LDS conference weekend is a holiday at our house!
When I was a kid, I remember dreading the loooong conference weekend held twice a year. It meant going to church for four hours, two days in a row. We sat on cold hard chairs that made too much noise if you tried to play with anything on them. It was hard not to wiggle, and paying attention was not even something on my radar. My parents did their best, but given the circumstances- had a hard time making it anything but a struggle. And I was always STARVING!
Happily, things are quite different in the age of technology that my kids are being raised in. We are able to watch it now in the comfort of our home. But its still a challenge getting the kids interested- better yet, excited about the weekend.
So we did what I love best: Made it an official holiday.
We pick several of our favorite foods, treats, and activities and make it super special.
During the priesthood session on Saturday night, when the men are gone to their meeting, we have a party!
I am always looking for new ideas to keep the kids quiet and hopefully listening to the speakers.
We start with a family home evening lesson the Monday before, and discuss what conference is, why it's important, and what we hope to gain from it. We talk about activities to help them stay focused and quiet, what snacks and treats we'll include, and what our expectations are. Doing this really helps set the mood for the upcoming weekend.
It's a bit of a challenge keeping a teen, toddler and everything in between entertained.
So we start with a sweet reward.
The older kids are asked to listen and take notes, doodling if they'd like. They are challenged to find something in the talk they can apply to their own lives.
Younger kids are asked to identify the topic(s) of each talk, and listen for words they are familiar with- such as sacrament, temples, etc.
In exchange, they get some candy. Love Bug who is only 2.5 years gets one little piece every time she can tell us a word she hears. It starts with LOTS of words being identified. Every "the", "she" etc is included. Then she starts to forget to listen and when she sees her siblings eating candy, she'll ask for more and we remind her to listen for words. You can kind of get an idea of what she might hear based on the topic. We might hear that the topic is Temples, and say "listen for him to say 'temple'" and then reward her when she identifies it.
To reinforce the topics of the talks, we do an activity I ran across last year. It's a conference wall idea that we used quite successfully for our last few conferences. I chose common topics and found pictures to go along with them. I also kept some 3x5 cards handy for extra topics that we encountered. As the speaker spoke, the kids wrote down the speaker's name on a strip of Post it notes and put it up next to the topic. Some of them had multiple topics and the kids were right on top of it. Some didn't have anything listed, so they would tell me what topic we should add. I was really surprised at how well they listened and knew what was being said. After conference we added new photos for next time. They are laminated and we reuse them each conference.
We are also learning the names of the First presidency and 12 apostles. I have pictures of each of them on the window. I also have their names listed on the window. When someone speaks, the kids take turns putting the name with the face.
We also like to use conference packets. I print out the activities from great websites like sugardoodle or LDS.org.
Most of all, we want our kids to FEEL THE SPIRIT and understand the their Heavenly Father loves them.
This year I'm trying something new. I want to help my younger kids understand that the warm fuzzy feeling they get inside when they hear something important for them is the Spirit is testifying to them.
I'm going to help them "feel" for the Spirit, by filling a jar with warm fuzzies. We'll have a bowl of pom poms and a jar next to it. We'll ask the kids to put a "warm fuzzy" in the jar when they feel the spirit and tell us what they felt and what was said that made them feel that way.(and help them document it) If we can fill up our jar by the end of the weekend (or even include FHE the next day if we need to) we'll have some Hostess Sno Ball snacks! "When you feel the Spirit, it Sno balls until you gain a testimony of the things you've heard"
It all sounds super busy, but it really isn't. The kids keep their hands occupied but their minds are always concentrating on what is being said. We rarely have any contention during our weekend.
The Family Home Evening following conference, we discuss what we learned and ways we can apply it in our lives. We set goals for our family to improve relationships with each other, and learn more about the gospel. We also include the conference talks in our future FHE lessons to help us remember what we've been taught.
I also have plans to pick one thing we've heard or learned that will be a goal for us, and make a sign for the wall to remind us about it.