I had a request for some ideas for Nursery Singing time. For me, there are 2 absolute keys to making singing time in nursery successful.
#1 Consistency. (Sorry, Anon; I know you are just subbing so this is hard to establish in just a few weeks, but it sounds like this may be what your nursery is missing and why the kids wander around instead of singing). Whereas in Jr/Sr primary you need to keep things new and interesting each week, the nursery kids really need consistency. I always do things the same way in nursery. They sit in chairs in a semi-circle around me. They aren't allowed to bring toys to singing time; in fact the leaders usually close the divider so they can't even see the toys. You may need the leaders' help keeping the kids in the chairs at first if they're not used to it. We always sing the same handful of songs and introduce new songs very slowly. We always end with the same song, I Am a Child of God, so they are ready to say the prayer and have their snack. I also try to do the more rowdy songs towards the beginning and then wind down to I Am a Child of God so they are actually reverent (well, some of them) by the end.
#2 Little Hands Need To Be Kept Busy. Whether it's choosing songs that have actions, or having something for them to hold while they sing, I find that I can't hold their attention for longer than a minute if they are not doing something interactive. Here are the songs I do and how I do them:
*3 Little Ducks. I found a small clipart picture of a duck, printed it on cardstock, laminated them, and glued them on popsicle sticks. I pass them out so the kids can move their little ducks around with the actions of the song.
*Teasing Mr. Alligator. If you don't know this song, LEARN IT. Kids love it. The actions are so fun and keep them engaged.
*ABC's or Twinkle Twinkle. I always have them clap their hands, shake bells, or march in place.
*Snowman, Popcorn Popping, Wise Man and the Foolish Man. Any songs that have actions seem to keep them engaged.
*Happy Family. I just started this a few weeks ago so most of the kids still don't know the words, but we will get there eventually. I made finger puppets from the nursery manual. Several mommies and several daddies and the kids can each wear one on their finger while we sing.
*Follow the Prophet. My kids caught on to this very quickly. They learned the chorus in just a few weeks. You can see the vis aids I made here.
*3 Little Speckled Frogs. My 3 year old got a package of little plastic frogs for his birthday that I bring to nursery sometimes. The thing is, sometimes there are a few kiddos ( my son included) that fight over the frogs, so just know your audience. You could always make laminated frogs on sticks so they're all the same and then there's no fighting.
Some other ideas I've seen/done before:
*Make "conducting wands" so they can conduct the music with you. Get a package of pencils, some thumb tacks, and some curling ribbon. Cut a few strips of ribbon about 6 inches long and use the tack to secure them to the eraser end of an unsharpened pencil.
*Draw a large elephant on a piece of poster board with a hole cut out where the trunk would be. Have a child stick his arm through the hole and conduct the music with the "elephant's trunk."
*I found a picture of a beehive and a bumble bee. I made several copies of the bee and laminated them and also laminated the beehive on cardstock. I handed out the bees and let the kids come up one at a time and stick the bee to the beehive and then we sang a song.
Hope this helps. Happy Singing!