Teaching kids about refugees: Activity Days book club or geography study

Church News photo by Michelle Mullis

Church News photo by Michelle Mullis

Catch these great ideas from the Church News article by Rachel Sterzer, “Teaching Kids About Refugees: Every One of Us is a Child of God.”

  • Book Club for Activity Days. Michelle Mullis of Ogden, Utah “had been teaching her 11-year-old daughter Anna and other children in a book club about Corrie ten Boom and the role she played in helping Jewish refugees in Holland during World War II.” The book is called The Hiding Place. That book club inspiration, plus the announcement of the “I Was A Stranger” initiative by Sister Linda K. Burton, led the children to collect items for hygiene kits for the Utah Refugee Center. Would your girls like to read a compelling book for an Activity Days book club?
  • Geography study. What countries do the refugees in your area come from? Or how much do your children know about Syria, with 13.5 million refugees, including 6 million children (as of Feb 2016), making Syria the largest displacement crisis globally? (see UN report) The Church News article continues: “Once you have found a community or a country that resonates with you, you can take that deeper dive and look at the cultural aspects of the country and the people from there.” “Study their food, traditions, and the way they celebrate holidays or their religious differences. Helping children become informed propels them forward in service, Sister Mullins said. After looking at photos of the refugee camps and seeing how some refugees live, ‘the kids were ready to do whatever they could to help.'”

For service ideas, see “I Was A Stranger” and how this initiative can apply to Primary. Add your service ideas for kids to the comments section!

Children may also enjoy these videos:

  • Invite a Refugee to Dinner” about families from Bhutan and USA who shopped together for ingredients and cooked together (4 minutes).
  • Dutch Potato Project” about former enemies in WW2 sacrificing for fellow Saints, despite deep distrust and war trauma (12 minutes). What was accomplished when they gave up their potatoes? What is YOUR potato?
  • Ye Have Done It Unto Me” from Bible videos (3 minutes). Notice the people’s surprised response, “When saw we thee a stranger?” You may be doing more than you realize.

Would your girls enjoy studying refugees, then taking action, small or large? Imagine the power of girls whose eyes are opened and hearts stirred as they come to ponder Sister Burton’s question, “What if their story were my story?” Even children are needed in this tremendously important lifesaving work, serving as Jesus Christ served.

-Marci

Leave a comment

Filed under Activity, Life Lessons

October Sharing Time or Family Night: Taking Prayer to the Next Level

The October sharing time theme suggests that you take weeks 3&4 to discuss “Heavenly Father hears and answers my prayers.” Your children might enjoy this charming story: “A child’s prayer can save a (duck’s) life.”  While one can never spend too much time discussing God’s answers to prayers, your children may be ready for the next step: adding repentance or fasting to prayer.

Instead of four steps of prayer (address Heavenly Father by name, thank Him, ask Him, and close in Jesus’ name), consider the FIVE steps of prayer (add repentance as a vibrant, daily part of prayer). Here’s a downloadable handout. (See also “Personal Prayer Lesson Plan – with visuals for children, especially those with Special Needs.”)

Or your children may be ready to be introduced to Fasting for Beginners, adding fasting to prayer as reverent communication between God and me.

-Marci

Leave a comment

Filed under Lesson, Parent Involvement, Sharing Time

Fasting for Beginners – teaching children about fasting

“Savior in the Desert” from fasting.lds.org

For children, the idea of delayed gratification, or sacrifice now for blessings later, can be a little hard to grasp. It may be hard to think beyond rumbling bellies to larger purposes. Parents and Primary leaders can teach about fasting as guided by the Spirit. No child should be forced to fast, and they should be old enough to understand (starting after baptism in many families, i.e. Senior Primary). Here are some ideas:

  • Start by teaching about the how and why of fasting. Check out this Friend article explaining fasting in kid-friendly terms: What Are Fast Offerings? 
  • Emphasize the purpose: helping the poor and seeking special blessings for those in need. Children love to help! They might love to know that their faith and prayers and fasting efforts, however small, might actually help someone. When the ward or family has a special fast in behalf of someone who needs extra help, include children in that effort. Even children who are too young to fast can pray for the person during that fast.
  • Fasting is a principle of problem solving. Note that the footnote for the word “fasting” in Mark 9:29 is “problem solving.” Perhaps the child himself is struggling with something that “goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). You may want to join with a child in fasting about a big problem they face or a big question for which they answers.
  • Consider a Primary fast. There may be special needs in your Primary for a particular child or leader. Consider fasting and praying together as a Primary.
  • Even Jesus fasted before he did hard things. Matthew 4:1–4 tells about Jesus fasting for 40 days and 40 nights before He began His ministry.
  • Hunger pangs are just a reminder to pray for the purpose of the fast. Teach children that prayer and fasting go together. Begin and end your fast with prayer. And whenever you feel hungry, it’s just a reminder to pray for what you’re fasting about. And being a little hungry once a month helps build compassion for the poor who are hungry all the time.
  • It’s OK to start easy, by missing just one meal. Or some families ask children just to fast from sweets for 24 hours as a modified fast. Going without dessert can be a big effort for a little kid! And if a child wants to give up sooner, praise them for trying and help them end their fast early with prayer.
  • You won’t starve, and fasting is actually good for your body. Reassure the children that they might be hungry, but they won’t starve to death. Some studies show that periodic fasting actually boosts health.
  • Let children take a turn giving the fast offering envelope. The savings from the two skipped meals is given to the bishop to help the poor and needy in your ward or anywhere in the world if there are extra funds. Talk children through how the parents make that calculation, and let them submit the family’s fast offering envelope, if appropriate.  If a child already knows of someone who is struggling with unemployment or illness in your ward, you can help them understand how fast offerings might be used to help that person.
  • Bear your testimony of fasting. Share how fasting helps you draw closer to God, or tell about times when fasting has blessed you or someone you know. Testify of the Lord’s desire to bless us, and how pleased He is when we make this sacrifice on behalf of others, or to seek His guidance in problem solving in our own lives.

What ideas have worked for you when you were first learning to fast, or teaching children about fasting? Add your thoughts below!

-Marci

 

1 Comment

Filed under Lesson, Sharing Time

The Power of Music and Sign Language in the home, community and Primary classes

ocdeaf.org

ocdeaf.org

Today’s guest author is Pamela, aka Grammy Pammy, whose motto is Make your influence felt in a positive way. She writes:

Our two oldest grandsons were diagnosed with autism when they were very young.  Aunts, uncles and grandparents rallied to support by learning enough American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with the one diagnosed as non-verbal.  Years later, he speaks as well as anyone—when he has something to say.

With ASL still fresh in my mind, I was asked to help with the nursery in our ward.  I wondered if their fidgety little hands would better focus on singing if they were signing some of the words as we sang. I taught the nursery children a few signs to use during Singing Time.  Eureka!   They became more focused on singing.  Doing signs helped them remember the words to the songs and helped them keep their hands to themselves.

One of the nursery teachers had an older son who needed to do a service project. She and her family went to a local nursing home and entertained the residents, many of whom were hard of hearing. Doing the signs helped the elderly folks connect to the music and feel the joy of being engaged. It was a wonderful event for the singers and listeners alike.

-Pamela

For related posts, see “Why Sign Language?”

“Music in Nursery: Teaching the Gospel” and

“Music”

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Nursery, Reaching the One, Special Needs

September Sharing Time Lesson: Preparing (emotionally) for a mission and for life!

lds.org

lds.org

2016 September theme “The Gospel Will Be Preached in All the World.” Week 3: “I can prepare now to serve a mission.”

When we think of children preparing for a mission, we often think of learning to study the scriptures, save money, keep the commandments, and invite friends to church. These are important and valuable skills.

But”The Hardest Part of Missionary Work” isn’t missionary work, reads a June 2016 New Era article by Wendy Ulrich. One missionary said, “for me the hardest part is what goes on in my head—like feeling discouraged or getting frustrated with companions or not liking talking to strangers—just dealing with all the ups and downs, the rejection, the change.” The article continues, “You should also get experience with the emotional, social, and other skills you’ll need as a missionary. You can start practicing now.”

Many young adults have stress-relief mechanisms that they developed as children. These coping mechanisms may or may not be healthy or mission-appropriate. As children try new and hard things, they can practice conflict-resolution skills with family and friends and in Primary. At home, they can build healthy habits, including mission-appropriate bedtime and wake-up routines.

If a child’s preferred stress-coping mechanism involves video games or YouTube, they could use some other mission-appropriate methods. We don’t often think of it as mission preparation, but teaching children to be resilient, positive and resourceful IS preparing them with valuable skills for serving the Lord as missionaries. One family I know took a “no technology vacation” – for TWO WHOLE WEEKS!

One skill that children can start practicing is this: “how to motivate ourselves when we’re bored and calm ourselves down when we’re overstressed. If a situation is boring or not progressing, become curious about what’s wrong and how to fix it, make a game out of it, or figure out what you can learn. Notice when you’re overstressed and learn things you could still do on a mission to calm down (talk to someone, relax, write, sing, walk). Take a step back, break the problem down, involve others, take small steps, pray, and talk back to negative thoughts.”

For a Sharing Time lesson on this idea, you might want to invite the full-time missionaries as guest speakers, and ask them questions like these:

  1. How did you prepare for a mission when you were Primary age?
  2. How did you solve problems with your siblings? How do you solve problems with your companion now?
  3. How did you deal with being discouraged when you were Primary age? How do you deal with discouragement now?
  4. How did you calm yourself down when you were upset when you were Primary age? How do you calm yourself down now?
  5. Now that you’re a missionary, what advice would you give to your Primary-aged self?

As you teach children to prepare for a mission by learning to study the scriptures, save money, keep the commandments, and invite friends to church, also teach them to try new and hard things, practice conflict-resolution skills, and healthy physical and emotional self-care.

Also see Laura’s terrific Sharing Time lesson: “When I Serve A Mission, I Serve God”

-Marci

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Lesson, Life Lessons, Parent Involvement, Primary Presidency Administration, Sharing Time

2016 Primary Sacrament Meeting Program: Invitations, program covers and more!

proclamationpictures.blogspot.com by Tami Ray

proclamationpictures.blogspot.com by Tami Ray

Back by popular demand, the 2016 Primary Program Invitation is here! Thanks to Laura H. for putting this together, and special shout out to Tami Ray and her blog for the beautiful artwork!

Primary Program Invite 2016 (customize & print back to back, 4 invites to a page)

Matching printed program cover: Primary Printed Program 2016

Try printing out enough copies of the invitation for the Primary children and missionaries to distribute. Check out  “Children inviting neighbors, coaches and schoolteachers to Primary sacrament meeting program” about the wonderful missionary tool it can be (including a baptism that started with an invitation just like this!).

One year, my ward set up a small reception of cookies and drinks after the program to celebrate the Primary children’s hard work, and so that visitors feel welcome and have a chance to chat comfortably and ask questions. This gave visitors a chance to casually stick around and congratulate the child that they came to see, and not feel like they were obligated to go to class after, or make a hasty exit. They could stay longer and talk with others in a relaxed setting. The missionaries also joined the reception so they could talk with the investigators they brought, as well as meet other visitors who attended the program. Then everyone attended third hour classes as usual, and some hardy investigators stuck around.

If you’re planning your presentation outline, see Kim’s easy-to-follow way of putting it together at “Primary Sacrament Meeting Program outline – click, print and go!” Kim assigned each class one of the monthly themes, then interviewing each child by pulling them out of singing time to get a quote to go with the theme. The outline comes together really easily in the kids’ words that way.

Also see “Inviting Audience Comments – Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentation

-Laura S.

2 Comments

Filed under Sacrament Meeting Presentation

Overheard in Primary: What brings you joy?

The Sharing Time lesson was about the Plan of Salvation. The Primary leader explained that everyone was there in the grand council when Heavenly Father announced the Plan of Salvation. She read Job 38:4,7: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

lds.org

lds.org

 

The teacher asked the children if there was a time when they had ever “shouted for joy?”

The girl with the braids from the CTR 6 class raised her hand excitedly and  answered, “The first time I tasted swiss chard!”

And she was serious.

~Michelle

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Overheard in Primary

Children as Guest Singers in Youth or Adult Classes

Catch this revolutionary idea in the new manual “Teaching in the Savior’s Way“:

“Consider how you can make music part of your lessons; for example, you could play a recording of a hymn or invite a family or some Primary children to sing in your class.” While this probably should not happen too often, so as not to interfere with the children’s own gospel instruction, an occasional class visit gives the children the opportunity to bear their testimonies through song. Children rarely have the opportunity to share their musical testimonies besides the sacrament meeting presentation.

“Music has boundless powers for moving [us] toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel” (“First Presidency Preface, Hymns, x). And music sung by children, either children without sin (under age 8) or children not very good at sinning yet (ages 8+)? Even sweeter. Such a musical number could be a powerful addition to any lesson.

While you’re at it, have you seen the video of children explaining gospel principles in their own words? Like this one: The Atonement: Children’s Bible Videos

Leave a comment

Filed under Music

Kids Answering Each Other’s Questions

This intriguing idea comes from the new manual “Teaching in the Savior’s Way,” page 24: “Invite learners to help answer questions. When prompted by the Spirit, you may decide to do this even if you feel that you know the answer. When you ask learners to search the scriptures and other Church resources for answers to gospel questions, you provide them with excellent learning opportunities.”

There are at least three advantages I can think of to having children answer each others’ questions:

  1. The best way to really learn something is to teach it to someone else.
  2. Children might hear a message more clearly when it comes from a peer, in kid-friendly words, than when it comes from an adult. Videos like the above, of children explaining gospel principles in their own words, can speak to a child in ways that grownup words can’t. It always astonishes me what children will do when invited by a peer that they would never do when invited by an adult. (See more Bible videos for kids by kids at https://www.mormonchannel.org/watch/collection/childrens-bible-videos/)

However, the teacher must take care to not let a few children dominate and answer every question. Open-ended questions like “What do you think about ____?” or “How have you seen this work in your life?” are questions that any child can answer, since there is no right or wrong. You may need to be more blunt to balance airtime for all: “Let’s hear from someone we haven’t heard from yet.” Or “Who hasn’t had a chance to share their thoughts yet?” You can say “Take a minute to think about this, then let’s hear your ideas” to give more time to everyone to ponder the question before someone pops up with an answer.

Besides, when you let children answer each other’s questions you just might learn something “out of the mouths of babes”! (3 Nephi 26:16 and Psalm 8:2).

-Marci

Leave a comment

Filed under Lesson, Reaching the One, Teacher Support

Autism, Life Threatening Food Allergies and Primary

photo provided by author

photo provided by author

Today’s guest author is DeeDee, a wife and mother of two who loves the temple and loves to be outdoors enjoying nature with her family. See her 3 specific suggestions below about caring for her children in Primary. 

My beautiful son is four years old. He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 3. My amazing eight-year-old daughter has life threatening (anaphylactic) allergies. Both of these conditions shape our children’s experience in Primary.

What is it like to have a child with autism at church? For me it is wonderfully challenging, but I recognize it’s an opportunity for growth and development, for both me and for my child. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a variable diagnosis. That means each child with ASD has unique strengths and challenges. Before my son was diagnosed he was struggling in nursery. A sentence kept going through my mind at that time, “The one matters.” I know that every child matters to the Lord and belongs in Primary, at church and in other church activities. Figuring out how to make that happen is the challenge.

What is it like having a child with life-threatening anaphylactic allergies at church? Life-threatening allergies are about safety. I want my daughter to be safe at church, in Primary and at church activities. It is scary for me to know that if my child eats a certain food it can result in a life-threatening allergic reaction. This makes church different for me than it was before I had a child with severe food allergies. My husband and I are diligent about constantly checking to see if food is involved at church. Sometimes snacks are given in class or as a reward for performances (like Primary programs). Other times food is used to make crafts, provide service or celebrate holidays. We have strict rules for our daughter about food & washing hands. She is very careful about what she touches and eats at church. My guard is always up to some degree at church because I want her to be safe and have a good experience.

What has helped our family:

1. We take responsibility for our children. My husband and I have learned that it is our responsibility to ensure our children are set up for success in Primary. Simply dropping them off doesn’t work. Our experience has been that things go best when we communicate our children’s unique needs with ward and Primary leadership so we can partner with them in helping our children do well in Primary. My 4-year-old son with autism doesn’t communicate verbally like many children his age. When he was diagnosed I notified our Primary presidency and spoke with his nursery leader about his unique challenges. His wonderful nursery leader did well with him, keeping the classroom calm and encouraging open play that doesn’t require 2-way verbal communication. She speaks to him as she does other children but also gives him gentle nudges to help him as needed. I also shared with her behavioral signs that may suggest he is having a difficult time, when it may be best to include me or my husband. Similarly, my daughter can’t eat nuts. Her life threatening allergic reactions can result in death or serious injury. My husband and I take responsibility for her condition by sharing applicable medical information with Primary leaders and our plan to help her if she has a reaction in Primary. We keep emergency medication near her at all times and ask to approve any food offered her in Primary. We hope that Primary leaders and teachers appreciate the steps we take to educate and include them so they aren’t left to interpret things on their own.

2. Have realistic expectations. We attempt to maintain realistic expectations at church. Church leaders, Primary leaders and teachers are imperfect people, volunteers at best. They make mistakes and can misinterpret things like we all do. A Primary leader may misinterpret my son’s behavior. A teacher may bring a snack my daughter is allergic to and forget to check with us first. These things can happen, and it helps to remind us to keep working with ward and Primary leaders.

3. Listen to the Spirit. Numerous times at church my husband or I have felt prompted to check on one of our children in Primary, sometimes urgently. We recognize these as promptings from Holy Ghost and are very grateful for them.

~DeeDee

 

For related posts, see Special Needs page and

Helping children accept others with special needs

Also see “Accepting Allergies” by Thira Christianson from a kids’ point of view in the Friend magazine, Sept 2011, 18-19.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reaching the One, Special Needs