Jim West has a master’s degree from Brigham Young University in Civil Engineering and has worked in the private sector for over 22 years. He is now the Project Delivery Manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Marla West has a bachelor’s degree in Family Living, also from BYU, and has taught part-time at several schools. Jim and Marla are active volunteers in the Salem, Oregon area. They belong to Willamette Riverkeepers and clean up local rivers in their canoe. They also volunteer every Sunday evening in their local hospital emergency department, and Marla volunteers in the local elementary school third-grade classroom.
In the Church, Jim has served in a variety of roles including bishoprics, the Young Men’s organization, and as a Primary teacher and Nursery leader. Marla has served in Primary and Nursery, and in Relief Society. They have been married 42 years, have five sons and three grandchildren, and love gardening, home improvement, biking, hiking, and playing badminton.
04:20 Introduction to Jim and Marla
06:45 Jim and Marla’s advice for new nursery leaders. Remember to start with the basics and read the manual. See the vision that the church has for nursery.
08:00 Nursery is more than toys and snacks. The vision for nursery is a moment to introduce the children to structure and a formal class.
10:20 Marla suggests visiting the children in their home with a little game or a treat. She has found that the children are more eager to come to nursery.
11:10 Part of church culture is seeing nursery at the bottom and the prophet at the top.
13:30 Jim and Marla prepare the nursery room before sacrament with an activity set up on the table, music, and anything else they need prepared. They have found play doh is a great ‘draw you in’ activity. They leave the door open to help the children not feel trapped.
17:00 They play spa-like music while welcoming the children to nursery. They have found that it’s more calming to the children not to have music with voices until they do an actual singing activity.
17:45 They spray a natural scent like orange oil to help connect the children to nursery and bring familiarity.
19:00 These tips are useful for elders quorum or any other class at church. We can start class with environmental cues.
21:20 Most Sundays they don’t even get the toys out.
22:30 While all parents are welcome to come into nursery but they don’t allow the parents to talk with them. They have found that the children are much more peaceful, focused, and interact with them better when there aren’t adults visiting together. It’s a real classroom and it’s about the children and not the adults.
25:15 Marla shares the schedule that they use in the nursery that gives nursery a routine and structure. The children know what’s coming and they love it.
25:50 The transition to snack and story time. The child’s parents can bring in a special snack and book on their birthday to help highlight each child.
28:30 The importance of transitions between activities.
29:30 Tips for lesson time. They always bring an object or a picture as an attention getter to start the lesson.
31:00 Art projects are a moment to learn skills. Knowing the difference between markers and crayons. Working a pair of scissors or a watercolor brush. Sitting in a chair for a longer period of time. All these things prepare them to go to sunbeams.
34:20 Marla talks about how she created her binder for nursery. She brainstorms activities to teach each topic and get the materials and pictures.
36:30 It’s best to have under 10 kids in the nursery. It’s good to split nurseries that are bigger than this.
38:50 The art project is a time to wind down from nursery. It’s a great time to learn skills. It exposes them to new things and gets them used to instruction. Bring in new things.
40:15 Tips for those unexpected moments like diaper changes. Have all the parents phone numbers to send texts to the parents so you don’t have to spend time hunting down the parents.
41:40 Tips for the kids that don’t want to engage or are having a hard day. They have a blanket and book in the corner for the kids that need it or one of them will hold the child. They encourage parents to stay on the child’s first time in nursery.
43:30 If you think that nursery is boring it’s because you are doing it wrong. It should be serving the children and you. Don’t just throw some toys and crackers out on the table.
46:00 Jim and Marla’s experience with special needs children.
49:45 Bringing in novel items or ideas. For example: the apple peeler and corer. Bring in things that they have maybe never seen before. It’s simple but for the kids they get super engaged and forget they are separated from their parents.
52:20 Remember that less is more. Dumping out lots of toys can make nursery chaotic. The adults should manage the toy closet. Have less toys, talking, and children to create a peaceful atmosphere.
54:30 Marla shares how having a little hanging pocket organizer with each child’s photo and place to put their stuff has created a big difference in nursery.
58:00 Jim and Marla share their final testimonies and how serving in the nursery has brought them closer to Christ.
The Leading Saints Podcast is one of the top independent Latter-day Saints podcasts as part of nonprofit Leading Saints’ mission to help Latter-day Saints be better prepared to lead. Learn more and listen to any of the past episodes for free at LeadingSaints.org.
Past guests include Emily Belle Freeman, David Butler, Hank Smith, John Bytheway, Reyna and Elena Aburto, Liz Wiseman, Stephen M. R. Covey, Julie Beck, Brad Wilcox, Jody Moore, Tony Overbay, John H. Groberg, Elaine Dalton, Tad R. Callister, Lynn G. Robbins, J. Devn Cornish, Bonnie Oscarson, Dennis B. Neuenschwander, Anthony Sweat, John Hilton III, Barbara Morgan Gardner, Blair Hodges, Whitney Johnson, Ryan Gottfredson, Greg McKeown, Ganel-Lyn Condie, Michael Goodman, Wendy Ulrich, Richard Ostler, and many more in over 600 episodes.
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