Month: February 2013

Sunbeam Lesson #8 "I Am Thankful for Water."

***Note: Please read the post called “10 Lesson Helps” found under “Primary Lesson Listings” before reviewing any of my Sunbeam lesson plan ideas.

“The Lord has a great work for each of us to do. You may wonder how this can be. You may feel that there is nothing special or superior about you or your ability…The Lord can do remarkable miracles with a person of ordinary ability who is humble, faithful, and diligent in serving the Lord and seeks to improve himself. This is because God is the ultimate source of power” (James E. Faust). Teaching, No Greater Call, p.21

Materials need: Put items in a sack or can:  cup, toothbrush, soap, watering can, (or anything associated with water).  A water bottle and large plastic cups. “Sink and float” items (i.e. pennies, a sponge cut up into pieces, a grape or raisin, a small toy, etc.). Straws. A rain stick if you have one. A picture of a child being baptized and one of the sacrament being passed to the congregation.

Take the children to the bathroom before going to class. Be sure to have them wash their hands. Teach correct hand washing procedures: Turn on the water, lather up with soap on both sides of the hands and in between fingers until they are covered in bubbles, rinse off while you sing the “ABC’s” song. Turn off water and dry hands. While they are washing ask, “How is water helpful in washing your hands?” “What did the water do to the bubbles and the dirt?”  “Why do we wash our hands with soap and water?”

In class: Have a child pull an item out of the sack and say how they would use it.  What else do you need to use it? Repeat with each child and each item.

Each of these things needs water.  We are thankful to Heavenly Father for making water because we need it very much.  

Where does water come from? (get responses:  rain, rivers, lakes, oceans).  Heavenly Father made all these things so we can grow and be healthy.  Everything needs water, not just people.  Plants, flowers, grass, trees too!

Tell the children how there are two very special kinds of water. Show pictures of a boy or girl getting baptized and the sacrament. Explain the importance of water in each picture.  (Be sure that the children are taught appropriately that the water represents-or reminds us of-Jesus’ blood and the water at baptism reminds us that we can be clean when we repent).

Let’s sing a song about different things we do each day with water: (Variation from “Fun to Do” from Children’s Songbook, p. 253).

Brushing our teeth is fun to do…(Variations: Washing our face, washing our clothes, washing the dishes, watering the plants, taking a bath).

Have one child go out. Hide one of items from the sack around the room.  Have the child come back in, find it and tell what we use it for.  Sing the song again about the item they found (i.e “Washing our hands is fun do to…”).  Repeat with each item with different children.

Stand up and sing with actions: (from the Children’s Songbook, p. 241)

Rain is falling all around (hands with fingers wiggling down)

On the housetop (arms up to a peak or triangle)

On the ground (touch the ground)

Rain is falling on my nose (touch nose)

On my head and hands and toes (touch body parts)

If you have the rainstick, tell them that you are going to make a raining sound. Close your eyes.  Can you hear it?  Keep your eyes closed and point to where I am making it rain (do it in different areas of the classroom). Sing the song again while you slowly make the rain sound. Let each child do it and repeat the song.

What would happen if we didn’t have water?  We would all get very thirsty.  All the plants might die. Tell the story about Moses getting water from the rock from Exodus 17:1-6.

Imagine your were one of the Children of Israel in the desert with Moses and it was hot and you didn’t have any water. How would you feel? Give a cup of water to each child to take a drink. How does it make our bodies feel when we drink water? 

Share your testimony about how God made the earth with water so all things could grow. We couldn’t grow without water. Explain how blessed we are that we have clean water and can get it so easily but that we should be careful with it and not waste it.

Extension activity: Fill up the cups with water again and show a tray of the “sink or float” items. Ask the children about each one. Do they think it will sink in the water or stay floating on top. Have them guess at each one. Then hand them each the items, one at a time, and have them experiment. Give each child a straw to blow bubbles in their cup of water.

FYI: If I lived somewhere hot and sunny, we’d go outside and paint the sidewalk with paintbrushes dipped in the water cups. The water makes designs that quickly evaporate and is fun and easy to do. No mess or clean up!

Work-Life Balancing Act


I’m about to share with you one of my favorite YouTube videos. No, it’s not a cute baby saying something adorable. It’s not even one of those funny pet video clips. Spoiler alert: it’s serious and it’s seriously awesome.

Quite a few months ago, I watched a few presenters at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival, moderated by TV Anchorwoman, Katie Couric. The speaker who enthralled me by her eloquence, intelligence, and balanced parenting perspective was Anne-Marie Slaughter. She was featured after she wrote a piece for the Atlantic called, “Why Women Can’t Have It All,” which stirred up no small dust storm of controversy.

In this YouTube video, she explains her tug and pull of working for the US State Department while raising two teenage sons. She frankly discusses how she created a work-life balance which required sacrifice, commitment and following her maternal instincts.Gasp! Does anyone talk about that anymore? Do we acknowledge maternal or paternal instincts or are we just in a have-it-all, economy-driven society? When challenged on her choices and outspoken opinions, she granted that each parent should follow their own path, without judgment from others. But in her case, she examined her choices and eventually quit her high profile job because her sons needed her.Gasp, again.

Not everyone has a choice to work or not; that is indisputable. Many women have to earn a paycheck. Their children know it is for them that they make that sacrifice.They are united in purpose. Far too many parents, though, work far more than necessary to buy things that are far less than necessary. Those children also know what their parents value.

What is necessary, then? Another presenter at the conference, Lori Gottlieb, said her research and private practice with families has shown her something about what are the most cherish childhood memories. She revealed, “In my therapy practice, what people say is this: Their fondest memories are playing Scrabble before bed, stirring pancake batter on a Sunday morning, tossing a ball out front, hanging out in their pajamas until noon, and those silly inside family jokes that still make them laugh 20 years later.”

I know this balancing act. I’ve felt this rope of tug and pull. I’ve sometimes even found myself on the end of a frayed knot, hanging on for dear life. It was hard to be a good or responsive parent in these moments. What I want to share is this: whenever I’m faced with a proposition for paid employment outside (or even inside) the home, my children and husband’s needs come first. Our short- and long-term goals are always in view. The sacred stewardship of parenthood directs all our choices. We remember these wise words: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).

I want my treasure chest to be filled with pancake batter, PJ’s and popcorn, Scrabble tiles, warm embraces and long Sunday walks with my children by my side. And chocolate wouldn’t be too bad either.




Fortune Telling, Early Literacy, and Mt. Everest

Mountain Climbing

Did any of you play “fortune telling” when you were a kid? You’d look at your friend’s palm and see the creases and lines that forecasted wealth, love, a long life, or maybe forebode heartache and misery. It was all fun and games and no one took it seriously.

I’d like you to image that you are a palm reader today.How accurate will you be by looking at lines on a palm? You can’t really tell a person how their life will turn out just by a few wrinkles, right? Are you certain of your predictions?  I have a formula that is fool proof (well, almost…but it sure beats a crystal ball). I will be a fortune teller today and tell you if your kids will likely have a long and happy life. It all depends on one thing. Reading.

In one of my favorite books called The Read Aloud Handbook (I read it while living in Chicago and it changed my life), Jim Trelease summarizes solid research that shows a high probability of a child’s later success in life is based on how often a parent read to them while they were growing up:

You read more, therefore…

You know more, therefore…

You’re smarter, therefore…

You stay in school, therefore…

You get more diplomas, therefore…

You have more stable employment, therefore…

You make more money, therefore…

Your kids will get good grades, therefore…

You’ll enjoy a longer and happier life! (Handbook, pp. xxiv, xxv).

It all starts with one book. For a child to have the foundational literacy skills to learn how to read in Kindergarten, their parents need to have read a minimum of 1000 books to their child before they enter school. One thousand books may seem like a lot, but if you break it down, it’s only about two books per day. But those one or two books add up and predict amazing results.

It reminds me of a keynote speaker I heard once at a conference. He had conquered the climb to Mt. Everest after experiencing harrowing, near-death experiences along the way. The final step on the summit was celebrated with a ceremonial flag-posting, pictures, and a brief breath-taking view. But he said something like this: “That last step on the top was not any more important than the first step at base camp. If I hadn’t taken that first step and all the other small but important steps along the way, I would never have taken that final step.” I think that has a lot of significance to many things in life, including the achievement of raising children.

I write this after reading the paper today. I’m so impressed that Utah County has initiated the “EveryDay Learners” reading program by encouraging local businesses to become active in early literacy activities. Today’s article highlighted Tom Hansen. He owns a 7-Eleven convenience store and took up the challenge by Bill Hulterstrom, president of United Way of Utah County, to help young children want to read. He installed two bookshelves in the front of his store, just the height for small children, and stocked them with children’s books. Hansen tells his young friends, “Take a book, read it, bring it back, report about the book to an employee and collect a treat from a variety of healthy snacks like a banana or apple, or have a Slurpee on the house”  (

My hat is off to you, Tom Hansen. You are the newest fortune teller in Utah County. You are creating the next generation of 7-Eleven shoppers who will more likely stay in school, get a diploma, secure more stable employment, earn more money, raise successful children, and have a happy life. Who knows, they may end up owning their own 7-Eleven store filled with a library of books for other young children.

High five to you. Palms and all.

Sunbeam Lesson #8 "I Am Thankful For the Day and the Night."

Sunbeam Lesson #8 “I Am Thankful For the Day and the Night.”

***Note: Please read the post called “10 Lesson Helps” found under “Primary Lesson Listings” before reviewing any of my Sunbeam lesson plan ideas.

“When we study the scriptures regularly and diligently, earnestly seeking guidance from the Spirit, we will be receptive to enlightenment about how to prepare lessons. We will also be prepared to receive and follow promptings from the Spirit while we teach. As we ‘treasure up in [our]minds continually the words of life,…it shall be given [us] in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man'” (D&C 84:85). Teaching, No Greater Call, p. 14

Materials needed: large blanket, flashlight, a children’s scripture picture book, a stick or wand with a star on the end, printed (or drawn) pictures of the moon and sun.

I’m thinking of something special and I’ll give you hints (clues)

It makes us feel warm on the outside

It is big and round and yellow

It is up in the sky

Sometimes it hides behind a cloud or a mountain

It comes up in the morning to make it daytime. (The sun!)

I have a song about the sun. Let’s all stand up and do the actions.  

Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, (arms in a circle above head)

Please shine down on me. (open up arms slowly down to sides)

Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, (arms in a circle above head)

Hiding behind a tree (hands in front of face)

These little children are asking you (point to self)

To please come out so we can play with you (beckon with hand)

Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, (arms in a circle above head)

Please shine down on me. (open up arms slowly down to sides)


Repeat a few times until the children are familiar with it.


Sit back down. Who made the sun? (Heavenly Father).  Why did He create the sun?

It tells us when to wake up in the morning and so we can see outside. 

It makes all the flowers and gardens and trees grow.

(Hold up a picture of a sun).  When the sun shines, we call it “day”

(Hold up the moon).  When the sun goes away and the moon is up in the sky, we call that “night”

When we wake up in the morning, we can do many things while the sun shines.

What can we do in the morning?  (get responses: eat our breakfast, get dressed, play, go to church, clean our house).

Let’s sing a song. We’ll walk in a circle and act these out while we sing. 

(sing to the Tune “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”)

“This is the way we eat our breakfast…so early in Monday morning.” Repeat with other actions. Each time, end with the next day of the week. On Sunday say, “This is the way we go to church…so early Sunday morning.”

Now we are tired.  Let’s pretend it is time to go to sleep. The moon and stars have come out. (Put out a big blanket. Turn out the lights if you can). When I touch you with my “Star” wand, you will lie down on the blanket. Let’s listen to a bedtime story about the sun and the moon. (Tell the story from the scriptures when Jesus was born and the Nephites couldn’t see him because they lived far away. But they knew it happened because Heavenly Father showed a sign in the sky by having the sun stay up for 3 days and the moon didn’t come out to make it night). Be sure to bear testimony that Christ was born and He is the Light of the World. He made the sun, moon and stars so we can remember Him every time we look at the sky.

Why do we go to sleep? (get responses). Before we go to sleep, we always say our prayers. Have all the children kneel down on a blanket with their arms folded. Ask each child if they say their prayers before they go to sleep. Have each child say their own bedtime prayer (help when needed). Sometimes we listen to quiet music when we go to sleep. I’m going to play some beautiful music while you pretend to be sleeping (play some soft Primary songs from the CD or sing some yourself).

Turn the lights back on and have children sit up on the blanket. Let’s see how good you are at knowing what we do during the day (hold up sun picture) and the night (moon picture).  Hold up one or the other and say, “Moon. Go to sleep” and children lie down, or “Sun. Wake up” and have children sit up again. Repeat a few times. Let each child come up and hold the pictures it if they are interested. Tape the moon picture up high on a wall.

When it it night time, our moms or dads tuck us into bed. I hope you all stay in bed and close your eyes and go to sleep. I hope you are not like little monkeys who get out of bed and jump around. Do the fingerplay: “5 Little Monkeys” and repeat as desired.

Who has ever gone camping? (get response). When we camp, we are outside where we can see the moon and stars at night. Heavenly Father and Jesus created them. It is so beautiful. Let’s pretend it’s night outside and it gets dark.  We’ll put our blanket over a table and pretend it is our tent. Let’s get under the blanket and turn on a flashlight. We’ll use the flashlight to see the moon (Shine it on the moon picture up on the wall. Use it to read the children a story from a children’s scripture picture book).

Dismiss children back to their chairs.

When you do good things, you are like a star shining brightly. Other people see you and want to be with you because you are so happy. There is a song that says, “I can do and say happy things each day for I know Heavenly  Father loves me.”  I hope you can shine brightly like a star for others to see.  When I sing this song, will you make “stars” with your hands? (move fingers in and out). I will lead you with my “Star” singing wand. Sing “I Am Like A Star” (Children’s Songbook, p. 163). Let each child come up and “lead” others with the wand.

Review lesson objectives: Who made the sun? Who made the moon? When the sun it out, it is called ________________. When the  moon is out, it is called _________________. Before we go to bed, we say our prayers. This week, I want you to remember to say your prayers and your mom or dad can help you. I will ask you next week if you remembered to say your prayers.

Bedtime Rituals


Parenting offers us special times of the day to connect with our children. At these “crossroads” in daily life, we should do our best to be available, attentive, and responsive to our child’s needs. Some of the simple, yet powerful times can be mealtimes together (even preparing the food and cleaning up if you can do it together), doing chores side by side, being at the door to greet and say goodbye whenever possible, driving them to and from an activity, and bedtime rituals. Each of these offers critical and meaningful face time in which to influence and understand our children. Sadly, more than one research study reports we spend on average about 7 minutes per day talking with our children.

Annie Murphy Paul posted an article on Time magazine online where she said, “A study
published earlier this month by researchers at North Carolina State University,
Brigham Young University and the University of California-Irvine, for example,
finds that parental involvement — checking homework, attending school meetings
and events, discussing school activities at home — has a more powerful influence
on students’ academic performance than anything about the school the students
attend.” I hope everyone sits up and pays attention. We are the most influential person in our child’s life and those connections are usually made during non-eventful, ordinary times of day.

I’d like to focus on one daily connection: the bedtime ritual. This can include a bath, changing into pajamas, reading a book, brushing teeth, prayers, discussing the events of the day, a song, kiss, and the all-important “tucking in.” These and more ideas can be found in It adds closure to the day, settles down a restless, perhaps anxious or tired child, and offers a special bond between parent and child. I have found that my children are less defensive at the end of the day and open up more during this time.

My friend Alison is raising a very energetic and willful young son. She shared this recently: HIGHLIGHT of my day: As I’m putting [her son] to bed reading… he turns to me and says, “Mom, I love you so much! I love you more than anyone loves their mom in this whole wide world. . . (thinking….). . . I love you more than an alien loves their mom because aliens love their moms like a thousand, thousand, thousand, 80…7… spaces and 79 times and spaces. That’s a lot. I love you more than that!!!” WOW. I’m the luckiest human mom alive! Love that kid!

What better reward at the end of the day can you think of?

Sunbeam Lesson #7 "The Holy Ghost Helps Me"

***Note: Please read the post called “10 Lesson Helps” found under “Primary Lesson Listings” before reviewing any of my Sunbeam lesson plan ideas.

“Each person you teach is precious in the sight of the Lord, and each person should be precious in your sight as well. Find ways to reach out to each person you teach (see ‘Reaching Out to the One,’ pages 35-36). As those you teach realize that you love them and are concerned about them, they will learn to trust you. They will become more teachable and less likely to cause disruptions (see ‘Love Softens Hearts,’ pages 31-12)” Teaching, No Greater Call, p. 79.

Materials needed: Pictures from the manual resouces, items for the “whisper” activity, the strips of paper and jar, the smile/frown chart to take home.

Begin with the activity song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” Repeat it with different variations: fast, slow, loud, soft. When done, remind the children that we all have different parts to our bodies.

Show picture of Heavenly Father and Jesus. They have a body. Do they have a nose?  Where is your nose?  Do they  have hands?  Where are your hands? (repeat with other parts of body).

We look like our Heavenly Father because he is our Father, just like we have a father and mother in our family on earth.

We are going to talk about another special person who works with Heavenly Father and Jesus.  His name is the “Holy Ghost.” He has other names like the “Holy Spirit” the “Still Small Voice” and the “Comforter.”  He doesn’t have a body, but is a spirit. He is very important because he helps us everyday to do the right things. You will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost as a constant help when you are baptized.

Tell the children you are going to whisper an important message in their ears. After they listen carefully, they are to do what you said. (Here are some ideas: “Hold up your scriptures above your heads” or “Eat this cracker I am putting in your hand” or “Smile at another child in our class”).

Who heard what I said?  You listened and obeyed my instructions that I whispered. My words were very quiet but you sat very still and listened carefully. I told you to….. You had to listen very carefully to my voice to hear it. 

They Holy Ghost whispers very softly to us and we have to listen very carefully.  He mostly whispers to our heart, so we feel what he says.  He doesn’t whisper in our ears like I just did. 

When we do what is right, the Holy Ghost makes us feel happy.  When we do something wrong, the Holy Ghost makes us feel sad. When have you felt happy? (get responses). The Spirit guides us to do what is right. He helps us feel good inside. When we do something wrong, He helps us to feel sad so we can say we are sorry.

Put the following sentences on strips of paper and put inside a jar. Wrap the outside of the jar with a piece of paper and draw a smiley face on one side, a frowny face on another. Seat the children in a circle on the floor.

Here are some things we do. We’ll roll the jar across the floor to a child and they get to reach inside and pull out a piece of. I’ll read it out loud.  I’d like everyone to make a smiling face or a frowning face, and a “thumbs up” if they are good choices or “thumbs down” if they are bad: (after each one, emphasize how the Holy Ghost will help them feel in their hearts either good or bad)

You help your mom clean up your room

You share your toys

You forget to say your prayers

You give your friend a hug when she got hurt

Your mom tells you to brush your teeth but you say, “No!”

You remember to say your prayers

Your dad says to pick up your clothes but you throw them on the floor

You come to church

Share an appropriate experience in your life when you followed or ignored the promptings of the Spirit and how you felt and what were the consequences.

Tell them that you are going to sing a song about the Holy Ghost (“Listen, Listen” Children’s Songbook, p. 107). While you sing, they walk around the room. When you finish, they stop in front of a picture that is posted on the wall (uses pictures that come with the manual that show children doing different things, good and bad).

Ask them to describe what they see in the picture. Are the children following the Holy Ghost or not? Everyone votes thumbs up or down. Repeat a few times. Then see if they can sing part or the whole song with you.

Play the “whisper game”  You whisper something in each child’s ear and they have to do that thing.  We guess what it is (jump up and down, sit on the floor, blink their eyes, hug a friend, clap their hands, etc.). We all do that action together. Variation: they whisper in someone else’s ear.

Share your testimony that listening for the feelings the Holy Ghost gives us will help us to choose the right and be happy.

Extension activity for home: Draw a line down the center of a paper. Put a smiley face over the lefthand column; a frowny face over the righthand column. Write the following instructions: Parents, we learned today in Sunbeams that the Holy Ghost will help us feel happy when we do what is right and sad when we make a wrong choice. This week, help your child identify when they have made a choice. Talk to them about how it made them feel and what were the consequences. Write down the choice in the happy face column or sad face column and discuss the power of the Holy Ghost guiding your life. If they have made a wrong choice, help your child to discuss how they can correct the wrong and make a better choice next time.

Sunbeam Lesson #6 "Heavenly Father and Jesus Love Me"

Sunbeam Lesson #6  ” Heavenly Father and Jesus Love Me”

***Note: Please read the post called “10 Primary Lesson Helps” found under “Primary Lessons Listing” before reviewing any of my Sunbeam lesson plan ideas.

“As you prepare yourself spiritually and acknowledge the Lord in your teaching, you will become an instrument in His hands. The Holy Ghost will magnify your words with power.” Teaching, No Greater Call, p. 41.

Materials to bring: Get chalk and eraser from library (or bring a dry erase marker and white board). Bring playdough, hand mirror, pictures.

Summarize the First Vision story. Show picture of Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove.  Jesus looks like our Father in Heaven. We look like Him too, because He is our Father.

Who is Jesus’ father?  (Heavenly Father). Be sure all children say His name together. Practice a few times if necessary.  He is our Father in Heaven too. They both love us.

Put a mirror up to a child’s face.  I see_______(child’s name). Jesus and Heavenly Father love __________. You look like them. Repeat with each child. If they prefer, have the child say his/her own name. Hold it up to your face. I see_______(your name). Jesus and Heavenly Father love me. I look like them. Testify how Father in Heaven loves you. Share your feelings or experiences of how you feel His love. Do any of you have a happy feeling when you come to church? (get personal responses).That is because you feel His love here.

Show picture of Jesus and children. He loved children. When He lived on earth, He showed them He loved them by:

playing with them

giving them hugs and holding them on his lap

giving them food when they were hungry

praying with them

helping them to get better when they were sick

teaching them to do what is right

Let’s walk quietly down the halls in our church and look at the pictures hanging on the walls. We will stop and see if any of the paintings has children it them. If they do, let’s see what Jesus is doing to show love to the children. (Review expectations for leaving the classroom and walking in the hallways).

Back in the classroom: Did we see Jesus doing any of the thing we talked about? (Review items from list above). I will say one way Jesus shows His love, and let’s act it out.

Ask a child to come up to stand by you and give them a hug. I love you very much. Jesus loved children too. They loved to be near him. Sit on my lap while I sing you a song about him. Sing a portion of the song from the Primary Songbook hymn p. 59.

Jesus loved the little children

Little ones like me

He would bless and help them

And take them on his knee.

(repeat with a different child on your knee each time)  Encourage all children to point to self when they say the word “me” and point to their knee when they say the word “knee.”

Jesus made this world for us to live in. What things did Jesus create in this world that makes us happy? Show pictures of things in nature and have children name them (trees, flowers, animals, waterfalls, etc.). Draw a picture of something Christ created on the board. Include objects from the song below. Let them guess what it is. Let the children come up and each draw something for us to guess. Whisper ideas to them if they need help.

I’m going to sing a song that has words to describe things that are in our world that Jesus made: bird, sky, rain, wind, rose and a tree. Ask each child to do a certain motion (below) in the song, standing in order. Demonstrate it and have them practice. When you point to them, they do that action in the song.

“My Heavenly Father Loves Me” (Children’s Songbook, p. 228).

Whenever I hear the song of a bird (hand cupped to ear)

Or look at the blue, blue sky, (hand raised above eyes)

Whenever I feel the rain on my face (fingers tapping on face)

Or the wind as it rushes by (motion hands across in front of body)

Whenever I touch a velvet rose (finger touch)

Or walk by a lilac tree,(walk in place)

I’m glad that I live in this beautiful world (arms in a big circle)

Heavenly Father created for me. (hug self)

Repeat the song a few times and then ask them to do all the actions while they sing it.

Testify that their Father in Heaven loves them and He sent His Son on earth to show how much He loves little children. Tell them how much you love each one. Express a thought of appreciation you have for each child. Share your feelings about specific beautiful things in this world that remind you of God’s love for us.

Bring out playdough.  Each child creates something that Heavenly Father and Jesus has given us. Show pictures to get ideas.





10 Primary Lesson Helps

10 Lesson Helps

Julie K. Nelson

Before planning a primary lesson, there are some critical considerations for every teacher. A lesson is just a road map you use as a guide during that 50-minute weekly journey. But remember, we teach children, not lessons. We keep the individual child in mind as we plan the lesson ahead of time as well as following the Spirit and needs of the children as the situation dictates in class. Here are 10 items that I feel are most important to having a successful experience:

1. Invite the Spirit. The Holy Ghost works best with those who are ready and available to receive inspiration. Therefore, living a life filled with spiritual preparation is absolutely essential. I receive inspiration through righteous living, repentance, obeying the commandments, reading the scriptures,  praying and pondering daily. I do not bring my “gift to the altar” (Matthew 5:23) unless I have been reconciled to my family members and the Spirit.

2. Prepare in advance. The Holy Ghost works best with those who have prepared with real intent (see Moroni 7:6). Seeds of ideas need to be planted early and tended throughout the week in order for us to offer beautiful, mature fruit from the Tree of Life to our class members. Too many teachers pull out a dry, hard, handful of seeds from ill-prepared lessons on Sunday morning. Not very appetizing, is it? Plant ideas early, and nourish them through prayer, pondering, reading the scriptures and study guides, getting appropriate materials ready and visiting with class members and their families.

3.  Value your calling. As a primary teacher, you may feel less valued than someone teaching older students or someone in a leadership position. Not true! I have served in every kind of church position, yet this calling has offered me some of the most profound, soul-searching, tender, spiritual, fun, and meaningful experiences. You get out what you put in. I was called to teach the Sunbeam class right after teaching Gospel Doctrine for 6 years. Both were incredible experiences. Yet, teaching the Sunbeam children has offered a unique dimension of reaching my students and their families in a very personal way. These are God’s precious spirit children possessing the pure love of Christ and every week and I am “filled with this love” (Moroni 7:48). What could be better than that?

4. Use the manual. I hesitate to post my lesson plans for fear that teachers might not use the Sunbeam lesson manual as their primary source. Do not substitute these lesson postings for the manual! The manual has been approved by the LDS church curriculum committee which is an inspired body under the direction of the First Presidency. If you want to have the Spirit in planning and teaching, use church-produced materials that are founded in truth. This includes not only the Sunbeam manual, but also the LDS church website, Friend magazine and other church resources. I will post supplementary lesson ideas since filling a 50-minute class time can be difficult while keeping young children’s attention. Use what the Spirit prompts you to use from all the good and available resources we are blessed to share.

5. Personalize the lessons. I urge you to consider that the primary lesson plans are general ideas given to every teacher throughout the world. They are to be a template as you create a specific road map. We have been asked to use what is culturally and personally relevant within the context of the gospel. We are to use what available resources we have at hand that would be most meaningful for our students. Christ did that when He taught His listeners using  parables and object lessons from their culture and everyday living. We are to personalize the lesson with stories from our lives and our students’ that add meaning and application to those from the scriptures. Each time I teach, I pray about my children and what they need to feel, know, and experience. I never read from the manual; rather, I create my lesson outline and know it so well I just need to glance at it once in a while so I am fully engaged with the children during the lesson.

6. Establish routines. Young children thrive on routine and your 50 minutes will go more smoothly if you keep a general structure to your class time. Since we have Sharing Time after sacrament meeting in our ward, we take a break between the second and third hour before going to class since the children have been sitting so long. We will always go to the bathroom and get a drink. Even those still in diapers will wash their hands in the bathroom (essential if we offer a snack or food experience in class). You can stop by the library and have the children check out scriptures at that time. It is good to establish early the habit of having scriptures in class. On good-weather days, we might go outside and run on the grassy area for a few minutes to work out some energy and exercise their large muscles. I always make sure there are chairs set up in the classroom before we enter so the children know where to sit and what to do. You might also have a routine of using classroom helpers, singing an opening song, or talking for a few minutes about what is important in their lives.

7. Establish expectations. My Sunbeam children know they are “big” now and need to be well behaved in order for us to all learn from each other and have a good experience together. In order to participate, they must demonstrate good behavior. For example, if we have been doing an outside activity, I stop the children at the door as we come inside. We talk about what our behavior will be once we walk inside to our classroom (we put on our “quiet shoes” so our feet will walk slowly, we will use “inside” voices, we will remember this is Heavenly Father’s house). If the children do not do what is expected (begin running inside), I will have them go back to the door and practice again until they know what is the desired behavior. Since they have just come from nursery and sitting on chairs can be a new and difficult experience for them, I only expect them to sit on chairs for a short time at first, and then lengthen how long they sit as the year progresses. I also let them choose who to sit by unless they are not behaving properly. If they misbehave, I will quietly move them to a different place.

8. Involve all children. Class time can be very discouraging to young children if they have to wait too long to participate. As you plan your lessons, think about how long each child has to wait to be involved in some way. How can you vary your lessons so the students have times of brief instruction followed by engaged participation? There should be frequent shifts of energy from quiet, low times, to moderate and high energy times (singing, marching and dancing; role playing and dramatizations, games, etc.). The gospel is meant to be experienced individually and young children internalize the gospel best through active involvement.

9. No empty seats. One of the blessings of a Sunbeam teacher is to be involved with the children and their families. If you have anyone on your roll who does not come to church or is less-active, one of the reasons you have been called is to help strengthen them in their spiritual growth. By making a weekly effort to contact the child(ren) who did not attend, you can let them know they were missed, they matter, and that Heavenly Father loves them and wants them to come to His house of worship. I have learned through personal experience that to have no empty seats, it may also involve picking up children who would not have otherwise attended. Jesus Christ showed us how to love children by not excluding them from coming unto Him. When His disciples tried to do just that,  “he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14).

10. Evaluate. During your lesson, remember you are teaching children. Their responsiveness will give you feedback on the effectiveness of your lesson. They will help guide you to know in what direction to go during that hour. Some activities might go really well. Repeat or sustain the activities if you see their attention is focused and the Sunbeams are enjoying the experience. Some activities may not go as well. Skip over them and try a different direction. Keep your heart and mind open to the specific needs of your children as well as what the Spirit dictates. After class is over, take a look at your lesson plan and evaluate how it went. What were the weak parts? Strong parts? Learn from your experience and make notes so that each week you are a better, more confident teacher.


Discover powerful parenting

Welcome to the official website of author Julie K. Nelson and the book Parenting with Spiritual Power. Parenting-with-Spiritual-Power_smcover“I wish children came with an instruction manual!”            How many times have we heard this lament? Julie Nelson examines the lives of mothers and fathers in the scriptures (the best instruction manual) and the parenting principles we can learn from them. Discover powerful parenting examples and suggestions for personal application in this essential book. Find out more…

Book Endorsements

“We have always thought that the best way to study the scriptures was to think of the people we are reading about as friends. Julie Nelson has captured that and more as she challenges us to think of some of our heroes in the scriptures as inspiring parents. Her ability to bring it down to the things that parents are facing daily is brilliant. This book is extraordinary as it examines what these scriptural friends taught their children by word and deed. Julie transforms scripture stories into advice we can use as we deal with parenting issues that appear so frequently in our own parenting experience.” —Richard and Linda Eyre, #1 New York Times bestselling authors of Teaching Your Children Values

“We don’t often think of scripture as a source of parenting principles. That is about to change for you as you read this book. You will be inspired to be a better parent regardless of the ages of your children or the challenges they present. Nuggets and kernels of parenting helps explode from these pages from scriptural events familiar to Latter-day Saints and sustained by the teachings of living prophets. Written in an engaging style with powerful examples and illustrations, this writing will remind parents of the power of gospel principles to assist them in their sacred stewardship of rearing the children of our Father in Heaven.” —Douglas E. Brinley, coauthor of Then Comes Marriage and Between Husband and Wife: Gospel Perspectives on Marital Intimacy

“Julie Nelson has done it! She has produced an easy-to-apply parenting manual based on the scriptures! This book helps us learn from parents in the scriptures who also faced the challenge of raising righteous children in a wicked world. This book is filled with real-life examples as well—moving stories from parents today. Julie’s discussion questions not only give parents principles and ideas to talk about but also some concrete ideas for improving parent-child relationships. And who doesn’t need help in that department?” Thanks Julie! —Brad Wilcox, author of The Continuous Atonement and The Continuous Conversion

“I was delighted to find this new parenting book by Julie Nelson, full of inspiring stories and scriptural ties. This is a great book for parents of any age to help us reexamine our parenting habits and then improve upon them through applying gospel principles. It will join my short list of favorite parenting books!” —Sean Covey, bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make

“Sometimes we forget that the stories of the scriptures have been preserved to teach us how to live the doctrines that are contained therein. Sister Nelson reminds us that our beloved scriptural characters were parents and children, like us. She tells us that ‘whatever we have or are now experiencing as parents, we can find a mother or father within the standard works that has walked a similar path.’  By compiling these great parenting methods into one book, she gives us practical solutions to help our children along the path to the Savior and provides us with specific questions to help us ponder our next step. This is a great resource for anyone striving to raise righteous children in a wicked world.” Fran C. Hafen, Author of Joy Cometh in the Morning: A Story of Healing from the Loss of a Child