Children’s ministry!
Let’s assume your ministry leader has already instituted safe screening of you and any other volunteers in your classroom. That’s the first step of safety but a bit beyond your control as a classroom teacher. The second safety essential is that there’s some kind of check-in/checkout procedure when children arrive and leave. After those two primary issues, there are key areas you can work on to ensure safety for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Germ Warfare — Safety is a concern in nursery and preschool classes in the areas of illness and the passing of germs around the class. While we can’t guarantee our nurseries and preschool classes are completely germ-free, we can cut down on the spread of colds and the flu by implementing a sick-child policy. You’ll need to determine with your team what your policy looks like. Many churches request that parents not bring their child to class if the child is running a temperature. Whatever your policy looks like, kindly and firmly communicate this to parents to ensure good health for all children.
Another key step is to thoroughly clean toys each week. Consider purchasing colorful laundry baskets for each service in your nursery and preschool classes. Divide your toys between the baskets and then bring out one basket per service. At the end of the service, have your volunteers put all the toys that’ve been played with in an empty basket and bring out a fresh basket of clean toys for the next service. During the week all the toys can be soaked in a disinfectant, rinsed, and returned to baskets for the next week’s services. Cleaning of the toys each week is a great service project for older children. This allows you to be sure your toys are clean, plus as you clean them each week you’ll be able to keep an eye out for broken toys; small, loose parts; or otherwise-unsafe toys that need to be tossed.
Controlled Exits — Providing a safe ministry for our little ones involves making sure doors to classrooms can’t be opened by little hands, thus keeping kids from slipping out of the classroom. It isn’t difficult or expensive to put up safety gates. You can also use knob covers so little ones can’t open doors. Classroom Aids Preschool classrooms are spaces for children to learn and also spaces for them to play. Create an environment that your children — and their parents — will love.
Stink Be Gone — There’s nothing worse than the smell of dirty diapers emanating from the nursery. So to improve your nursery’s aroma, get a Diaper Genie. This wonderful item allows you to seal dirty diapers in plastic as soon as you remove them from the babies, helping your nurseries smell much better and keeping dirty diapers away from crawling and walking babies.
Rock-a-Bye Baby — Nurseries also need chairs for staff to hold, rock, and cuddle babies, but avoid rocking chairs as they cause injuries to babies every year.
Just My Size — Little Tikes makes wonderful, colorful, perfectly sized picnic tables that make great additions to nurseries. These tables are perfect for snack time and provide a wonderful space for little ones to color. Since they’re plastic, they’re easy to clean. And that’s another valuable feature!
As They Grow — As our children grow, classroom furniture needs to change. Preschool classes need child-sized tables and chairs so kids are able to make their crafts. Rather than have children sit in chairs for their Bible lessons, consider placing colorful carpet squares in the story area or check out fun colorful parachutes. These can be spread on the floor for story time, and provide a special space for children to learn.
Play Time — Check out Playhut products for excellent play items to add excitement to your classroom. The school bus, connecting tunnels, and play houses allow you to make the space you have a truly inviting place for children to learn about God. Teaching Aids Clearly, caring for babies is one of the primary roles of our nursery ministries, but we can also begin to talk with our littlest ones about how much Jesus loves them and how he made them so very special.
Plugged In — Have music available in your nursery with simple lyrics you can sing to the babies as you hold and play with them. A TV and a library of movies can also be used to help children learn.
Booking It — The simple act of holding a child and reading is one that not only helps a child learn, but also communicates that the church nursery is a safe and comforting place for a young child to be.
Chalkboard Wall — As preschool children are growing and learning so fast, there are some unique, inexpensive options available to truly engage your Threes, Fours, and Fives. Consider painting a specific wall in your classroom with chalkboard paint. Paint your chalkboard at a preschooler’s height so kids can draw with colored chalk and use their imaginations. Or ask them to draw specific things that connect with the lesson you’re teaching for the day. Paint another wall with magnetic paint. Kids can make magnets or you can add magnetic strips to old flannelgraph figures for storytelling and independent play.
Artists at Work — Toddlers are emerging artists, and preschoolers see themselves as genuine Picassos. As a result, craft items should provide safe exploration of multiple media, and the end product should be open-ended — that is, no “model” project to reproduce. Include the basics such as construction paper, glue sticks, safety scissors, chenille wire, pom poms, and crayons. Stack the construction paper by color in letter stackers from an office supply store.
The Good Word — Use a quality children’s Bible that children can understand. Look for simple wording and great artwork.
It’s essential that we provide opportunities for children to connect visually with the things we’re teaching them and with the things of God.
Designers’ Choice — Purchase a supply of Crayola Color Wonder markers and paper to use in your nursery so you can involve your little ones in coloring shapes and pictures to hang around your room. Color Wonder Markers and Finger Paints only mark on Color Wonder paper. Every nursery should use these amazing resources!
Show and Tell — Your preschool classroom must have a bulletin board to display the projects and pictures kids make. This is a great place to post photos of the kids doing things in your classroom; kids and parents will enjoy these.
Post It — Hang colorful posters that you change from time to time in your nursery and preschool room. For safety reasons, use tape or Handy-tak instead of thumbtacks to hang the posters. Look for posters that show babies and toddlers, animals, birds, flowers, and pictures of Bible people — especially Jesus with children. Talk with the babies and toddlers about the people and how God made their eyes, mouths, hands, and other body parts. Talk about the animals and the sounds they make and the colors in the plants that God made. In your preschool classes, consider making your own posters; use a digital camera to take photos of the kids in your class, enlarge them, and post them for a personal touch around your room that kids and parents will love! Also, have preschoolers color posters that connect with the Bible themes and lessons you’re teaching and then hang them around the room.
Puppet Magic — Puppets make wonderful visual aids for nursery- and preschool-age children. Make a point of purchasing the VBS puppets from each publisher every year; this is a wonderful way to increase your puppet supply.
Dress Up — Preschool-age children love to show they “can do it themselves,” so include simple costumes in your visual aids to let children dress up and provide their own visual aids by acting out the Bible lessons themselves.
Designed to Tell — Take whatever your theme for the next unit is and then decorate your room to correlate. Tape plastic tablecloths to the walls and then add the features for your unit. These are easily removed so you can redecorate for your next unit. Decorations can be simple; when you study Joshua and Jericho, use paper grocery bags to build your own wall of Jericho. For lessons on Jonah, hang paper fish from your ceiling and blue tablecloths on the walls. For Resurrection Sunday, make your room a garden with a paper tomb in the corner. When the classroom matches the theme, it creates enthusiasm and a sense of the unexpected for children while visually reinforcing and building on your lessons. Regardless of the size of our children’s ministries and budgets, we all have elements that are essential for our ministries to effectively engage the kids so they’ll remember, understand, and live God’s Word.
Comstock Park, Michigan