With the combination of the introduction of Come, Follow Me and the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us had plenty of time to practice teaching the gospel at home. But even with a return to regular church meetings, it’s important to keep up those home gospel habits so that your children can get the most from their Primary classes!
As a former Primary teacher and a current Primary chorister, here are a few simple but powerful things I believe can be incorporated at home to improve both your own home-centered gospel teaching and your child’s Primary experience on Sundays.
1. Introduce Come, Follow Me stories and ideas at home
As a family with two young children, reading the assigned chapters for Come, Follow Me during our family scripture study each week just doesn’t make sense as attention span and time are often short. But I have seen my own children and others in Primary get so excited when they recognize a phrase, word, or scriptural name we are learning about.
There is only so much time at church to explain all the stories and principles we talk about in class and singing time, so it really helps them and us if they are already familiar with any part of them. In addition to keeping children’s attention with something familiar, knowing something about these topics and stories allows them to explain to other children as well, and often in ways that make more sense than my own attempts to simplify the story!
Let me emphasize, however, that I’m not suggesting spending hours poring over Come, Follow Me until your child knows the scripture stories by heart. Simply bringing up names of scriptural figures or mentioning a scripture story briefly even once or twice a week can make a big difference.
There are also lots of kid-friendly gospel resources that can be incorporated into your family’s current routine. For example, skimming or listening to the headlines of the Come, Follow Me Primary manual during your own gospel study can give you an idea of what topics might be focused on in Primary and allow you to introduce them out throughout the week. The Friend magazine, which is also available online, has some great ideas for helping both older and younger children learn from the week’s scriptures that usually don’t require much preparation. Our family also loves to engage with the activity videos on Gospel for Kids YouTube channel that accompany the Come, Follow Me lessons each week while we cook Sunday dinner.
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2. Sing, sing, sing
One of the biggest ways I believe children learn at church is through music. As both a chorister and mother, I have seen the benefit of singing Primary songs at home that we are also learning in singing time. I am constantly amazed at the connections those little minds pick up on and the questions they come up with, often when we are singing.
Singing Primary songs at home can also provide opportunities for discussions about various gospel topics, reinforce principles learned during family scripture study, or just let your child know that you’re interested in the things they are learning in Primary. It’s a great way to catch misunderstood lyrics as well! If your child doesn’t know or can’t remember what songs they are learning, ask your ward Primary chorister what songs are being emphasized and where to find them. Singing Primary songs at home doesn’t have to mean sitting down for a designated “singing practice” time either. In our home, my husband and I often like to end our family scripture time by trying to pick one Primary song or hymn that reflects a principle we focused on while reading. Another informal way I like to incorporate Primary music into our home is by turning on Primary music on Sunday mornings while we are getting ready for church.
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3. Encourage Involvement
From my observations in Primary, I think most kids want to participate in Primary, they just need the right opportunities. Children who feel un-challenged, un-seen, or unprepared are often the ones who seem not to enjoy Primary.
If your child doesn’t seem to be enjoying Primary, consider what might be missing and talk to the Primary Presidency if needed. Does their teacher use a lot of scripture references? Help them find ways to remember their scriptures each week or teach them how to borrow a pair from the church library. Do they often forget when they have been asked to pray or give a talk during Primary? Help remind them or give them a way to remind themselves and then help them prepare in advance. Do they seem bored or like they are not learning anything? Encourage them to teach those around them or even alert Primary leaders. It can be challenging to bridge a large developmental age range—especially in singing time—so as a Primary chorister I appreciate knowing that your child needs some different opportunities to learn and be involved in that part of Sunday Primary classes.
If you’ve already tried all these things and your child still doesn’t enjoy Primary, don’t be afraid to talk and brainstorm with Primary leaders! You know your child best, and we are happy to be another source of encouragement and support to help make Primary is a good experience for everyone.
I was recently at a stake Primary training where we talked about the principle of ministering in Primary. We talk often of ministering in our priesthood quorums and Relief Society classes, but I hadn’t really considered it in a Primary setting before. Primary is the perfect place to start helping your child learn about and practice ministering.
As you encourage your children to go to weekday Primary activities (when applicable), ask them about their Primary classmates or involve them in ministering to their teachers, it can help you both feel more excited Primary. Again, ministering does not have to be time intensive. It can be as simple as pointing out someone they could befriend on Sundays or helping them deliver a thank you card to their teacher during the week.
I love Primary and the simple lessons it teaches, and no matter how you do it, I encourage you to let a little bit of the Primary spirit into your home each week as you help you little ones love Primary, too.
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