Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Call for Crafts for Teeny Tinies

Nursery is going...ok. Let's just say there is room for improvement. We need to get more organized and stick to a tight schedule. We've been kind of experimenting with this the last few weeks but it's time to nail it down. Please help. We also need about 10 on-call non-nursery-parent helpers that can come hold cryers as needed. But that's not what this is about.

This is about a desperate need. During the second hour of nursery we have three stations that last about 10 minutes each, and we rotate three evenly numbered groups among them: lesson, activity, snack. Everyone loves snack, it's no problem. Lesson is pretty good with the new manual.

Activity. Please help. The lesson manual usually has coloring pages but honestly the kids get tired of coloring, and if they're bored it doesn't take the 10 minutes. So we tried branching out last week, and not doing something necessarily related to the lesson. We made macaroni necklaces* and they loved it. Even kids who are usually bouncing off the walls sat still and concentrated on what they were doing for a few minutes. Please help. Today I got Mom over and we brainstormed a little on other arts & crafts we can do, and we did come up with a few ideas. But I figured if two of us came up with a few, all of us can come up with a lot, especially since there seem to be several moms and ex-nursery workers out there! Please help.

  1. Something a young 2-year-old can do at least partially by himself. For each 10-minute period there are 5 to 8 kids (age 18-47 months) and 2 adults so it has to be supervisable with that ratio.
  2. Take a group like this about 8 to 10 minutes to complete, and it has to take up the whole 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. No glitter or paint or anything else too messy. They are all wearing their best clothes. Minimal glue or other things the adults have to do.
  4. Cheap enough so about 25 can be made for less than $10, preferably much less.
  5. Either fun to make or motivating to have the finished product. Please help.
  6. Nice to make something to take home but don't have to every time.
  7. Bonus is relating to a gospel topic or particular lesson, but I don't expect it every time

Here's what we came up with:
  • Egg carton caterpillars
  • Cotton batting circles on paper snowmen
  • Leaf activities (rubbings, headbands, possibly laminatable placemats)
  • Hand tracings are turkeys
  • Paper or plastic cup bells
  • Paper plate shakers full of beans
  • Popsicle stick puppets
  • Paper bag puppets
  • Paper airplanes - decorate, fold and fly
  • Spiral paper plate snakes - color paper plate, cut in a spiral, hold one end up and it falls in a descending spiral
But honestly only about half of those seem truly fun to me, though they're all better than a plain coloring page week after week. What have you got? Please help.

*How to make a macaroni necklace: Cut long pieces of yarn. Tie a wooden bead on one end. Dip the other end in glue up to a few inches so it will be stiff. Let dry on wax paper. Decorate large rotini pasta with glitter glue and allow to dry on wax paper. Give a handful of pasta and one string to each kid. Rotini is so big that almost every kid could string them themselves with the stiffened yarn.


Scott and Jen Driggs said...

Check out the Oriental Trading company online. They have fun crafts that can be bought in bulk at a minimal cost. Hope this helps!

Mo said...

I remember Ellie coming out of class once upon a time with a little lace-up craft that not only kept her interest during nursery, but long into sacrament meeting as well. The teachers made them by cutting pieces of colored cardstock into various shapes (footballs, hearts, etc.). They secured pieces of yarn to one end and wrapped tape around the other to create a stiff "needle" effect at the other. The kids got to decorate their shapes and then spent the rest of the time (and the day) lacing the yarn in and out of holes made around the shape with a paper hole punch.

-Sydney- said...

I think most kids like any kind of craft where they have to stick something to something else--for example, putting the eyes and mouth on a paper jack-o-lantern, or feathers on a turkey, paper clothes on a paper person, bits of yarn and scraps of paper to make a flower garden, etc. The teachers hold the glue and put a dab down where the kids need it and the kids just stick stuff on. It's relatively quick and easy to do, but might require a bit more prep work on your part cutting stuff out in advance. I think the really hard part is finding a craft that an 18 month old and a 3 year old can both do and be interested in. I'll be anxious to see what other suggestions people give.

ESO said...

Check out --they are currently defunct, but might have some good crafts in their archives for special occasions.

I think if I were you, I would always have some coloring pages on hand for the kids who didn't want to do the other activities, especially for the 18-month-olds. But definitely, break out all the kinesthetic skills for activity time.

Keep your eyes on crafts your preschooler makes--I always steal ideas from the teachers I work with. One cool thing I stole was squirting (a fun colored) anti-bacterial gel into a ziplock bag. It was quite mesmorizing for little ones to play with (just squishing around) and, if you get a blue gel, it can look like water (add fish, or something).

Also, ask parents/ward members for contribution of materials, like paper towel cardboard tubes (priceless! make a recorder, a telescope, etc), shoeboxes (make a treasure box, wrap a gift, etc), egg cartons, baby food jars, wrapping paper, saran wrap, etc. Also, some crafting staples like glue and construction paper and pipe cleaners and yarn.

Of course, you will find a million crafts all over the internet, but emphasize that there need not always be an end product--go on walks, scavenger hunts, explore the building, make and use mini sand boxes (does that strike fear in your hearts? Fill plastic shoe-box containers with sand (super cheap)--we use them at school all the time), have someone bring in a puppy or a fish. I guess I would say be active, interact, that is more important than taking something home.

As for crafts:
-flowers from cut out hand prints
-use muffin papers to stick on a paper and make a flower
-graham cracker gingerbread houses (ambitious!)
-snowflakes (with supervision, of course)
-cornocopia--have kids glue fruits in basket
-act out nativity
-glue characters into nativity

Good luck--I'll send you any more I think of.


ESO said...

Just like paper-bag puppets, I think you will have endless possibilities with the good old paper plate. You mentioned tamborines, but also masks and all sorts of faces--animal faces, happy/frowny faces, etc.

Also, find some cheap sugar cubes (don't tell the kids what it is!) for building stuff--houses, churches, etc.

I think the most important thing to have when teaching this age is a good (simple) example of the end product. Maybe that sounds like a no-brainer, but make it a priority for your nursery workers.

Do not fear having different crafts for the different ages (or different starting points for the same craft)--you have such a HUGE range of abilities in there!

Also, I am concerned about your crying--it is so debilitating for everyone when you have screamers. Maybe I am heartless, but nursery is an optional class and I think it is the parent's duty to ready their kids for nursery. If a kid couldn't recover after 5 minutes, I think I would send him back to dadddy and let the parents know they are welcome to accompany their kids to nursery (if you don't have space issues).

Good luck!

Lindsay said...

Wow. These are some good ideas. I might be swiping a few of them.

I also have the hardest time coming up with activities for nursery -- especially in our current nursery, where none of the kids really like to color. (Or sit still, but that's another issue entirely.) Your ideas and the ones suggested in the comments have gotten my wheels turning a little bit though. I don't think I saw paper chains listed anywhere. I remember being fascinated by making those when I was younger. And they're easy. You could make strips of paper that have key words from the lesson printed on them so the parents know what they learned about in class. I'm sure the kids would have a blast stapling paper strips into links (so long as no fingers get in the way...maybe glue is better...)

I'm still a big fan of the fishing pole. They're easy to make and the kids dig 'em. You can make whatever they fish for appropriate to the lesson.

If I think of any more ideas, I'll come back and share. Good luck, Kari!

EB said...

Anything with pipe cleaners is fun and cost effective.
Salt dough has to be made ahead of time, but is non-toxic and fun to mash around.
And decorating rocks or pebbles with markers is super low cost!

Disco Mom said...

You guys rock and please keep the ideas coming!

About the paper plates - my Mom went to a teacher store today and got me some books and she said one is 1001 things to do with a paper plate or something like that so I'll throw out some of those when I look at them. It is all about cheap and fun but not too messy.

Lindsay, I thought of paper chains but then dismissed it because of the adult-intensity needed for the stapling and/or gluing. I mean, I have no shortage of ideas for things I could do at home with my kids, but when you put us in a nursery setting there are a lot of limitations and we must be practical.

Today in Hazel's preschool they made bubble prints - a little food coloring in bubble solution, a paper for each kid with her name on it. Either the kid blew bubbles and the teacher held the paper or vice versa, and when they hit the paper they made colored circles and splatters. It was adorable and I'm trying to think how to adapt it a little.

I think the week after Conference (in 2 weeks) we will take the kids outside 1/2 at a time during free play and collect leaves (need to check the nearby trees to make sure there will be good ones), then during activity we'll make leaf things like headbands and rubbings.

I have many of the "staple" supplies mentioned but I do think we'll need to get a few more staplers - so much easier than glue for some things.

Disco Mom said...

Oh, and about the crying. I am in conflict over it. As (former) primary president and current nursery parent I have always held firmly to the attitude of NO PARENTS in nursery.

In my last ward we had a little girl whose parents would never, ever leave her and she knew it so she worked it. Sometimes they would bring her and stay with her, sometimes they wouldn't bring her and keep her with them in their classes. The girl is now 4 years old and won't go to Sunbeams or sharing time without her mom. I think this is an extreme case but I want kids to be comfortable coming to nursery independently as early as possible and that's not going to happen if their parents keep coming in.

That said, the last three weeks have put me in conflict over this long-held belief. We have the manpower for crowd control and the occasional nose-wiping and diaper-checking. But I'm finding we do not have the manpower for holding and comforting 3 to 5 cryers at any given time. We have 6 adults in three rooms. And the occasional parent. So the solution is either to get more manpower each week or get the cryers' parents in there. I hate to do that but we do have the space and honestly then the rest of us could concentrate on what we're doing, like the routine.

Gotta think about this but I do appreciate the input!

ESO said...


I can see both sides. When I was in nursery we were in a coat closet so we did not have room for extra bodies and we also could not take the endless crying (it makes everyone SO uncomfortable), so back to parents it was. I did encourage parents to come and play with their kids in the nursery during the week, practice with babysitters, etc. just to get kids accustomed to some of the issues piled on on Sunday (of course naptime matters too). But really, if your kid is miserable in nursery, that is a parental responsibility, not a nursery one. Most normally socialized kids can regain control of themselves after a few minutes, I believe. If your kid can't, work on it.

I know I am heartless.

tona said...

Stickers on paper got us through a lot of lessons. Star stickers on black paper, animal stickers on a farm background, foam shape stickers. I'd avoid glue like the plague, myself.

Or, "collages" of yarn or paper, laid onto a background sheet of paper, then "laminated" with a big strip of packing tape or a sheet of contact paper. Paper fish shapes between 2 sheets of clear contact paper.

Crowns and hats. We did a lot with these. They liked wearing them. All kinds of silly things.

Necklaces beyond macaroni - even as simple as a little cardstock picture that represents what we did in class, strung on curly ribbon or yarn.

Our nursery kids LOVED homemade playdough, but it does take small groups & close supervision. We gave them wide tongue depressors as "tools" and that was all they needed.

You could sew little pouches out of fabric and leave a 1-inch opening and have them stuff them with poly fiberfill to make little pillows, closing the gap with a safety pin & tell parents to stitch it closed at home.

Decorating cookies?

Disco Mom said...

RE: Crying

Yes, Emily (ESO), that makes sense. And no, not heartless. Practical and non-martyristic, which of course is one of the reasons we're friends. In our first nursery here before the ward change they had a 20-minute crying rule. I think we'll knock that down to 10, and for a couple of the younger kids who cry every week tell the parents to sneak back in 10 to check in, just so we don't have to go find them. I guess my attitude was based on the assumption that most kids are reasonably socialized, and that's not always the case, and also some have separation anxiety worse than others (18 mos being a peak age for this.) Good and helpful stuff.

RE: Tona

NO ONE loves decorating cookies more than me. I have NO IDEA why I have not thought of this before. Genius. I even have a pumpkin shaped cutter. Also love the curly ribbon. How else can I incorporate it?

Just Katy said...

Oh so many memories are flooding back. Here are a few crafts that come to mind right away. I like crafts with minimal prep time and mess. I've got a lot more but here are a few that I remember going over pretty well.

1 Take two small dixie cups and tape them together so they are closed. Poke a small hole in the top just large enough for a bean. Give the kids beans that they can shove through the hole. I don't know why but they LOVE doing this. When they are done tape the top closed with a piece of masking tape. Makes a shaker for singing time or just to make noise. (Good for lessons about being grateful for ears or moving because the dancing is more exciting with noise etc.)

2 Brown Paper bag puppets - Supplies: brown bags, stickers, googlie eyes, crayons etc. Kids like these because then they can play with them after, make them try to eat things etc. Can be people or animals depending on the lesson

3. Contact Paper - Get sheets of clear contact paper. Lay them out for the kids sticky side up. Let the kids decorate the surface with whatever you want to provide them - paper, feathers, glitter etc. When they are done fold the sheet in half and it's all there. So little work and no messy glue but the kids really like it. Super little kids can handle this, no problem.

4. Paper plate masks - Cut the plate in half to fit the top of the kids face. Have holes punched in the side to tie the yarn through. Let kids decorate the mask to be their favorite animal. They didn't love making this anymore than any other project but really got into pretending to be a lion, tiger etc afterwards.

5. Plastic bottle "aquarium" Collect clear plastic bottles. Have foam fish and other stuff for the kids to put in their bottles. When the kids have what they want pour in water that has glitter in it. Best if you do the pouring but a lot of the kids will want to "help" Seal the bottle and let them shake up the aquarium and watch their water world swirl around. This can also be done with sand to make a good "I spy" sort of toy. Best if you put some super glue to keep the top on...

6. (This was already mentioned) Fishing Pole - Get sticks and tie a piece of yarn to them. Make a cut out of a fish. Let each kid decorate their own fish and give him an eye. Tape fish to the yarn. Each kid has his own "fishing pole" The kids can then swing the sticks around and make the fish "swim" Can be done with a bird too but the waving the sticks around high instead of low is a little more dangerous, if that makes sense.

7. Hungry envelop. Get envelopes and make them into a face the opening being the mouth. Let the kids "feed" the mouth with food they color. The bigger the envelope the better. Good for lessons about eating or being grateful for food or sense of taste.

8. Paper Towel roll trumpets. I just let the kids decorate the surface with tissue paper then showed them they could yell into them to make their voice sound different.

9. Bell bracelets. Buy the tiny bells from the craft store. Let kids string the bells on yarn along with any other stringable items for color then tie them around their wrists or ankles.

10. Mobiles. - Kids can loop yarn through paper then you can attach the yarn to a hanger to make a small mobile. (We made family mobiles, plan of salvation mobiles that showed the different stages and just nonsense mobiles) Can also let kids string noodles, bells, etc and also tie those on.

11. Bird feeder - Collect pine cones. Let kids put p-butter onto the pine cone then have a bowl filled with birdseed that the kids can roll the pine cone in. This breaks my no mess rule but I like it too much to not do it. Have the vacuum ready. Can do the same activity with glue and glitter to make a Christmas ornament.

Hope this helps. Good Luck!!

Maren said...

Some time go, Mom told me a story of how she came to pick me up from nursery one day and the leader(s) had taped our thumbs together with masking tape (i.e. each child has his or her thumbs loosely taped together). Apparently, we were all very quiet as we tried to figure out what had happened and how to undo it.

I am very jealous of your nursery (and everyone else's). We have a decent leader, but she is an overworked person in general and has little left to give on Sundays. There are no crafts in our nursery. I kind of wish I was in a position to take over for her.

Disco Mom said...

You. People. Are. Amazing.

I typed up all the ideas nice and clean to share with my nursery workers. Email me if you want a copy.

tona said...

We had a big nursery so we had the problem that a lot of artwork had to dry all at the same time. We had 2 blackboards in there and they were magnetic so we stuck the artwork up on the boards until their parents got there. You could do the same with a clothesline and clothespins.

Also, making magnets or putting a magnet on the back of whatever they did, for the fridge at home, is nice.

The Henrich Family said...

Kari, good luck with nursery. Looks like you are getting lots of good ideas. Not sure if you've been to this website: They offer many, many craft ideas and projects around different themes. One thing that they do in Sam's nursery class is music time--other than the primary songs. There is marching/band type music (appropriate for Sunday) and they have instruments (homemade and/or bought) and the kiddos just march around the room. March and march and play their instruments. They could do it forever. All the kids LOVE it. Obviously this isn't a craft, but a great time spent. Kids love music.

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