Togetherness Time

In the past, spending quality time with my children on a regular basis frequently slipped around my schedule, and often fell off completely. But times of soul-searching reconvinced me that time spent with them was more important than almost anything else.

So I devised “Togetherness Time.” The theory is that each of my little children deserves a half-hour of my undivided (more or less) attention every day, and the older ones need at least an hour each week. What a tiny amount of time that really is, but how vital! Each child needs to know he has a right to that time, that it can be depended upon; that for a precious thirty minutes every day, he is the most important thing on the schedule.

In practice, this is how it works:

On our wall is a huge clock covered with a one-foot cardboard circle. To the clock’s hands are attached large paper hands, so that as the clock ticks off the hours of the day the paper hands sweep around the cardboard circle. On the cardboard circle is colored one pie-shaped section for each child and inscribed, “Jennie’s [or Ben’s, or Ari’s] Togetherness Time.”

Those children too young to read learn instantly what the colored sections mean. The poster board hour hand, glued to the regular hour hand, is extra wide, and reads, “time for.” During the course of the day the hour hand points to each child’s special time with Mom.

Below the clock is a large poster, divided into twenty squares, each square depicting for the nonreaders an activity Mother and child can do together.

When each child’s time arrives, he looks at the chart and decides what activity he wants for that day. (That he decides is very important.)

Sometimes I set a timer to limit the activity when I am pressed by other obligations. At other times, we go for as long as the project interests them, which might be ten minutes or two hours.

Following is a partial list of the Togetherness Time activities on our chart:

*Have a talk together

*Go to the library, park, or store

*Read books

*Play games

*Cook or bake something

*Finger paint, draw, color, play with clay, etc.


*Role play or dress up

*Sing songs or tell stories

*Build with tools

*Doll’s birthday party

*Write in my journal. (If they can’t write, they dictate some notable happening of the week and I transcribe; they add a picture.)

Older children, with their own demanding schedules of school and meetings, seem to prefer scheduling a full hour during some evening of the week during which they can pursue a more sophisticated activity with their parents than would interest the little ones. Sometimes a good chat before bed extends into a long session during which doubts, fears, and aspirations surface. Gospel questions are often discussed, and golden “teaching moments” occur. We are careful to let these special times go on as long as the light of learning burns—even if it takes half the night. Lorie N. Davis, Southfield, Michigan

Renew, Redo

Our great-grand-parents may not have heard of recycling, but they were certainly experts at it. My own great-grandmother made clothing from sugar and flour sacks, fashioned quilts from scrap fabric, doused grass and flowers with bath water, and stuffed pillows with chicken feathers.

Even though our circumstances are different today, there are still many ways we can save by recycling our goods. Look around your home. How much paper do you throw away that could be used for the children’s art work? How many leftovers do you throw out that might make tasty dishes? What about the clothing your youngsters have outgrown? Could it be remade for another child?

Add your own ideas to the following list of recycling tips, and see if the dollars don’t stretch a little farther next month.

1. Encourage children to save money on birthday and Christmas gifts by making their own. For a birthday present, children might paint a rock or design a crayon batik. Grandparents will appreciate a homemade wall plaque, and mom and dad are sure to treasure a book of original poems and stories. Children can design their own cards, and the comics section of your newspaper makes a clever wrapping paper.

2. Save small scraps of soap. They can be boiled down and made into a new cake.

3. Make purchases with forethought and planning. Look for clothes that will not soon go out of style. Choose quality, long-wearing fabrics. Coordinate colors and accessories. Don’t forget that dyes can give old clothes a new color lift.

4. Consider reupholstering that faded chair or couch. Much older furniture is structurally of a better quality, and reupholstering is usually less expensive than purchasing a new piece.

5. Before getting rid of orange crates, bricks, and discarded boards, see if someone can use them.

6. Favorite storybooks and music books are expensive. Preserve them by using clear contact paper on covers and ragged pages.

7. If you can’t find a way to recycle old clothing, appliances, or furniture, take your items to Deseret Industries or the Salvation Army. Chances are, they’ll have a customer who can make good use of them.

8. Once a week, plan a supper to recycle leftovers. Make sandwiches from cold meats and poultry. Stir up a delicious soup using leftover vegetables and chicken or beef broth. Recycle vitamins by combining the juice from canned vegetables with cold tomato juice for a refreshing and nutritious drink.

9. Before you go out and buy that new book, check your local library to see if they have a copy or would order it. Instead of buying little-used magazines, plan an afternoon at the library to read your favorite publications. Candace L. Smith, Tempe, Arizona

Easy Freeze

When freezing garden produce, it is much easier to fill plastic freezer bags if you first place them in a wide-mouth jar or cup. If you turn the edge of the bag over the rim of the jar, it will stay open while it is being filled. Lois T. Bartholomew, Smithfield, Utah

Family Digs

We often enjoy a family night project called “Original Research”—and it’s not half so formidable as it sounds!

Each member of the family chooses an area to research (younger members need a little help, of course, but they can easily participate), then finds the information. When the research is completed, it is shared during a family home evening. Here are some suggestions to get you started. You’ll soon be adding ideas of your own.

Identify family members in an old photograph and tell something about each of them.

Choose an heirloom or antique that may be a common sight in the home. Make it come “alive” by researching where it came from, who owned it, and so on.

Has anyone in your family received a trophy or special award? Research it.

Talk to grandparents or other relatives. Ask them to tell you a story about their childhood. If you do not have grandparents living nearby, an older member of the ward or community would probably enjoy sharing some memories.

Too often we take for granted the interesting and unique things about our families, and our children never learn about them. But this enjoyable exercise has given us all an appetite for doing original research of our own. Jan Bernhisel, Fort Bragg, California

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch