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July 3, 2012
Random Tips for a Lighter Life
Scriptures and Children - How to Mix Them
by Heather Best

Reading scriptures with children can be challenging, as any parent, family member or friend to families with children can tell you. Getting them to sit through 15 minutes is sometimes torturous and has the ability of driving adults to near insanity and total frustration.

I have no idea why it is a child can sit through a full 30 minutes of mindless television, or even a half hour or more of reading secular books, but then struggle so relentlessly with 15 minutes of scripture reading.

To combat this issue, my family and I have started a collection of odd items around the house and from the toy boxes of our boys. We can then use these items to "bring to life" the scriptures, so that we get more meaning out of them. In addition, I end up with fewer stress headaches at the end of our 15- to 30-minute scripture study.

For example, when reading in The Book of Mormon about the many battles between the Nephites and Lamanites on the banks of the Sidon River, we have two sets of toy soldiers (each in a different color). The tan ones represent the Nephites and the dark green ones are the Lamanites.

We then use blue pipe cleaners, scarves, or scraps of fabric for the river (whatever happens to be available at the time of reading). When my sisters and their daughters visit, we have the luxury of adding mini dolls, dolls, and traditional girl toys, or what ever else they may bring with them for the wives and daughters we are reading about.

By allowing the children to play, they are learning valuable lessons my husband and I have had difficulty teaching them in other ways. Our teenage son is able to "play" with our younger children despite the age differences, and they remember the scriptures so much more.

Even more exciting is when someone outside the family asks them what their favorite stories are and they recite stories from the scriptures. In addition to all these benefits, Mom and Dad get to play with the kids in meaningful activities and we get along so much better. If all reading times were so pleasant, life would be bliss.

A note of caution: When doing this type of scripture study for the Old Testament, I would recommend that parents read the scripture passages without the children first, and then structure the play-study time, with a child-friendly activity appropriate to your needs and family. Our oldest son has asked me on occasion why it is I don't let him narrate certain sections of the Old Testament, and thus I have had the opportunity to educate him that not everything recorded in the books is appropriate for children to act out, or necessarily even to hear, given their age.

These discussions have helped my husband and me develop a more intimate intellectual relationship with our sons as they get older, which is something I cherish even more as I watch them grow and become increasingly independent.

So, my advice, collect the old toys and odds-and-ends, and put them to use in a new way. Happy scripture study!


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