“Family Home Evenings for Tots,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 67
I have fond memories of the family home evenings my parents held when I was a child. We had lessons from the family home evening manual, played memorable games, and enjoyed treats. I always felt having family home evening would be the same for my own family someday. But when I became a mother I realized family home evenings would have to be adjusted to hold my young children’s interests. In teaching my little ones, I have learned the following:
Simplify the lessons, treats, and activities. Preparation can be fast and easy. For a quick lesson, I often use a picture from the Gospel Art Picture Kit (item no. 34730; U.S. $25.00) and tell the story on the back of the picture. For small children, summarize the story in a few short sentences. Keep in mind that a few minutes of sitting still are long enough for most young children. After our lesson, we serve treats that we reserve for family night. For simple activities we do things such as finger plays and action songs. The Children’s Songbook (35395; $10.00) is a useful resource, and many books in public libraries offer good activity ideas.
Use Church curriculum materials. The Family Home Evening Resource Book (31106; $5.00) includes tips for adapting the lessons for younger children. Church magazines offer articles and activities that would make good lessons. Some carry a family home evening logo (see above left) to indicate that they are especially useful for family home evening. The “Friend to Friend” section in the Friend magazine features a Church leader each month. These articles often relate personable stories that children can relate to. Church audiovisual materials are also available through distribution centers or your meetinghouse library.
Invite the Spirit of the Lord. During the opening prayer, we invite the Spirit. At the conclusion of our lesson, we bear testimony of the truthfulness of what we have taught. Then, as we feel the Spirit, we ask the children what they are feeling and help them identify those feelings.
Make family home evening a habit. It can be tempting to postpone family night when your family’s schedule is busy and it’s difficult to gather everyone together. Occasionally my husband is out of town on Monday night for business, and we forget to hold family home evening on Sunday before he leaves. When this happens, I have found it is better to go ahead with family night on Monday than not have it at all. But whenever possible, we include the whole family in an activity once a week, even if it is not Monday night.
The First Presidency has said: “We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles. … We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to … family home evening” (“Letter from the First Presidency,” Liahona, Dec. 1999, 1; emphasis in original). Though it can be a challenge to hold regular family home evenings with young children, our family has been blessed for heeding the First Presidency’s counsel to spend time together studying the gospel and having fun.—Celestia Shumway, Edgemont Sixth Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont Stake