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First Impressions Count
By: Dee Davis

It’s always exciting to see new growth in a church, especially when it involves young families.  Is your church expanding? Are you seeing young parents come through your doors for the first time? If so, that’s wonderful!

Now here’s something to think about. When those young parents are toting infants, the main doors to your church may not necessarily be the ones they are most interested in. Their primary focus may be what they see through your church nursery doors. How they feel about what they see may determine whether those young parents will chose to return.

Our times have changed. Many young parents are much more mindful of clean, safe places for their children. If you work in children’s ministry, take a moment to stand in your nursery doorway. Imaging yourself as a visiting parent of an infant or toddler. What do you see? Is your church nursery welcoming, clean, safe, and updated? If you have any doubts, it might be time for a nursery makeover. Let’s take a look at several basic items where change could prove to be very beneficial.

Infant cribs are one area of child care that has seen the most amount of change in recent years.  All cribs sold in the USA must now comply with the 2010 federal crib safety standards.  These standards mean cribs today have been redesigned to be more structurally sound and able to pass additional rigorous testing. Cribs today are equipped with metal frames and fixed sides.  They now have improved mattress support, stronger slats, and more durable hardware.

There are many options when it comes to cribs. It may surprise you to know that compact cribs, measuring approximately 39” long x 26” wide, are currently the most common crib used in childcare centers and church nurseries. When space is at a premium, compact cribs simply take up less of it. The mattress can usually be adjusted to several different heights, allowing the crib to be used as a bassinet for newborns or lowered for toddler use. Options include slatted, mirrored or clearview headboards, fixed or easy access gate sides, and storage drawers.

Imagine the unthinkable…the fire alarm sounds and you have a nursery full of infants and toddlers and not enough arms to carry all to safety. Fortunately, there is a very practical solution in evacuation cribs. These cribs serve two purposes: to provide a rest area and to serve as a transportation vehicle. If an emergency occurs, as many as six small children (up to a total of 180 lbs.) can be easily loaded into the crib and moved from harm’s way. These cribs measure approximately 26” wide x 39” long, allowing easy passage through doorways.  Reinforced legs and heavy duty 4” caster wheels allow the cribs to smoothly roll over door thresholds, rough pavement, and grassy areas. 

(Note:  Consider storing an emergency backpack near an evacuation crib which could also be quickly taken to a place of safety. These backpacks would contain water, diapers, wipes, and warm blankets. You never know how much time will be spent outside before the scene is cleared and parents are allowed to pick up their children.) Every church nursery should have evacuation cribs in the event of an emergency. 

Rocking chairs and church nurseries have gone hand in hand for decades. But today’s childcare rocking chairs are known as glider rockers. As the name suggests, the rockers glide instead of rock. The reason? To prevent injury to little fingers. In fact, glider rockers for church nurseries should be fully enclosed and tip-resistant. They feature extra-wide seating, making it easier to feed infants. Cushion covers may be removed for laundering. Childcare glider rockers are large, rather bulky, and more expensive but a safe option to consider.

When choosing a changing table and/or diaper organizer, select ones that are sturdy and have childproof locking doors to prohibit young hands from accessing supplies. You might also consider a changing table paper roll dispenser and a wall mounted diaper organizer as convenient options.

Why not add color to your floors with the use of play rugs and toddler classroom carpets? These floor coverings are available in creative options. Choose bright solid colors and patterns or consider a faith-based rug. Many faith-based rug options illustrate a Biblical character or verse.  Many small play rugs are machine washable.  Larger classroom carpets may be steam cleaned (always check the manufacturer’s suggested cleaning procedures.) Some solid color childcare carpets are even bleach resistant.

Ever see a small child stand before a mirror? They often appear mesmerized by the image of themselves that they see. Consider having shatter-resistant acrylic plastic mirrors installed at a child’s eye level in your nursery. Add geometric and decorative mirror shapes to provide added reflective fun! 

Nothing says neatness to a young parent like storage shelves do. Use cubby shelving units for storing diaper bags and coats. Consider low level toddler height shelves for storing toys, blocks, puzzles and books.

Toddler Tables were first developed with church nurseries in mind. Talk about a brilliant invention! Toddler Tables are strong, sturdy tables, with cut out areas for infant and toddler seating. Each child seat is literally built into the tabletop!  They are ideal for feeding, teaching, and playing with a group of up to eight little ones. Both table and seats are easily cleaned and sanitized.

Play activity tables and chairs should be age-appropriate. For example, a table for a 2-year-old child should be approximately 14” in height and his or her chair seat should be no more than 8” from the floor. Many cute design options available in these dimensions.

So again, what do you see when you view your church nursery from the doorway? Remember, first impressions matter. Make your church nursery say, “Welcome to our safe, clean, attractive, loving space for your precious child.” In so doing, you could make it much easier for that next set of visiting young parents to say, “I think we’ve just found our next church home.”

Dee Davis is with the Children's Ministry Resource Co., www.cmresourceco.com.

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