I love General Conference. I really do. I think it's a mixture of a few things: hearing prophets speak, watching it in my pjs on my couch, eating yummy food. It's really a winner combo.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, LDS/Mormons believe in prophets, both ones who lived thousands of years ago as well as a living one today. Awesome, right?!
Well, twice a year our regular Sunday meetings are put on hold and we get 2 fun filled days of listening to the prophet, his counselors, the 12 apostles, and other churchwide leadership speak to us in the comfort of our before-stated pajamas. I guess pjs aren't required, but I'm getting off point.
There are 2 two hour sessions both Saturday and Sunday that we watch as a family, and yes, that adds up to 8 hours of listening to speakers. The Tabernacle Choir sings in there too, but really, it is a long time for little ones to be attentive and/or not pull the chandelier from the ceiling.
But there are such powerful stories and a wonderful peace that comes from watching that both adults and kids can gain so much from that the thought of just letting the kids do their own thing while I watch just never settled well with me. Not to mention that them doing their thing would mean there is no freaking way I would be able to hear a word.
I've tried just about every trick out there to help the kids listen.
Trick: Each session have 3 words the kids listen for. When they hear it, they get an M&M or something.
Result: After about 15 minutes, they got totally distracted and it was Mom and Dad telling them they missed a word. Plus they were CRAZY from the sugar.
Trick: Put pictures of the 1st Presidency and the 12 apostles on paper bags filled with quiet activities. When that prophet speaks, you open the bag and do the activity.
Result: The kids' boredom/attention span never corresponded with the speakers. Plus, it never failed that the activities randomly ended up being the same, like 2 coloring pages right in a row, and the kids weren't too into it.
Trick: Have a Billion of endless quiet activities for the kids to do.
Result: Mom is exhausted before conference even starts. Kids do pretty well but they aren't really listening so much.
Better, but still Not Successful.
A few years ago, I stumbled on this brilliant idea that has completely changed our General Conference experience: A Conference Store.
It's really not all that spectacular of an idea, it just didn't occur to me and while we are all still learning and improving, Conference really is something we all look forward to.
* This is what works for us. That doesn't mean that I'm saying it is what YOU should do. Just sharing what we've found works at our home.*
While you can spend a crazy amount of money to do this, stick around to the end where I have an idea for the store that's totally free.
Money: Print out a bunch of copies of this. So easy. You could do green paper or cardstock or just regular white paper. Ours is printed on green regular paper and we've been reusing it for years.
How to Earn Money: This is pretty simple. You earn money during the speakers, you spend during the music. The store is closed if music isn't being sung so the kids need to shop quickly.
For each speaker, the kids can earn up to 3 dollars.
- one for being quiet
- one for being able to answer a basic question/tell you anything about the talk, depending on the age of the kid
- one for taking notes
After each talk we quickly pause the tv, ask them about the talk, check on notes, and pay them what they’ve earned. It takes about 30 seconds. Then they hold onto their money until the song.
They get excited when the speakers are people they don't know as they know they will be shorter talks and they can get money faster. Ha.
In a basket, I have activities like church themed coloring pages and crosswords and puzzles and lacing. As the kids need to, they do them but they won't get that 3rd dollar. And that's fine. It's their choice.
We are amazing note takers the first session but by the last session things get a bit more sketchy, but really, that is totally fine.
The kids are all responsible for keeping track of their own money. When they shop they are responsible for paying Mom or Dad the correct amount. We do help with the adding for the little ones, but we keep our lazy selves on the couch and let them help each other. I just make sure to have everything priced clearly so there's no questions.
There are so many different things you can do for the store and obviously it just depends on your kids. You could theoretically do this with teenagers- just use what motivates them, like candy and gift cards.
I tend to be what I lovingly refer to as a Hoarder of Kid Prizes. I'm constantly accumulating them and storing them in baskets in my closet, getting things cheap/free and hanging on to them for holidays and the Conference Store. This store really doesn't cost me all that much, but I'm happy to spend what I do because it makes all the difference for us here. If you're wanting to do this whole store idea but don't have Hoarder tendencies, just get creative.
Also, throughout the two days I rotate stuff in and out, saving fresh stuff for every session and pulling other stuff out. Keeps everyone excited.
For New Years we bought the Costco pack of poppers. I'm pretty sure we'll be set here for a few decades.
I'll pull out books from my box. These all were free or $1.
These DVDs were a garage sale find but I've gotten them used at thrift stores too.
My kids love the lego guys and I've found them for super cheap, like $.50 each, on amazon when you buy multiples. They aren't the name brand but they look and feel exactly the same.
My sweet friend went through her stuff and gifted us a few great items a few months ago and this game will be a total hit.
You know I couldn't possibly do a post without mentioning the Dollar Tree, and here it is. I buy the big packs of stickers and take them apart, meaning I get like 8 pages out of that $1
And here's part 2 of my Dollar Tree love. These fun coloring deals are great for my younger ones. The older 2 (ages 8 and 10) don't really care about them as much any more.
I do have a bowl or 2 each session of treats too.
And here's that FREE IDEA I promised you. Just make a bunch of coupons for them to get out of stuff they really don't like doing or stuff they don't get to do as often as they'd like. I also have $2 Amazon gift cards in there for them to be able to buy a show they want. That's always a favorite.
One thing I try to do while pricing stuff is to try to have items that are $1 all the way up to something they have to save up or combine with a sibling for.
Welp, that's it. That's our store. My kids for real told me like a year ago that General Conference was their favorite holiday. Ha! I asked them why and they told me that they loved the store first but they also loved hearing the interesting stories from the speakers. I'm counting that as a win.