Masked reality game

Help your children thoughtfully choose a character they would like to be, then use large paper bags or paper plates to help your children make a mask featuring that character.

Caution your children to choose well, as they will have to wear the mask and pretend to be their chosen character for a long time. If they choose to be an animal, for example, they will spend a long time crawling on the floor. Caution them, too, that other people will treat them according to the character they choose.

Once your masks are ready, put them on and go about your usual tasks, but stay “in character,” with each person acting like the character depicted by the mask they are wearing.

Since masks limit vision, don’t let your children wear their masks outdoors or for active play. For less visual obstruction, cut larger eye holes.

When your children are tired of play acting, move on to the discussion questions.

Questions for discussion
  1. Why did you want to quit wearing your mask?
  2. Who were you this morning when you got up?
  3. Who will you be when you go to bed tonight?
  4. Who am I?
  5. Who was I acting like?
  6. What did you like about being ________?
  7. Was there anything you didn’t like about being your character?
  8. Would you want to wear a mask all the time?
  9. What it would be like if a dog walked around acting like a cat? Or vice versa?
  10. Have you ever wished you were someone else?
  11. Why do you think someone would spend their days pretending to be someone they are not?
  12. What do you think God would say if you went around pretending to be someone you are not?
  13. Is there anything you think God would want to change about me or you?
Key concepts

Wearing a mask or pretending to be someone you are not gets tiring after a while. Some people who don’t like themselves much actually hide who they really are from others. They think other people won’t like who they are, so they say and do things based on what they think will make other people like them.

Doing and saying things to try to make people accept you is called “wearing a mask.” It’s not a mask you can see. It means the person becomes very skilled at acting in a certain way to please others because they are afraid to just be themselves. It’s hard work to wear a mask (real or make believe) all day long. It’s much easier to be ourselves – the people God created us to be.

The only thing God ever wants to change about us is our sinful attitudes and behaviours. We don’t need to “wear a mask” to cover up our sin because God already sees it! The best news is that when we let God know we are sorry for sinning, He is pleased to forgive our sins and promises to send His Holy Spirit to live in us and make us more like Him.

After your talk, pray together and ask God to help your children see themselves as He does – as loveable and full of potential.

Relevant Scripture

1 John 1:8-9 “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Galatians 5:22-23,25-26 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. . . . Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

God is my bodyguard

Begin by explaining to your children that some people are considered so important that they need special “babysitters” who travel with them everywhere to make sure that they stay safe from harm.

Next, use the discussion questions to explore the pro and cons of having a bodyguard. After your discussion, read all or part of Psalm 91, then play a game with your children where their toys have bodyguards watching over them.

Create a scenario where all the bodyguards are too weak to overcome a danger (perhaps a doll has fallen into a river and is being carried over a waterfall), then have an “angel” step in to save the day.

Questions for discussion
  1. Who do you think would need a bodyguard?
  2. Why do you think these people pay other people to protect them?
  3. What are the benefits of having a bodyguard?
  4. How would it be a bother to have a bodyguard?
  5. Do you think you would like to have one?
  6. Did you know that you do have a bodyguard who is stronger, wiser and more powerful than any human bodyguard you could hire?

Read Psalm 91:9-12 aloud and tell your children about times when God protected you in a significant way.

Key concepts

Examples of people who hire bodyguards include royalty (kings, queens, princes and princesses), movie stars, high-level politicians, well-known musicians and many other rich and famous people.

These people think that they need the extra protection because they are worried that other people may want to harm them or take them captive to get money. Having a bodyguard may protect you from harm, but it would be a bother to have to arrange to have a person go with you every time you went somewhere.

Most people don’t have bodyguards, but those who love and follow God have something way better than human bodyguards: God and His angels watch over us! In the Bible we read that God sends His angels to watch over all the people who love Him (Psalm 91:14). The way God sees it, we are His children and we are highly valued and precious, like princes and princesses. As children of the King, we have God as our bodyguard.

Note: To add a craft component to this activity, decorate strips cut from cereal boxes and staple the ends together, making crowns to illustrate the royalty status we enjoy as God’s children.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 91:9-12 “If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

Psalm 91:14 “ ‘Because he loves Me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.”

Hebrews 1:14 “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”

John 1:12-13 “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God . . .”

1 John 4:4 “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

Dealing with put-downs and compliments

  • When someone is unkind to one of your children and is making fun of them in some way, teach your child to deflect the comment by expressing their confidence in God’s plan for them. Encourage your child to think to themself, or to say aloud, “You may not like ________ (my hair, my face, the way I sing etc.), but God made me this way and I am going to enjoy being me.”
  • Use the discussion questions to help explain to your children that although others may make fun of them, they can have confidence in knowing that God considers him or her a treasure, simply because God made them. (Further intervention must be taken if a child is the brunt of regular ridicule versus occasional teasing.)
  • Also encourage your children to divert honour to God whenever people make positive comments about their appearance or their abilities. For example, teach your children to say, “Thank you for noticing how God made me unique.” (For more on honouring God after a compliment, see the hands-on optioncomplimenting God” in the humility lesson.)
  • Practice these suggestions with your children, using stuffed animals to act as “bullies.” Allow each child to practice responding confidently in scenarios where he or she is being picked on. Be sure to practice receiving compliments as well.
  • Even though we know that what God thinks is so much more important, unkind words from others can still be very hurtful. Review with your children a strategy to diffuse the pain caused by comments made by other kids.
Questions for discussion
  1. How can you choose to honour God with the special gifts He has given you?
  2. What does a person say or do to bring honour to themself?
  3. When someone compliments you about your talents or your looks, how can you give honour to God?
  4. If someone makes a negative or critical comment about your looks or talents, what should you do?

Note that the ideas here are not designed to address habitual cruelty. Bullying is a serious issue and if you suspect your child is being bullied in any way, do not hesitate to intervene.

Relevant Scripture

1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ ”

Storytime listening exercise

During a family meal or while driving in the car, take turns telling a story. When the story is finished, have someone else summarize the story. Talk about how much we appreciate it when others listen to our stories.

When it is your turn to tell a story, you might choose to tell the following story to help your children understand the importance of listening. Follow up with the questions for discussion afterwards.

Once upon a time there was a little boy who did not like to listen to his mother or father. They had given him some wise advice. They told him that if he were to run onto the street he could be hit by a car and get hurt very badly. One day he was playing in front of his house and chased a ball (or butterfly) out onto the street. His mom called out, "Stop!" but the boy did not listen. Instead he ran right in front of a car. It could not stop and it ran right into him. He was hurt so badly that he almost died. If he had listened to his parents he would not have been hurt.

Questions for discussion
  • How do we feel when others don’t listen?
  • What things did you do to help you remember the story so that you could repeat it?
  • What else can we do to become better listeners?

Fun with listening exercises

Introduce extra hilarity into your listening exercises by throwing some “curve balls” at your kids, rewarding them for following instructions. For example, you might say something like, “Place your ear on the table if you would like chocolate ice cream for dessert. Place your chin on the table if you would prefer vanilla ice cream.”

A picture of pain

The story of the Cross is probably the best object lesson on forgiveness available. To reinforce your teaching on forgiveness, take your children to see an Easter play that portrays the crucifixion – provided they have the maturity to understand it without being traumatized. For young ones, a children’s movie featuring the Easter story may be more suitable.

Questions for discussion

Ask your children the following to help them further understand the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice:

  • What is the worst pain you have ever had?
  • Which is worse, pain in your heart or pain felt in your body?
  • Did Jesus have only body pain or did He have pain in His heart, too? Why?
  • How much do you think it hurt to have nails put through Jesus’ hands and feet? (John 20:24-27)
  • Do you think it hurt Jesus to have His friends turn away from Him? (Matthew 26:56)
  • Did Jesus deserve to be punished like this? (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • Why did Jesus do it? (John 3:16)
  • What did Jesus say about those who killed Him? (Luke 23:34)
  • Would you like to ask Jesus to forgive your sins?

Ask the Holy Spirit to be present when you offer your children an opportunity to ask God for forgiveness of their sins.

Relevant Scripture

John 20:24-25,27 “Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.’ …Then He [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.’ ”

Matthew 26:56 “ ‘But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Luke 23:34 “Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ ”

Heavy luggage

Tell your children that you are going on a journey. Load a tool belt full of tools, pack a backpack with cans of food and bottles of water and fill a suitcase with heavy clothing. Have your children dress in heavy clothing as well. Then take turns carrying all of these heavy items around until your children understand what the phrases “a burden too heavy to bear” and “my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer,” mean (Psalm 32:4).

Questions for discussion
  • How does it feel to wear all these extra clothes and to carry all this extra baggage?
  • How can sin make us feel heavy?
  • What can you do to remove extra weight?
  • What can you do to remove the heaviness of sin?
  • How do we feel after God has forgiven our sins?

Read Psalm 32:1-5 and explain that King David felt weighed down by his sin until he confessed his sins. Just as taking off the heavy clothing and setting down the luggage is a big relief, so we are refreshed and filled with joy when God forgives our sins. At the end of Psalm 32 David says, “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart” (Psalm 32:11). When we confess our sins and choose to do right instead of wrong, we feel much happier than when we hold on to sin.

Other ideas

If you have read Pilgrim’s Progress, re-enact Christian’s journey, ending with his arrival at the cross where his burden (of sin) falls from his back.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 38:4 “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.”

Family ties

Take out some family photos and enjoy looking at them together. Have some fun by asking your children to take turns imitating your mannerisms and habits while completing various tasks. Examples include driving a car, cleaning up, making dinner, changing a diaper or any other parenting tasks.

Read or paraphrase the appropriate parts of Ephesians 5:3-5. Use this as an opportunity to explain that we can inherit things genetically from our parents, but it is much more important that we inherit the godly character we see in our parents and grandparents.

Further the discussion by talking about how being generous lets others know we are a part of God’s family, since those who are greedy don’t fit into God’s family.

Questions for discussion
  • How can we tell that we belong in this family?
  • Other than looks, how can others tell that we are your mommy and daddy? (Same name, similar looks, common personality traits and interests.)
  • According to the Bible, how can we tell who is in God’s family?
Relevant Scripture

Ephesians 5:3-5 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”

Dressing up in God’s clothes

Begin by reading through Colossians 3:12, Galatians 5:22-23 and/or Ephesians 4:2 (see below).

Next, open your closet or dress-up box, and with the help of your children, select items to represent the character traits God says we are to clothe ourselves with: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, self-control, joy, goodness, peace, love and faithfulness. Scarves and accessories work well as you can combine them to make an “outfit.”

As you have fun dressing up in “God’s clothes,” role-play various life situations where you respond according to the character traits you are wearing. Example scenarios could include:

  • a family running late for an appointment,
  • two children wanting to play with the same toy,
  • a parent correcting a child who is blowing through a straw and making a mess,
  • a child who is teasing another child.
Relevant Scripture

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Ephesians 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Colossians 3:12-14 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Take one; take two; take three!

Role-playing is fun and can enrich your children’s learning experience. To practice what you have learned about gentleness, create scenarios featuring people speaking harshly to your children. Scenarios that may be familiar to your children might include a grouchy neighbour who sometimes yells at your kids to get off the grass, a bully who breaks a sandcastle or a name caller.

Have your children practice responding to these “attacks” with gentle answers. Try different “takes” acting out what might happen if the child responds inappropriately. In “take one,” for example, your child might respond to an attack with anger. Then, in “take two,” they could show a gentle and calm response.

Have your children watch their own expressions in a hand-held mirror, or record your session with a movie camera for even more entertainment.