Walking in your shoes

  • Prepare ahead of time by making a set of cards that show a different emotion on each card. To quickly find images from the Internet, use the search term “emotion faces for children.” Draw or print the faces and paste them on your notecards.
  • Next, invite your children to help you gather as many pairs of footwear as you can find. (If you are doing this activity indoors, screen the pairs of shoes for appropriateness for indoor use as the kids will be putting them on and walking in them.)
  • Begin the game by explaining to your children that empathy is thinking about another person and imagining what that person is feeling or thinking. Add that another phrase we often use to mean empathy is “putting ourselves in another person’s shoes.”
  • Now give each child one of your emotion cards and invite them to choose a pair of shoes that will help them act out their emotion appropriately. For example, pink flip flops might help them convey “happy,” big black boots might help for “mad,” and high heels for “excited,” running shoes for “energetic,” slippers for “tired” etc.
  • Have each child act out their emotion using facial expressions and body language as other members of the group try to guess which emotion is being expressed.
  • After each “drama,” take a minute to discuss the emotion. Ask if someone wants to share a time when they felt the same emotion that was just acted out.
  • When you’ve worked through all the cards, take another few minutes to talk about how you can come alongside and encourage others who are experiencing “heavy” emotions. Use the discussion questions to guide your conversation.
  • In closing, share the phrase, “Jesus in me means I care for you.” Pray and ask Jesus to fill each of your family members with His love so you have lots of love and kindness to share with others.
Questions for discussion
  • Other than the footwear, what clues did you look for to help you decide which emotion was being acted out?
  • Let’s say you see someone walking along with their shoulders slumped and their head hung low. What do you think they are feeling?
  • If you see someone who is acting super sad or down, how can you come alongside them and offer encouragement?
  • When you see someone who is wildly excited about something, how can you celebrate their joyful exuberance with them?

    Read 1 John 2:5-6.
     

  • How did Jesus live?
  • How can we care for others as Jesus did?
Key concepts

Jesus showed by how He lived that He was always looking out for the needs of others. Jesus offers us His Holy Spirit to live in us so that we can live and love like He does.

Relevant Scripture

1 John 2:5-6 “. . . but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.

John 17:20-21 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.

Dominoes train

To begin, set up some dominoes standing up on their ends, close enough to each other to start a train of toppling dominoes.

Have one of your children start the chain reaction by pushing the first dominoes tile down. (Be prepared to rebuild the dominoes train so each child can have a chance to start it.)

Explain to your kids that when people’s feelings get hurt, they can act like dominoes: one little word or deed can trigger a whole chain reaction of unhappy events.

For example, an older sister might tell her younger brother that he is acting like a baby. The brother then calls his sister a bossy bully and a fight begins. By the end of the fight, feelings are hurt, their parents are not happy, and the kids’ have their toys and other privileges taken away. When we say things before we take time to consider the feelings of others, we can start a chain reaction that can have far larger consequences than we ever expected.

Now work with your kids to build one final dominoes train, but after every 8 to 10 dominoes tiles, leave a safety space so the whole train does not come down if one section falls. Show your children how these gaps prevent “runaway trains.”

Use the following discussion questions to explain how the dominoes train helps remind us to be considerate.

Questions for discussion
  • What happened when the first dominoes tile was pushed over?
  • How much effort did it take to knock down a long line of dominoes?
  • Could you stop the dominoes train once it started?
  • How are people like dominoes?
  • What kinds of things happen to you to make you feel like your emotions are tumbling down out of control, like the dominoes did?
  • What kind of things can you do to create “safety gaps” when you’re upset – the things that help you regain control of your emotions instead of letting them be like a runaway train?

Next, have fun talking through or role playing through the following scenarios:

Scenario 1:

Jennifer’s mom told her that she couldn’t have ice cream until her little brother went down for his nap. Just as her mom was taking her brother to his room, Jennifer called out to her brother, “Have fun napping. I’ll be eating ice cream!”

How did Jennifer start a dominoes train?

Proverbs 12:23 “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly.

Scenario 2:

Todd’s cousin Jeff was over at Todd’s house and they were playing with building blocks. Jeff decided to have a pretend hurricane blow down the building Todd had just worked very hard to build. Instead of yelling at Jeff, Todd excused himself to go to the bathroom where he prayed and got himself under control before coming back to rebuild his building.

How did Todd stop the dominoes train?

Proverbs 29:11 “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Scenario 3:

At breakfast Stephanie is so excited about her up-coming preschool field trip that she keeps kicking Bryce under the table. She’s talking non-stop about how much fun it’s going to be to go to the petting zoo. Bryce thinks it’s babyish to be that excited about it and he is tired of being kicked. He decides not to say anything at all and moves his chair out of the way of Steph’s flailing legs.

How did Bryce stop the dominoes train?

Colossians 3:13 “. . . bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Scenario 4:

Amanda is at her friend Jessica’s house. Jessica starts saying unkind things about one of their other friends, complaining, “Megan always brings her baby toys when she comes to play over here.” Amanda is quiet. Her friend Jessica then says, “Do you like the way Megan laughs all the time? I don’t.” After a moment Amanda says, “Megan is my friend too. I wouldn’t like it if you said that about me when you and Megan played together. Let’s try and think of nice things to say about her instead.”

How did Amanda stop the dominoes train?

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Scenario 5:

Reece is waiting in a lineup to use the washroom at school. A younger boy comes and pushes into line ahead of him. Reece gets mad and tells the other kid to get to the back of the line. The boy starts to cry and says he has to go really bad.

How could Reece have stopped the train?

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful . . .

Scenario 6:

Janna notices that her mom looks like she’s feeling sad. Janna gives her a hug and says, “Mom, I love having you for my mom.” Right away Janna’s mom seems to feel better.

How did Janna stop the dominoes train?

Proverbs 16:24 “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Scenario 7:

Connor walks into the playroom and notices that the train track he set up has been messed up. Connor yells at his younger brother, “You brat! What did you do to my train track?”

What did Connor do to start a dominoes train?

Proverbs 3:30 “Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.

Scenario 8:

Jack and Jordan are playing hockey on their driveway. They get into an argument about whether Jordan’s shot is a goal. Jack yells, “You always make it so that you win!” Instead of yelling back at his brother, Jordan says, “You’re right, I often decide the close calls. I’ll take the goal back.”

How did Jordan stop a dominoes train?

Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Scenario 9:

Missy is David’s younger sister. Their grandma is visiting and they are about to play a game that their grandma hasn’t played before. Missy is explaining the rules, but David grows impatient and says, “Quiet Missy! I can tell Grandma the rules better than you.” Missy starts to cry and doesn’t want to play the game anymore.

How could David have stopped the dominoes train before it started?

What could Missy have done to stop the dominoes train?

James 1:19-20 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

The joy of a gift

In preparation, gift wrap a selection of items – some delightful and some not so appealing. The items we’re using here as examples include a banana, a toy car, a mini chocolate bar, a dirty sock, a roll of toilet paper, a toothbrush and a package of batteries.

Use the questions for discussion as a lead-in to this activity.

Questions for discussion
  1. What are you supposed to say when someone gives you a gift?
  2. Why is it important to say “Thank you” when you are given a gift?
  3. Have you ever given a gift to someone who did not seem to appreciate it?
  4. How did that make you feel?
  5. How do you say “Thank you” for something you don’t want or need?
  6. What if someone comes to your party and forgets to bring a gift? What could you say to them?

Now it’s time to pretend your children’s stuffed animals are at a party where a number of the stuffies will receive a gift.

As the parent, you will play the role of each stuffie. Using the scenarios below, have each stuffie respond incorrectly when opening their gift.Then invite your children to suggest a more grateful response, and re-play the scenario, demonstrating a more grateful response.

Scene one: A stuffie opens the gift of a banana

Take one: “Banana’s aren’t my favourite fruit. Can I trade this for an apple?”

Take two: “How nice of you to bring me a gift.”

Scene two: A stuffie opens the gift of toilet paper

Take one: “Yuck! That’s disgusting! What were you thinking when you bought me this?”

Take two: “How kind of you! I often run out of toilet paper, so this is just what I need. Thank you.”

Scene three: A stuffie opens the gift of a dirty sock

Take one: “This is the smelliest gift I’ve ever gotten! Is this some kind of joke?”

Take two: “What an interesting gift. Thank you for thinking of me.”

Scene four: A stuffie opens the gift of the chocolate bar

Take one: “Thanks. Did you forget that I’m on a diet?”

Take two: “Oh how delightful. Thank you. I really enjoy chocolate.”

Scene five: A stuffie opens the gift of the batteries

Take one: “These aren’t going to be any fun.”

Take two: “Thank you. I often need batteries for my toys and my flashlight. What a handy gift!”

Scene six: A stuffie opens the gift of the toothbrush

Take one: “I only just got a new toothbrush. Can I exchange it for something else?”

Take two: “Thank you for bringing me such a thoughtful gift. I like to keep my teeth sparkly clean.”

Key concepts

We say “thank you” to let others know that we appreciate the gifts they give us. If you are given a gift that you don’t need or want, the best thing to say is “Thank you. It was very kind of you to think of me.” This lets the person know that you appreciate the fact that they care enough about you to give you a gift. Even if you are not excited about the gift you received, it’s best to think of a reason to be grateful anyway.

Relevant Scripture

Luke 6:45 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

King for a day

Let your kids take turns playing the part of Solomon and the two women who were fighting over the baby. To add drama, make a crown and a sword and use a doll to represent the baby.

Each time you act out the story, emphasize the final verse, “And all Israel heard of the judgement that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

Next, invite your children to come up with scenarios from daily life where we need God’s wisdom.

Close your playtime by thanking God for being a God of wisdom, righteousness and justice. Ask Him to share His wisdom with each of your family members as well.

Relevant Scripture

1 Kings 10:9 “ ‘Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, He has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.’

Psalm 33:5 “He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Baby, we were made for change

First, assemble a box of clothing and accessories and let your children dress up as mom or dad.

Next, dress yourself up and pretend you are a baby, or have your spouse or another adult play the baby role.

Talk “baby talk” while your kids:

  • feed you a bottle or spoon feed you applesauce
  • “burb out” your tummy gas
  • prop you up when sitting on the couch so you don’t topple over
  • change your “diaper” (a towel around your waist)
  • change your bedcovers
  • read books to you
  • try to teach you simple words
  • rock you to sleep.

Use the questions for discussion to help your children think about all the ways a baby changes during their first few years of life. (Starting out drinking milk, then slowly learning to eat soft food from a spoon, then growing teeth and learning to chew food; learning to roll over, crawl, sit up, stand up, walk, run, talk; learning to use a potty.)

After your discussion, emphasize to your kids that God means for all of us to grow and change, and although change is not always comfortable, it is a necessary part of growing up.

Close the lesson by thanking God for planning families where parents take care of their kids, teaching them everything they need to know until they are all grown up and ready to live on their own.

Questions for discussion
  1. What are some of the things a baby learns to do in the first few years of life?
  2. Did you like it when Mom/Dad acted like a baby? Why or why not?
  3. Did you enjoy being the parent?
  4. What would the world be like if no one ever grew up?
  5. What do you think is the hardest part about growing up?
  6. What do you most look forward to about being grown up?
  7. In Deuteronomy 6:4-7, what does the Bible say parents should teach their children?

Note: To extend this activity, find some books or movies that show animals caring for and training their young.

Relevant Scripture

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

Responsible animal owners

If you have a pet, review the importance of feeding and caring for your pet. Give your children some responsibility for caring for them: young children can check daily to make sure your pet’s water bowl is full and ask for help to fill it; kids can also help fill pet dishes with dry food using a measuring cup.

If you don’t have a family pet, have your kids set up a farm with their toys. Use the discussion questions to talk about the responsibilities animal farmers have. These might include:

  • ensuring the animals have clean water each day
  • growing or purchasing food for their animals
  • feeding their animals once or twice daily
  • keeping a clean sleeping area for the animals covered with straw or other bedding material
  • making sure the animals have proper shelter
  • providing immunizations
  • caring for weak or sick animals
  • overseeing the birth of baby animals
  • for dairy farmers, milking cows and goats once or twice daily.

Read Proverbs 12:10. In closing, pray together and ask God to help you care kindly for all animals.

Questions for discussion
  • What do your parents do to take care of you?
  • What kinds of things would a farmer need to do to care for his animals?
  • What do your parents do when you are sick?
  • How does a farmer get medical help for his sick animals?
Key concepts

Parents provide a home, healthy meals, snacks and drinks, and clothing for their children. Likewise, a farmer needs to make sure his animals are warm, well fed and have fresh water. Parents earn money so they can go to the store and buy groceries, while farmers need to either grow grain or hay or purchase food for their animals.

Kids trust their parents to care for them, just as animals trust their owners to take care of them. Trustworthy owners ensure that their animals have everything they need to remain healthy and comfortable.

Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 12:10 “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.

Note: To extend this activity further, organize a farm visit. Depending on how well you know the farmer, you can offer to help him or her do the farm chores.

Camping with compassion

Set up a pretend tent by throwing a blanket over a table, then have your children bring blankets, pillows and their favourite stuffed animal to go “camping” with them. Turn off all lights and pretend it’s nighttime, and use a flashlight inside your tent.

Let your children take turns prowling around outside the tent, growling like a wild animal. Encourage those inside the tent to comfort each other, and their stuffed animals, by saying, Hush. There’s no need to cry. Jesus is with us.

Celebrate by making s’mores and singing campfire songs that assure your children of God’s ongoing presence and protection. Finish by reading 2 Corinthians 1:2-4.

In the future, make it a family tradition to offer to “be a stuffy” for anyone who is discouraged or troubled. Remind your children of the talk you had in the tent about how much better it feels to have someone or something offering comfort when we are experiencing difficult emotions.

Questions for discussion
  • What do you do when you need comfort at night?
  • Which is your favourite animal, doll or blanket to use as a comforter?
  • Can you tell about a time when you needed a comforter?
  • When there’s no stuffed animal, parent or friend around, who can comfort you?
  • Why does God comfort us?
  • How can you comfort others?
Key concepts

Most of us find it comforting to be close to someone else if we feel lonely or scared. When children are frightened, it helps them feel better when they hug a stuffed animal, a pet or a parent. We can be a comforter or serve as a kind of “stuffed animal” for someone who is sad, alone or stressed by encouraging them with kind words and offering them a hug. The Bible tells us that God comforts us in our troubles so that we can share that comfort with others who are also experiencing difficulties. Offering comfort is a way of showing compassion for others.

Relevant Scripture

2 Corinthians 1:2-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Compassion clips

First, encourage your children to gather some stuffed animals or dolls to use as puppets. Then, give each child a scenario to act out where one of their “puppets” is in distress. The remaining children in the audience are to have their toy puppets come alongside to offer help and kind words of encouragement. (You may want to video the action to review this lesson together at another time.)

Here are some suggested scenarios for the puppets to act out:

  • falling down and getting hurt
  • losing the ice cream from an ice-cream cone
  • concern over a sick or dying pet
  • feeling left out or lonely after not being invited to a birthday party
  • feeling apprehensive about an upcoming dental or medical exam
  • feeling upset about a broken toy
  • feeling hurt by something someone said.

As the mini-dramas take place, have your children practice saying simple phrases to show their concern and support. Here are some suggestions:

  • You seem worried. What’s wrong?
  • I’m here for you. What can I do to help?
  • Because you are so special to me, when I see you upset, it upsets me too. Can I give you a hug?
  • I love you. How can I pray for you right now?
  • Can I pray for you and ask God to help us get through this?

Provide a “blessing” or “reward” for the stuffed animals who are showing compassion. Award them heart stickers or coupons as their ticket to attend a “theatre cast party” afterwards. Or allow compassionate stuffies to go along on the next family outing, to sleep in a special bed, or enjoy a privilege of your children’s choosing.

Relevant Scripture

Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Zax tracks

“The Zax” by Dr. Seuss is a fun story that reinforces lessons on cooperation. It’s featured in Dr. Seuss’ book, The Sneetches and Other Stories, which you may be able to borrow from your local library.

In the story, two creatures refuse to give way to each other and end up having a freeway built around them. The simple but entertaining storyline will help even very young children understand the foolishness of people (or nations) who are so stubborn that they refuse to make peace. After reading or viewing the story, have your children take turns acting it out. When they get to the impasse, have them say the following Seuss-like rhyme:

We can stand here all day and miss out on our play,
Or we can choose to make way and get on with our day!

Read your choice of the Bible verses provided below and ask your kids how the Zax story might have been different if the Zax had followed the instructions found in the Bible. Pray together and ask God to help you be people who are willing to submit to others, even when you would rather have your own way. At a future time, when one of your children is having difficulty submitting, gently remind him or her of the foolish stubbornness of the Zax.

Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 17:14 “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.

Proverbs 20:3 “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful . . .

2 Corinthians 13:11 “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Fun with teamwork

Begin by introducing your children to the idea that work is more enjoyable when people work together as a team. Explain the connection between the acronym TEAM and the slogan “Together Everyone Accomplishes More.” Or create your own family acronym or rhyme, for example, When we work as one, more gets done and we have a ton of fun!

Plan a brief family activity to reinforce the idea that working together cooperatively is enjoyable. (See the list below for ideas). Repeat your family slogan often during your activity.

  • If your children enjoy drama and dance, make large cardboard or foam letters that spell “TEAM.” Help your children come up with a dance routine that spells out the word “TEAM” using coordinated footwork and arm movements.
  • Select a large houseplant or a heavy piece of furniture that needs to be moved. Allow each child to try moving it alone (but not to the point of straining muscles). Then organize a team effort to lift the object to the desired location.
  • Build a small human pyramid as a family. To add to the challenge, set up a camera with a self-timer and take a photo of the pyramid.
  • Cooperatively wash your house or car windows with some family members working indoors and others outdoors. Work on the same windowpane at the same time, helping each other determine if the dirt or smudges are on the inside or the outside.

Talk about how everyone needed to do their part in order to complete the task. Discuss any events that threatened the unity of your team, then share ideas that help prevent discord when you work together. Pray and thank God for giving you a family to work and play with. Remember to recall your family’s team slogan when you work together in the future.

Relevant Scripture

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!