Category Archives: Opening Exercises

Primary Secretaries – try “You’ve Got Mail” and indestructible assignment slips

Today’s guest idea is from Cathleen. She decorated an inexpensive mailbox for Primary, and put slips of paper inside inviting children to do the talk, prayer or scripture for the following week. When it’s time to pass out the slips of paper, she dramatically announces, “You’ve got mail!” She opens the mailbox and passes out the slips of paper.

Another idea is to use indestructible paper bracelets to put on the child’s wrist, to make sure the notice makes it home! Search online for “paper event bracelets” — they cost as little as 5c each and are made of Tyvek, a thin, strong paper.

Here’s more ideas for secretaries:

We appreciate our Primary secretaries for all their good work!




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Filed under Opening Exercises, Primary Presidency Administration

Songs and Scriptures for 2016: Memorization Challenge!

2016-primary-sharingtime-cover“I Know the Scriptures are True” is the Primary theme for 2016.  To complement the Sharing Time outline, guest author Jen has once again shared her song and scripture chart with us.  This is a great resource to help children work toward memorizing the scriptures each month and learning the songs.  You can also send this home with families for personal use.

In past years my family has used this outline to help guide our morning devotional before our kids go to school.  We dedicate a few minutes to recite together the month’s scripture and sing the song.  Repetition throughout the month helps young minds retain these powerful words in their memories. Taking the Primary themes into your home is a great way to build on the gospel learning children receive at church.  Often, with limited lesson time at church, individual questions go unanswered and discussion are cut short.  Home is a perfect environment to discuss and answer gospel questions and inquiries.

Download the Song and Scripture chart here!


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Filed under Music, Opening Exercises, Parent Involvement, Primary Presidency Administration, Scriptures, Sharing Time

Birthday bonus from the Bishop!

Birthdays are a way to honor each individual child separately throughout the year, with each child having his/her moment in the sun. And birthdays are very important to a child.

But honoring a birthday child can potentially be disruptive. Giving a child a bag of treats or stickers during Sharing Time often leads the birthday child to investigate the loot. The child stops paying attention, with other children eyeing the treats.

Primary leader Katie found a terrific idea that solves the problem and provides an additional benefit: giving the bishop a chance to interact with precious younger members of his flock. After the children sing one of the fun birthday songs in the Children’s Songbook*  to the child, the secretary gives the child a “birthday coupon” pictured here. After church, the child goes to the bishop’s office to redeem it for a treat. A few laminated coupons can make their way back to Primary to reuse. Prayerfully consider mailing a coupon with a birthday card to a less active child if you think it would be well received.

birthday coupon

Other Primaries make a three-tiered birthday cake out of cardboard, with an assortment of pencils stuck in as candles. The birthday child chooses a birthday pencil.

Some Primaries do both – a pencil in Primary that goes under the child’s chair so as not to distract, and a birthday coupon for a treat after church.

Happy birthday, dear children!

* There are six birthday songs in the Children’s Songbook – do your children know all six? Look in the index on page 306 under “birthdays.”

*To download a PDF of these birthday coupons click here to go to SugarDoodle

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Filed under Opening Exercises, Reaching the One

Primary Motto: Instilling “Faith in God” message each week

Painting by Del Parson, text from Faith in God booklet inside front cover

Text from “Faith in God” booklet, inside front cover. Painting by Del Parson.

Guest author Cathy is a ward Primary president who is employed in her dream job as stay-at-home mom.  She has enjoyed serving in Primary in Australia and the Philippines as her family has moved around the world with her husband’s job. She writes:

As a recently called Primary president, I was talking with a friend who had many years experience in the calling. I was looking for wisdom about how to make a difference in the lives of the young children of God that I was called to love and teach.  She shared with me something that she had done that she felt was very successful.  She had been reading through the Faith in God pamphlet and noticed the short motto inside the front cover:

I am a child of God.
I know Heavenly Father loves me, and I love Him.
I can pray to Heavenly Father anytime, anywhere.
I am trying to remember and follow Jesus Christ.

She said to me, “If that is all those Primary kids learned from coming to Primary, that would be enough.”  And so they started reciting this theme each week during their opening exercises.

That really struck me.  Four simple sentences – but such important principles that can impact our every decision and shape our entire life.  Just as each week the Young Women around the world “stand for truth and righteousness” and together recite the Young Women’s theme, I knew I wanted to make this motto part of our weekly Primary routine.  Even as an adult, well out of my young woman years, I can still recite that theme and list off those values. I know even more clearly now the way that foundation influenced me, knowing that I am a daughter of God and that He loves me and I love Him.  I wanted to give a similar foundation to my Primary children, even at the young age of three!

I requested the help of my talented friend Rachel to come up with something visual that we could hold each week for the children to read and memorize this Primary theme.  Along with the words, she incorporated a sweet painting by Del Parson of our loving Savior surrounded by children (see above).  We now have the 11×17 sized theme printed and framed to remain in our Primary.  The children are excited about it and I hope that the Spirit touches their hearts as we say these words together each week.



Filed under Opening Exercises, Sharing Time

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

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,, 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 


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,, 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


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

2015 Primary Scripture and Song Memorization Chart

One of our favorite guest authors, Jen, has done it again and created a chart for the scriptures and songs that the children are learning during Primary this year.Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 8.18.20 PM

Jen writes:

These memorization charts can be copied onto card stock and passed out to each child in Primary, along with small round stickers to help them mark their progress by covering over the symbol for each item as they memorize it.  Along with the chart, we’ll include a CD of the songs we’ll be learning this year, including the new song.  Our CD will also include the songs for the Articles of Faith.

We have added our own choices of songs to the charts. If you want to use it but would like to use different songs than the ones that our ward chose as optional songs, feel free to leave a comment with a request and I will personalize it and send it to you.

These charts can also be used for the basis of a daily family devotional with kids of all ages. You can read more about this idea here .

Download the 2015 scripture and song chart here.


Filed under Music, Opening Exercises, Parent Involvement, Scriptures, Sharing Time

Simplifying Opening Exercises for Secretaries and Families

Last week Marci shared a 3-step formula that could be helpful for children when they are preparing a Primary talk.  It’s a simple formula that’s easy to remember and gives children the chance to think about their topic in terms of 1) what God says, 2) what others say and 3) what the speaker feels about any topic. Additionally, it helps children to ponder their research and analyze their own feelings and thoughts.  These basic steps encourage children to dig into scripture and other revelations and gives them the opportunity to pray and feel the Spirit during their preparation.

Recently my daughter gave her first talk in Primary.  It was a simple assignment and I was amazed at what an impact a few short minutes of prayer and preparation could impact her (and me!).  It was a positive experience for all of us and I look forward to her next opportunity. {Read about her talk experience here}

Everyone’s lives are busy and I would hate to see someone pass up the opportunity to see their child grow and learn from preparing and delivering a talk in Primary.  So, to simplify things a little, we’ve created a one-page worksheet that Primary secretaries can use as a template to give to children/parents when they are assigned to give a talk in Primary. At the top of the document you’ll notice space for the child’s name, the date they’ve been asked to give the talk, and a space for the assigned topic.  Below that is a summary of Marci’s simple 3-step formula for preparing a talk and then lastly there is even space for the child (and/or parent depending on the child’s age) to write out their ideas.  Voila!  One sheet of paper from Secretary to family to podium (and possibly even to scrapbook as a memento!).

Download the PDF document here: Parent Letter for Preparing a Primary talk,


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Filed under Opening Exercises, Parent Involvement, Scriptures