5th Sunday in March Sharing Time Lesson Idea: Preparing for Easter

This year Easter Sunday happens to fall on General Conference weekend.  This happens every few years.  I love having the opportunity to listen to the prophet and apostles on Easter and be home together as a family.  But I do miss having regular Sunday meetings and Primary.  But who says you can’t teach about Easter in Primary the week before Easter or the week after?  Or both?  In fact, I think anytime is a good time to help children learn about Jesus’ life mission, celebrate His resurrection and get to know Jesus better!

Image from photobucket.com

Image from photobucket.com

If you plan ahead you can prepare children for the true meaning of Easter by teaching about Palm Sunday and Jesus’ last week on Palm Sunday, March 29. Since this is a 5th Sunday there isn’t a lesson topic in our Sharing Time Outline for Primary. We’ve got you covered!  Check out the link below for some Palm Sunday and Easter Sharing Time Lesson ideas with links to visuals that will help you tell the story of Jesus’ last week.

Palm Sunday and Easter Sharing Time Idea and Family Activity

Share this 1 page document with your Primary children’s families so they can follow along at home through the week leading up to Easter and draw closer to Jesus through scripture.  This is always a memorable week in our house when we dedicate a little chunk of time each morning or night to study Jesus’ last week. Easter morning comes and the kids are definitely excited for their Easter basket treats but we also burst into song and praise our Lord through music inspired by the scripture verses we’ve been studying.  Learning and thinking about Jesus all week makes Easter so much more meaningful for me.  Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection are…well…everything!

“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28: 6


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Filed under Easter, General Conference, Lesson, Parent Involvement, Scriptures, Sharing Time

Special Needs: Parents and Teachers on the Same Team!

Our guest author today is Jodi, a returned missionary and full-time mom of six children, many with special needs. Even as a little girl Jodi had a natural love for individuals with special needs. Today she is sharing some of her feelings about raising children with special needs in the Church.

I am a mom of six children, all adopted, and special in their own unique ways. The biggest thing that ward members can do to support and help families with special needs is to trust that the parents know best, and not judge.

Trust is so powerful and truly gives the child the best chance at being successful. While leaders of the church receive inspiration for those that they have stewardship over, it is always vital to remember that the parents receive guidance and direction for their children too. Thus parents and church leaders should work together as a team. We have been very blessed to have leaders that trust and support us. We have tried to trust and support them as well.

Erin Anderson Photography

Photo by Erin Anderson Photo & Design

We have two children with Down Syndrome. Daisy is almost five and Leila is three. A Primary worker was called to specifically help watch over and care for our girls while in Nursery. This gave me great peace of mind in leaving them. Our girls choke easily and knowing that there was somebody there just to keep an extra eye on them was a blessing. Also, because of their delay in development there was always somebody there to help them sit on their chair, or carry them to the next activity (they didn’t walk when others walked). These are some of the accommodations that were made for them in Nursery.

When Daisy was the appropriate age for Sunbeams, she was delayed socially and verbally. I asked that Daisy stay in Nursery for one more year.  This is when I appreciated the Primary President’s trust.  Consistency and predictability is huge for all children, but especially those children with special needs. I felt that an extra year in Nursery would serve her well, and it did.

The next year, she really should have been transitioning into Sunbeams, but now we were focusing on building endurance in a classroom setting. Once again, I was grateful to a Primary President who trusts us. Daisy now attends Singing Time in Primary, and then returns to Nursery for the rest of the time. We plan to continually transition her into Sharing Time and class time throughout the year. She’ll be fully participating in Primary by next January.

In addition, some special needs aren’t visually apparent like Down Syndrome. Some children struggle with unseen special needs like anxiety disorders, mental health issues, etc. Our oldest son, who is 14, suffers with Reactive Attachment Disorder. The bishop, Young Men and Scout leaders have been very supportive. They listen to our needs and desires, and make accommodations to best help our son. This has done so much for us and for him.

When ministering to and having stewardship over children that have special needs, the best thing that leaders can do to support the child and family is to trust the parents and to work together as a team, never judging. When we come together as one and focus on the individual we are truly ministering as Christ did by focusing on the worth of each individual soul.

Erin Anderson Photography

Photo by Erin Anderson Photo & Design


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Filed under Life Lessons, Nursery, Parent Involvement, Reaching the One, Special Needs, Teacher Support, Transitions

Set the Tone, Reap the Benefits

Today’s guest author is Cathryn who is a homeschooling mother of four and loves to sing, dance, be outside, sew, bake, learn, and create.  Her favorite thing about Primary is singing beautiful songs with beautiful children!

When I was called to be the Primary Music Leader, having never served in that capacity before (and being thrilled to the very core to try!), I turned to the church website to read any information given in reference to that calling.  One of the first gems that I happened upon was the idea of having the children do some singing as they first enter the Primary room.  You know, that time when the end of Sacrament Meeting chaos begins, and 5 to 10 (sometimes more) children immediately scoot down the hall to the primary room before any teachers have any hope of getting there before them.  At least, that’s how it is in our ward.  We were having trouble keeping reverence in our Primary from the very start, so I thought this idea of giving the kids an opportunity to focus their energy into moving and singing, instead of chatting and wiggling, would be perfect!  So I tried it, and the results have been awesome!

Catch their attention with music to give them the opportunity to hear, feel, absorb, learn and grow!

So this is how we do it.  First off, I make sure that I am in the Primary room before Sacrament Meeting ends.  Then, as children arrive, I begin immediately by doing wiggle songs with them (“Popcorn Popping “(CS 242), “Once there was a Snowman” (CS 249), “Do as I’m Doing” (CS 276), etc.).  As other children arrive, they become immediately involved in the songs we are singing, and they are excited!  These are their favorite songs, of course!  After about 5 or so minutes of wiggle songs, our pianist has arrived.  I do one last wiggle song that ends with the children in a reverent position.  My favorite one to use is “My Hands” (CS 273).  I motion to the pianist to begin playing reverent primary songs.  I ask the children to either ooh or hum the songs as she plays them.  After one or two songs it is time to begin, and the children have their wiggles out and are much more ready to be reverent.  Such a simple idea, really, requiring very little effort on my part, but so very effective in setting the tone for the rest of primary.


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Filed under Music, Opening Exercises

Spotlight! Four ideas to showcase children (and teachers)

Jesus loves each child individually, and so do we. It’s wonderful to get better acquainted with each child in Primary through a brief weekly spotlight. Here are four fun ways to do it.spotlight closeup.

  1. FIVE OBJECTS: Make up a simple drawstring bag. Ask a child to take the bag home and put five objects in it and bring it the next week. It’s great fun for the child to find five things that represent his or her interests and favorites that will fit in a small bag. Then the secretary gives the bag to a different child for the following week. In small Primaries, you can let a teacher or leader have a turn once in awhile! Children love getting to know their teachers as Actual People.spotlight bag
  2. A FAMILY AT A TIME: You may enjoy getting to know several members of a whole family together. Depending upon their availability, parents and siblings can join Junior or Senior Primary or both. They can tell about the whole family, with each child participating. (Give families a time limit.)
  3. GUESS THE SPOTLIGHT CHILD: At the beginning of the year, ask all the parents to fill out a page asking about the child’s characteristics, favorites, etc. Keep these spotlight sheets on hand and choose one each week. When it’s spotlight time, ask all the children to stand (which is good for getting all the children involved at once). As you read each characteristic, children sit down if this doesn’t apply to them. For example, “Today’s spotlight child’s favorite food is pizza. If you like pizza, stay standing. If you don’t like pizza, sit down.” At the end, identify the spotlight child.
  4. PANEL OF CHILDREN (and a teacher or two!): This is particularly good for large Primaries, where a spotlight child a week may mean children wait years for a turn. Select several children (5-6) to be the spotlight children that week, and throw in a teacher or leader if you like. Ask the panel questions, then pass the microphone down the row and let each person respond.

Feel free to mix and match — a drawstring bag this week, a panel next week (especially if the spotlight child doesn’t show up with the bag). Or you may want to do a single spotlight method until you’ve worked your way through all the children, then switch to a different spotlight method.

Prayerfully consider reaching out to less active children as well. You might say something like this: “It’s Ruth’s turn to be our spotlight child sometime this month! Which Sunday would work for you? We’d love to get to know her better.”

What other spotlight ideas have worked for you?


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Filed under Opening Exercises, Reaching the One, Sharing Time

Follow the Prophet Tic Tac Toe – sharing time idea

The March 2015 theme has to do with prophets. Here is an idea for involving the children in learning the prophet’s teachings and how to follow them.

Prophet tic-tac-toe board

Follow the Prophet Tic Tac Toe lesson plan

You can also adapt the Tic Tac Toe game board for any lesson you’d like to teach, inserting other clip art.

While the children are learning to “Follow the Prophet,” it’s great to encourage them to find out exactly what that means, and
for them to commit to DO IT.  

“He knows the way!”



Filed under Lesson, Sharing Time

Activity Day Gatherings with Families!

from timigustafson.com

from timigustafson.com

Guest author Heidi is a mother, former ward Primary president and current stake Primary president. Heidi shares this fun idea:

My daughter is quickly approaching her 8th birthday with anticipation that is only matched by a wedding, graduation or other major life celebration!  She’s planning her special baptism dress, shoes, bow for her hair, and invitation list for her special baptism.  She is equally thrilled that she’ll be able to attend Activity Days twice a month, as she has seen these girls at the church when we are there for her older brother’s mid-week church activities! The Activity Day program for the young girls in the church is a wonderful way for them to learn and grow, develop talents and friendships that will span the decade until they leave home for college and missions.
A few years ago our ward started a great tradition of holding two annual activities for the girls and their families. These activities have been a huge success and are completely in line with the program as outlined in the Faith in God for Girls booklet under “Orientation and Recognition,” bullet #2 on page 19.  They have allowed the girls to showcase their talents, accomplishments and have fostered wonderful friendships and camaraderie between the families.
The first event is an annual Talent Show. It has been held on a Saturday morning, but could easily be held on a mid-week night. Decorations and refreshments were simple but fun. The girls and families were so excited and love every moment of the show. Girls this age LOVE the spotlight and are so supportive of each other -and a Talent Show is a wonderful way to grow these desires.
The second annual event the Activity Day program conducted was a Family Hike and Picnic on a Saturday in spring to a wonderful nearby recreational site. Families enjoyed the hike together then brought their own meals for a picnic at the park nearby. These two events have become traditions and the girls absolutely look forward to them each year. They are both low-budget events with high-value results! Even more importantly, these activities strengthen these wonderful daughters of God, their families and their testimonies of the gospel and their Savior.

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Filed under Activity, Faith in God program

Primary in Zion becomes a book! “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids”

SundayLessons_Front_RGBIt started with you, our readers. We began this blog and watched in astonishment as it spread all over the world. We dreamed of turning the best posts and other ideas into a book you can take with you to read on the beach or on your couch, to savor the stories and refer to the ideas and helps again and again. We took your favorite Primary in Zion blog posts, invited new voices from other authors, and put them together in a volume called “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids”.  It is now available on Amazon.com, DeseretBook.com, or wherever LDS books are sold.

Here’s what it’s about: Children. If you’ve ever wished you could send the entire church class into timeout, then basked in the radiance of a child’s face when the Spirit speaks to her spirit, this book is for you. In these pages are memorable stories of the exuberant joy as well as the real-world challenges of working with children. You’ll also find ready-to-use ideas for channeling boundless energy, teaching about ideal families to children who live in other-than-ideal families, staffing challenges, bullying, children’s music for a lifetime, kids with special needs, building a celestial nursery, pint-sized service projects, and behavior management. And you’ll find some of the best children’s lesson enhancements and activities of all time.

Click here for downloadable files of the figures and handouts in the book.

Here’s what they’re saying about this new book:

“Why didn’t I think of that?!” you ask yourself, then gratefully acknowledge: “Thank goodness Marci McPhee did!” With sensitivity to the needs of all children, and love beyond measure for these precious little ones, McPhee lights the way to joyfully leading our children “home.” —Lori Henderson, co-creator of MormonMediaNetwork.com 


Learning of my son’s disability and being called to teach Primary were both scary events in their own right. I wasn’t sure how to react to either situation. I wish I had found Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids sooner! This book speaks to both men and women about how to fulfill this special calling. —Marc Buchanan, father and Primary worker 


Drawing first-hand examples from thoughtful Latter-day Saints, Marci McPhee has put together a guide that is an engaging, provocative, reassuring, and, importantly, faithful resource for teachers and parents. —Ron Scott, journalist, novelist, and author of “Mitt Romney: An Inside Look at the Man and His Politics” 


This is the most honest, heart-warming collection I have read about teaching children. The tips are practical, real-life, and easily adaptable. This book reminds us of the transforming power of viewing children as the Savior did. It will give new vision to leaders, teachers, and parents. —Gladys Farmer, author, mother, and grandmother with many years of Primary experience

Contributing authors:

Julia B. Blake

Jon Forsyth

Lori Forsyth

Char Lyn Grujoski

Kristine Haglund

Danielle Harrell

Roz Hawk

Michelle Henderson

Jackie Herrera

Tina Huntsman

Jenn Iverson

Whitney Johnson

Caroline Jones

Linda Hoffman Kimball

Rebecca Lewis

Brigitte Madrian

David Madrian

Emily Mangum

Marci McPhee

James McQuivey

Megan McQuivey

Michelle Purrington

Helen Claire Sievers

Laura Stowell

Martha Wingate

With special thanks to anonymous contributors.


A portion of the proceeds will support immigrant mothers and their children at Waltham Family School in Massachusetts.


Filed under Activity, Bullying, Discipline, Lesson, Life Lessons, Music, Nursery, Opening Exercises, Overheard in Primary, Parent Involvement, Reaching the One, Sacrament Meeting Presentation, Scouts, Scriptures, Sharing Time, Special Needs, Teacher Support, Transitions

Handouts and posters for “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids”

SundayLessons_Front_RGBYour favorite Primary in Zion blog posts, plus new voices from other authors, in a volume you can take with you! “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids” is now available on Amazon.com, DeseretBook.com, or wherever LDS books are sold. Read how the book came about here.

Here are downloadable files of the handouts and posters in the book, suitable for printing or customizing.

Figure 1: Articles of Faith in Pictures - page 22 in the book

Figure 2: Five Steps of Personal Prayer - page 26 in the book

Figure 3: Temple Necklace - page 38 in the book

Figure 4: Father’s Day Handout - page 66 in the book

Figure 5: Class Rules - page 81 in the book. This is the class rules chart as a single document. You can print this out on 8 1/2 x 11 as a handout or send it to a copy shop to  print poster size.

Or if you prefer, here is the chart as 6 different documents. Print these out and tape them together for a large poster.

Figure 6: Ten Ways to Review Class Rules - page 82 in the book. This document plus the one-page class rules poster above makes a terrific doublesided handout for teachers.

Figure 7: Children Giving Talks: A Blueprint for Secretaries and Families- page 95 in the book

Figure 8: Primary Sacrament Meeting invitation side 1 aqua - page 102 in the book 

Figure 9: Primary Sacrament Meeting Invitation, side 2 - page 103 in the book

Illustrations by Emiliano Leon of EmilianoLeon.com.

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Filed under Activity, Lesson, Life Lessons, Opening Exercises, Parent Involvement, Scriptures, Sharing Time, Teacher Support

A Primary Showcase during Linger Longer

Many wards have after-church social gatherings with refreshments, sometimes called a “Linger Longer.” Generally the ward activities committee takes charge of potluck signups. People munch and mingle, enjoy each other’s company and get to know one another better.

What if Primary provided spiritual nourishment as well? Can you imagine the cultural hall with tables set up on which children display their thoughts on the yearly theme (for 2015, it’s “I Know My Savior Lives“). Perhaps children would like to bear their testimonies by drawing a picture, or writing a short story, or making a clay sculpture or other artwork to express their feelings about what it means to have a Savior, to know He lives, and to get acquainted with Jesus. Children might make their creations during Sharing Time or class time. Activity Day girls and Scouts might do more substantial projects during their midweek gatherings.

from lds.org

from lds.org

Such a display might be a good springtime activity, to balance the busy fall with its Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentations and children’s involvement in Christmas programs.

“And a little child shall lead them.” — Isaiah 21:6


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Filed under Activity

The Infinite Potential of a Child: A Visit to The Birthplace

Recently we took a family trip to visit Sharon, Vermont to see some church history sites and introduce them to our children.  My 5-year-old was particularly excited.  I asked her, “Would you like to go see where Joseph Smith was born? You can stand right in the very spot!”And she excitedly responded, “Yes!  And I might get the Holy Ghost!”

20141025_162220As we stood there and I read this plaque aloud we were indeed filled with the Holy Ghost testifying to us, letting us know this was a special place.  There was no need to ask if they could feel it, the look on their faces made it known. “Around this hearthstone…and fireplace, two days before Christmas 1805, the Smith family washed, dressed, and cuddled the future organizer of God’s kingdom restored.”

Cuddled.  That word was very powerful to me as I read it.  A man, once a baby like the rest of us, was called by God to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ.  Having babies (twins!) in our own home at the moment and knowing how sweet, tender, and special they are made it easy to imagine our Prophet Joseph Smith as a baby with a great future work to do.  It was also a good reminder of the divinity, greatness and potential in each of the small children our Heavenly Father has entrusted to our care.



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Filed under Life Lessons