Month: March 2013

Sunbeam Lesson #10 "I Am Thankful for Trees, Plants, and Flowers"

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

“When a homemaker plans a week of dinner menus, she is not likely to decide to prepare identical meals on seven consecutive nights…The gospel can likewise be presented in a number of different ways. No teacher should fall into a monotonous pattern of presenting the same kind of lesson week after week. When you use a variety of learning activities, learners tend to understand gospel principles better and retain more. A carefully selected method can make a principle clearer, more interesting, and more memorable,” Teaching, No Greater Call, p. 89.

Materials needed: fruits and vegetables, knife and cutting board, disposable cups, a tree twig in a sack, chalk or whiteboard and dry erase marker, enough copies of the nature walk graph and pencils for each child, and 6 small items (see end of lesson).

Have a basket of various fruits and vegetables (suggestions: orange, apple, banana, carrot, cucumber, celery, grapes, sugar snap peas). Hold up each food item and ask the students the name of each item. Then talk about how some of these food are fruits and some are vegetables. Both are healthy and good for our bodies. Eating other good foods like grains (rice, wheat and oats) are good, too. Heavenly Father made all these things for our use. He gave us a commandment called, “The Word of Wisdom” that tells us to eat these everyday to be healthy. He said, “All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground” (D&C 89:16). (If you’d like, you can show each food item and tell if it grows above the ground or below).

We are going two make to piles of food: one for the fruits and one for the vegetables. (Have children come up one by one and choose one to put in a pile. If they are wrong, just say, “Good guess. That is a fruit/vegetable”) After each one, ask them to rub their tummies and say, “Yum” if they have eaten this food. Tell them how much you love eating it.

All of these things grew from a plant or a tree. We eat things that grow from plants and trees. They started growing because someone planted a seed in the ground. Sometimes we can still find the seed inside the food. Hold up each item with seeds inside and ask them if they know what the seed looks like, if it will be big or small, many or few. Cut it or peal it open and show the children the seed(s) if they are present. Discuss what each fruit or vegetable looks like inside and if they like to eat it. Cut it up if needed and put a sample into a cup to give each child a taste of them.

While they eat, read a book that shows pictures of plants, trees, flowers and nature,  like “Wonders of Nature: A child’s first book about our wonderful world.”  Talk about how God made all these things.

Sing, “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 and then ask them to do all the actions while they sing it.

Pass around a sack with twig in it.  Let children feel and guess what it is.  Take it out and talk about where a stick comes from and why they are important.  We get food from plants. If it is Springtime in your area, you can get a twig with buds or blossoms on it and sing “Popcorn Popping.” (Children’s Songbook, p. 242)

Draw a picture of a tree and tell this story:

“This is a story about a tree.  First, it was a seed.  Then the sun and rain and soil helped it to grow.  When it became a big tree, it helped many people and animals. (Show picture 1-22, Tree in the Spring). In the Spring, a robin gathered twigs and grass a built a nest in the branches.  There she laid her eggs until they hatched.  When the baby birdies were born, they were protected and safe up in the tree in their nest. (Show picture 1-23, Nest with Baby Birds).  The mommy bird could fly away and get worms for them to eat.  When they grew up, the babies learned how to fly from the tree.  In the summer, the tree grew big leaves and the children on the ground got hot from the sun.  They saw that the tree had shade underneath from all the leaves.  So the boys and girls sat under the tree to cool down in the shade.  There were other animal that liked the tree, too.  Squirrels ran up and down the tree and other birds that were flying a long way liked to stop on the branches and rest. In the fall, when the leaves started turning red, yellow and orange and falling down, the tree grew apples. When they were ripe, the people picked the apples to eat them, just like the one we ate today in our class. Many years later, the tree was old and got sick and died. The people cut down the tree and used the wood to make a fire. It warmed them and they were happy as they remembered the tree.”

What were all the ways the tree helped?  Birds, Squirrels, Shade, Apples, Firewood.

We are going to go on a nature hunt to find all the beautiful things Heavenly Father made for us. (Review behavioral expectations if necessary). Give each child a print out of the graph below and a pencil to mark with. Go outside if weather permits and guide the children in looking for these things.  If you cannot go outside, show pictures in a book and have them check it off as they see them.

Trees          trees Yes No
Flowers     water_lily Yes No
Plants and Leaves     leaves_ Yes No
Grass     grass_2 Yes No
Birds and Insects      _robin_landing Yes No
Rocks       _pebble_beach Yes No

Back inside the class, review what you saw and testify of the things God made for us to enjoy. Give each child 6 small items (like Cheerios, pennies, or paper clips).  Play a game of “I Spy.” Give clues like, “I spy an animal that chirps and builds nests in trees. They eat worms and can fly.” The children put the small item on the picture you described on their nature walk graph. Keep playing until they are all covered.

Review for comprehension: Ask students to name some of the things Heavenly Father created for us to eat. Have them act out what a seed does when it is planted (roll their bodies in a ball on the ground). Then slowly start to grow bigger and bigger in the sun and air and pop up through the soil. Pretend to grow some fruit on your “branches” (outstretched arms). Have each child name what kind of fruit tree they are.

Book Review: Tristi Pinkston

Book Review: “Parenting with Spiritual Power” by Julie K. Nelson

By Tristi Pinkston, book reviewer for AML (Association for Mormon Letters) and Meridian Magazine at

When I first became a mother nearly seventeen years ago, I was overwhelmed—with love, with awe, and with a sense of tremendous responsibility. Nothing will make you feel the weight of adulthood on your shoulders like becoming a parent—a little being now depends on you for everything from food and diaper changes to nurturing in the gospel and instruction on how to return to our Heavenly Father. And perhaps the most overwhelming feeling of all was the message I received from the Spirit one night while taking care of my daughter—this was God’s baby, on loan to me, and I’d better do right by her.

Talk about pressure.

Because we have been entrusted with the care and keeping of our Heavenly Father’s children, it only makes sense that we should raise them in His way. I’ll liken it to babysitting. When you take a babysitting job, the parents will tell you the child’s bedtime and what they should have for dinner and what rules they should follow. They also provide a telephone number in case of emergency. Our Heavenly Father has done no differently. He has given us instructions for His children—commandments and the scriptures—and He gave us a way to contact Him—prayer—if we need help.

The new book “Parenting with Spiritual Power” by Julie K. Nelson outlines some of the examples we find in the scriptures of good parents and the way that God parents us. After all, what better example of a father could we find than our Eternal Father? The author posits that the scriptures are the best instruction manual we could ever find for raising our children and that by turning to them, we can feel as though we’re raising our children in the most loving, Christlike, and effective way.

Each chapter takes a story or episode from the scriptures and likens it to our relationship to our own children today. We start out the book with a discussion of how God dealt with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He outlined the rule, told them of the consequences, and then allowed them room to make their own choice. When they broke the rule, He didn’t pat them on the head—He made it clear that they had disobeyed. But He also gave them the opportunity to try again, and He continued to love them and teach them and be a father to them. While He did have to drive them from the garden because that was the natural consequence, He never ceased caring about their welfare.

The author then explains how the principle of free agency and consequences can be applied in our families as well. Adam and Eve were very much like children, and while we are not God, we can use His perfect example as we seek to teach and discipline.

Additional chapters examine the power of teaching our children doctrine, as demonstrated by the Savior’s interactions with Judas and with Mary. We learn about the power of having good cheer, as demonstrated by Lehi and his family. Alma and Corianton show us the power of correcting with love. And perhaps one of my favorite chapters in the book—the power of banners and fortifications as shown us by Captain Moroni.

One of the banners, in this case, was compared to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Just as Moroni took a pole and mounted a flag whereon he wrote his reasons for fighting, essentially reminding himself and everyone around him that his cause was just, we can hold the Proclamation up high and say, “This is what we believe, this is where we stand, and we won’t back down from it.” Of all the things we have to fight for, what could possibly be of more worth than the family? I can’t think of one.

This book caused me not only to think about parenting in a more godly way, but the scriptures as well. We’ve always been taught that we’ll learn great and important truths from the scriptures, but it’s key for us to realize that they aren’t just stories sprinkled with a bunch of wars. They are examples given to us for how we can better live our lives, and the book is a step-by-step curriculum for how we can implement the scriptures more fully. In addition, I would say that it gave me some hope on my journey of motherhood. At times it seems so overwhelming, and even impossible. But God loves His children so much that He made sure we would have the knowledge we would need to be successful parents, and we can turn to Him in prayer for comfort and additional answers. Children might not come with instruction manuals, but what they have been sent with is even more perfect.


Talking With Teens and Flying Lessons

Sea Gulls

How many times have you heard this (or some variation)? “Have fun with your kids while they are young. One day they will be teenagers.” Is this a phase to be endured? Should we lock them up when at 14 and let them out when they are 21? Many parents dread and fear this stage of life–raising teenagers.

I’ve raised four adolescents (well, the fourth turns 17 this month so she’s on the downhill) and I have to say that this can be some of the most rewarding, exciting, fun times in your parenting. These kids have and appreciate a sophisticated sense of humor. You can share so many things (music, movies, gourmet food, literature and learning, travel, etc.). You get to know their friends and be a part of great activities. And you really get a glimpse of who they will be as adults. It’s awesome, really. Our job is to start letting go through those teenager years so they can become those responsible adults.

Kind of like birds, nests and learning how to fly. We’ve had ample opportunities since birth to feather the nest by teaching, training, modeling, reinforcing, praising and encouraging the values, behaviors and ideals we’d like our children to espouse. During the gradual letting-go years, it’s time for us to watch our baby birds grow up, exercise their wings and start to fly. Parents need to help their children gain emotional, physical, spiritual and social readiness to stand on their own and make mature decision we can be proud of when we aren’t there anymore.

One way we do this is through talking. When I say “talking,” I mean the parents should do less of the talking and more of the listening. Especially in the teen years. I admit…I’m a talker. I really need to work on letting my teenagers do more talking and me, the listening. We need to ask more of the open-ended “Wh” questions: Who…What…When…Where… We need to find when our teenagers are most emotionally available to open up to conversations. Some like talking in the car (turn off your cell phones, car radios and televisions!); some like to be taken out to lunch or shopping (girls especially, right?); some like to do something physical together (walking, hiking, biking, playing sports, etc); some open up late at night. When we get this right, it can be amazing.

I talked with my (soon-to-be) 17-year-old, Rachel, a few days ago and did it right by preparing her for that discussion. I told her ahead of time that at a certain time when she was free, I wanted to go over some goals in her life. Of course she rolled her eyes and resisted. But I persisted in a friendly and casual tone. We began by going over what was important to her and what God wanted her to do with her life (taking the “mom” part out of it). We discussed various standards for her life.

We were in the middle of discussing how to take care of our bodies and she rattled off all the correct answers. It was what she had been taught by her parents and other leaders. But what was important in that moment was to have Rachel find out what Rachel thought. So I asked, “Why do you believe what you’ve just said is true?” She quickly responded, “Because I only have one body and I don’t want to be stupid with it. If I ruin it with drug addiction or something else, it’s not like I can trade it in for another one. It’s all I’ve got.”

Wow. There’s no way in all the lessons on morality in the world that someone could distill truth better than what just came out of my daughter’s mouth. Best of all, she said it to herself. And believed it. She showed me a glimpse of that incredible, mature, independent-thinking adult she is becoming. I couldn’t have been more happy or more proud.

I think she’s ready to fly.

Gardeners, Seeds and Soil: Nourishing our child's potential


How often do you hear your child say, “I’m not good enough,” or “Why try? I always fail”? Where did she learn to put limits on herself? Why does he listen to the voice of doubt? I’d like you to consider the powerful impact we have on our children recognizing and acting on their abilities.

I have known enough people in my life and read enough inspiring personal accounts that I am convinced we are capable of achieving much more than we think. Our children are born with so much potential to be discovered and nurtured, just like a seed planted, waiting to burst through the soil.

Friedrich Froebel (1782 – 1852) was a great German educational scientist who recognized a child’s limitless abilities. He is the father of the modern Kindergarten. Froebel gave it that name to suggest a powerful image. The word “Kindergarten” is derived from two German words: “Kinter” (Children) and “Garten” (Garden). Thus, a classroom for young children was a child’s garden, a place for them to learn and grow. What a beautiful picture: a parent or teacher as the Gardener; the child as the Plant that is nourished by our hand.

So why is it some children do not thrive? Why do we put limits on ourselves? Is it because we allow shallow expectations to define who we are? Is it because our parents somehow made us feel less than capable? I saw the following YouTube video about a young man who told his parents he wanted to own a restaurant. No big deal, right? That’s a probable aspiration for a career. One small thing: this young man was born with Down Syndrome. Many parents in that situation would say, “That’s a nice idea, but it won’t work.  Let’s try something more reasonable.” Instead, the parents of this young man saw a boy with a dream and made it happen. They saw the potential. They gave him the light, water, soil and nutrients for him to grow into a businessman. His diner bears his name: “Tim’s Place,” where he serves “breakfast, lunch and hugs.” Tim says, “The hugs are the best part.” I agree. His parents knew his strengths and accentuated the positive by putting those words right there on the diner marquee. I want a hug from Tim. It’s an inspiring story:

In my book, Parenting With Spiritual Power, I wrote a chapter on seeing the vison of what our children can become. It is a powerful concept. I suggested that our role as Gardener, “will improve as we cultivate acceptance of others wherever may be and have faith in whom they can become.” I’d like to finish with an except from the book that shares an experience of parents of children with Down Syndrome, like those in the video. It also illustrates how we should not define ourselves or our children by what we can’t do, but what we can. In chapter nine, it reads:

I taught a young lady at Utah Valley University years ago with Down Syndrome. She was a bright and cheerful student, very motivated to perform her best. I learned a little of her background during the semester. Her mother, along with another mother of a son with Down Syndrome, attended a national convention for Down Syndrome many years prior, when their children were young. Most parents were told in those days they would be lucky if their child could be taught to care for themselves. There was little prospect they could do much beyond that. The convention speaker asked the parents to imagine what their child could achieve in their lifetime. He told them to think high, to consider all possibilities. While they each silently thought—wished beyond hope—of what their child could achieve, he said, “Now I want you to double that. ”

My student’s mother shared this story as we toured the facility she and the other mother founded after they returned from that convention. There had been only one early intervention program for special needs children where they lived and the program’s philosophy was: “Love them, but don’t expect much.” Consequently, these two mothers resolved to begin a new center. They focused on the ability rather than the disability. Their facility now treats thousands of children and has helped thousands become more than previously realized. Because of these mothers’ changed vision of what their children could be, their son and daughter have achieved much, much more than they ever would have imagined. The son with Down Syndrome also attended the university, is a temple ordinance worker and has been in over 16 community theater productions. After his latest performance in “Fiddler on the Roof,” with a packed house every night, he came home and exclaimed, “Mom, it’s such a burden to be famous!”

I was at one of this young man’s performances. The stage became a garden with flowers of every kind swaying, growing, and reaching up toward the sun. These performers had been nurtured by caring gardeners, carefully tended and lovingly cherished.

And the hugs from children are the best part.