Primary Hacks, Volume 1: Please Don’t Stand on Your Head


“Welcome to the Sister Patterson Show!” I’ve never said that in Primary, but I have wanted to say it many, many times. When I am conducting music or teaching during Sharing Time, it feels like my own show. I’ve never given away a new car, of course, but I get a lot of satisfaction with the little bit if power I do have in those 17 and half minutes. (Does anyone ever get the full 20?)

Here’s the perks:

  • I am in charge
  • I get to decide who speaks
  • I get to impart my wisdom
  • I get to share my testimony

Every primary worker, just like every talk show host, has their own flair and style. When you turn on the Ellen show, you know exactly what you are going to get: dancing, giveaways, and fun!

Make your singing/sharing time the same way – in fact, brand yourself.

Okay, wait just a minute … I know what you are thinking, and the answer to your question is “no.” I’m not saying you should hire a DJ and drag in a coffee table to dance over. Of course, you don’t want to be obnoxiously funny, or irreverent. For Pete’s sake, do not stand on your head (I have heard of this being done). Don’t send the Holy Spirit running …

What I am suggesting that you can have fun. You can smile; you can move your body. Be a little bit silly. Make faces, be dramatic, and laugh!

By “branding,” I mean that you can do something consistently each week to keep the kids on the edges of their seats, waiting for you to do “that thing” you always do.

Here are some branding Ideas:

  • Wear a different apron each week, or wear the same apron every week. When you put on the children know it’s time to begin.
  • Create your own signature phrase and say it every time you begin or close:
    • “I know the scriptures are true.”
    • “It’s a great day to be in Primary!”
    • “I am a Child of God.”
    • “I know that my Savior loves me.”
    • “Welcome to Sister Patterson’s Super-fun Singing Time!”
    • “Thank you boys and girls, it means a lot to me that you were reverent today.”
    • “As you leave, be reverent, and remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.”
    • “… and remember… keep the commandments!”
    • “Don’t’ forget, I love you!”
  • Put a “Word of the Day” on the whiteboard/chalkboard. Whenever the children hear you speak that word, they must fold their arms and cross their legs.
  • Teach the children your own version of sign language. Create your own fun gGreen Bagestures for “quiet please” “stand up,” “freeze!” or anything else you want the kids to respond to.
  • Carry the same bag. I have a big green drawstring bag for carrying primary props. My grandmother made it about 30 years ago, so using it makes me think of her. The children first spot it in Sacrament Meeting, and can see it is filled with something bumpy. They always find me and ask what’s in it. I usually give them a sneak peak, or let them feel what’s inside without looking.

No, we can’t give away iPads or hoverboards, but we can make each child feel special by giving them the gift of our time and individual attention. Learn each child’s name, and something special about him or her. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to be a helper, and when you speak to them as a group, look directly at the individual children, not above their heads.

One last bit of advice. When SKIP (that Sassy Kid In Primary) is being, well, SKIP, remember that your job is to love the children, and teach the doctrine, just as the Savior would if He were teaching in Primary. During your show, don’t be harsh or raise your voice at SKIP. You don’t want it to turn into Geraldo.

So what do you do about SKIP? Of course, every situation is different, and my method is not a universal fix, but this is what has worked for me in the past:

(Go ahead – push that red “play” button – you gotta hear it for the effect.)


No, really. Just. Wait.

Now think about this. Wouldn’t it be swanky if you could get SKIP to want to please you? Is there a way to wrap SKIP around your little finger? The answer is YES! And I have done it!

It’s very simple. Are you ready for this?

Here’ the secret:

Take the time to learn what makes SKIP tick. Does he love We Bare Bears? I’ll bet he likes cookies; make a home visit and take a batch of freshly baked. Cheer for him at his basketball game. Send him a nice note during the week. Tell him how handsome he looks, or how you noticed his radiant smile. Ask him to help you carry your lesson after primary. Seriously, just test this out.

The bottom line is love. Love teaching, love smiling, love Jesus, love the Gospel, and love making each child feel important. Love them. After all, it’s not really your show, is it? It belongs to the host of this universe, and you are acting in His name.