If you were to look at my Pinterest board for General Conference you would see a lot of fantastic ideas . . . most of which I have never used. In the past I made it partially through some of those good ideas, but I usually would get short on time or lose my motivation to complete them. I found that these activities were not effective unless I put a lot of time into preparing them and a lot of focus into carrying them out with my kids. My stress levels were often high surrounding Conference, higher than for a major holiday. I wanted so badly for the kids to get so much from this, even at their young ages but I was feeling rather burned out at this point. Then I stumbled upon a suggestion in the Ensign that I modified a bit to come up with a simple Conference listening activity. I selected some topics and principles I wanted them to listen for and then identified keywords to represent each topic. I bought a bag of M&Ms and assigned a different color to each topic we had chosen. Every time the children heard a speaker say one of the keywords, they could take an M&M in the color the keyword corresponded to.
To my utter amazement it worked like a charm – like nothing ever had for my kids. At the time I had three boys ages 5, 3 and 2. They gleefully ran back and forth from their seats to the bowls of candy and actually listened for the different words. The 2 year old didn’t necessarily catch the words spoken as well as the older two, but when one of his brothers jumped up he would jump up too and shout out the words. The simplicity of it also meant my stress levels were mostly non-existent.
We’ve made a few adjustments to the activity over the past few years. We realized after that first weekend that four sessions of numerous candy bowls meant a lot of candy. Too much, in fact. We’ve since switched the candies out for more of a build-your-own-trail-mix type set up for more regulated sugar levels. We have also reduced the number of different keywords selected and lowered some of our expectations. We learned the hard way that we needed to keep the bowls on a separate table, out of the reach of the smallest members of the family (older siblings can help the younger ones). Lastly, as the kids have gotten older, they are now required to also say a few of the words that were spoken before and after the keyword before they can get the snack that goes with it.
I have become particularly fond of this activity because of the way I now prepare. In preparing for Conference we do a few traditional FHE lessons that help the kids know the general authorities, apostles and prophet, as well as one that illustrates the purpose of General Conference. In the past it seemed that I ONLY turned to the internet’s pretty pictures for what my General Conference with kids should look like. Now, however, I turn to prayer and pondering as I try to select the keywords and principles that I feel my family most needs to focus on and hear. With the activity already decided on, I can look at specifics that I want my family to recognize from the talks. Preparing for baptism? Focusing on sabbath day worship? Obedience? The Holy Ghost? This kind of preparation has not only helped me and my kids get through Conference, it has also helped us to GET Conference. It’s not perfect, but my kids love General Conference and look forward to this activity eagerly (in large part because of the treats.) I’ll be honest that at this point I don’t think they realize everything they are getting out of it, even if I can catch glimpses of it that day and afterwards. Turning my preparation over to the Lord, however, means He does what He does best. He takes those efforts and preparations and makes them MORE. Conference with my kids rarely goes exactly as I think it will, but I still find myself surprised by the small things that go better and the experiences we have that are deeper than I expected.
The shift in my preparation has taken me a few years to do, but it has helped me have a less stressful and more meaningful Conference with my kids. What other simple things have you found to be most effective as you prepare for General Conference with little kids?