How to get kids involved in General Conference and help them get something out of it, is an incredibly important task for most church members. We want our kids to gain something from the wonderful experience but sometimes we struggle to know how. Hopefully our trial and errors over the past decade can help you and your family gain something more from conference weekend.
For those of you who are not LDS, our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints) holds a church wide General conference twice a year, in April and October. It’s a time where people from all over the world can come and listen to a Prophet’s voice as well as his Apostles and other church leaders. This is something I look forward to every single year. The strength I receive from the messages I hear over the course of 4 sessions (held over 2 days) helps to carry me through the day to day, bit by bit, moments of life.
One of the most essential things for us in our home is to make sure we get kids involved in General Conference and listen to the messages they hear. We want them to be reverent and respectful of others who are listening as well as be able to find their own strength and Faith in the messages they here. I think that listening to General Conference as a family, talking about what we learned and listening to each others thoughts, can be something that strengthens our family and bonds us together.
We have tried many, many different “activities” over the course of the last 11 years we have been parents and this way I am going to share has been the most beneficial for us. Obviously every family is different, and our house full of often crazy boys tends to make some of the other activities we have found actually more difficult for us instead of being helpful. I want my kids to not only be present and quiet during the talks but I want them to be able to hear things that can help them on their own journey through life. We needed something that all of our kids could do (once they were old enough to communicate and listen) and that didn’t lead to crazy, chaotic moments. This is what we found worked for us to get kids involved in General Conference, and hopefully it will work for you too, obviously tweak it as you see fit for your own families needs.
HOW TO GET KIDS INVOLVED IN GENERAL CONFERENCE
Each conference I begin the week before picking up different bags of candy from the store. I make sure I get enough to last 4 sessions, and be enough to last 5 kids as well. We limit the amount of candy they can receive for each word, per speaker. Some years its 5, some its 3, it really just depends on the words we pick and how often they will be said. Sometimes it even varies per word. I usually pick 6 different kinds of candy and then some “bonus” candy for those who are caught being extra good.
I used to type up the words on sheets for them where they could keep track of the words, but now that they are getting old enough to write for themselves (and some are learning how to write) I have them write them down themselves. 1) so they get more practice and 2) so that they know the words better and then they have a better chance of hearing them. I also have them mark down the word as many times as they hear it (they usually just make a tally mark next to the word), whether or not they have reached the “limit” so we can talk about later how many times certain words were said. And if they keep marking it down they have a pretty good chance at getting the “caught being good” candy. Each speaker starts the counting over, each of my kids likes to split a speaker up differently, but mostly they just draw a big line down their paper to indicate the end of one speaker and the start of a new one. Th talks are roughly 15-20 minutes each, so however many times my children hear a word during that time they mark it down on their paper (again there is a limit to how many of each candy they can get per word, per speaker).
I decide on the words I want my kids to listen for usually the night before and just write them on some paper and tape them on the bowls. I used to get fancy and type them up, but let’s be real here, sometimes I don’t have time for that. I try to pick some words that I know they will hear often, and words that they will really have to be listening for to hear. I try to let the spirit guide me and I try to go off of what I think our family needs to hear the most. This year with it being so close to the Holidays I wanted my kids to try to focus on gratitude and service so I used those as some of the candy words. I used words like Family and Testimony because I knew they would be said often and would easy for the younger ones to hear.
I try to put the words like family and prayer with candies that are smaller and we have more of, like gummy bears and M&Ms. I likewise put words we may not hear a ton of every talk with bigger candies like Swedish Fish and Sour Patch kids…. I mean if I’m going to hop my kids full of candy I might as well have a little bit of balance right? Is that a thing when you are pumping your kids full of sugar?
They each start out with a small ziplock bag and CAN NOT collect their candy until after all the speakers are done and there is a break for a song. That way they aren’t jumping up and trying to collect candy every time the word is heard, or when a new speaker is about to speak. We tried doing it where they got a candy every time a word was heard, and after every speaker but we felt like it was more chaotic for us and that it wasn’t helping keep the reverence or spirit so we decided to wait and not interrupt speakers. I mean 4+ kids up there in front of the tv trying to count their candy and fighting over who was next wasn’t exactly the greatest thing.
When the speaker are done and a song is starting they take turns going up and counting out their candy and putting it in their bags (obviously we help the younger ones who can’t read well yet) and it works really well for us. I also went back and forth about keeping them on the table and putting them in front of the TV, and since we have had baby or toddler hands trying to snatch candy for over a decade, putting it up by the TV was the safest choice, but I also like it because the kids can see the words while focusing on the speaker. We have also go back and worth between having subtitles on for the kids to read and turning them off. That is usually something we decide on as session by session thing depending on how reverent they are being while listening.
This by far has been what’s worked best for our family. We tried having fun things picked out with each Apostles picture on it and when that person spoke the kids could get the candy if they were reverent and could tell us what the speaker was talking about. This however usually ending up with my oldest being the only one who listened well and everyone else riding his good listener wave and getting the treat. Also there are more speaker then just the Apostles so there were talks they weren’t nearly as reverent for. I feel like having them listen for words, with every single speaker, really helps them to not only learn reverence but also learn how to listen and really HEAR what the speakers are saying. My oldest (11 years old) has his favorite speakers now, he asks his siblings to quiet down so he can hear whats being said and on more than one occasion I’ve seen tears streaming down his face, this last conference he even missed marking down words because he was so absorbed in the talk and the message that he stopped just listening for words and really listened to what the speaker was saying. That is really what our goal is for our kids. We want them to love conference and look forward to it the way we do. We want them to hear the messages and take them to heart. Our goal isn’t just for them to sit quietly (I mean of course I NEED them too so I can hear) but I want them to truly experience the blessings that come from listening to a Prophets voice.
Hopefully you found this helpful to get kids involved in General Conference.
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