Children of widely different ages often come together to learn the gospel in the home and at church. Such group settings include family home evening and other family gatherings, Primary sharing time, achievement days, activity days, and Relief Society children’s classes. These activities should be enjoyable and at the same time teach gospel principles. Elder M. Russell Ballard said: “Creative, innovative sharing times and [other] activities can be stimulating and fun, but they don’t mean much if the children … come away having been entertained but not really enlightened, taught the gospel, or lifted spiritually. … Every lesson, every meeting, and every activity should be focused on bringing these little ones to Christ” (“Great Shall Be the Peace of Thy Children,” Ensign, Apr. 1994, 61).
As you teach children in combined age-groups, you may sometimes find it challenging to make a concept simple enough for the youngest children to understand but interesting and challenging enough for the older ones. The following suggestions can help you involve all the children as they learn the gospel together.
Have Older Children Assist Younger Children
Have children work together in pairs, or have one older child assist several younger children. For example:
An older child can sit beside a younger child and read a scripture, pointing to the words as they are read.
An older child can help a younger child read a story, play a game, memorize a scripture, work on a project, or complete a work sheet.
Older children can help you teach a principle or an activity. You may ask them to teach one child or several younger children. This is a good way for older children to learn gospel principles. It also helps them gain experience and confidence.
Simplify Parts of Activities for the Younger Children
If younger and older children are participating in the same activity, you may want to simplify the activity for the younger ones. For example:
Make two sets of questions: simple questions for younger children and more difficult questions for older children. Write the questions on strips of paper. In a game or review activity, put each set of questions in a separate container. Have each child choose and answer a question from the appropriate container.
In a dramatization, allow young children to play simple roles or be animals or part of the scenery. Older children can play more difficult roles, be narrators, and read from the scriptures. If younger children have speaking parts, older children can prompt them on what to say.
If you are telling a story, ask younger children to hold pictures or put up flannel-board figures.
Use Stations, Dividing the Children According to Age-Groups
When younger children come to a station, the adult at the station can adapt the presentation to them. For example, if there is an activity at a station, the adult can conduct a simplified version of the activity for younger children. (See “Stations,” page 179.)