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Teaching Nursery Children about the Nativity

By Karen Austin

As a nursery teacher, my task is to think about how I can teach gospel concepts to very small children. This opportunity carries a little extra weight in December while we are also doing a Primary preview.

Each fall, we split the nursery after General Conference so that we can work with the prospective Sunbeams, teaching them things like how to sit in a chair, how to walk in a line, and how to manage a crayon.

In December, another teacher and I start taking oldest nursery children into the Primary room so that they can get a preview of the who, what, when, where, and why of announcements and sharing time. It’s challenging for them to learn that they sit with their teacher and fellow students rather than with their older siblings (for those who have older siblings in Primary). But this helps them to adjust to Primary at the start of the next year.

However, December is also the time that they learn about the nativity.  We bring in books, Christmas cards, ornaments, and nativity sets so that they can learn to identify the people who were present at the first Christmas.

On the first Sunday, we only talk about baby Jesus, his mother Mary, and her husband, Joseph.  We show them just those three items from a wooden nativity set, and we have a coloring page that only has Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on it.

On the second Sunday, we talk about the angel and the shepherds. We add those pieces from a wooden nativity set and have a coloring page with the shepherds in their field.

On the third Sunday, we talk about the three kings / wise men and the fact that they brought gifts.  Again, we bring out those pieces from the nativity set and have a coloring page that just has the three wise men approaching Jesus in the manger.  We also talk about the star, heralding Christ’s birth.

I am not sure how much they are absorbing about the events from Luke 2, but I feel as though it’s a good use of our time on the Sundays after Thanksgiving. I am sure the parents are also talking about the nativity at home with their children.

Ultimately, I feel as though the most important lesson I can prepare is to soften my heart by striving to live the teachings of Jesus Christ, so that the nursery children can feel that church is a place where they feel love, respect, and affection from their teacher.

What are some of the ways you teach small children about the Jesus, including–but not limited–to the nativity? 

About Karen Austin

After living in UT, HI, CA, VA, DC, WI, WV & KS, Karen now lives in Newburgh, IN with her husband and two children. She's been a BYU writing tutor, an English teacher, technical writer, director of academic support services, and aging studies adjunct. She's reinventing herself--again. New role still pending, but mature athlete, thrift store fashionista, and court jester are strong candidates. She maintains the blog The Generation Above Me.

2 thoughts on “Teaching Nursery Children about the Nativity”

  1. This is somewhat off track from the nativity (but not really). I was a nursery leader teaching the Easter lesson. I had, what most of you have seen, the cut out visual of the tomb, with brads so Jesus can be laid down in the tomb, the stone rolled away and Jesus coming to life again. We had simply explained the big word “resurrection”.
    When I “rolled the stone away” and “Jesus rose up again”, I said – “and then He was resurrected!” This angelic, sweet little nursery girl, jumped to her feet and clapped with a look of pure joy across her face”. I still tear up remembering the look on her face and thinking “ that is what all adults should be feeling to the depth that there is pure joy in our countenances – at Christmas and especially at Easter”.

  2. Sharon Lynn: Thank you for sharing the account of that little saint celebrating the resurrection. I haven't tried to explain the resurrection to the nursery children, but your experience shows me that they can understand (and rejoice) more than I expected. Have a blessed Christmas.


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