Be sure to check out our EMBARK Girls Camp posts (based on this year’s youth theme)! A great fit for Girls Camp and full of activities you could use on any weeknight.
I’ve mentioned that I’m a Primary rookie. And while I wouldn’t call myself a Young Women’s veteran, I would say that between the four of us, we’ve been around the Personal Progress block a time or two.
Last year as I was looking across a blank calendar and wondering how in the world we were going to fill it up, a little piece of inspiration surfaced. I really wanted to create some kind of structure that would help my young women take ownership of their Wednesday activities-but I had a quiet bunch that was hesitant to throw out ideas and make plans. I wanted to encourage the process without taking it over and making it mine.
So here’s the idea: take the For the Strength of Youth sections and center one activity each month around one of the sections. There are 19 sections total-and a few of them are harder than others to create activities around. (Not that they’re unimportant or not worth trying-I just haven’t really come up with a Wednesday type of activity that really showcases Repentance, if you catch my drift. If you can-power to you!)
So, with the girls, we selected the 12 we would use and assigned a month to each one. (We thought Dress & Appearance might be a great one to do right before those steamy summer months hit and that Gratitude might be a nice fit with November, for example.) Then when we had presidency meetings, we already had some kind of guidance about at least one of the activities that we would be planning for each month. It gave them a solid jumping off point instead of, “Okay, think of something wonderful.”
I really think that’s the best way to take this planning tool and run with it-letting the girls fill in the details. But if you’re looking for something with a little more direction, we’ve made a brief list of activities you could do that go along with almost all of the different sections in the For the Strength of Youth.
Agency & Accountability
-Goal Setting Night: go over the basics of setting goals, figure out where each girl is at with Personal Progress and set some goals (plan follow-up!)
-make Plan of Salvation kits that you can draw/color/laminate and the girls can use to teach the Plan of Salvation in FHE (we’ll be sharing a Calvin & Hobbes version next month!)-this also covers Personal Progress Faith #6
-Etiquette Dinner (I prefer the basics of dating and social manners to be covered here, not so much the “which fork should I use?” approach)
-Dating Panel (ask couples you trust will know and support the standards as written in the For Strength of Youth pamphlet)-they can cover their own dating stories, ideas for easy and inexpensive dates, guidelines for dating (dos and don’ts), and of course the standards
Dress & Appearance
-Make it Modest Night: invite some women in the ward who sew well to come up with some fun and simple ideas for lengthening hems (or using/making the slip dress extenders), raising necklines, etc. (sidenote: I’m a HUGE fan in general of inviting people from the ward to come help with youth nights-ward members are a serious resource of all kinds of information)
-Hair and/or Make-up Tips: depending on the group of YW you have, sometimes it’s really helpful to have a class on putting effort into how we look-and everyone enjoys some great hair tips (again, invite some clever ward member who does hair or is a Mary Kay lady)
–Carmen Rasmussen (American Idol contestant) clip about true beauty-love this!
-Book Reviews: invite a librarian or English teacher to come talk about great age-appropriate (and just plain appropriate) books (we did this and got some amazing suggestions about series that our girls loved!)-the girls can also bring book suggestions
-Higher Education Night: invite representatives from local universities or colleges (people from the Admissions or Financial Aid offices are super knowledgeable!) or people from LDS Social Services to come talk about the college admissions process and financial aid/planning OR tour a local university or college if one is close enough (do this early in the Fall so it’s helpful for your seniors-in areas where you already have a lot of parent involvement or push towards post-high school life planning, this activity might not be necessary but can be a really incredible resource for areas where that might be lacking)
Entertainment & Media
-Sister Eyring story: I love this story about Kathleen Eyring (wife of President Eyring) breaking the television to make a point to her boys. Even if you don’t decide to go smash in your entertainment center, it definitely makes you think about how holy your media intake is.
-Make Music Videos: Each year, the Church comes out with a theme music video for the youth. You can find this year’s video here. You can kick the night off with that and then talk to the youth about making their own music videos with current music that fits FSOY standards. They can plan and shoot the videos in the same night, or you can stretch it out over two activities.
-Talk through the different parts of a Family Home Evening and the process of planning one. Depending on the different age ranges of each girl’s family, you can have different options for preparing lessons, visual aids, and games/activities.
-Culture and/or Tradition Night: We did each of these and had great success! Both times, we invited the moms. For culture night, we invited the girls to bring a food, story, activity, or any other show and tell kind of item to teach us about the culture they come from. We did something similar the following year around Christmastime when we invited each girl and her mom to come and share some kind of family holiday tradition they enjoy. We ended up with great food and learned a lot about each other and the world!
-Game Night with Non-member friends or less-active girls (it doesn’t even have to be games-just encourage the girls to find out what a particular girl who you might not see very often loves to do and plan an activity around that thing)
-Institute-find a local Institute class and take your girls! This is awesome for Laurels, but can work with all of your young women. We called ahead and told the teacher we were planning on attending, so he wasn’t shocked when we showed up. Talk to your girls about Institute being a great place to meet people after the graduate and an important part of continuing their spiritual growth after high school.
-Make ice cream pies (so easy, graham cracker crust, ice cream, toppings) and write thank you notes for the Bishopric or anyone else in the ward who you think could use a little appreciation from you and your youth.
-Make a Blessings Book based on President Eyring’s Remember talk. Decorate journals, any way you’d like and review the talk. Challenge the girls to write one things daily about how the Lord has blessed them.
Honesty & Integrity
-Make Your Own Mormonad: Bring a camera, one or two laptops, and several props. Put the youth into groups and have each group pick one principle or standard and a scripture or hymn that goes with it. Any standard or principle works because it can be tied to Integrity. Have them pose for and/or stage pictures that can illustrate the principle or standard. Upload the pictures to the laptop and have the youth edit the picture (You can use Picmonkey for free. AWESOME!) and add title and scripture/line from hymn to the picture like the Mormonads in the New Eras.
-Interviews & Resumes: invite someone from the ward to come and do a workshop on interviews and resumes. It could be really helpful to do this in February or March when youth can start looking for summer jobs! Encourage your workshop teacher to incorporate putting in a honest day’s work and being honest in the application process.
-Before the activity, challenge the girls to avoid hearing or participating in gossip for 3 days (Sunday to Wednesday would be perfect!).
-Invite a parent or sibling of each girl to write a short but specific note about one talent or gift that girl has. Read the notes out loud and talk to the girls about the power of words to build or tear down.
-Pass around pieces of paper-each paper having one girl’s name written across the top. Have the girls pass around the papers and write one nice thing about each girl.
-Great blog post by Hilary Weeks about the power of words.
Music & Dancing
-Have youth prepare a musical number for Sacrament meeting.
-Teach youth how to lead music (great mission prep!). Also covers Personal Progress Knowledge #6.
-Let’s Dance YouTube videos with a large TV or projector. Press play and have everyone follow along. Great way to show that dancing can be fun and appropriate! We’ve used these three I Don’t Feel Like Dancing, Dynamite, What Makes You Beautiful at family parties.
-Find a couple in the ward who knows country dancing or ballroom and have them come teach.
–John Bytheway clip about what’s on NFL player, Chad Lewis’, playlist
Physical & Emotional Health
-Go for a hike.
-Do a Zumba/yoga/pilates DVD and make fruit smoothies.
-Invite a trainer or fitness enthusiast to come talk about easy to make and healthy school lunches and different exercise options.
-Invite a therapist to come talk about coping strategies and dealing with stress.
Sabbath Day Observance
-Take mason jars and fill them with ideas for things the girls could do on a Sunday. (Write in journal, watch Mormon Messages, play a game with younger siblings, do Personal Progress, write a grandparent or missionary, etc.)
-Clean toys in the nursery or make laminated folder games for the nursery.
-Make pajama pants for women’s shelters.
-Plan and run a Primary activity.
-Organize and run a games/toy drive for local juvenile justice centers or Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America.
Tithes & Offerings
-Work at the Bishop’s storehouse.
Work & Self-Reliance
-Invite a member of the ward or a friend to do a workshop on basic money smarts & budgeting.
-Dry pack canning for your ward at cannery (16 & up).
-Learn how to change a tire and cook some basic meals.
-Invite several people to come and share information about their work, their training and education, and what a normal day in their profession looks like. Ask youth what kind of careers they’re interested in to guide who you invite to come share. (This can be done in one night, with 5-7 people each taking 10 minutes or so, or if you’re looking to go a bit deeper or visit workplaces, you can plan a few different activities.
This is definitely not an extensive list, but it hopefully gave you a place to start. Great things happen when youth really take ownership of their activities-so look for their ideas first in these different areas.