“Baby Home Evening,” Ensign, July 1990, 74–75
Give a home evening lesson to a baby? When our first child was still an infant, we realized that setting aside each Monday evening was an important routine to establish. But we had a tremendous challenge in trying to give the baby some meaningful involvement. An excerpt from my journal tells how we began to meet the challenge when our daughter was eight months old.
“Tonight we tried something new in home evening—a lesson just for Stephanie. It was very simple and short. We began by singing ‘Jesus Once Was a Little Child.’ After the song we showed Stephanie some pictures of Jesus and then told her a poem about Jesus being our friend. Finally, we drew her a little sign that said, ‘Jesus loves Stephanie,’ and put it up in her bedroom. The lesson lasted almost no time at all, but I felt the Spirit intensely. Even though Stephanie can’t understand our words, I know she understands our love.”
I had felt impressed that it was time to involve Stephanie in our home evening lessons. But suggestions in the Family Home Evening Resource Book obviously were too complicated for pre-talking babies, so we created our own lesson. For our first attempt, I gathered simple ideas from what I had on hand, and we had a beautiful home evening.
After discovering how simple a level and short a time span were required for our infant home evenings, I turned again to the resource book. This time I found some useful ideas in the section titled “Learning Fun for Infants and Toddlers” (p. 273). One evening we gave our daughter several objects from around the house and let her handle them to feel their contrasting textures. Another evening she got to stick her hands into different substances (sugar, flour, macaroni, etc.). Her favorite was a dish of water, and we let her splash and play in it as long as she wanted.
We had fun with these home evenings, but we also wanted to tie in some gospel concepts as Stephanie continued to mature. So a basket of fruit and vegetables from the refrigerator became a lesson that Heavenly Father gives us food. (For refreshments, we ate some of the visual aids.) Another home evening was a short walk around the yard collecting rocks, leaves, and pinecones. The experience became a lesson about the world Heavenly Father created for us.
In time, we found that brightly colored pictures from magazines held her attention as we talked about them. She was particularly interested in pictures of temples, the Savior, Joseph Smith, and living prophets, and would return to them again and again.
When Stephanie reached nursery age, we used the Primary nursery manual and cassette tape for some home evening lessons. Stephanie’s teacher told us our daughter participated enthusiastically in the nursery class because she was familiar with many of the songs and activities.
Stephanie has always liked activity songs and finger plays, even when she was too young to sing. Over time she has gradually become more and more involved, until now she not only sings, but stands with her pocket hymnbook and leads the singing as well.
We found our meetinghouse library to be a valuable source of home evening materials. Large color pictures and flannel-board figures have helped us portray stories from Church history and the scriptures. On one occasion I checked out several pictures of pioneers crossing the plains. Stephanie enjoyed seeing the pictures and talking about them. At the end of the lesson we made a paper and cardboard covered wagon, and she gave her toy people a ride around the kitchen table in it.
We have found that with the abundant resources the Church offers and a little imagination, it has been delightful to spend quality time together each Monday evening. Our daughter is now six years old, and her understanding of gospel subjects is a joy to us. Family home evening has become a weekly event we all look forward to. And now that we have another child, we are drawing on our file of special “infant home evenings” again.—Shannon P. Openshaw, Bemidji, Minnesota