Category Archives: Transitions

“The Chapel Doors”: Primary reverence children

Recently we shared an idea,  “Primary prelude music to increase sacrament meeting reverence.” We’re delighted that many have found it useful! Here’s another idea.

Some wards have a “reverence child” who stands by the podium with arms folded to set the example. Problem is, I seldom look at the stand when entering the chapel, and even when I do, it’s hard to spot the short children. Often I don’t even realize there is a “reverence child” until the meeting begins and the person conducting expresses appreciation and invites them to sit with their families. While it is nice to give children responsibility, I’m not convinced it helps reverence.

Instead of a reverence child on the stand, how about a reverence child next to the chapel doors, standing along with the usher? The child could wear a sign around their neck (like a sandwich board) or hold a sign, saying “The chapel doors seem to say to me, shh, be still.”

One reverence child at each chapel door could actually make a difference in the quality of worship. Children can lead the way to making a more serene setting to feeling the Spirit.

If you try this in  your ward, let us know how it goes in the comment section below!




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Ready for a new Primary year?

As we come to the close of one year and look ahead to another, it’s time to prepare for the big transition! You can help the children take it in stride by taking steps to help them know what to expect. Here’s our readers’ favorite posts for doing it smoothly and with love:

You might also enjoy this resource from the Friend magazine about helping children get ready for Sunbeams. Click on the image above to read the article in the January 2017 Friend.

Happy New Year – a little early!


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Filed under Parent Involvement, Teacher Support, Transitions

Planning ahead: Your Dec/Jan Transition Survival Kit!

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 – a little early!


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Filed under Sharing Time, Teacher Support, Transitions

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

“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

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

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

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.


Filed under Nursery, Sharing Time, Transitions

Orienting Children and Parents: Finding their Way in a New Year or a New Ward

Family walking to church together

Photo courtesy of

How do you help children and families figure out Primary, either in January when everything is different for everyone, or whenever new children move in? Guest author Jen H. shares her terrific idea:
We make up Parent Packets, consisting of:
  • A map of the portion of the ward building we use for classes.  We labeled which rooms were for Senior & Junior Nurseries and classes (see Sample Map doc or Sample Map pdf).
  • On the back of this, we listed the children by classes so parents would know which class their child had moved up to for the new year (see Class lists doc or Class lists pdf).  We printed these back-to-back, two on a page.  We also had them available in early January in the Relief Society room and Priesthood room for moms and dads to know where to pick their children up.
  • We included scripture and song memorization charts, copies of sheet music for the new song, and a CD of all the songs for the year,
  • We included a letter to each Primary family (see Family Letter doc or Family Letter pdf).  The letter included details of where to find children, names of new teachers, the time schedule of our Primary meetings and additional information.  This seemed especially helpful for our new Sunbeam families.  These were copied two on a page and included in the front of our Parent Packet.
  • Finally, we included a Family Spotlight doc or Family Spotlight pdf sheet. As we focus on families this year, we thought it would be fun to learn more about the families in our Primary.  We gave the blank form to each family, including the teachers & music leaders who do not have children in Primary.  We do the Family Spotlight the 3rd & 4th Sundays of the month (the 1st is for birthdays and the 2nd is for our Bishopric message). Those weeks we pick one family to get to know (if they have children in both Senior & Junior Primary), or two families (one each for Senior and Junior Primary).

Helping parents feel connected to Primary is so important.  When these types of details are organized and decided on, it’s easier to focus on the children and their individual needs.

~Jen H.

Related post: Saying December Goodbyes


Filed under Parent Involvement, Transitions

Hands-on Singing: “Song Sticks”

Music.  I love it.  It’s our best teaching power tool!

I recently visited a Nursery class in my stake and learned a clever idea.  The Nursery leader, Sarah, had chosen a bunch of songs that she wanted to sing with the children on a regular basis.  She created a “stick” for each song.  The kids knew them as their “song sticks”.


Left to right: Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam; Book of Mormon Stories; Once There was a Snowman; I Am a Child of God; I am Like a Star Shining Brightly; Popcorn Popping.


How to Create Song Sticks:

  1. Draw or trace a simple picture on a sheet of Shrinky Dinks plastic. (Do you remember these from your childhood?  They are still available at craft stores).
  2. Follow the “shrinking” instructions on the packaging.
  3. With a hot glue gun, adhere the very sturdy picture onto the end of a large craft stick (tongue depressor). (These are also available widely at craft stores).
  4. Write the name of the song on the back of each stick if you’d like, but the kids will know the songs by the pictures in no time at all.
  5. Consider making 1 set for the whole class and handing each child a stick at circle time, or for smaller classes, you could create a set for each child so as you sing a particular song they can each hold the corresponding stick.  You could make a set and put in a jar, and have a child draw out one to see what song to sing next. Whatever works for you!  These sticks can double as a conducting baton, kids love to conduct and you can sneak in some rhythm training without them even knowing it.


Nursery is a foundation for Primary preparation.  By learning Primary songs in Nursery, children are getting themselves ready to transition smoothly into Primary when they become a Sunbeam.  Remember, children can learn a Primary song just as easy as they can learn a secular song like Wheels on the Bus, and invite the Spirit at the same time. A lot of these secular songs are fun because of their traditional actions.  Primary songs can easily have actions too; just learn a few basic, simple American Sign Language signs such as Jesus, Commandment, God, Praise and Love and you are off to a great start!

These “song sticks” could also be used as a helpful transition in January for the new Sunbeams.  Pass a set of “song sticks” on to the Primary Music Chorister so she knows which songs the Sunbeams are really familiar with and so she can hand them to the Sunbeams to help keep those fidgety hands occupied in the first few weeks of the new year.

~Michelle, with guest contributor Sarah


Filed under Music, Nursery, Transitions