If your child chooses to be taken out of a church meeting, make good use of that time. LDS church buildings have lots of beautiful artwork hanging in the foyer and halls. If you have taken your child out of a meeting and are walking through the halls point out the pictures to them. Stop and talk to them about the content and details of each picture. Below are some ideas of words you can use as you verbally pick apart a painting and ask questions.
Ask, “Who is this?” “What is Jesus doing?” “Jesus is blessing the children, would you like to be blessed by Jesus?” “Jesus can bless and heal people because he holds the Priesthood”. Or simply tell them things that are happening in the picture, tell the story of what is happening, such as, “Look at the boy with the hurt leg, Jesus can heal him and make him feel better and walk again”. Use a second sense by touching your child while you’re explaining. Put your hand on their head, or touch their eyes or whatever part of the body is being recognized in the painting. You might say, “This is Jesus cleansing the temple. That means he’s cleaning up” “Does Jesus look happy in this picture?” “He is sad because those people are not being reverent in the temple”. There was a beautiful painting that hung outside the Relief Society room in the building where we attended church while I was raising my children. It was a slightly impressionistic painting set centuries earlier in a small, poor kitchen. A mother sat in a tall back rocking chair, sitting next to her was her young daughter who sat in a tiny chair, eating from a small plate. In the corner of the room there was a baby, asleep in a cradle. I spent collective hours in front of that painting asking my toddlers about what the mother was saying and what we thought the daughter was eating and if it was morning and they were having breakfast, or if it was evening and they were going to eat then go to sleep. We would even use our fingers to reach up and pretend we were taking food from the tiny plate and would pretend we were putting it in our mouth while making yummy sounds.
I think there is an art to learning how to speak to a child in a way that they will listen and learn. Or maybe it’s more of just getting in the habit of thinking about it and doing it. But don’t be hesitant to talk and explain to them because you think they are too young to understand or they don’t know the meaning of a certain word. Educationally speaking, the types of conversations that happen in the chapel foyer, during the sacrament, in the car as you’re driving by a construction site or some other interesting place, and at the grocery store are incredibly beneficial! They help a child learn new things, increase their vocabulary and attention span, and help them learn sentence continuity. Because of that, we are excited to make a “What do I say now” series a frequent occurrence on our blog. Are there any situations you’ve wondered about after you had a conversation? Have you wondered what the better response could have been? We’d love to hear about it and discuss it!