How can we manage children successfully during the one hour and forty minutes of Primary?

“How can we manage children successfully during the one hour and forty minutes of Primary?” Ensign, Mar. 1984, 40

How can we manage children successfully during the one hour and forty minutes of Primary?

Michaelene P. Grassli, second counselor in the Primary General Presidency. The secret to successful management of children in Primary is to create an atmosphere in which the children want to learn. If you can do that, effectively guiding and instructing the children will follow as a natural result.

First, provide for the physical comfort of the children to reduce discipline problems and restlessness. Children who are able to see and hear, who are not crowded, and who are not too warm or too cold are attentive and responsive. Primary sharing time groups and classes need to be of manageable size. Extra classroom space can be created by using dividers (which the Church participates in purchasing). This allows more classes to be held in larger rooms and in the cultural hall. While this is not ideal, I have seen it work well. Sometimes classes have to be held in the kitchen or in the hallway. Since adults’ attention is not as easily diverted as children’s, one solution might be to give these unconventional classrooms to adults instead of children.

Second, children enjoy Primary when leaders are well prepared and use plenty of variety. Most of our discipline problems disappear when leaders and teachers are well prepared. A variety of learning experiences involving listening, singing, praying, speaking, reading, dramatizing, moving, and participating use all the children’s senses and learning processes and will appeal to almost all children. You can learn how to prepare and how to use variety as well as other teaching techniques by studying The How Book for Teaching Children (PBIC03223) and by participating in the in-service lesson at the monthly Primary preparation meeting.

A third factor with far-reaching effects is the need children have to feel they are valued by their Primary teachers and leaders. The Savior often demonstrated his high regard for children.

“And it came to pass that [Jesus] commanded that their little children should be brought. …

“And he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.

“And when he had done this he wept again;

“And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.

“And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.” (3 Ne. 17: 11, 21–24.)

As I study these passages, I am warmed by the Savior’s love for children and the value he places on them. Primary leaders must desire this love and develop it through prayer. You show how you feel about the children in the way you greet them, speak to them, touch them, in the tone of your voice and the look in your eyes. If children feel they are loved and valued, they will be happy in Primary and responsive to the lessons prepared for them.

I recently visited a Primary where two leaders, Heidi and Candy, had caught the vision of what Primary should be for children. They carried out the Primary program, bringing variety and enthusiasm into their presentations. But their greatest strength was that they genuinely liked the children and showed it by looking right at the children, not at the adults. They smiled a lot, knew the children’s names, had a sense of humor, and enjoyed the children’s responses. They totally immersed themselves in a joyous association with children. They apparently felt for the children the kind of love that the Savior showed. And best of all, the children listened, participated, and learned. Children feel a special warmth and self-worth when a member of the bishopric attends Primary regularly with a short message just for them. We’ve seen children become more attentive and leaders more motivated in Primaries where the bishopric demonstrates such interest.

We pray that all Primary leaders and teachers in the Church will indeed feel love for children and follow the Savior’s lead in teaching and ministering unto them. Thus you can help make Primary a warm, loving, happy place where children want to come and learn.