Family Home Evening

Thanks so much to everyone for your commiseration and great suggestions about How to Make Sundays Not Suck As Much. (If you haven't checked out the comments, you might want to--there is some good stuff there!) It does help me just to know that many, many of you are out there gritting your teeth too. 

And now that we've addressed Sundays, let's talk about Mondays. (Also known as The Day Where Order and Sanity and Naps are Restored.) A couple of weeks ago, GH came home from church feeling all kinds of motivated (read: guilty) about Family Home Evening. The basic idea is that you set aside one night a week to be together as a family and to do things that will strengthen your relationships and your testimonies. The Church sets aside Monday night for this, and doesn't schedule any other activities or meetings that night, but you can do whatever night you want. 

This is a thing we have not done for a long while. We are getting back into it now so that the Dark Lord knows this is something we do. Turns out, it's kind of awesome when you've just got one toddler because the whole thing can be over in 10 minutes. 

The first week our "lesson" was to watch the "I Am a Child of God" Mormon Message & then show him pictures of Jesus. After that we threw a ball around and ate banana pudding (the Southern version, made with layers of Nilla wafers, banana slices, and vanilla pudding). I made this because it was one of my family's favorite FHE desserts. I topped the thing off with some real whipped cream because I'd used "reduced fat" Nilla wafers. Needed to restore balance, you see. 

Last night we showed him our wedding album (theme: "Temple Marriage"). Then we played with his stuffed animals. After little Lord Voldemort was in bed, we ate leftover birthday cake from my sister-in-law. 

So far I think the Dark Lord really likes Family Night, especially the part where we sing and play games together. It makes me feel a bit bad to realize this, but maybe we don't spend as much time as I assume we do just playing with him. In the 2 hours every evening when all three of us are home and awake there is cooking and dinner and picking up and iPads and television and computer and phone calls. We don't necessarily ignore him, but our attention is divided or we're trading off. Must think more on this.

After FHE, GH opened up his iPad. Instead of lunging straight for his dad's glowing screen of wonder like he would normally do, TDL picked the photo album back up instead and wanted to look through it again. At one point he recognized one of his grandmas and started smiling and patting her face and clapping. It was so very precious. And now that I know he will sit and look at it, I may start reaching for this one more often. 

So. Back to calling on the wisdom of the collective. Family Home Evening activities for toddlers? Anyone? Anything you've really loved doing with your family?


Jennifer Lee said... [reply]

Our most "successful" (I have a 35-month-old and a 16-month-old) are the lessons about the creation/Noah's ark/being kind to all creatures/etc. because then we can talk about animals. Oh, how my boys love animals. And after our two-minute lesson we usually play a game where we each act out different animals. Then the animals attack each other while, obviously, being kind to all creatures. We do some variation of the animals lesson every other week.

Jenny said... [reply]

The hokey pokey at the end of every Family Home Evening. It's a must and a handy threat for when they want to quit paying attention and starting throwing each other off the couch.

A staple for us has been showing a picture from the gospel art kit and then telling about the picture based on their attention span/comprehension level, or having the kids tell about it.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

The nursery manual has fabulous ideas, and we've pulled ideas out of there. Also, my three boys really love to act out gospel stories (particularly where they get to make arrows out of paper and throw them at their baby brother, aka Samuel the Lamanite, and mom, aka God/The Spirit/Whatever, makes sure that Samuel cannot be hit). Especially once he gets older, I've found that acting out the stories after reading them in the Gospel Reader books really helps the story sink in, and Old Testament stories are particularly fun for this. Or sometimes we just do tickle fights or wrestling. I keep waiting for the day when my kids are old enough to learn football penalty signals (like the moves that the refs do when they call "holding" and "roughing the kicker"). American Idol w/ primary songs. And I'm That Mom who has my kids act out stranger danger situations for FHE, too. But while they're younger, we talked a lot about how to fold our arms and bow our heads, and how we always say please/thank you. Oh, and those Bible videos are lovely, too.

Desmama said... [reply]

It seems that a recurring FHE theme in our house is reverence in church and obedience to Mom and Dad. ;)
Can you tell where our weaknesses are?

Last night we did FHE at the dinner table over dinner and talked about manners. Dad set out the nice plates and silverware, we got out the linen napkins, and the kids had to learn which way to pass the food, which silverware to use for what dish. It was fun. Not terribly spiritual, but I feel like sometimes FHE can be used for teaching life skills too, like manners and stranger danger and stuff. It's all important!

I second the nursery manual idea or the Gospel Art Kit idea. Sometimes just bringing out a picture, talking about it, singing a song or two, that's plenty good for a little guy.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said... [reply]

The nursery manual is awesome when your kids are tiny. And, FHE doesn't ever have to be a long, drawn out event even if they're not. I had a sister in one of my wards call their FHE: Family Home Moment. Sometimes that was all they got out of it. One of my favorite talks ever, and the one I get the most satisfaction out of as a parent is the GC talk where Elder Bednar talked about the fact that our children won't remember specific FHE's or specific nights of scripture study, but they will remember that we did it. After I heard that talk, I gained so much hope as a parent because I could abandon the idea that every FHE or every time we read the scriptures it had to be a momentous, spiritual experience.

The Gospel Art Kit is fantastic because, a lot of nights, we would pull out a picture and we or one of the children would read what was on the back. That was it. But, they grew familiar with scripture stories that way.

Now that ours are older, when we're consistent (FHE will always be one of my areas of struggle as a parent), we divide FHE up this way: Two Mondays are lessons, one Monday is game night and one Monday is life skills. That's how they've learned to iron shirts or clean bathrooms!

Jessica said... [reply]

My mom keeps an antique box full of photos in her living room- recent photos, photos of my siblings and me as kids, photos of she and my dad when they were young, photos of their parents- just a mishmash of things. Ever since she was about three, (she's six now), one of my niece's favorite activities at my parents' house has been to sit and look through these loose photos. When she was younger, she would point to each one and say "WHOZAT?!" and then patiently listen as we told her. Now she can go through and tell us who everyone is. It's sweet and delightful- and a great way to familiarize her with family members who live far away.

Anna B said... [reply]

TDL is so adorable!! one time my when my nephews were in town for fhe my dad came up with a noah's ark lesson where the toddlers climbed into a laundry hamper with all their stuffed animals. they loved it!

Lindsay said... [reply]

My husband is the bishop in our ward, leaving me to wrangle a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old alone. We're staying afloat now, but I'm not quite sure yet how we'll manage when Baby #3 joins us in May, so I'm sure I'll be referencing the comments you got on your last post frequently! :)

FHE with toddlers/preschoolers, however, is a lot more fun. A couple weeks ago we talked about the tower of Babel and played Jenga (or a super simplified version of Jenga, since the 2-year-old kept knocking it over). Another time we talked about temples and built our own out of building blocks. I recently came across this blog post (thank you, Pinterest) full of great ideas that we've gleaned from as well: http://mormonmommymft.blogspot.com/2011/12/55-fhe-ideas-with-toddler.html. Also, if you don't have a copy already, get your hands on the Nursery manual. It's a goldmine of great ideas for FHE With Tiny People.

emandtrev said... [reply]

That video clip is the sweetest. I found it after you mentioned it the last time I saw you and our girls LOVE it. So thank you!

Like Desmama, we generally try to talk about things that are kind of relevant to the current climate in our household. Things like sharing, reverence, helping out around the house, loving ourselves and others, our relationship to Heavenly Father and Jesus...

The Gospel Art Kit is a great idea. Our three-year-old especially loves it and the six-year-old looked through it all during sacrament last week.

Flashlight Girl said... [reply]

The best thing that ever happened to FHE at our house was that my husband decided to BE IN CHARGE. Ok, I still do the lesson in a pinch, but overall, he has come up with the ideas, games, visuals, etc. I don't know what talk/lesson/vision inspired him, but it has been at least 10 years. Honestly, he hated the prepared lessons that I had made with some friends. Now that the kids are older (ranging from 16-8) FHE is an expectation. We have had a tremendous amount of fun (and also some WWF smackdown times) at FHE. It's the pattern you're after. Sit down with GH and have a "parenting" discussion about what he thinks/wants FHE to be in 5 years and what you both can do now to maybe have that happen. Baby steps, but always moving forward.

Also, I loved everyone's comments about Sunday. One thing I kept in my Sunday bag was a little cheapo photo album filled with snapshots of family members, pets, neighbors, stuff like that. I had a couple that I would rotate. Since we didn't live close to any of our extended family member, the kids LOVED looking at those little photo books. And also, when you're on the verge of the nervous breakdown, hopefully your bishop will be inspired to release you and give you a non-Sunday calling. Mine did. I love that guy.

Jenn said... [reply]

We just had our very first FHE with our 19 month old, so I'm certainly not the most experienced with this, BUT we did have a successful "lesson" using the scripture stories videos:


I didn't even know those existed! We sang a song (using the church's interactive media player), watched a 2 minute video, sang another song, and bam - done. It was awesome and I'm going to keep using this formula (song, video, song) till we're tired of it.

MaryAnn said... [reply]

Growing up, one of the best things my parents did for us kids was read. We didn't always understand what they read, but we got that it was important to them, and was worth listening to. As we got older, it became very important to us too, and we always loved getting together to read and discuss. That love for reading, discussing and spending time together never went away, and it's something I try to do with my kids.

And, on the days when I'm wiped out, I can use FHE on DVD, and it provides a nice back up lesson. I'm not sure if you've heard of these, http://fheondvd.com/ , they're worth checking out.

You know, one other thing my parents did that I think was really useful is that they didn't wait until we were 'grown up' to try and relate various stories and principles to our lives. Very early, they showed us how working a job might bring up conflicts with keeping the sabbath day holy, for example, and then showed us how we could address those issues. It's never to early to start, especially if you're patient. Thank you for your blog! It's a wonderful read, always.

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