The purpose of this lesson is to encourage us to strengthen our families by having fun with them.
Show visual 14-a, “Having fun together strengthens families.”
Ask the two assigned class members to share their happiest family experiences. Point out that an important part of gospel living is doing things together as a family.
Elder Marion D. Hanks told the following story:
“Young people want and deserve parents and a family they can be proud of. … The influence of a good family is well-captured by this account from an unknown source:
“‘It was a gorgeous October day. My husband Art and I were down at the boat landing helping our friend Don drag his skiff up on the beach. Art remarked wistfully that it would be a long time before next summer, when we could all start sailing again. “You folks ought to take up skiing like our family and have fun the year round,” Don said.
“‘“Doesn’t that get pretty expensive?” I asked.
“‘Don straightened up and smiled. “It’s funny,” he said. “We live in an old-fashioned house. … For years we’ve been saving up to have the bathroom done over. But every winter we take the money out of the bank and go on a couple of family skiing trips. Our oldest boy is in the army now, and he often mentions in his letters what a great time we had on those trips. You know, I can’t imagine his writing home, ‘Boy, we really have a swell bathroom, haven’t we?’”’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1968, 57; or Ensign, June 1968, 75).
How did this family strengthen its unity?
Most of us like to spend our time doing worthwhile things. Working, magnifying Church callings, relaxing, improving ourselves—all are important and take much of our time. However, these may not be the most valuable activities in our lives. Think about how you would answer the following questions:
What are the most important activities in my life?
Do I spend enough time doing the most meaningful activities in my life?
How could I organize my life so I could have more time for the most important activities?
One of the most important ways to spend our time is with our family. However, daily routines, personal interests, or poor planning may cause us to develop poor habits and waste time that could be spent with our family. Yet despite our circumstances, we must find time to spend with our families and discover ways to improve our family relationships.
What brings a family closer together? (Answers may include caring, showing love, sharing, and doing things for and with each other.)
Activities That Unify Families
Most of us can remember from our childhood the great joy of sharing experiences as a family. A mother made this observation:
“When I think back on my childhood and my teenage years I recall with an almost reverent attitude those pleasant memories of the things we children and mother and father did as a family. I remember that in those days there wasn’t much to do in the community so we had to seek our recreation in our home. I wouldn’t trade the memories of our family parties and other family recreation for all of today’s theatres, bowling alleys, and restaurants. …
“I am determined to do all I can to plan activities for my family that will bring the Lord’s Spirit into our home the way the Spirit filled the home of my parents. I want my children to have the great blessing of having the memories that are so dear to me” (Family Home Evening Manual , 184–85).
Like this mother, we should try to provide positive memories for our families. But the activities offered by the world outside the home are not always acceptable; many do not build family unity and a closeness to our Heavenly Father. Church leaders recognize a growing need for families to do things together and have counseled us to plan family activities. President David O. McKay, for example, counseled us to make our homes attractive and have more activities there (see Gospel Ideals , 485–86). If we do so, our children will be happy and proud to bring their friends home, because home will be a warm, friendly, happy place.
What are some activities that unify families? (List the suggestions on the chalkboard. Add any of the following to the list: write regularly to someone far away, make a family scrapbook, make up and play a game, have treats after an activity, have a night of singing, have a hobby night, make and fly a kite, each week take turns reading aloud a favorite book, or help another family.)
One father shared how he helped bring his family together:
“When I was called to be a mission president, I was fearful that at a most critical time in the lives of my eight children I might not have sufficient time to be a good father. I was determined that being a father was a more important call from the Lord than being president. That meant that even though I would dedicate myself to the mission, I would double my dedication as a father. I knew that in order to preside effectively in the mission, I must first preside well at home. I spent much time with my family, knowing they were the only ones who would still be mine at the end of my mission. If they felt secure and happy in the early days of our mission, things would go from good to better.
“One of the first orders of business was to throw a big rope over a high limb on the huge ash tree that towered over our front yard. [A missionary] climbed the rope and tied it to the limb. Thus the giant mission home swing was born. With the swing came instant neighborhood friends for our younger children.
“A few months after our arrival, we attended a mission presidents’ seminar. Each president, asked what he felt was his best idea so far, reported on some program which he felt had enhanced the work. When my turn came, I said, ‘The best thing I’ve done so far is to build a swing.’ Everyone laughed. President S. Dilworth Young was amazed and asked, ‘What?’ I described the swing and explained that my major goal was to be a good father. … The swing became my symbol of this setting of priorities. Later came a basketball standard and a sandpile. Our yard became a park where I spent much time with my children and where they settled for three happy years. I believe they will forever remember with joy their time in Kentucky and Tennessee” (George D. Durrant, Love at Home, Starring Father , 18–20).
What did this father do to help build family unity?
Have a class member read Ecclesiastes 3:1–8.
This scripture tells us that “there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” including “a time to laugh.” No matter how busy we are, we should take time as a family to relax and have fun together. Our homes should be full of laughter and happiness.
Even work can be enjoyable if approached in the right way. For example, in families with small children, work such as planting a garden, cleaning the house, or washing the dishes can be approached as a game. This will keep enthusiasm and interest high. Such an approach can help us lead our families toward happy lives that are balanced between work, rest, and play.
Planning Family Activities
Successful family activities are usually planned in advance. The following suggestions can help us plan and carry out family activities:
List the activities all family members enjoy. This could be done in a family home evening.
Choose an activity from the list.
Select a date for the activity. Write it on the family calendar to avoid conflicts.
Plan the activity together, involving everyone. Give an assignment to each member of the family.
Promote the activity in our family—talk about it with excitement.
Save money for the activity, if necessary.
What else can we do to plan and carry out family activities?
After having an activity, we should think about how to improve our family fun. We should ask ourselves what would have made the activity more successful and what would have brought the family closer together. If we do this, it is less likely that we will repeat our mistakes. We can plan together to make the next activity even better.
We should record our activities in our family records and personal journals and include photographs and special souvenirs, when possible. Remembering the fun we have had together can strengthen our love for one another.
Fathers should also plan to spend time alone with each family member. This is a good way for a father to develop closeness with his children. Children feel important and loved when their fathers make the effort to spend time with them alone.
Spontaneous activities can also bring families closer together. Such activities are valuable; we should take advantage of them.
Activities Strengthen Families
The following story shows what children want most from their fathers:
“Three hundred twenty-six school children of a district near Indianapolis were asked to write anonymously just what each thought of his father.
“The teacher hoped that the reading of the essays might attract the fathers to attend at least one meeting of the Parent-Teachers Association.
“They came in [inexpensive] cars and [luxurious] cars. Bank president, laborer, professional man, clerk, salesman, meter reader, farmer, utility magnate, merchant, baker, tailor, manufacturer, and contractor, every man with a definite estimate of himself in terms of money, skill, and righteousness or looks. …
“The president picked at random from [a] stack of papers. ‘I like my daddy,’ she read from each. The reasons were many: he built my doll house, took me coasting, taught me to shoot, helps with my schoolwork, takes me to the park, gave me a pig to fatten and sell. Scores of essays could be reduced to: ‘I like my daddy. He plays with me.’
“Not one child mentioned his family house, car, neighborhood, food, or clothing.
“The fathers went into the meeting from many walks of life; they came out in two classes: companions to their children or strangers to their children.
“No man is too rich or too poor to play with his children” (Bryant S. Hinckley, Not by Bread Alone , 84).
Playing together as a family often gives us the chance to teach gospel principles. Beginning our activities with family prayer will teach our children the value of prayer. Settling differences that occur when we play will teach them how to get along with others and to be considerate of others’ feelings. Helping each other and working together as a team will teach responsibility and cooperation. Having fun together will help all family members build positive, happy attitudes.
Over the years, family activities often become family traditions. Some families have family reunions; others go on vacations, visit the temple, or go fishing or hunting; still others form family musical groups or develop hobbies together. There are many good traditions families can establish, and they are all valuable because they help bind families together.
Invite a few class members to tell how playing together has strengthened their families.
Some of us become so involved with work and Church activities that we neglect our families. This is not pleasing to our Heavenly Father. One such man, who spent most of his life in Church service, realized one day that he was losing his son. He had not spent much time with him, and consequently they were not close as fathers and sons should be. When he tried to teach his son to live the gospel, his son rebelled and became inactive in the Church.
But this good father had the wisdom to make time for his son, as he had with the older children before he became so busy. He did not preach to him; instead, he started playing with his son. He began to do what his son liked to do. They went to ball games together. They hunted and fished together. They camped out together.
After three years of such activity together, during which time the two became very close, the son came back into Church activity. He later accepted a call to serve a mission. This father learned that one way to reach a son is to do things with him.
Our family is one of the most important things in our life. It is important, therefore, that we do that which will help us become eternal families. Setting aside time to play together and build each other will help us do this.
Bear your testimony of the importance of playing with your family.
Organize a family activity that will be fun for all family members. This planning could be done during family home evening. Organize a family calendar that includes specific activities you will do together each month.
Before presenting this lesson:
Ask two class members to prepare to tell briefly about their happiest family experiences.
Be prepared to bear your testimony of the importance of playing with your family.
Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.