“Keep Things Moving,” Ensign, Apr. 1982, 64–65
“Julie, don’t kick the table.”
“Sit still, Aaron, or you’re not going to get any refreshments.”
Sound familiar?—the lesson in family home evening is on “Love at Home,” but you spend so much time trying to control the children that your real message becomes “Enjoyment of Family Home Evening—And How to Enforce it!”
The problem, of course, is the short attention span children have and their natural tendency to wiggle, fidget, kick, tap, poke, and otherwise release their abundant stores of energy. Even adults have this problem sometimes.
We could fight the problem and make our children pay attention; but if learning comes to mean nothing more than sitting still, they will soon learn to dislike learning—or at best, to merely endure it.
So instead of fighting it, why not turn the “problem” around and take advantage of it? If we and our children like to move around, let’s make moving part of the learning!
Run to the Answer.
When you have a true-false question period to check on how well a concept has been understood, put a “True” sign in one corner of the room and a “False” sign in the opposite corner. As soon as a question is asked, everyone can run to the answer they think is correct. Using “A,” “B,” and “C” signs in different corners, you can also ask multiple-choice questions.
Run and Touch.
New words (such as repent, mediator, or parable) need to be used over and over in various contexts before they are finally fixed clearly in a child’s vocabulary. When introducing a new word, repeatedly holding up a card with the word printed on it will work. But more fun—and more effective—is an activity that lets everyone get involved with letters of the word.
First, give each person a slip of paper with the word written on it. Then each one chooses or is assigned a room or section of the house as the “working area.” The idea is to go through the letters of the word in consecutive order, finding and touching an object beginning with each letter in the word. All objects must be found within the working area.
Little children who don’t quite understand words and alphabets can team up with someone older. For instance, dad and two-year-old Ann are a team. At the given signal, off they go to the kitchen to work on the word
“Okay, Annie, first in ‘Abinadi’ is ‘A.’ Let’s see, maybe there’s an apple for ‘A’ in the refrigerator. Hurry, hurry! Let’s touch the apple. Good! Now ‘B.’ What starts with ‘B.’ How about ’banana’?”
“Banana all gone. Ate it all for lunch.”
“Well, okay, let’s see … book! Annie, run and touch mommy’s cookbook!”
After running and touching their way through the word, each team returns to the starting point to report.
This activity works best and is more fun if you have a rule stating that actual objects and not just pictures of them must be touched. Also, no fair going to the encyclopedia and touching volume I for the “A” in “Assyria,” and so on.
Run and Grab.
When family home evening includes a narration of a personal experience or a story from the scriptures, little ones might listen more attentively if they’re anticipating an after-story race. Start with these instructions:
“Be thinking of something that is mentioned in the story. When I finish telling the story, I’ll say ‘Go!’ and everyone will run and find the thing in the story he thought of.”
After the story of the First Vision, for example, little Charlotte might run out to the yard and come back with a leaf. “He was out there by a lot of trees.” Ten-year-old Jim might smilingly bring forth a pair of his grass-stained pants from the hamper. “Well, he started by kneeling on the ground. …”
Taking inventory of the items everyone brings back is an excellent way to review the story.
This activity can really become fast-paced and frenzied when family members are asked to find as many things relating to the story as they can within a time limit. Again, teams might work better when there are younger children in the family.
Run and Find.
In this fast-paced variation of hide-and-seek, one person is chosen to run and hide following the narration of the story:
“Judd, you’re going to be Ammon. He was one of the people we heard about in the story. While we all close our eyes and count to twenty, you go hide in a place that reminds you of some place where Ammon was in the story. After we finish counting, we’ll try to find you. As soon as somebody finds you, he has to try to figure out why you chose the place where you are hiding.”
Even small children will catch on to Run-and-Find if older family members demonstrate.
Those most adroit movers in your family—the little ones—might soon start making up their own running and learning games. But if you’re already worn out from just reading about all this running, take heart. We’ve found that, yes, children do eventually tire of running play. In the meantime, though, more laughs get mixed in with the learning, senses are sharpened, and learning is remembered more fondly. Dianne Dibb Forbis, Rexburg, Idaho