*This article was previously published on Latterdaysaintwoman.com
Two hours is a long time to entertain toddlers. The schedule suggested in the lesson manual is valuable for making the time move along without allowing children to become bored or fussy. However, it can be challenging to think of games to play with children so young.
Little ones like simple games. Anything with a bit of action will entertain them and the same games can be played week after week. Toddlers like that which is familiar, so don’t try to think of new games for each week. It takes time for them to learn activities. Introduce one or two new games at a time. Eventually you’ll learn to stop just before the children become bored, but this takes practice. Watch your students to see if you can tell when they are getting tired or perhaps too stimulated. Then notice what happens just before that.
Following are some simple activities that will keep your little ones occupied for the fifteen minute gathering time:
Blanket and Ball
Have all the children hold the edge of a blanket or sheet. Place an under-inflated ball, cloth doll, stuffed animal or other safe toy on the blanket. Have all the children bounce the blanket up and down to make the toy bounce. This may not sound exciting, but toddlers find this highly amusing. They especially enjoy trying to knock the toy off the blanket, which is why it must be safe. Eventually, someone will try jumping on the blanket. Sadly, that often puts an end to this game, since they all want to do it each week after that–but it’s fun while it lasts.
Blowing Up a Balloon
I believe this was in a previous nursery manual. Children join hands and move in very close together. They gradually move backwards, blowing as they move. When they are stretched as far as their arms will go, yell “Pop!” and fall down. Children love anything involving falling down.
Move a flashlight beam slowly around the room. Let the children try to stomp on it. If each adult has a light, you can keep a number of children occupied at once.
Balance Beam Game
Create a masking tape line around the room in a square. Have the children line up on the line and move around it following your instructions. Have the children hop, wiggle, tip-toe, take large and small steps and so on. Tell them to pretend they are on a high wire or balance beam way up high.
Have the children pretend to be anything that fits your lesson or interests them. They can be animals, trees, butterflies, fish, and so on.
Have the children sit in a line facing to the left. Give the first child on the left a ball. He must turn around (scooting while sitting) and roll it to the next child. That child catches it and also turns around to roll it. If you have a large nursery, make two lines. The last child could get up and run to the front of the line and sit down.
Have all the children sit or stand in a line. Give the first child a toy. Have her place it on her head and take it to the next child. Vary this game by thinking of new ways to get the toy from child to child. The littlest ones are happy just passing it the normal way.
If your nursery has blocks or other stacking toys, let each child in turn get a block and stack it up. Build the excitement. When it topples, laugh. This helps children decide it’s okay to make mistakes.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.