Hey friends! It’s General Conference prep week! I’m really looking forward to it (also, rushing to finish reading all of last session’s talks in time, I wasn’t very proactive this time around! You can see my post on how I prepare personally and a printable for reading all the talks from last conference back here).
But if you’re a parent of young children, you know preparing yourself for General Conference is the easy part… actually getting to hear the talks in peace is a whole other ball game! I’ve picked up a few tricks from around the web and in talking with friends and family, and here’s how we make it work.
Make it a big deal.
Making a big deal out of things is kind of my thing, ha. But it really works to build something up as special because when you talk it up to your kids, they think it really is cool! (OK, I can’t guarantee this will work into the teenage years…) Yes, four sessions of two-hour talks on screen over two days is a lot for little ones. But just knowing this is a protected space, that you’ve set out the time, and that we are doing this as a family and it’s the expectation, helps.
General Conference is my Superbowl and the kids know something exciting is going on. Throughout the weeks leading up, I’ll tell them about that special weekend coming up, how excited I am that we’re going to see President Nelson (point out the prophet, apostles, and church leaders whenever you see them in church magazines, books, while scrolling social media, etc.) and tell them about the fun things we’ll do. Create your own family tradition.
On the flip side: don’t make it too intense.
As you can see, we keep it pretty casual — PJ’s and sleeping bags are great! (look at little baby Jonas!!!) I’m not trying to force toddlers to sit still for two hours and if they want to wander off eventually and play in their room or something, that’s OK. But I’m creating a special environment with treats and fun that they generally will gravitate towards. You want it to be a “delight,” just like the Sabbath, right?
Spend a little time doing some research and preparing. (I remember as a teen and even a young adult and young married couple having conference sneak up on me and rolling out of bed at 10 am or later — ah, the days of sleeping in… — and realizing it was time to turn on conference. No more!) It helps to have a special FHE before conference weekend, for example. Talking about King Benjamin gathering his people and speaking from the tower is always a good one to illustrate gathering to hear the prophet.
Deseret Book came out with a cool preparation packet this year, you can download it here for free. There are plenty of similar resources out there, I love following Work + Wonder for great ideas and tips.
It also helps to take the Friday night before conference to do a little prep work — maybe have the kids help do special dusting or something, make sure the area around the TV is prepped and clean so you’re ready to relax and not stress about clutter 🙂
Make it fun with special games & activities.
Obviously, just saying it’ll be special doesn’t make the magic happen! The next part is actually making it fun for kids. I have a few things that are special General Conference activities, and then I also pull stuff from our church bag as well as different toy bins. The key is to have a LOT of activities ready so that if they do pull a “I’m bored” you have another trick up your sleeve and you’ve suddenly bought yourself time to listen to one more talk 😉
I like to set up a special spot for the kids — some people set up their kids’ teepee or make a fort by the TV for example, just like the families listening to King Benjamin. I love that one! Last year we set up a table for them too, so they could color, have snacks, etc.
I have these little envelopes and cards — I laminated all the church leaders (no, not all the seventies ha, I’m not that brave!) after cutting them out of an older conference edition and for my 4-year-old, she can be working on other activities or games but every time there is a new speaker I ask her to look up and see if she can find who is speaking and then stick that person on that session’s card. It helps to break things up and keep her ever so slightly aware!
Pull out a bunch of coloring pages (we love Colorly Love pages and use them for FHE and Come Follow Me study! And you can find a bunch on Pinterest of course.), copies of The Friend, and have fresh markers or pencils (whatever floats their boat) on hand. If you have a craft area set up you can pull out paints, play dough, etc. too at some point. New stickers, pipe cleaners and big beads, really anything that gets their fingers engaged is helpful. (craft kits from Michael’s/Hobby Lobby are great cheap ways to go as well!)
There are also activities like lacing cards (here’s one to print and laminate — we have some hungry caterpillar ones and Book of Mormon ones from Deseret Book), puzzles, and the simple stuff like legos (start a temple-building competition!) or blocks or even the train set. I did these Articles of Faith Puzzles via SugarDoodle last year and my daughter really liked them.
Then there are the games, like General Conference “I Spy” (slightly outdated but there’s probably still a good chance of seeing Pres. Monson’s face when he’s quoted!) or Conference Bingo. Little candies or cereal are always a big hit for these games, obviously!
Don’t forget the treats! Here’s my favorite orange rolls recipe, which is 100% carbs and fat, ha. But it’s tradition! Here’s a slightly cleaner version, and we love the Clean Simple Eats Treats for some healthier alternatives 😉 But for little ones it definitely helps to have a special snack they like (fruit snacks, fruit, popcorn, cheese, goldfish — or maybe that special cereal you don’t usually buy them).
Snack trays, veggies, nuts, healthier options + of course some fun stuff every once in a while. I’ve even seen some fun special general conference treat mixes out there! There are a bunch of variations on the theme of “if you hear someone say ‘Jesus’ or ‘Resurrection,’ you get to eat a chocolate.”
It also helps to make it easy on yourself by having easy lunches prepped (chicken salad made the night before, for example, or a platter of sandwich fixings and veggies pre-cut).
Go for a walk or somehow get them moving in between sessions. (For obvious reasons!)
Don’t stress trying to make them sit still and listen to everything. Honestly, at this age (mine are 2 and 4) it’s mostly about feeling a special spirit and maybe getting a thing or two by osmosis. I try to help them recognize speakers & leaders, and they love to listen to the songs (I have the cutest videos of my kids “conducting” the Tabernacle Choir, ha!). But otherwise, my main goal is to keep them engaged in something so we get a chance to listen in. It’s not perfect, but it generally works.
And there you have it, maybe you’ve already figured this all out on your own but I wanted to share what works for us. I’ve pinned other ideas from around the web on my General Conference Pinterest board, and I’m always thrilled to hear more ideas in the comments!