Favorite Ideas for New Year Transitions



It’s that time of year again – wrapping up an old year and beginning a new one! And that means lots of changes in Primary, which can be confusing for children. Here’s our readers’ favorite posts for doing it smoothly and with love:

Happy New Year!


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Filed under Parent Involvement, Reaching the One, Teacher Support, Transitions

Jesus’ First and Second Coming

"The Second Coming," by Harry Anderson. Gospel Art Kit 238

“The Second Coming,” by Harry Anderson. Gospel Art Kit 238

Click here for the following lesson plan as a pdf: Jesus second coming lesson outline

The December 2015 theme is “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” with week 3 being “Jesus Christ will return to the earth someday.” The Sharing Time Outline says, “The first activity in week 3 would work better with older children. Plan ways to adapt this activity for younger children.” We’ve done it for you! Here’s a Junior or Senior Primary lesson to go with the theme. Click here for a downloadable pdf of the following lesson plan.

Lesson Outline: “Jesus Christ will return to the earth someday”

Items needed:

  • Pictures from Jesus’ life, including His birth, teaching, crucifixion and resurrection.
  • Pictures of Jesus’ second coming such as this: www.lds.org/media-library/images/the-second-coming-39618
  • Picture of a clock or calendar.
  • Wordstrips with the scripture references below.
  • Learn the song “When He Comes Again” (Children’s Songbook, 82–83).
  • Prepare to sing or recite the 10th Article of Faith (CS, 128).

Lesson Principles:

  • Jesus’ first coming is when He was born as a baby, lived on earth, died and was resurrected.
  • Jesus will come again someday in glory.
  • We can prepare to meet Him when he comes again.

Lesson Outline:

Begin with music: Teach the children the song “When He Comes Again” (CS 82).  If the children aren’t familiar with the song, pass out Children’s Songbooks to the teachers/leaders. Ask them to stand and form an instant choir to sing to the children.  Have the children guess what your lesson topic is by listening to the lyrics of the song.

The first coming. Show a picture of baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Explain that this is Jesus’ first coming, as a baby who grew up to be the Savior. Show a few pictures of other scenes from his mortal life, including crucifixion and resurrection.

The second coming. Explain that Jesus will come again someday. This time He won’t come as a baby, because He is already grown up now. This time He will come in glory and power, like the Son of God that He is. Show the picture of Jesus’ second coming, with Jesus in the clouds descending to earth. Ask a child or teacher to read Matthew 24:30–31: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven . . . and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

When will He come again? Show the picture of a clock or calendar.  Ask a child or teacher to read Matthew 24:36: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” That means no one knows except Heavenly Father exactly when Jesus will come again. But we know we are in the last days. (This might be a good place to sing the song again.)

How will we know when it’s almost time for Jesus to come again? What are some signs of Jesus’s Second Coming?  Explain that the world will be in commotion (mixed up) before He comes. Ask the children to make whooshing sounds like wind and gently wave their arms above their heads. (For more information as you prepare, read Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:28–29)

What will happen to the righteous people when He comes? Ask a child or teacher to read D&C 88:96–97:  “And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him. And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven.” Show the picture of the Second Coming and point out the people in the clouds. These are both the people living on earth when He comes and those who have already died but will come alive again to meet Him. Explain in age-appropriate ways about the graves being opened and the people being caught up into heaven to meet Jesus.

What will the government be like after He comes? Right now we have leaders of our government. Name some government officials in your area. But the 10th Article of Faith says that when Jesus comes again, “Christ will reign personally upon the earth.” That means that we will have President Jesus or King Jesus. Sing or recite the entire 10th Article of Faith (CS, 128).

What will animals be like after He comes? Ask a child or teacher to read Isaiah 11: 6-7: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” Explain that now the wolf and the lamb are enemies, but when Jesus comes again all the animals will be friends.

We can prepare to meet Him when He comes again. Discuss with the children ways that we can be prepared for Jesus to come again and to meet Him ourselves.

God bless us as we prepare together, adults and children hand in hand, to receive Him again.


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The Gospel in a Bag! a fun DIY to help children prepare for baptism

Today’s guest author is Barbara a mother of 9, grandmother of nearly 21, and currently a ward Primary president. Today she shares an idea for helping children prepare for their baptism.  This idea would be helpful as you look ahead to the new year and all the children who will be turning 8 and getting baptized in your ward.  How fun would it be to include this in your “It’s Great to Be 8” celebrations?

To prepare our Primary children for baptism, we stitch a simple drawstring bag for them and fill it with laminated flip cards that lay out the entire basics of the gospel in a way that really grabs their attention and is simple enough for them to teach to their families.


This makes a great gift to present on the day of baptism, or to give in advance and encourage the parents to allow the child to present the teachings to the family in a Family Home Evening lesson. It’s also a great quiet toy for Sacrament meeting that also helps to reinforce gospel principles and baptismal promises.

Here’s how we do it:

  1. To make the drawstring bag: You can go online and watch many videos on how to make a simple drawstring bag, but this one is more basic than them all.
  2.  Cut a piece of 11” x 15” white fabric. I use muslin or sometimes white satin if I can find it.
  3. Fold the fabric (wrong side of fabric touching) in the middle of the long edge, bringing the short edges together.  Stitch a ¼” seam down the long side of the folded fabric, continuing across one short end, leaving the third side OPEN for the top of the bag.
  4. Turn right side out, and iron.
  5. To add the drawstring, fold and iron ¼” down from the top of the opening all around, then fold it down again so the folded edge is ½” from the top. Stitch that folded hem all around the opening very near to the fold, leaving a ½” opening for insertion of the drawstring. You can make the opening of your stitching either at the un-seamed side or the center back of the bag.
  6. To insert drawstring: Attach a safety pin to a 20” long piece of ribbon or cording, and use it to thread the ribbon through the channel made by the folded upper hem of the bag.  Tie the loose ends together near the ends, knotting tightly.
  7. Press all the seams, and voila! You have your bag.
  8. Insert a handful of individually wrapped Life Savers mints, maybe a CTR ring, an Articles of Faith card, or none of the above. The most important thing is the loose leaf binder ring with the pictures and explanations, with the cards arranged on the ring in order of their number.
  9. To make the cards: Print off the attached PDF of baptism images on cardstock, run through a laminating machine if you like, then cut into individual cards. Hole punch in the upper left corner of each card.
  10. After card #6 (“The soap is to remind you that you must have clean thoughts…”),  tie on a small hotel-sized bar of soap in a tulle bag (I make mine out of a scrap of tulle folded and stitched to make a bag, turned right side out and knotted shut with a ribbon)
  11. After card #7 (“The Holy Ghost will comfort you like a warm blanket.”), attach a 4” x 5” rectangle of soft fleece fabric with a hole punched in the corner to attach to ring.

This is a simple project to put together.  I print out several sheets of the baptism bag contents, laminate, cut out and hole punch them and keep them handy for the next baptism.

Download a PDF of the flip card documents: Baptism Bag Contents 


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Filed under Parent Involvement, Scriptures

Potatoes every night: Variety in Teaching




“When a homemaker plans a week of dinner menus, she is not likely to decide to prepare identical meals on seven consecutive nights. Even when her budget is so limited that she has to prepare potatoes every night, she soon learns that there are many ways to serve potatoes.

“The gospel can likewise be presented in a number of different ways. No teacher should fall into a monotonous pattern of presenting the same kind of lesson week after week. When you use a variety of learning activities, learners tend to understand gospel principles better and retain more. A carefully selected method can make a principle clearer, more interesting, and more memorable.” Teaching, No Greater Call, page 89.

11000_36123000_p_348You probably use these techniques listed on page 157-184: chalkboard, object lessons, discussion, examples, lectures, questions, scriptures, stories, visuals. But have you tried these?

  • Dramatizations (act out a story.)
  • Drawings (try a new idea such as having children draw different parts of the story, then put them together into a mural or roller box.)
  • Maps.
  • Memorization.
  • Music (don’t wait for Singing Time to sing! You’ll drive home an idea in an unforgettable way.)
  • Panel Discussion (with children or guest adults as panelists.)
  • Readers’ Theaters (using a script to tell the story. Particularly effective is Senior Primary children reading the “lines” directly from the scriptures such as King Noah, Abinadi, Alma, and the wicked priests from Mosiah 17 & 18, with a narrator reading the story line in between.)
  • Special Reports (asking a child to think about a gospel principle ahead of time and be prepared to share an example or idea.)
  • Stations (particularly good for Sharing Time.)
  • Worksheets (my personal favorite is a free custom crossword or search-a-word puzzle from puzzlemaker.com. Even Junior Primary children can find their own names in a search-a-word puzzle, underscoring that each child is important as a child of God.)

For more ideas and examples, see pages 157-184 in “Teaching, No Greater Call” (free download). Listen to the audio version or purchase inexpensively in one of several languages here.

No more mashed potatoes night after night; no more lessons with the same teaching technique! Here’s to memorable, impactful teaching.


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“My Mind’s a Sacred Place” (new original song) – Arm your Children with the Power of Music to Fend off the Evils of Pornography!

Catherine's family. Photo by Ronni Paxton.

Catherine’s family. Photo by Ronni Paxton.

Download the sheet music and listen to a recording of children singing Catherine’s original song: “My Mind’s a Sacred Place.” (Copyright © 2015 Catherine Doxey White. This song may be copied for incidental, noncommercial church or home use.)

Today’s guest author Catherine is mother of five children ages 6-21. Catherine loves to sing (very loudly and occasionally off-tune), scrapbook, read, and write. She has written a few songs, from the silly to the sacred. Catherine writes:

About half-way through his mission, my oldest son wrote home and said, “Whenever I have some kind of temptation or negative thought, I just think of punching Satan in the face.” I’m a pretty non-violent kind of girl, but I have to admit that when I acknowledge how aggressively Satan is targeting our young, innocent children with pornography, all my mama bear instincts kick in and I want to launch a full-scale offensive attack. Just thinking about Satan’s attempts to envelope our children in darkness and isolation while twisting their view of love, robbing them of self-worth, and ensnaring them in addiction transforms me from a peace-loving pacifist into a wanna-be sniper. I want to take Satan out long before he has a chance to pollute the minds of our precious children.

“My Mind’s a Sacred Place” is my attempt to arm our children with tools to defend themselves against accidental exposure to pornography. Pornography statistics have haunted me ever since I first heard that the average age that a pornography addiction starts is now age 11. I was even more shocked to learn that about 85% of pornography contains violence, making pornography a world public health concern. It is unfortunately no longer a question of whether or not youth will encounter pornography; 100% of today’s youth will be exposed to pornography in some form.

This concerned me so much that I spent the next year and a half studying how to combat pornography and use the Atonement to overcome addiction. As I learned about some of the simple yet effective ways to protect our children, I thought, “Someone should write a Primary song to reinforce these ideas.” I did not expect that someone to be me, until I woke up one morning with the melody and lyrics of “My Mind’s a Sacred Place” running through my mind. The song came so easily that I humbly recognized it as a gift of inspiration from our Heavenly Father. I felt an incredible sense of urgency to share the song, and prayed for guidance with the accompaniment.  My talented friend Andrea came to the rescue as a direct answer to my prayers, writing the accompaniment, improving the melody for the verses, and co-writing the lyrics for the third verse.


“My Mind’s a Sacred Place”

There is a battle raging on;

It’s a fight for right or wrong;

It’s a war for my own heart and mind.

Evil traps are drawing near;

Bad pictures can appear

That steal the peace the Spirit helps me find.


Chorus:  I’ll turn it off; I’ll walk away.

I will sing, and I will pray.

I will turn to my own loving Savior.

I know my body is a gift,

And my mind’s a sacred place.

I’ll be clean;

I’ll seek light;

I’ll choose the right.


Verse 2: Temptations come to look again;

I won’t look; I won’t give in.

I’ll talk to my mom or my dad.

I will run or play or read;

I’ll help someone in need;

I’ll focus on the good and name the bad.


Verse 3: When I’m tempted on my own

I don’t have to feel alone;

I can talk to my Father in prayer.

I’ll tell leaders who can guide;

It’s my mind; I can decide

To fill my thoughts with light and truth to share.

I pray that we can teach children to follow the counsel to automatically “turn it off and walk away,” and turn to the Savior. Rather than visualizing ourselves punching Satan in the face or getting him in the scope of a long-range rifle, we can use this song as one more piece of armor to invite the Spirit and give children the strength to “be clean, seek light, and choose the right.”

For sheet music, a recording of the song, acknowledgments, more resources, and more information about Catherine (author of the lyrics) and Andrea (composer of the music), click here.



Filed under Music, Parent Involvement, Pornography Prevention

November: “When We Serve Others, We Serve God”

Marci’s CTR 4 class from 2006

The November Sharing Time theme of service couldn’t come at a better time. Gearing up for Thanksgiving and Christmas by thinking of those less fortunate is a wonderful lesson for children.

This is an ideal time to coordinate with your Ward Council to find out what the other auxiliaries are planning for holiday service and how Primary children can contribute. For example, perhaps the Relief Society or Young Men/Young Women are planning to mail care packages to missionaries or military personnel. Or maybe the ward is doing a “Sub for Santa” project of collecting holiday gifts for needy families or children in homeless shelters. Primary children can contribute to the cause by:

  • Helping collect non-perishable food items. Senior Primary classes might visit Relief Society or priesthood classes to ask for donations. For extra fun, ask each family to bring one red and one green non-perishable item (green Jello and red dried cranberries, a can of green beans and a can of beets, or a can of pasta sauce and spinach flavored pasta).
  • Making Thanksgiving or Christmas cards to accompany donations. Creating cards with paper, envelopes, stickers and crayons while the pianist plays Primary songs could be a terrific Sharing Time lesson or Activity Day.
  • Making homemade wrapping paper by decorating a roll of newsprint or butcher paper, or decorating plain gift bags. Some restaurants have plain brown paper bags for takeout food that they might be willing to donate. Then holiday gifts for the needy can be wrapped in an extra bit of love from the Primary children. For security, the gift bags can be stapled shut for transport after they’re filled.

For more service project ideas that children can do, see Transform year-round holiday craziness into holiday service, my one-and-only published Ensign contribution here,  and Jackie’s “Pint Sized Service Projects” here.


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Filed under Activity, Christmas, Sharing Time

Sacrament meeting program cover to match the invitations!

Front of Invitation, page 1

Front of Invitation, page 1

Eagle-eyed blog reader Pam loved the Primary sacrament meeting program invitations that Laura H. created (see the invitations here).

Pam asked for a matching program cover. Here it is!

Primary Program 2015 as a pdf file

Primary Program 2015 ready to edit as a Word file

We’re thrilled that folks are finding this blog useful and sending encore requests! and we’re always looking for guest authors as well. Guest author guidelines here.


Here’s more good ideas for making the most of your Primary Program:

Children inviting neighbors, coaches and schoolteachers to Primary Sacrament Meeting Program and

Inviting Audience Comments–Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentation

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Put kids to work creating your visuals and activities!

Sure, you can go online and find snazzy visuals and activities to go with the songs and Sharing Time lessons. Or you can have the children CREATE them for you, thereby getting them more involved in the music or lesson! Guest author Carlan to the rescue! She is a mama bear to three and a partner to the papa bear; a tough minded, hard-working, loyal friend from the west coast living it up in the east coast; a singer, lover of music and all things creative. Carlan writes:

kids' art
To teach the song “Faith” (Children’s Songbook, 96), I split up the words of the song into eight parts and assigned a phrase to each class (combining small classes as needed).  I passed out crayons and white poster paper, cut to size, and asked them to illustrate the words for their part of the song. It was a fun way for the children to think about the words of the song and use their creativity to represent them.  The more time they spend thinking about the words, using their creativity and having fun, the deeper the song is sinking into their memories. That means a more lasting effect in learning the gospel, not just the song.
Other weeks I gave each class a phrase of a song and asked them to invent their own actions (a mix of gestures and American Sign Language) which turned out really cute.
For “Follow The Prophet” (CS, 110) I assigned each class a verse about a certain prophet. I made a scroll for each class, which they designed and colored to show everything that represented that prophet.  I think it really helped them learn their verse and better connect with the prophets.
Keep the visuals or props and use them to review the song or lesson often in future weeks. The children will be delighted to see their creative work again!
For more fun ideas for learning songs, type in “music” in the search box to the right. Here’s one of our favorites: “Making Music Time Fun and Interactive.”

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Filed under Music, Sharing Time

Sing, Step and Learn a new Song!

Energetic Primary music leader Leslie does a lively version of musical chairs in this fun singing time activity. Leslie is a 71-year-old Grandma of 35, mother of 11 and great grandma of 3. She works as an accountant and spends her spare time reading, sewing, and preparing for Primary Singing Time.

This activity is a takeoff on musical chairs:

First, make cards with the words to a song the children are learning, with one word on each card. The cards go on the floor in a circle.

Sing, Step, and Learn

After reviewing the song by singing it together once, ask, “Who can sing and walk at the same time?” In a small Primary, all the children can come up; in a larger Primary you can take one or two volunteers from each class. While the pianist plays the song, everyone sings while the children walk from card to card round the circle. At random intervals, the pianist stops the music. Whatever word we last sang is the magic word. Whoever is standing on the word of choice gets a sticker, a “super singer” necklace, or a “hooray!” If the word isn’t represented on the floor (it never comes out exactly even), try again!

A new take on Musical Chairs: “Musical Words”

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“An Egg for Everyone” – secret weapons galore



This is an excerpt from a book review written by Kate Wangsgard of “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids,” the book that emerged from this blog. The review was published in the spring 2015 Exponent II magazine, page 35. Read the full review here

Kate loves to cook and eat delicious vegetarian food, plan-over-the-top Halloween parties and go on bike rides with her family. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her soccer-loving husband, moppy-haired 7 year old son and adventurous 1 year old son.

I am currently teaching Sunbeams for the third time in ten years, so I’m willing to try just about anything to keep those wiggly little bums in their chairs. After reading through “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids,” I found what looked to be a secret weapon in the war against squirmy three-year-olds. Last Sunday I sat down next to my rows of Sunbeams, waiting for the perfect moment to use my new trick. It wasn’t long before one of the kids started hopping out of his chair. So I squatted down in front of him and whispered, “I have a special job for you. I need you to pretend you’re a bird and your chair is an egg that you need to keep warm. Make sure you stay in your chair so your egg stays warm!” His eyes lit up as he settled into his chair with a proud smile. It was working! Throughout the rest of Sharing Time, whenever he stared to get out of his chair, I reminded him of his little egg and he quickly returned to keep it warm. My co-teacher was impressed and I sat back and smugly marveled at my newfound Sunbeam wrangling skills.

Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids” ought to be required reading for anyone serving in Primary. While it is full of clever ideas and tricks like the egg-warming one above, its greatest value lies in the suggestions for sensitively dealing with difficult situations you encounter while teaching children in the Church. The book gives suggestions for how to navigate a lesson on honoring your parents when you know some of your kids don’t have a positive relationship with their parents. It discusses how to deal with bullying and other behavior issues and includes suggestions to reach children of all learning styles or children with special needs. There is a lesson to teach children about the valuable role of women in the Church by introducing them to strong female leaders, past and present. Any efforts to help teach the gospel to the next generation in a more open and loving way gets my vote.

[The book] suggests simple but helpful rules for establishing a smoother running Primary and ways to help the kids learn and remember those rules each week. There are ways to improve Singing Time, Primary training meetings, and suggestions for working with the bishopric on staffing issues. There is also a detailed plan for transitioning new Sunbeams from nursery to Primary.

Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids” is a quick read but will be a great resource to have on hand when you find yourself facing a particularly daunting subject or difficult situation.

– Kate Wangsgard

(Thank you, Kate!)

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Filed under Bullying, Discipline, Lesson, Music, Nursery, Reaching the One, Special Needs, Transitions