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I LOVE General Conference. Like you, I do my best to keep it free from other activities and make it a family packed, spiritual weekend. Its a special time and I want my kids to understand what a big deal it is- we are listening to living prophets after all! Perhaps that's why in the past I went a little overboard with the activities I planned. Through the years I have learned a thing or two and continue to learn more. One of the things I don't like are activities that while well meaning end up being the biggest distraction. So in April I took a different approach and enjoyed the sessions much more. Learn from my mistakes:
Keep Activities Away Until They Are Actually Needed
In sessions past I handed out activities right away afraid that if I didn't they would quickly get bored, give up, and get into trouble. Now I wait until the ants in their pants start to really bite. That means we sit for a while and actually listen- fancy that! It also means I need I don't have to plan as many activities which is a lot less stressful for me. Kids can do more than we often give them credit for- give them a chance to be still first (Pssst- find everything you'll need for General Conference here).
Keep All Activities Conference Themed and Easy to Do
General Conference packets are wonderful- they are well done and put together with lots of care and effort. However, some of the activities require a lot of my help. Instead of listening to conference, both of us are trying to do this one page in the packet. Now I take out those activities and save them for in between sessions or before and after General Conference. Activities need to be simple enough to do while still listening to the words of the prophets. Try some of these ideas:
- Conference Center Gingerbread House- There are always some pre made and easy to assemble ones in stores around General Conference time now. I usually stock up with holiday clearance sales and save it for later. Ensure Gingerbread House making is actually a success:
- Hand out one piece of the house to each person. This makes decorating really easy and argument free. After everything dries, assemble all the pieces together (that night). The next day eat it. For this reason consider some less sugary options like yogurt raisins, pretzels, cereal, or dried cranberries. The last thing you need is a sugar high during Conference- again, learn from my mistakes.
- Extra pieces- Cover some cardboard in foil and give everyone a piece. This is their section that they can decorate any way they want. Get out some sugar cones for trees, try making the water features around the Conference Center, or maybe make people on sidewalks heading to the Center. After the Conference Center is built, surround it with these extra foil pieces for one great scene (see the picture above).
- Use Graham Crackers instead and have everyone make a mini version by themselves.
- Lego Temples- For our family this is a no brainer- everyone loves to play with Legos. Dump them all over the floor (with one clean no-death-by-stepping-on-a-Lego walkway). When everyone is done, take pictures of their creations and send the photos to Grandma and Grandpa. During the break explain all the features and where in the world you would build it. Or try out one of the new Brick'em Young Temples. They are more difficult but fun!
- Lincoln Log Churches- The challenge this time is you only get a certain number of logs per person.
- City Car Mat- This a good one for in between sessions or after the last one. Let them have fun! Grab your City Car Mat if you have one. If not, take a cheap tablecloth or sheet and get some sharpies. Remember to add a church! You could also add a Temple or the Conference Center. Notice how your children's activities on the mat will be church focused still since it's on the brain. Ideas of what to draw on your city car mat: one house per person, grocery store, school, church, train station, police and fire station, ice cream shop, pet store, park, duck pond, playground, farm, library, swimming pool, etc. Also bring your Lego Temples over and add them to the scene. Don't want to make your own? This car rug is pretty neat.
- Finish the Picture- Cut some pictures out from the Friend or other church magazines. Only glue half the image on and the kids finish the rest. Hang your creations up in between sessions.
- Bingo- I have a love hate relationship with Bingo. It's been a favorite for years though for my kids. What I don't like about it is they are always asking, "Did he just say ....." The point is for them to listen not for me to tell them what they should have heard so its a work in progress. There is value in it though because this is when they are really trying hard to listen. I used to use candy to mark the boards. Now I just use markers from games and when they get a Bingo, they get a snack. For Church Bingo Boards, check out my General Conference Pinterest Board.
- Roads to the Temple- When smaller ones get frustrated with building a church or temple with Legos or Lincoln Logs, give them the task of building roads to them instead. Much more fun! We loved using blocks for this.
- Snack Necklaces- Perfect 2 in 1 activity! It keeps them busy for a while AND it serves as their snack afterwards. Pick out foods like pretzels, gummy Lifesavers, Fruity Cheerios, and anything else that has a hole for stringing. My little ones definitely stocked up on the sweet stuff so take my advise and break the treats into bags per person instead of putting the food out in bowls on the table.
These activities are simple enough to do on their own, take a while to complete so we aren't constantly switching activities, and allow a person to still listen.
Get Rid of Most of the Candy
One of the big mistakes I made early on was too much candy. Candy makes the event special, right? Not necessarily. It can also cause disasters. I still break out a little bit but I really try to keep things much more healthy. It helps us stay awake and alert as we listen.
Keep Meals and Snacks Light
I love a big special breakfast but if it's just going to make you tired- don't do it! Creating a parfait at a yogurt bar can be as much fun as a pile of sugary pancakes. I love doing fondue lunches so we are eating lots of fruit and veggies in between sessions or try a grilled cheese bar. No reason to cook through a session for everyone.
Stop and Review
You can watch General Conference in so many different ways now. If you have a Roku, Tivo, or are using the internet to watch Conference, you can do so much more! Pause General Conference and talk about what was said with a quick recap. Want to really get a point across or show an answer to a prayer? Rewind it and listen to it again. Maybe after each session play a quick game of Jeopardy or Who Said it? Tape some butcher paper up on a wall and write down topics and thoughts throughout the sessions. Talk about how you felt during the sessions. At the very least, review what was said during a Family Home Evening. What's the point of sitting through 8-10 hours of General Conference if we aren't going to remember and put the words into action?
Your Turn- How do you listen to General Conference? What are your secrets to success?