As we encourage ward and stake members to find family names and take them to the temple and then to share that experience with their families, sometimes they have difficulty taking the first step to come to the family history center. Discovery experiences are decreasing that difficulty and making the family history center an exciting and inviting place to visit.
One of the most successful discovery experiences is a mom and tot experience. Dennis Brimhall, FamilySearch’s managing director, asked that we put the family back into family history. What better way than getting moms and their kids excited about coming to the family history center together?
The basic idea is that a specific time is set aside for moms with young children to come to the family history center. Activities are provided for the children while the moms get an opportunity to seek out their ancestors. Other patrons are made aware that on a certain day young children are invited with their moms to the family history center. These other patrons may choose to come to the family history center at the same time, or they can move their research visit to another day. The invitation for moms is for a specific day and time so other patrons can plan their visits accordingly.
Some directors and their staff provide activities for the children; other groups have the moms rotate among themselves the responsibility for child care. One director put five moms on staff. In this case, each mom was on a five-week rotation, serving as a consultant for two weeks, researching for two weeks, and watching children for one week. The family history center was able to expand its hours with the help of these newly-called consultants.
One very successful program in Kingwood, Texas, provided family history activities for the children for about five weeks. The children made covered wagons out of paper. Each time their mom loaded a photo, added a story, added an ancestor or data about an ancestor to Family Tree, or submitted the name of an ancestor for temple work, the mom wrote about it on a Popsicle stick. The mom gave the stick to her child, who then put it in the wagon. After five weeks, many wagons were full! The children were invested and interested in what their moms were accomplishing. Stories, coloring pages, and games all occupied the children while the moms did their work. About 8 to 10 moms attended each week. This activity took place in the summer, and youth were asked to help with child activities under the supervision of adult consultants. Once the program ended, both the moms and children had enjoyed it so much that the moms are now continuing to meet and are arranging among themselves their own schedule for childcare. The moms have expanded their schedule to include temple days to take their newly-found ancestors to the temple. One little boy excitedly asked, “Mom, is it family history day today?”
There are many variations on how you can make a mom and tot experience work for you and your family history center. It can be a great success! Mothers who otherwise might not have felt welcome in the family history center are now regular guests. Ancestors who may have waited for years until these moms had “free time” are receiving sacred temple ordinances. Tots and moms together are binding their hearts to their eternal families.