Have a Merry Kondo Christmas: A guide to a clutter-free Christmas

Not gonna lie sometimes Christmas presents stress me out.  I’ve realized more and more that clutter drives me crazy.  I HATE cleaning.  So while of course I’m grateful for gifts for myself and the kids, there have been points where I have looked at the pile after the fact and thought, “Oh my gosh where am I going to put all of this???  How am I going to maintain this???”  And then unfortunately the kids tend to play with some toys for like a day or two and then never touch them again.

I know I’m not the only person that feels this way because I keep seeing post after post in various mom groups on Facebook with other women asking how to tell their relatives to back off on buying so much stuff.

Grandparents tend to be the biggest offenders in this regard.  Again, we LOVE you, and we love that you love our kids, and it’s beautiful that you want to be so generous.  It’s just that sometimes that generosity can inadvertently turn into a burden.

I spent some time thinking about WHY this is happening and WHY so many of us in the current parenting generation are feeling this way.  Here’s what I figured:

Our parents are Baby Boomers, raised by those who were impacted by the great depression.  Money was tighter, family sizes were larger, toys cost more relative to available dispensable income, and in general values were a bit different.

I feel like there’s this collective memory of when times were hard.  Of scrimping and saving to be able to afford a couple of presents for the kids.  For me growing up, there were nearly 20 grandchildren on one side of the family, my grandparents couldn’t very well spoil each of us.  We all got one small thing or a little bit of cash.  But flash forward to now, in general our parents are in a better situation than our grandparents were in, the cost of toys has reduced relative to the level of dispensable income, and family size has reduced.  My kids have one cousin on my side of the family, three on the other.  So there’s more available money divided by fewer people.

Admittedly, 3 years ago Christmas pushed me into some major anxiety attacks.  To be fair, I was only a few months post partum so that was certainly a factor in my heightened anxiety level.  We live close to both of our parents which is AWESOME but also means that we do Christmas on our own, with my parents, and with my in-laws.  So my kids open presents at least 3 different times.  My son was 2 at the time and on our second round of present opening he got through a couple presents and then it was taking forever, he quit caring, he just wanted to play outside, the baby needed to nap, and I just got incredibly overwhelmed.  My little brother took my son outside to play, and I disappeared to put the baby down and just thought, “This isn’t about Jesus, and it isn’t even fun anymore.”  And then we still had more presents to open that day AND the next day.

By the end of it we had this huge pile of stuff, that I was of course so grateful for, but also was looking at and dreading figuring out where on earth to put it in my cluttered house that I was already struggling to maintain.

So after that I started trying to figure out how we could make some changes to refocus Christmas.  It boiled down to spending the month of December focusing on Jesus and then significantly simplifying gifts.

While I try to find a Christ-centered tie in for everything we do around Christmas time, I’m certainly not opposed to doing things just for fun.  Family traditions are good and important.  One of the principles for a successful family outlined in the Family Proclamation is wholesome recreational activities.  But, when it gets to the point where it’s not about Jesus and it’s more stressful than fun, it has turned into commercialism at it’s worst.

Watch for my post upcoming post on kid friendly ways to focus on Jesus throughout the month.  But here’s some gift giving ideas to keep down the clutter!

If it has more than 5 pieces walk away!

That same anxiety ridden Christmas I mentioned earlier, a dear relative (may she now rest in peace) got us one of those magic trax cars.  The track is made of over 100 INDIVIDUAL pieces.  So if I turn my back for say 30 seconds, I now have over 100 little itty bitty pieces of track to clean up.  It looked really cool, and yes my kid loved it, but it is the bane of my existence.  The kids can’t put it together by themselves, put it away by themselves, or be trusted to play with it by themselves.

Consider how much time it would take to clean up if it got dumped, and if it will still work if pieces go missing.

If you’re not going to just walk away from it, at least ASK!  Are you up for more legos in your house?  Are you ok with this make up kit with over 30 pieces?  Does Barbie need a completely new wardrobe?

 

Pay attention to suggested ages

Here’s the thing- if you buy my kids a toy that is above their developmental level, then you have actually purchased ME a toy.  I’m gonna guarantee you that it wasn’t on my Christmas list.

 

Think fewer larger

Focus on fewer larger items.  Disclaimer- always ask first to make sure there is space!  Kids don’t need a million dolls, but a few dolls play well together in a doll house.  We don’t need any more legos, but a lego table would be awesome for storage and creating.  You can only play with a couple of hot wheels at a time, but having a cool track for them (that doesn’t rip apart into a million pieces) is awesome.

But larger doesn’t have to just be size or toys- which leads me to my next point

 

Focus on Experiences!!!

Memberships are amazing!  We get free entertainment, out of the house, and no TV.  Seriously the best.  And the thing is that so many places are a bit too expensive to justify paying the one time entry fee, especially if we can’t spend a ton of time.  But, most memberships pay for themselves in about 3 visits and then you can also just come and go without feeling like it has to be an all day excursion to get your money’s worth.  So while a one time visit is a bit much to budget in for the monthly entertainment budget, a membership is typically within a gift budget especially if you combine kid budgets.  Or even if the membership is still out of budget, one time visits as gifts are still awesome and create no clutter!

Here’s some memberships/experiences to research in your area:

  • zoos
  • museums
  • aquariums
  • indoor play places
  • amusement parks
  • State Parks Pass
  • National Parks Pass
  • Concerts, plays, and other performances
  • Pogo passes

 

The other thing I am seeing a lot of people do is use their Christmas budget to plan a family vacation.  Most don’t necessarily go at Christmas time, but make the announcement the present.  If you’re the grandparent you could definitely contribute towards the trip.  Most amusement parks sell gift cards, so you could just buy a gift card for the amount you would have spent.  Even if it’s not enough to cover a significant portion of the trip, every little bit helps, or it could be used for food/souvenirs.

Now experiences are all good and fine, but let’s be honest, membership cards and gift cards aren’t super exciting to open.  And a trip is not something physical that can be wrapped.

For starters, my kids have still been super excited when they open up a print out with fun animals announcing that they get to go to the zoo.  But, you can also find simple related items for unwrapping:

  • A little animal toy for a zoo or aquarium pass
  • I found fun color changing cups from the children’s museum to put the membership card in and wrapped those
  • For a trip give them something they will need for the trip:
    • a snorkel/ swimsuit/ towel
    • matching Disney shirts
    • something to do in the car for a road trip
    • a book about the place you will be visiting

Subscriptions- the gift that keeps on giving

This is a similar idea as experiences and another things that creates limited to no clutter.  Here’s some ideas:

  • Disney +- wrap up some dress up clothes for their favorite characters
  • Living Scriptures streaming, or another of the various Religious/ family friendly streaming services with VeggieTales, Owlegories, etc.- wrap a children’s scripture picture book
  • KiwiCo, Little Passports, or BookRoo subscription box- if you order in time you might be able to wrap up their first box!

For adults consider:

  • a streaming service
  • Audible*
  • Deseret Book plus
  • there’s seriously a subscription box for any and every interest from hot sauce to fashion and cheese to camping

*When I got my husband an Audible subscription I bought him a super random book from a thrift store for $1 and put the confirmation email about the subscription inside the book.  Then we re-donated the book, so it was fun to open but didn’t clutter the house!

Lessons and Clubs

Help pay for a few months of dues for sports, music lessons, or various clubs.  Or buy them equipment for their interest:

  • sports dues or equipment
  • music lessons or the next level of books/music for the lessons
  • accessories for their instrument (reeds, valve oil, etc.)
  • cub scouts/girl scouts dues, uniforms, etc.
  • Camps and other activities

 

Make Needs Fun

A month or so ago I saw a post in a mom group asking about Christmas presents for her toddler.  Here were her stipulations.  They already have too many books and toys to handle (I feel ya), she’s anti-screen time (good for you!), and they don’t live near any zoos or museums, etc.  I was like wait, no TV AND no zoo- WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY????  And you just destroyed my whole gift giving suggestion list!

So I thought about it and then came up with this suggestion- get them things they need, but make them more fun:

  • electric toothbrush with fun characters
  • a fun hair brush
  • Fun soap/ bubble bath bottles- you know that one with a character head on top that’s way overpriced.  Hint- you can refill it with cheap soap after it’s empty!
  • Fun socks/ underwear

 

Edibles

No- not that kind!  This is along the same lines as making needs fun.  If you want to fill out and have a few more fun things to open look into food items that you wouldn’t typically buy.  Stuff that is less cost effective, but more fun!

  • Target has Unicorn, Paw Patrol, and maybe one other specialty Mac and Cheese from Kraft
  • At another grocery store this week I spotted some Unicorn and Dragon pudding cups
  • Fruit snacks come in almost every shape and character imaginable
  • Popcornopolis has tons have specialty popcorn flavors
  • Then there’s also just normal but favorite treats and snacks

 

Less is More

Those last two categories can be nice to fill out a few more things to open, especially if you did put most of the budget towards a larger item.  But- don’t go crazy with filler things just for the sake of having lots of things to open.  There’s definitely a balance to find, but I think better to steer on the less side than on the too much side.  Leave them wanting more, rather than creating present opening burn out.

 

I’m sure there are some people out there, especially those that have gift giving/ receiving as one of their main love languages who do appreciate having lots of things to open, but for those of us that do not have gifts as a top love language, it can actually begin to cause stress and I know that no gift giver wants to do that.

 

Again, I hope I don’t come off as ungrateful.  Of course those of us that feel this way are very grateful, but we’re also practical and recognize our and our family’s needs and boundaries.  Best rule of thumb is to stick to a list and ask.

 

And finally, if you’re in a position to be very generous with your family, make sure you are also being generous with your time and resources to bless others who are not as fortunate.  Stay tuned for a post on keeping December a Christ centered month, and how to incorporate Light the World for young kids.

 

Image by Melissa Etheridge from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- November 2019

How is it already November???  I’m excited for the Holiday season approaching and for keeping FHE an integral part of our Holiday prep.  Be on the lookout for my Thanksgiving countdown for this month as well!

 

Nov 4-10 Jesus Christ, “the Author of Eternal Salvation”

Song: If I Listen With My Heart

Materials: sponge, rock, water

Cut out a heart from a sponge.  Try to find a rock or something else hard (and water proof) that is heart shaped.  Explain that Heavenly Father has asked us to have soft hearts.  That means that we are willing to listen to Him, do what he asks, and change things from how we want to do them.  Having a hard heart means you just want to do things your way, and you don’t want to let in what Heavenly Father has to say.  Pour water on the hearts to see which one soaks in and gets softer.  Talk about important ways you can have a soft heart (listening to parents, being kind and patient with siblings, listening to teachers at school and at church, reading the scriptures, etc.)

 

Nov 11-17 An High Priest of Good Things to Come

Song: Faith pg. 96

Materials: pictures from Gospel Art kit or online, props for Noah, Moses, and Jericho

Using pictures and/or props tell or act out some of the stories from Hebrews 11 about faith.

By faith we believe in the creation

Noah– this could be fun to act out with toys

Moses parting the Red Sea- this could also be acted out using sheets or towels to represent the water

Walls of Jericho- build a wall with legos or blocks, walk around it 7 times then shout at it while you knock it down

It could be fun to follow up with some scripture videos on these stories.  I like the VeggieTales for Noah and Jericho.

 

Nov 18-24 Be Ye Doers of the Word, and Not Hearers Only

Song: The Sacred Grove pg. 87

Materials: First Vision video

Ask your kids if they have ever been confused or had a question they couldn’t answer.  Talk about what they do when they have a question.  Talk about Joseph Smith’s question.  Think about ways he could find an answer to his question.  Read James 1:5 together.  Help break it down- if you lack wisdom that means you don’t know something.  Ask God- how do we ask God questions?  He gives to all men liberally and ubraideth not- that means he’ll give you an answer and he won’t be upset with you for asking.

Watch a video depicting the First Vision.  Depending on attention span there are a lot of options:

Ask of God: Joseph Smith’s First Vision– this one is a little over 6 minutes, live action, and very thorough.  The depiction of being overcome by Satan might be disturbing for little ones

Joseph Smith– 2 minutes, live action, video taken from the longer Restoration movie.

Joseph Smith’s First Vision– 2 minutes, taken from Doctrine and Covenants Scripture Stories book for kids, still illustrations turned into a video

Jesus Visited Joseph Smith– 1 minute, this is from the Young Readers collection, definitely the simplest one, still illustrations turned into a video

Living Scriptures The Joseph Smith Story Chapters 12 and 13– these clips are on YouTube, but if you happen to subscribe to the Living Scriptures you would have access to the whole video.  The two clips together come out to 3-4 minutes.  This is fully animated so probably the most entertaining, but the wording is not directly from the scriptural account.

 

Nov 25- Dec 1 Rejoice with Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory

Song: For Health and Strength pg. 21

Materials: Thankful leaves, Thankful Tree, pictures of Ancestors

With Thanksgiving this week talk about how being thankful can help us feel joy even when we are going through hard things.  Write down or color pictures of things you are thankful for on leaves, then cut them out and put them on a tree to make a Thankful tree.  I created a Thankful leaves printable with a few common “thankful for” items ready to color and some blank leaves so you can fill in your own.

I found a nice free-standing Thankful tree at Target a couple years ago.  If you’re one of “those” people who likes to pull out Christmas before Thanksgiving, then you could use your Christmas tree.  Or you could use butcher/construction paper to make one to put on your wall.  You might want to start this earlier in the month and add to it throughout the month and then look over everything you wrote down for this activity.

Then if you want to be a super-duper over-achiever, you could also add in some pictures of ancestors and make it a Thankful AND Family tree to discuss Peter teaching about Christ visiting the spirits in the Spirit World.

 

 

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

For The Beauty of the Earth- Thanksgiving Countdown 2019

Here we go for another round of Thanksgiving prep!  Confession time- I’m not like a real adult, I have never made the Thanksgiving feast.  I take charge of one dish and one dish only.  Candied yams.  No one else really likes them, but they are my FAVORITE!  It was my Grandma’s thing and this year that’s extra special because this will be our first Thanksgiving without her.  Looking back, I think I’ve spent far more Thanksgivings in my life WITH her than without.  Between losing my Grandma earlier this year and some other trials we’ve faced this year I’m holding on to Thanksgiving and focusing on blessings to help give me a pick me up to get me through.

  1. Day of the Dead- I love learning about different cultures and teaching my kids about how other people celebrate.  I think it’s really important to help them understand and respect diversity.  Watch Coco!  Here’s some free and simple masks to color and cut out!  Then take some time to talk about your ancestors and why we are grateful for them.  Tell stories, maybe make some foods that they liked (I’ll hold off on the candied yams until it’s actually Thanksgiving, but might have to make some Root Beer floats in honor of my other Grandma- and yes I did say with her Southern Utah accent!)
  2. Find a pumpkin patch/ corn maze or farmer’s market.  In Arizona I really like Tolmachoff Farms for the North Phoenix area, and Schnepf Farms for the opposite side of the Valley.  Talk about where our food comes from and how grateful we are to farmers who grow food for us.  Have fun and buy some farm fresh items!
  3. We are grateful for the Pilgrims who came to America for Religious Freedom.  Attend church.
  4. Teach more about the pilgrims.  Make some pilgrim hats and either make a Mayflower boat or just sail a toy boat around in the bath tub, sink, or water table.  Perk for living in AZ- it’s still warm enough to use an outdoor water table in November (downside- we had to get through summer to get to this point!)
  5. We are thankful for the sunshine!  Get outside and get some sun.  We’ll be going to play at the park!
  6. We are thankful for animals- zoo trip
  7. We are thankful for our home- do some extra chores to show respect to your home
  8.  Hand Turkeys
  9.  We are thankful for our potential to change and grow- We’ve got tickets to Butterfly Wonderland, so we’ll be heading there, but you could also just talk about and read books about butterflies and talk about how we can make changes and grow into spectacular things
  10.  We are thankful for Jesus Christ- discuss the Sacrament or Communion before, during, and after church
  11.  We are thankful for veterans- Color pictures/ write notes for Operation Gratitude
  12.  Beautiful World action poem
  13.  We are grateful for Daddy’s job- visit daddy at work for lunch
  14.  We are thankful for our food- share with others by donating to a food drive or provide a meal through Gathering Humanity
  15.  We are thankful for the temple- walk around the temple
  16.  We are thankful for cousins- color pictures to mail
  17.  We are thankful for friends- make a treat to take to a friend
  18.  We are thankful for our access to food- color pictures for the cashier
  19.  We are thankful for school- color pictures for teachers
  20.  We are thankful for our minds and our imagination- Children’s museum
  21. We can show our gratitude for the earth by picking up trash- go for a walk and find some trash to pick up
  22.  We are thankful for those who keep us safe- drop off treats to the police or firefighters (or both!)
  23.  We are thankful for Primary/Nursery- color pictures for teachers
  24.  Thankful tree
  25.  We are thankful for our bodies- go for a walk
  26.  We are thankful for Grandparents- color pictures for them
  27.  We are grateful for our toys- clean them up and choose a few to donate to a charity (get things cleared out and ready for Christmas!)
  28.  Thanksgiving feast!  Try to let the kids help make something
  29.  Visit Native American ruins- explain how the Native Americans assisted the Pilgrims

 

 

Image by Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- October 2019

Happy General Conference month!!!  I wonder what great and wonderful things are in store for us this round!

Because of General Conference, two weeks worth of Come Follow Me material is arranged in one lesson, but because we do FHE every week I’m giving two lessons for that block.

Sept. 30- Oct 13 For the Perfecting of the Saints

Song: The Priesthood is Restored pg 89

Materials: Jenga tower

Part 1:

Use a Jenga tower to teach about Christ’s church, the Apostasy, and the Restoration.

I used a different color marker for each set, mine has 48 pieces which I think is standard.

Label 12 pieces as Apostles- if you want to be an overachiever, cut out little pictures of the original Apostles and the current Apostles to glue on.

Label the next 9- Priesthood Authority/Offices, Deacons, Teachers, Priests, Elders, High Priests, Seventies, Pastors/ Bishops, Evangelists/ Patriarchs

Label the next 3- Perfect the saints, work of ministry, and edify

Next 6- Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Holy Ghost, Keep Covenants, Endure to the End

Next 3- Grace, Works, Faith

Last set (if yours has less than 48 this would be the best place to cut from)-

Doctrines, Atonement, Fall, Nature of God, Purpose of Life, 3 Kingdoms, Revelation, Sacrament, Commandments, Body is a Temple, Baptism by Immersion, Service, Scriptures, Miracles, Answers to Prayers.

Start building the tower with the Apostles on the bottom, talk about how Jesus built his church and called 12 Apostles.

He gave them Priesthood Authority and others helped in different roles- go through each of the offices/ callings.

Then explain that he did this for the perfecting of the Saints, the Work of the Ministry, and to edify (lift us up) (Ephesians 4:12)

The apostles taught that we would need to have faith (believe), works (do what Heavenly Father asks), and grace (help from Jesus) in order to return to Heavenly Father.

And they taught really important doctrines- go through each one until the tower is complete.

But, after Jesus died, his Apostles did their best to keep the church together, unfortunately they got spread out and also began to die.  Have the kids start taking out the apostles until the tower falls.

Remove all of the Apostle pieces and the Priesthood authority piece.

The church fell apart, but people still believed in Heavenly Father and Jesus and wanted to do the best they could.  So they started trying to build churches out of the pieces they still had.  Have everyone grab some pieces and build their own churches.  Point out that everyone has parts of the truth, and some good things, but they don’t look like Jesus’ church and they are missing pieces.

Then explain that Joseph Smith was called to restore the church so he called 12 Apostles, and was given the Priesthood Authority again, and now we have deacons, teachers….. you get the idea, go through and rebuild the church.

 

Part 2:

Song: I Will Be Valiant pg. 162

Materials: Armor

Put on the armor of God.

I bet you can guess where I’m going with this…

If you can find a suit of armor great, or make one out of cardboard.  Or if you want to keep it more simple then there is a paper doll suit of armor in the Primary Manual.

Here’s the different parts of the armor outlined in Ephesians 6.

Loins- truth

Breatplate- righteousness

Shoes- preparation of the Gospel of peace

Shield- faith

Helmet- salvation

Sword- spirit

 

Oct 14-20 I Can Do All Things Through Christ Which Strengthens Me

Song: I Feel My Savior’s Love pg. 74

Materials: items for difficult tasks

Come up with a few tasks that would be impossible for the kids to do on their own.  Lifting something really heavy, reaching something too high, reading a difficult book, or doing math that is beyond their level.  Ask them to try to do it on their own.  Then explain that they can ask Jesus to help them.  Ask them to try again but this time hold a picture of Jesus while they try.  As they hold the picture assist them so they can complete the task.  Talk about Phillipians 4:13 and explain that Jesus will strengthen us so that we can do anything he needs us to do.

 

Oct 21-27 Be Not Soon Shaken in Mind, or Be Troubled

Song: I Wonder When He Comes Again pg. 85

Materials: Suit cases, clothes, shoes, etc for trip, scriptures, pictures, etc. for Second Coming

Pull out two suit cases.  On one place a picture of their favorite place to visit (or place they really want to go) and on the other place a picture of Jesus.  For the first one talk about what we would need to do to prepare to go on a trip to.  Let the kids grab some things they think they would need.  For the second talk about the things we need to do to prepare for Jesus’ second coming.  Place things like scriptures, a picture of a family praying, something that reminds them of church, a picture of the temple, etc. in the bag.

 

Oct 28- Nov 3 Be Thou an Example of the Believers

Song: Our Bishop pg. 135

Materials: Art supplies

Talk to your kids about the Bishop in your ward.  Make sure they know his name.  Explain some of the things that Bishops do.  Have the kids draw pictures to say thank you to the Bishop for all his hard work.

 

Image by Gerhard Janson from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- September 2019

Welcome back!  I hope August went well for everyone and if your kids started school that everything is going well.  I now have a kindergartner and a preschooler which means 3 days a week I have almost 2 hours to myself.  It’s AMAZING!!!!

Funny story from last month.  I guess it was the end of July when we did the story about the snake biting Paul, but Paul wasn’t hurt.  The kids have LOVED playing this over and over and over again.  They were playing it together and my son said to his little sister, “I’ll be Paul, and you can be…John.”  She responded, “No, I’m Mary!”  And then they proceeded to bite each other with a snake toy and shout, “Ahh….go away snake!”  As they shake it off their arm unharmed.  We’ve had a few discussion about how we need to make sure we are still safe and careful around snakes in the wild, but it’s so great to see that this is actually sinking in- even though they frequently grump about getting started!

I stopped adding the section with corresponding children’s scriptures.  Sorry about that.  There’s just nothing available 😦  We’ve started just reading either a Book of Mormon scripture story at night, or reading from the friend, or just whatever the kids request.  There is a Friend Jr. story on Paul’s letters in the September Friend so definitely check that one out.

September 2-8 God Is Not the Author of Confusion, but of Peace

Song: I Lived in Heaven pg. 4

Materials:  Plan of Salvation Printable

Explain the plan of Salvation using drawings.  There are a lot of examples online, you can draw as you go, or I’ve created a very simple printable for you.  Emphasize the degrees of glory described in 1 Cor 15:40-41.

Before you get started, have them draw clothes on the blank (physical body) person, and consider putting their picture on the face.

Pre-earth life- Put the little spirit character on the Pre-Earth cloud, explain that we were spirits living with our Heavenly Father, but in order to become like him we would need to gain a body and make good choices.

Earth- Heavenly Father and Jesus created the earth for us so that we could gain a body, put the physical body on top of the spirit character, then explain that while we are here we need to make good choices.  Talk about a few good choices you need to make (baptism, going to church, hands to self, listening to parents, etc.)

Death- Some day we will die and our body will stay in the ground (put the grave next to the earth and the body there) but our spirit will go to the Spirit world (move the spirit to the spirit world) where we will wait to be resurrected.

Resurrection- move the body and spirit back together and explain that when we are resurrected our bodies will be PERFECT!  No more sickness or pain.

Judgement- explain that Heavenly Father and Jesus will ask us how we did listening to them, following them, and fixing things when we make mistakes.  That will determine where we go.

Celestial- if we do the best we can do with Jesus helping us then we can go to the Celestial Kingdom to be with Heavenly Father and our families FOREVER!  It’s so beautiful Paul said it was like the sun.

Terrestrial- this is for people that were very nice but didn’t follow Jesus all the way.  It’s still really lovely there, but not the best.  Paul related it to the moon.

Telestial- this is for people who made bad choices and didn’t try to fix them.  They will still be happy, but not as much as the other two.  Paul said it was like the stars.  Talk about how the Sun, Moon, and Stars give off different amounts of light.

Side note- you can help kids remember the order with Sea Turtle- C Ter Tel

 

September 9-15 Be Ye Reconciled to God

Song: Faith pg. 96

Materials: Blindfold, objects such as toys, treats, scriptures, picture of Christ

Hide a few items around a room- some things just for fun and some things like scriptures, picture of Christ, etc.  Take turns being blindfolded and having the other family members tell the person blindfolded where to go to find the objects.  Explain that while we are on earth we can’t see Heavenly Father or Jesus, but if we listen to the Spirit, and the words of the Prophets then we can find our way back.

 

September 16-22 God Loveth a Cheerful Giver

Song: Army of Helaman pg. 172

Materials: Fort building materials (couch cushions, chairs, blankets, sheets, etc.), Nerf guns and/or other soft ammo (pillows, paper airplanes, crumbled paper rocks, etc.) Righteous ammo printable

Explain that we are in a war against wickedness.  Wickedness is making choices that go against what Heavenly Father wants for us like taking bad things into our bodies, using our bodies to hurt people, hurting our own bodies, not listening to our parents, making things more important than Heavenly Father, etc.  Talk about what we can do to combat the bad things.  Reading scriptures, going to church, serving people, listening, watching good shows, etc.  You can either just show the Righteous ammo printable or cut out the pictures and tape them to your ammo. Build a fort together and talk about how we want to make our home like a fort against bad things in the world.  Gather in the fort together but leave one parent out to be the opposing side.  Use your righteous ammo to defend your fort and take down the “bad guy.”

Additional Activity: To go along with the ammo of helping people, think of someone you can serve CHEERFULLY!  This could be as simple as coloring a picture for someone in the ward who is sick, lonely, new, etc.  Or taking some donations somewhere.  Always good to find a simple service project for the kids!

September 23-29 Walk in the Spirit

Song: The Holy Ghost pg. 105

Materials: 9 pieces of Fruit (try to get a good variety, but you might want to go ahead and double up on some favorites), other ingredients for your fruit salad/pizza/smoothie, Fruits of the Spirit

Use the Fruits of the Spirit printable to label fruit with the different fruits of the spirit discussed in Galatians 5:22-23

Talk through the different fruits and what they mean:

Love- we feel and show love for others when we are kind to them and serve them.  What makes you feel loved?

Joy- joy is happiness and a good attitude when things don’t go your way

Peace- we use kind words without yelling, we listen to others when it is their turn to talk

Longsuffering- we are patient, we wait our turn

Gentleness- we use our hands for helping not for hurting, if you or someone else makes a mistake we let them fix it

Goodness- we keep the commandments from Heavenly Father and follow the rules at home and school

Faith- we believe in Jesus and keep learning about him

Meekness- we are willing to listen and fix things when Mom or Dad or a teacher tells us how things need to be done, even if it’s different than how you want to do it

Temperance- we take good care of our bodies

Now use the fruit to make something yummy like a fruit salad, a fruit pizza, or a smoothie.

 

September 30- October 13 For the Perfecting of the Saints

I’m going to actually post the specifics of this with October, especially since this covers 2 weeks because of General conference.  But you’re going to need some supplies so you might want to start thinking about that now.

This chunk will cover the Apostasy and Restoration- you’re going to need a Jenga tower that you don’t mind writing on.  I found an adorable miniature one at the dollar store a couple weeks ago in the toy section.  So be on the look out, it’s probably something you can find at a thrift store as well.

It will also cover the Armor of God.  I’m really hoping to find a suit of armor to use, which might be easy with Halloween coming up!

 

Consolidated Materials List:

Plan of Salvation Printable

Blindfold

objects such as toys, treats, scriptures, picture of Christ

Fort building materials (couch cushions, chairs, blankets, sheets, etc.)

Nerf guns and/or other soft ammo (pillows, paper airplanes, crumbled paper rocks, etc.)

Righteous ammo printable

9 pieces of Fruit

other ingredients for your fruit salad/pizza/smoothie

Fruits of the Spirit printable

 

Be on the look out for a Jenga tower and suit of armor!

 

 

Image by HeVoLi from Pixabay

 

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones August 2019 (part 2)

August 19-25 Be Perfectly Joined Together

Song: I Love to See the Temple pg. 95

Materials: red, yellow, and green construction paper, pictures of foods and drinks, pictures of the temple, picture of kid in swimsuit, Friend Activity

I feel so strongly about focusing on 1 Corinthians 6:19. It’s related both to physical care of our bodies as well as the law of chastity. I would suggest splitting these activities up into two sessions.

Word of Wisdom/ Physical Care

Find pictures of a variety of foods and drinks from grocery store ads and/or print your own. Also include pictures for bathing, washing hands, brushing teeth, exercising, etc. Use the green, yellow, and red construction paper like a traffic signal. Explain that green means we can have a lot of it, yellow means we should be careful about how much we have, and red are things that we do not touch. Go through the pictures and glue them on the respective sheets.

Law of Chastity/ Consent/ Physical Safety

Explain the difference between secrets, surprises, and sacred or private things.

Secrets can hurt people, we don’t tell or keep secrets. If someone tells you something or does something to you and tells you not to tell mom or dad tell that person that we don’t keep secrets and make sure to tell mom or dad or another grown up what happened.

Surprises are when we don’t tell someone something right away because it will be more fun if we wait. This is like when we buy someone a present, we don’t tell them what it is until they open it.

Sacred or Private are things that we only share with a few people. Show a picture of the temple. Explain that the temple is sacred so you have to have a temple recommend to go there. Show them your recommend if you have one and explain what you have to do to get one and that it is permission from Heavenly Father to enter his house. Our bodies are temples and someone has to have permission to touch your body. If someone wants to give you a hug or a high five and you don’t want to you can say no thank you, if they don’t listen then you can move away from them. If someone uses their body to hurt you, tell them no, get away, and tell a grown up. We have parts of our body that are private. Use correct names and/or explain that private places are where a swim suit covers. We keep our private places covered, we don’t talk about them unless we need to tell mom, dad, or a doctor about something, we don’t show them to people, we don’t look at them on other people, and no one has permission to touch them unless mom or dad is helping you in the bathroom or a bath, or if a doctor needs to check and make sure everything is healthy. If anyone tries to touch you in a private place you yell at them, “No, don’t touch my_____,” you run away, and you tell a grown up right away. If anyone tries to show you their private places or a picture of someone with their privates showing, do the same thing- Yell no, run away, tell a grown up right away.

(Depending on the age and maturity level of your kids you may explain that when you are an adult and married then you may also share your private places with your spouse.)

This month’s Friend magazine is a great resource if you need more help thinking how you will explain this to your kids, there is also a great game!

Aug 26- Sept 1 Ye Are the Body of Christ

Song: Two Little Eyes pg 268

Materials: Body of Christ puzzle

Talk about how our bodies work together to do important things.  Play a game coming up with silly things that your body can’t do without all of it working together.  Try to get across the room without using your feet, try to eat a snack with your hands tied behind your back, try to sing a song with your mouth closed, etc.  Explain that in the scriptures it says that we are the body of Christ.  That means that we all have different responsibilities or things that we are good at, but when we all work together following Jesus we can do great things.  Use the body of Christ printable to show this with your family and with the church (the blank copy is so you can add pictures of your own family).  Cut along the lines to create a “puzzle” and help the kids put it together to create the body.  Talk about how your family can work together and how we can work together at church. 

 

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- August 2019 (part 1)

Sorry I’m getting this out in parts this month. Good stuff coming up I just know it’s going to take a little more time to get together and wanted to make sure I at least got this out for this week!

I did some searching and asking around for Bible Story resources- and while there are a few that include a little more than the New Testament Stories published by the church, none of them had enough to justify the cost of buying them for me. So I’m including things that cover similar principles as our weekly readings. If anyone has any bright ideas I’m super open to them. I’m seriously considering creating a children’s book that is devoted to the epistles so in 4 years when this comes around again there will be an actual resource. I’ll just add that to the long list of projects…. But, hopefully I’ll actually get through some more projects coming up, one kid is starting kindergarten and the other kid will be in preschool, so a few days a week I’ll have some time to myself. Number one project will be to finish up August’s FHE ideas!

August 5-11 The Power of God Unto Salvation

Scriptures: New Testament Stories for Young Readers- Jesus Was Baptized, Friend Magazine- Jesus Said to Share the Gospel (to go with not being ashamed of the gospel), Paul Repents

Song: When I am Baptized pg 103

Materials: baptism pictures

Discuss baptism with your kids. If possible take them to see someone be baptized. Show pictures from when you were baptized. If you and/or your spouse served a mission show pictures of your converts at their baptisms. There’s a cute video from the One in a Million series of a girl talking about her baptism.

Explain that when we are baptized we come out fresh and clean from our mistakes. Paul says that we are like new people. Review the song from above about the earth being clean after rain.

Side note- Paul’s analogy also refers to our old self dying- I personally didn’t feel like that would be an age appropriate discussion for my kids especially considering they watched 2 great grandmas and a few ward members die over the course of 13 months. We’ve been very matter of fact in discussing death with them, but I think at this point where their brains are still so concrete, especially my 5 year old would think that he would die when he got baptized- not an association his little brain needs right now.

August 12-16 Overcome Evil With Good

Scriptures: New Testament Stories for Young Readers- I want to Follow Jesus

Song: Fun to Do pg 253 (sub dancing a dance instead of singing a song)

Materials: dance music

Dance Party! Explain to the kids that in order to return to Heavenly Father we need to keep the commands AND have faith- or believe in Him. Keeping commandments is like dancing and having faith is like the music. Try dancing without music- (mom and dad make sure to be really boring)- it’s not a very good dance party. Then everyone sit down and turn on music and just listen to it. The music is nice by itself, but just listening to it doesn’t make it a dance party. Now turn on the music and dance like crazy together. Discuss how dancing without music is like keeping the commandments but not believing- it’s boring and hard to know what to do. Just listening is like believing but not keeping the commandments- you don’t get very far. We need to have both for it to work!

One Nation Under God- An Independence Day Activity Countdown

In case you’ve missed my other holiday posts, you should know that I like to find ways to make holidays really meaningful for my kids. I plan several activities leading up to most holidays to get us prepared and understand the real meaning of the holiday.

I’m only doing a week’s worth for the 4th of July (I typically do more) but it’s so early in the month, and….it snuck up on me like whoa.

Stay tuned- I’ve got another round of Family Home Evening coming up and Pioneer day activities as well! But here’s for this week:

  1. Brave men and women have fought for our freedom. Write letters/ color pictures for Operation Gratitude. They have some very specific requirements so make sure you review those before you get started. One of the big ones is NOOOO GLITTER (it works out that I have the same rule at my house.) I have my kids color and then I write a short note on the back of the picture.
  2. Discuss the Pledge of Allegiance- set up a little flag and practice putting their hands over their hearts. I liked the explanation and clip art version from this site.
  3. Have a “birthday party” for America (it helps that my son’s birthday is the 3rd of July :). Talk about the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
  4. Sing the Star Spangled Banner and explain that we watch fireworks to remember “the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air.” Watch some fireworks!
  5. God gave us a beautiful nation to live in- get out and SEE something cool. Try to get to a National or State Park, or just out somewhere in nature (safety first though especially in AZ!!). We’ll be heading to the Petrified Forest with our National Park Pass!
  6. Statue of Liberty- you could make a crown and torch or keep it super simple by just coloring a picture. Then read the poem found in the Statue of Liberty (for the sake of attention span you might want to start with “Give my your tired….”) Discuss different groups of people mentioned and pick a group to serve. Below I will give some links to some organizations- or find something local and meaningful to your family.
  7. Our country give us the right to Religious Freedom- attend a church service.

Some service organizations to look into:

Gathering Humanity– this group is based in AZ, they provide assistance to newly arriving refugees and asylum seekers

Raices– this group provides free or low cost legal assistance to immigrants and refugees

CARA– this group of lawyers, interpreters, social workers, etc. are specifically working to assist immigrants in detention centers

Feed my Starving Children– pretty self explanatory

ConPRMetidos– This group is assisting with the rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico (think tempest-tost from the poem)

Habitat for Humanity

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- June 2019

Can you believe we are just about half way through the year? Is it starting to feel normal yet? 2 hour home based church? I’m sure once it starts to actually feel normal they will change something up again. Which is good, gotta stay on our toes!

I’ve been finding that it can be difficult to coordinate the New Testament Stories book with the lessons each week as they don’t go in the EXACT order and you have to look through each story to see what book and chapter it corresponds with. So I’m going to start figuring that out a head of time instead of while I’m trying to get the kids to bed. Additionally, while it is more thorough than a lot of other books, I regularly find stories that got skipped over that other resources did include so I’m including other resources I know of, but we do primarily use the New Testament Stories published by the church. The New Testament Stories for Young Readers were originally published in the Friend magazine in the Friend Jr. section but are now available as their own section online and in the gospel library app.

June 3-9 Continue Ye in My Love

Children’s Scripture Resources: New Testament Stories– Chapter 50. New Testament Stories for Young Readers Jesus Loves Me

Song: Love One Another pg. 136

Materials: Construction paper hearts, service coupons, foot bath

Read John 13:34-35 and discuss things that you love about each member of the family- write them or draw them on little hearts. Then talk about how we can show love for each other. One big way is through service. Tell them about Jesus serving his Apostles by washing their feet. Wash each other’s feet in a foot spa or bath tub then think of other ways you can serve each other in your family and make service coupons. You may want to plan a small service project outside of your home as well.

We have washed each other’s feet as part of our Easter prep a couple years in a row and the kids really enjoy it. For ideas on service projects that get little ones involved see my Light the World post.

June 10-16 Not as I Will, But as Thou Wilt

Children’s Scripture Resources: New Testament Stories- Chapters 49, 51, first half of 52. New Testament Stories for Young Readers Jesus Gave Us the Sacrament. My First Scriptures Stories– The Last Supper, The Atonement. Usborne Book of Bible Stories pg 186-191

Song: Before I take the Sacrament pg. 73

Materials: Sacrament printables

Show the children the picture of Jesus at the last supper giving the sacrament. Lay out the printables with the bread, water, and kid (or their own picture) face up. Ask them if they know what the bread represents, turn it over to show Jesus’ body. Then ask what the water represents, turn it over to show his blood. Then ask what they should be doing during the sacrament. Turn it over to show a children sitting still with the thought bubble of Jesus. Talk about why it is important to be reverent during the sacrament. Practice sitting still and pretending to take the bread and water- you could even turn it into the quiet game and have a competition to see which kid can sit still and quiet the longest!

For the printable, print and then fold each page in half to put body, blood, and children thinking about Jesus on the back. I created a page with generic children on the front and then the children with thought bubble on the back as well as one that is blank for the front so that you can add actual pictures of your children if you want. If you want super extra credit you could get a picture of your child sitting still with a thought bubble for Jesus as well. As part of my Special Education teacher training we discussed research that shows that it can actually really help children to see themselves performing desired behaviors whether as a picture or a video. The nice thing about a picture is you only need them to sit still for like a half a second 🙂

June 17-23 It is Finished

Children’s Scripture Resources: New Testament Stories- Chapter 52 (second half), 53. My First-The Crucifixion. Usborne pg 192-195

Song: He Died that We Might Live Again pg. 65

Materials: Sequencing Activity

Talk through the events leading up to the crucifixion, then use this sequencing activity from the Teaching Mama to have your children put together and tell the story.

June 24-30 He is Risen

Children’s Scripture Resources: New Testament Stories- Chapter 54. My First- The Resurrection. Usborne 196-198

Song: Jesus Has Risen pg. 70

Materials: Stuffed animal flock, play food

Pull out those sheep (or other stuffed animals) again. Remind them of the other activities we did with the sheep and play a few rounds of wolves and robbers and finding lost sheep again. Then read or summarize the interaction between Christ and Peter in John 21:15-17. Use play food to feed your little flock of sheep. Talk about how we can help “feed” each other the gospel (being nice to each other at church, answering questions in Primary, taking people food when they are sick, sending people notes, etc.) Plan something simple your family can do to “feed sheep” around you. Make cookies together and take them to a family that is struggling with a trial, or color a picture and mail it to a home bound member of your ward.

Materials:

Construction paper hearts

service coupons

foot bath

Sacrament printables

Sequencing Activity

Stuffed animal flock

play food

Image by TC Perch from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- May 2019

May 6-12 Rejoice with Me; for I Have Found My Sheep Which Was Lost

Materials- stuffed animals, coins

Song- Dear To the Heart of the Shepherd Hymn 221

Gather some stuffed animals (especially if you have some sheep! Check Easter clearance!) Have the kids look over the stuffed animals, then have them look away and hide one. Ask them if all the sheep are still there, help them figure out which one is missing then have them go find it.

Pull out a few coins (real or fake) count them and then “lose” one, count again and have the kids search for the lost one. (Bonus points if you can then do the magic trick where you pull it out of their ear!)

Explain to the children that when we or others make mistakes, Jesus will find us and help us start making right choices again. We can help Jesus help others stay with the flock of sheep by being a good example and always being kind to them.

May 13-19 What Lack I Yet?

Materials- treat, starting line/finish line

Song- I am a Child of God #2

Make a special treat. Show the family the treat and tell them you’re going to have a race and the winner gets a treat. Designate the starting line and the ending line. Have one parent intentionally start late and go slower than the kids. Have the other parent waiting at the finish line with the treats. Give the “slow” parent the treat first, then in backwards order of the kids that finished. Explain that we all won in Heavenly Father’s eyes because we all made it to the finish line even if some were slower than others.

May 20-26 Behold, Thy King Cometh

Materials- treat, picture of Jesus, Large box/tall place

Song: I Love to See the Temple #95

Put a picture of Jesus (and maybe a special treat) in a place that your children can’t see just standing on the floor (maybe inside a large box, or on top of a counter). Tell them there is something very special there that they really want to see. Ask them what they could do to be able to see. Help them get something to climb on so that they can see. Tell them about Zaccheus, emphasize that he could have just given up, but it was so important to him to see Jesus that he climbed a tree.

Alternate or in addition- a really simple activity, if you live close enough, is to just go down and walk the temple grounds. Our kids really enjoy this and it’s basically a lesson in and of itself.

May 27- June 2 The Son of Man Shall Come

Materials- candy

Song- I want to give the Lord my Tenth #150

Teach your children about tithing. Buy a bag of candy (I like to use the Hershey’s treasures for this activity because they look like gold bars), give each child 10 pieces. Explain that Heavenly Father asks us to give back 1 in 10 and in return promises that the windows of Heaven will pour out a blessing so big we won’t be able to hold it. Tell them they have the option of keeping the 10, or they can give one back and see what happens. You may want to have one of the parents take candy as well and say no, they will just keep what they have, then say sorry they will miss out on the big blessings, but let them keep their 10. Strongly encourage the kids to give one back, when they do tell them to close their eyes and hold out their hands, pour the rest of the bag of candies into their hands. Point out that they have so many more since they gave one back.

Show the picture of the widow giving her mite, explain that even though her life was very hard and she had very little to give, she still gave and Jesus blessed her for it.

Materials List:

stuffed animals

coins

treat (x2)

starting line/ finish line

picture of Jesus

Large box/tall place

candy

Image by analogicus from Pixabay