Nursery to Sunbeams Transition

Today we are sharing some great ideas from our guest author Martha, a former Primary President and mother to 6 adorable children, and Kim, Primary President, outdoorswoman, and mother of five.

Martha says: It’s that time of year! Anyone out there looking for Nursery to Sunbeams transition ideas? Here are a few things we have done in our ward.

This year we have tried to help prepare our Nursery children for the transition to Sunbeams in a couple of ways. First, we have them join the Junior Primary for singing time during the months of November and December. We make a big deal out of welcoming them, sing songs they know and love, and count down the weeks until they become Sunbeams. Some are uncertain to begin with, but they all seem really excited to come in now. Secondly, we have had the Nursery class move to a small classroom during their lesson time, and encourage them to sit nicely and practice being attentive in a classroom environment. This year we will also use a Nursery Leader who has been serving for a few months move up and become a Sunbeam Teacher. We’re hopeful that a familiar face will make the transition smoother.

My own son started Sunbeams a year ago, and had a big struggle adjusting. He missed the cars in nursery! After a few very rough weeks I found the key to helping him was to make sure I framed Primary attendance as a privilege that he would earn as he behaved in a way that qualified him to be there (of course, the alternative had to be worse, like sitting quietly in the car with me). When he saw Primary as the place he wanted to be, his perspective totally shifted, and so did his behavior. I am so thankful because he had a wonderful year of Sunbeams that has started him off on the right foot in Primary. Of course, as Primary leaders, we will not be taking any children out to sit in a car. But, my experience highlights the importance of positively and actively engaging parents of children struggling with transition (which the Sunbeam teacher did in our case). If you ask parents to help you make a plan to make Primary attendance a positive and rewarding experience for their child, they will be part of the team, and are likely to have some good ideas. Like Kindergarten, Sunbeams can have a big influence in setting the tone for many future years of Primary experience. It is worth getting right!

Guest author Kim adds: Our ward had sixteen (count ‘em, SIXTEEN) new Sunbeams at once. Rather than having them sit on the front row as is the custom, we had them sit on the second row, so they’d be corralled in a bit. Having the classes sit in age order was not as important as containing sixteen wandering new Sunbeams.

We also jump right into opening prayer, singing time and sharing time, leaving the talk and scripture for after sharing time. That way, if the Sunbeams have had enough, we can dismiss them to classes and do the talk and scripture with the remaining children. A little flexibility and a lot of love go a long way in easing the Nursery-to-Sunbeams transition.

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12 Days of Christmas–preparing for Christmas through scripture

I love everything about Christmas!  The traditions, the music, the parties, the food, the symbolism, gift giving, Santa, decorations–you name it!  I think these traditions can create wonderful family memories!  Every year each member in our family gets to choose a new Christmas tree ornament.  My husband’s family started this when he was just a boy. When he and I got married, his mom gave him a box of all his Christmas ornaments from years past–even now he loves to reminisce when he pulls out his ornaments each year.

Amidst all these Christmas traditions we try and set aside a few moments each day to specifically focus on Christ’s birth and the true meaning of Christmas.  I have been wanting to create some sort of Christmas countdown to help me accomplish this goal.  This year I finally came up with a cute idea.  Of course, I only consider myself a creative person inasmuch as I can find great ideas from other people online and then morph them into the idea in my head.  Well, this is exactly what I did this year.

First, I found some adorable 12 days of Christmas tags on Today’s Mama blog.  You could use these tags for a million different gift-giving ideas, but I didn’t want to give tangible gifts, I wanted to do a scripture or a spiritual thought so I continued my search.  My next stop was lds.org where I found a perfect article from The New Era that had a scripture and little activity for each of the 12 days of Christmas, with just the right theme I had in mind: “You can prepare for Christmas now by remembering how others prepared for Him then.”  Once I found these two resources online my creativity kicked in and I got to work and created a file folder full of tags and scriptures for each of the 12 Days of Christmas!  This is a fun, cute way to spend a few minutes each night preparing for Christmas, and would also be a great gift idea!  So many variations possible!

“Many prophets in the Bible and Book of Mormon foretold Jesus Christ’s birth and ministry hundreds of years before the actual event. For the 12 days before Christmas, this advent calendar will serve as a reference to scriptures about the birth and life of the Savior and activities you can do to be more Christlike.” The New Era, December 2008

12 Days of Christmas File Folder

Here’s what I did:

1. Find a file folder (there are tons of cute decorative ones but a plain manila one works just as well).

2. Find some coin envelopes; size #3 (2 1/2 x 4 1/4) fits these tags just perfectly. I found some at Office Max.  I used glue dots to adhere the envelopes to my file folder and also chose to cut off the top flap.

3. Download and color print the 12 Days of Christmas tags from Today’s Mama blog, laminate and cut out.

4. Print the daily scriptures (the link here is a print friendly document, but this comes straight from lds.org). Fold and tape them to the back of each tag.  These then slide into each coin envelope. (The 2 intro paragraphs of this document are what I glued in between the rows of envelopes)

5. Embellish with scraps of ribbon (I stapled red grosgrain ribbon onto each tag to create a little handle), number stickers, decorative paper etc.  Oh, and at the bottom of the page of tags it says 12 Days of Christmas gift tags…well I just cut out the “12 Days of Christmas” part and used that for my file folder label!

6.  Start your countdown on December 13th!

May this activity help lead you and your family to Christ this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

~Michelle

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Make your own Scripture Cover for Conference Teachings

IMG_20140810_163108_372I think of the General Conference issue of the ENSIGN is living scripture, like “Teachings of the Living Prophets.” As the Lord said, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (Doctrine & Covenants 1:39) Perhaps families might like to shake up their scripture study by occasionally studying a General Conference talk during family scripture study time.

You can help children understand that these are living scriptures spoken by prophets in our day. This is just like ancient prophets who spoke in their day: people wrote it down, and their words became the Bible and Book of Mormon we have today. To drive home the point, help children make a scripture cover that resembles a personalized embossed scripture cover for the ENSIGN magazine. (Extra copies of the ENSIGN are $1 each at store.lds.org.)

To make the scripture cover, purchase a black paper folder and gold marker from any stationery store. Make sure the cover is paper, not plastic-coated, so you can write on it with the marker. Then find black elastic cording at any fabric store. Cut off a length, stretch it tight a little bit (so it will hold the magazine in place), and tie at the bottom. Then have the child write their title of choice on the cover. I like “Teachings of the Living Prophets: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” Finally, the child can write their name in the bottom right corner. Insert the magazine and start reading!IMG_20140827_065527_271 (4)

This might be a project for a Family Home Evening, an Activity Day, or a Sunday classroom project for Senior Primary children.

I hope children will hear the Lord’s voice in these living scriptures for our day.

~Marci

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Paying Tithing on Treats

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My 8-year-old son came out of his Primary class holding his sealed tithing envelope and munching on a bag of M&Ms. Needless to say, he had a big smile on his face!  “Bud, what’s the treat for?” I asked.  “Oh, it’s my leftover M&Ms after paying my tithing.  I need to take this envelope to the bishop.”  I finally caught on to what he was telling me when I noticed a small lump in this neatly sealed tithing envelope.  “Is there an M&M in there for the bishop?” “Yep! And I got to eat the other 9!”  Now that was a memorable way to learn about tithing, one that I think he’ll remember for years to come.20140926_155218

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Marci also related a fun tithing activity she’s used with Primary classes in the past: move the classroom to the kitchen where you make a batch of no-bake cookies. Take 1 out of each 10 cookies and put them on a plate for the bishop! Here’s a no-bake recipe you might like:

CHOCOLATE DREAM DROPS

  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) butter
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) instant sweet cocoa
  • 1/4 cup (65 grams) peanut butter or sunflower butter (for those with peanut allergies)
  • 1 cup (90 grams) oatmeal

Melt butter ahead of time. Pour melted butter into instant cocoa mix. Add peanut or sunflower butter; stir until smooth. Mix in oatmeal. Drop by small spoonsful onto waxed paper. Let rest 10 minutes.

When I was on my mission in Spain we liked to bake a cake and take it with us to the investigator’s house for the “charla” (discussion) about tithing.  When it came time for the object lesson we would bring out the cake and offer it as a gift to our investigator and ask if we could slice it up for them.  We’d proceed to cut ten slices of cake and then ask if they would be willing to give just one slice back to us.  Everything we have is a gift from Heavenly Father.  Giving back just one slice doesn’t seem too much to ask!

~Michelle

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That Kind of Love in Primary

matthewdicks.com

matthewdicks.com

While visiting another ward, I went where I always feel most comfortable: Primary. As I entered the sunny Primary room, I saw one of the Primary leaders greet one of the little children with such love and affection. I thought, “That must be her own child.” I remember when I was a Primary worker and my own children were in Primary. I so enjoyed interacting with them each Sunday as we explored the gospel together. What a lucky Primary leader, I thought, to have her own child in Primary.

Then she noticed another child and greeted her with the same affection. And another. Wait, are all these children her own?

I marveled as I saw love in action – the love that God feels for each child because each really is His son or daughter. And to see a Primary leader exemplify that love was . . . eternally exquisite.

-Marci

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Changing the world one smile at a time!

It had been a hectic Sunday morning.  My husband had an early Stake meeting which meant I was juggling 4 kids by myself, including 6-month-old twins, in an attempt to get everyone to 9 am church on time!  No small feat.

We finally made it to the chapel and I exhaled a sigh of relief as we settled into the pew.  I was trying to wash away the stresses of the morning by focusing on the hymn and the prayer in preparation for the Sacrament.  My 5-year-old daughter was sitting next to me drawing quietly.  I noticed she was drawing a sad face, adding tears for dramatic detail.  I looked at her with a questioning expression.  She replied, “That’s me.  I don’t like church.” A wave of sadness came over me as I gave her a small encouraging smile and a pat on the back.  Before I could even begin to think about this interaction my daugher’s face lit up and she gave her biggest, brightest smile to someone a few rows behind us.  This was a dramatic turn around!  I was curious to know who sparked this excitement in her.  I leaned down and asked her, “Who are you smiling at?” “Sister M., my teacher!”  Sisiter M. is her new Primary Chorister.

I leaned over and whispered, “You wouldn’t know her if we didn’t come to church.  Can you draw a face about how you feel about her?”  She proceeded to draw a smiley face and then got a fresh piece of paper out.  She drew a picture of herself and Sister M. holding hands, both with big smiles on their faces.

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The power of a loving smile is immeasurable.  The power of a beloved Primary leader changes lives.

~Michelle

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A Child with HIV, Beloved in Primary

A little girl in our Primary has HIV, contracted during birth from her late mother. Now a US citizen, adopted by a wonderful family, this sweet 7-year-old has “no viral load” because she’s getting excellent medical care, so she is no danger to the other children.  The only danger to her is due to her compromised immune system: if she catches the flu from another child, it can put her in the hospital.

Here are excerpts from the Church’s Administrative Handbook 2, Section 21.3.4  (page 193):
“HIV Infection and AIDS

Members who are infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) or who have AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) should be treated with dignity and compassion. Some people with HIV are innocent victims of the acts of others. Attendance at Church meetings by persons with HIV infection or AIDS does not pose a serious health problem. Public health authorities affirm that HIV has not been transmitted through casual contact in homes, schools, churches, or places of work. Those who occasionally may need to clean up blood or render first aid should learn and follow the recommendations of local health officials.”

It may not surprise you to know that the Lord planned ahead for this little girl: her CTR 4 class is team taught by two women who are both nurses.

Here are excerpts from the letter that the caring, sensitive Primary president sent when Rachel (not her real name) and her family first came to church:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Parents of our CTR 4 Class,

I want to inform you about a recent addition to our CTR 4 class.  We have been excited to welcome Rachel into our Primary. Rachel’s mom has been very open about sharing that her daughter has HIV.  My goal in sending this email is that all of us can be informed and educated about this virus.  Here are Rachel’s mom’s words about her daughter’s condition:

“Rachel was an innocent victim. She was one of four children left when her parents died. Her siblings were sold into slavery. Rachel was ‘lucky’ that she was too ill for that fate. Modern HIV treatments are truly a miracle and I’m so grateful Rachel is here and can benefit from these advances. Our  family has chosen to be open about Rachel’s status so that she doesn’t grow up feeling like a piece of her is bad. I recommend the following 3-minute video (titled “Truth Pandemic: Get the facts about HIV/AIDS and Adoption”) to understand HIV better and how it does and doesn’t spread: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VE9XnX7WRog Here is an additional helpful government resource from AIDS.gov: “How you get HIV/AIDS” and a useful educational resource: “Redefine Positive.” I’m never offended by curiosity or questions and welcome the chance to share with folks!”

My understanding after speaking with the mom on the phone and studying the resources mentioned above is that it is very safe to have Rachel in our Primary without any threats to other children.  Rachel’s system is able to fight off most illnesses that are common to other children (i.e. a cold) but true influenza would be very dangerous for her.  Thus, as expected anyway, children with known fevers should be kept home from church.

Rachel’s Primary teachers (who are also nurses) have already established some precautions in class just to be extra careful both for Rachel and for the other children.  Any snacks are given to children in individual ziplock bags. They are told to simply eat their own and not to share them, not because of danger to the other children, but to protect the little girl from getting the flu. No one has been singled out in this but it has simply been established as a classroom rule.  Both teachers carry plastic gloves with them if needed for anyone who is bleeding.  The mom has generously offered to provide two first aid kits for us, one for the CTR 4 classroom and one for the Primary closet.  If Rachel ever gets a bleeding cut or bloody nose, one of her teachers will take her immediately to her mother while the other teacher will stay with the rest of the class.

I welcome any questions or concerns.  The mother  has also said that she is open to talking with anyone with questions. My hope is that as a Primary and as a ward family we will welcome Rachel and help her feel as she truly is – a beloved daughter of God.  I hope that Rachel can always feel that church is an emotionally safe, accepting, and loving place to be.  Thank you for your support!

(Signed by the Primary President)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yes. I think that’s just what Jesus would do.

-Marci

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The Backstory: How Primary in Zion connected with Mormon Media Network

Mormon Tea Episode 9 Fill Your Cup with Primary in Zion

Michelle: Back in February 2014 I gave birth to twins – by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  We called in all the willing troops to help with the twins, plus our 5 year old and 8 year old children.  My own mom’s health wouldn’t allow her to come out and help after the babies were born. So my husband’s Aunt Lori decided that she would fly out to stay with us for a week and help keep us alive right after the babies and I were released from the hospital. And boy did she save us.  But that’s another story.

Over the course of our days together I learned about the new program that Lori was producing and hosting for Mormon Media Network: Mormon Tea.  The more I learned about this program the more fascinated I was.  What a clever idea!  I loved their website’s mission statement: “Bringing Good Things Together.”  I realized that Mormon Media Network and Primary in Zion could make a good pair. Before Lori left us to go home we decided that if my family was able to visit Utah over the summer, then Lori would interview me for a Mormon Tea episode about Primary in Zion, covering topics like how it came to be, what is available on the blog, who reads it, who writes for it, and more.  We were lucky to have family and some professional opportunities that brought us to Utah so we could make this interview happen. Well, I immediately told Marci I was going to start trying to convince her to fly out to Utah and join the interview.

Marci: My first response was “You don’t need me for this. You know this stuff as well as I do, and besides, she’s your aunt. I don’t want to elbow in on a family thing.” Michelle’s response was, “But I’d love for you to come. We’re better on this stuff together, you and me.” I said, “I’m there.” That’s all the convincing I needed.

Michelle: With Marci as easily persuaded as that, we coordinated our travel plans with Lori’s availability and scheduled the interview for August 1, 2014.  We were so excited to think about sharing Primary in Zion with more people in search of these resources.

Marci: To prepare for our first-ever interview, we had a coaching session with a professional radio interviewer who is a former student of mine. Not only did Neena’s tips and tricks give us useful information, but speaking with her gave us confidence that we could do this.

Michelle: On the day of the interview we started with an amazing full Afternoon Tea with multiple courses of gourmet treats served in Lori’s living room. She worked for days to cook up everything for us from scratch.  (My 5-year-old daughter’s favorite were the cupcakes decorated with edible miniature violets from Lori’s garden.) You can recreate your own Afternoon Tea discussion with all the recipes and pictures of each item on this PDF document, designed and edited by Lori. The kiddos  joined us for the tea party and of course we all wore hats!  You can see more photos on the document as well!

Tea Party!

As soon as we wrapped up the tea party we got set up with personal microphones and settled right in to the discussion about Primary in Zion.  We were so pleased to make these resources more available to anyone who is seeking, and to make our blog readers more aware of Mormon Media Network as well.  Our conversation lasted for about an hour and a half. Before the episode goes live there is editing and mastering done behind the scenes by Matt, Lori’s husband and co-founder of Mormon Media Network. It was really interesting to learn a little bit about what happens to pull something like this together.  The audio interview ended up being 47 minutes, with a 14 page PDF document that includes recipes, photos, resources, and other learning materials specifically created to accompany our interview, Episode 9: “Fill Your Cup with Primary in Zion.”

Perhaps you’re wondering what a tea party and a discussion about teaching children the gospel has in common.  I asked Lori what sparked the creation of the program Mormon Tea and this is what she said:

Lori: My husband noticed how joyful I was after a tea party with friends, and he listened intently to my report of the interesting conversations we had over tea.  It was actually my husband’s idea to create the program “Mormon Tea” on our newly-created website Mormon Media Network.  We wanted to be able to share positive, timely, and useful information with our listeners in an atmosphere of beauty and friendship.  “Mormon Tea” is really a play on words as there really is such a thing as an herb tea called Mormon Tea.  Then there is our version of Afternoon Tea which only serves up herbal teas (infusions) in perfect harmony with the Word of Wisdom.  Our content is guided by the 13th Article of Faith: “…If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”  And one of my favorite tea party quotes is “Life is a cup to be filled, not drained” (by Anonymous).  Coming together with friends to share a lovely pot of herb tea and engage in inspiring conversation always “fills my cup!”  Please join us!  There’s much to talk about and much to learn.  Taking time out for Tea is sure to “fill your cup” too!

The audio interview went live on September 1 and is available to listen to here.  Thank you to the team at Mormon Media Network who made this experience possible!  We hope you enjoy our discussion as much as we did.

~Michelle & Marci

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Sharing Time Lesson: When I Serve A Mission, I Serve God

When thinking of a lesson for the 5th Sunday of November, I thought about my son who is 5. I invite the missionaries over to our home not only to feed them, but honestly, to have my son interact with them. I want him to know the strong serving spirit that radiates out of missionaries. I want him to feel the love that those missionaries have for him and everyone else in our community, member or not. I want him to know that that love is the love that God has for each of us. My hope is that by continually talking about missionary work and helping children hear personal stories about missionary service, a seed will be planted in their heart to someday serve a mission and spread that same love.

SHARING TIME LESSON: When I Serve A Mission, I Serve God

Materials:

Print “Future Missionary” nametag on adhesive name badges. Here is an example (but instead of making out of cardboard, just print on badge! Name badge-sized label stickers would work well.)

Lesson Plan:

As children come in give them a name badge.

Activity: Watch this “Mormon Missionary” Clip from lds.org (If you feel it is too long for your Junior Primary you could only show them a portion of it. )

Discuss: What is a missionary? Who can go on a mission? Do you know anyone who went on a mission? Do you know any missionaries serving right now?

Read: Matthew 28:19-20 Discuss that people have been missionaries way before Joseph Smith assigned the first missionaries in America. Jesus asked for missionaries to teach the gospel all around the world after He was resurrected.

Activity: Invite a returned missionary or current missionary from the ward, and an senior missionary (couple or single) to share a short experience (1 or 2 minutes) about service on their mission. It could be a specific story that they remember, how they felt when they served, or any other thoughts they have on serving God. I also like to invite them to bring a prop or a picture to pique children’s interest.

Go HERE for a printable lesson plan.

-Laura

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Fizzing, Bubbling Chemistry Experiments in Primary!

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Guest author Shellie describes herself like this: “I’m a Primary music leader with very little musical talent but I believe strongly that we can strengthen and bear our testimonies through the songs of the gospel.” Here’s her unique idea:

I used a simple science-type visual aid to choose the songs we sang one day.  It took a little preparation ahead of time.  I had four small, clear glass jars placed on a tray or cookie sheet with sides. Three jars were filled with water; one jar contained white vinegar.  There was a plastic spoon in front of each jar.  One spoon just contained baking soda, placed in front of the jar with vinegar. The other three spoons had two or three drops of food coloring, then I topped off each spoon with baking soda.

On the chalkboard were four pieces of paper, one white and three that were different colors to match the food coloring.  I used blue, green, and red.  On the back of the paper was the name of the song we were going to practice that day.

A child came to the front, chose a spoon and put it in the jar behind that spoon.  The water either turned a color or fizzled and bubbled over (the vinegar jar).  Whatever color the water turned was the color of paper we’d flip over to reveal the song.  The white paper said, “Your choice.”  The children loved it.  Once Junior Primary was over, I had to quickly set it up again to repeat the activity for Senior Primary.

This idea came from my cousin in Connecticut.  It is good at getting their attention, and is especially good to use when reviewing songs.

IMG_20140914_104804_480 croppedYou’ll need:

  • 4 glass jars
  • water
  • vinegar
  • 4 plastic spoons
  • 3 different food coloring bottles
  • baking soda
  • tray or cookie sheet with sides (when the vinegar fizzes over)

You could also use this activity with a scripture on each paper instead of a song. You could do this for Sharing Time, Primary class or Family Home Evening lesson.

Good luck!

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