For LDS parents who spent Sunday afternoon bribing young children with

bags of animal crackers, trying to distract them with Noah's Ark flap

books and threatening them with timeout in an empty classroom, all in

an effort to keep them quiet, there's some good news.

Come Monday night, your kids don't necessarily have to remain still and silent to have an effective family home evening.

According to Ross Flom, a Brigham Young University associate professor

of psychology, messages that don't appear to be getting through often

are.

"To the extent that they are paying attention, they are picking things

up," said Flom, who has been at the Provo school for seven years and

specializes in infant development.

The trick, of course, is to achieve that focus. That's when a parent's

vision of an ideal family home evening setting may conflict with a more

effective, kid-friendly approach.

According to Flom, some parents who try to present an elaborate lesson

to toddlers often become frustrated and give up. But the activities

themselves — and the subsequent success or chaos — are secondary to the

process of holding family home evening with young children.

"You're on the right track," he said. "You're getting them used to the habit of having that activity in their home."

Children don't necessarily have to be sitting quietly during family

home evening, said Flom, who suggests parents tailor the activities to

meet the needs of small children. Some of the more effective approaches

involve face-to-face social interaction and kid-friendly objects that

encourage curiosity.

"Have them explore it in a way that they haven't thought of before," he said.

Simple activities such as reading a story, looking at illustrations in

the church magazines, pointing out details in family photographs or

going outside to view the natural surroundings can be effective and

engaging for children, Flom said.

And, when dealing with infants and toddlers, don't plan on holding their interest for very long.

"They're going to go from one activity to another, and that's kind of what young kids do," Flom said.

Ultimately, Flom said, what children really need from their parents is time.

"That's something that every kid could kind of use more of," he said.