My Secret Weapon for Teaching Small Children


Some of the best conversations you will ever have with kids is sitting around the table. This morning as M and I were eating breakfast, he asked me:

M: Mom, What does save your voice mean?

Me: It means, if you are sick, you shouldn’t talk too much, or sing or yell. You should rest your voice so you don’t lose it.

M:  oh.

Then he sings a line from a primary song, If the Savior Stood Beside Me:

If I listen with my heart, I hear my save your voice.

I started laughing. The Lyric goes:

If I listen with my heart, I hear my Savior’s Voice.

Did you ever get words mixed up in a primary song as a kid? My husband used to sing the song Love One Another and wonder what a shalmeno was.

By this shall men know (shalmeno), ye are my disciples.

I love Primary Music. We sing primary songs together at bedtime. We listen to primary music when we are feeling happy. It cheers us up when we are grumpy, and comforts us when we are scared. Big M sings it while he plays with his toys, and in Primary at church. It is a pretty big part of our lives. You can listen to it for free here.

I’ve had the opportunity to teach my son’s Sunbeam class in Primary a few times over the past few months. I call it an opportunity because that is what you call something you don’t want to do, but you do anyways because you know it’s the right thing to do. Besides, I don’t have a real reason not to, other than the fact that it is exhausting. Let me tell you though, It Is EXHAUSTING! I don’t care who you are, or what special activities you have planned. By the end of class you have a headache, and need a nap. The kids probably do too.

Three and four year old kids are tricky. One cute boy  in my class today was almost in tears mumbling, “I want my mommy!” over and over again. I have had him in my class a few times before and he never had any trouble. To assess if he really needed his mom, I asked him a couple questions like, “Do you feel sick? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Do you want a hug? My son even sang Grown ups come back from Daniel Tiger to him. I finally got him to come back and sit down by bribing him with fruit snacks. He didn’t say another word about his mom after that! Smart kid! He must have remembered that I always bring fruit snacks to class.

Since I have been subbing in Primary, I’ve come to find out how lucky these kids are. They have an amazing song leader. She always comes so prepared with the best activities to get the children involved in the music. She is so patient, and you can tell that she really loves the children she teaches. The kids kept raising their hands, she would call on them, and they would say, “I was just stretching.”  There were a lot of kids stretching today. M was one of the lucky ones who got to participate today, and he loved every minute of it.

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He was wearing a “Thinking cap.”

After Singing Time was over, it was time to go to the classroom. Last night I had all these high hopes for an amazing lesson. I even took a picture of all the supplies I had gathered to help it go smoothly. I packed my secret weapon, and was ready to go. Every teacher needs one of these. Are you ready for it? drum roll please… A Magic Beanbag! This thing has super powers. Really, it does. It’s saved me many times while teaching primary classes. Who ever has the magic bean bag can talk, and everyone else must listen to them. I ask a child a question, throw them the bean bag, they answer, and throw it back. Everyone wants a turn, and they know they have to be reverent to get a turn. Usually this works beautifully. USUALLY.

Kids are kids though, and 3 hours is a long time for them to sit still. When one of them makes a fart noise, they all make fart noises. Then you are surrounded by a chorus of tiny human fart machines, and you are trying your best not to laugh. You have to constantly outwit them. Sometimes it’s just too hard to convince them that talking about scripture stories is going to be more fun than jumping, yelling, or heaven forbid, making fart noises. Enter in the snacks. This is the real reason I agree to Substitute for Primary. I’m in it for the Pretzels.

Sometimes, you think they didn’t learn anything because they were so rowdy during the lesson, then they surprise you with, “When I am sad, I can pray to Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost will help me be happy again!” Or one day when the lesson is about their Eyes, you ask them what they learned and they reply, “Walruses!” You get real creative and say, “Yes, You are right! You are thankful Heavenly Father gave you eyes, so you can see beautiful things like walruses!” Then there are the moments when you have these four little 3 year old boys tip toeing through the hall reverently with their arms folded. It doesn’t get much cuter than that. Today the lesson was I have feelings. I experienced the whole spectrum of feelings today with these kids. It’s always an adventure, that’s for sure. It’s a good thing they are so cute!

What things do you do to keep sane teaching primary? What is the funniest thing you have heard a student say? Please Share!

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