The “Os” have it

Have each of your children decorate a special jar or container, then place the decorated jar where your children will see it often.

When a child is obedient, recognize their obedience by awarding them an “obedience bead” to put a bead in their jar. Obedience beads can be Cheerios® or Fruit Loops®. At a predetermined time, have your children thread the beads on a string and allow them to wear it, and/or eat it.

Other ideas

If it seems appropriate, you may like to try the additional step of removing a bead from a child’s jar when they are disobedient. If you prefer a tangible but less sugary reward, use craft beads instead, but be sure they are not a choking hazard for younger children in your home.

Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 1:8-9 “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

Celebrating obedience

Plan a special family meal where your theme is “Obedience is a family affair.” Let your children know you are celebrating the fact that your family chooses to obey the Lord. Invite your children to help you create a menu that includes only foods that are shaped like an “O.” Some ideas include:

  • circular pasta served with sausage slices in sauce
  • hamburgers and buns
  • Cheerios®
  • slices of carrots and cucumbers
  • round crackers and cheese (cut the cheese with a round cookie cutter)
  • apples, oranges, bananas and pears (slice across the middle to create circular shapes)
  • muffins
  • round sandwiches (trim the bread using a lid as a template)
  • round ice cream sandwiches, cookies or cupcakes.

Even young children can hear the long “O” sound at the beginning of the word “obedience.” Have fun looking at all the Os during the meal and talk about how happy God is when we o‑bey.

To continue the learning experience after the meal, make a poster or banner that says, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Draw a house on your banner together and have each family member draw a picture of him/herself beside your house. Make a list of ways your family obeys and serves God and write it on the banner, too.

Hang your banner up where it can be used as a reminder that your family rules are based on your family’s commitment to follow God. Explain to your children that you, as parents, need to obey a father, too – your Father in heaven!

Other ideas

To do this activity on a smaller scale, plan a snack time or play date where all the food is O‑shaped.

Relevant Scripture

Joshua 24:15 “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Fruit ripening

Buy some green fruit. Have your children taste them when they are green, then wait a few days and taste them when they have ripened. Explain that life is like waiting for fruit to ripen. Sometimes when we are impatient for things and demand them right away, the end result will be that they will not be seem as good as if we had waited.

Give examples that are applicable to your children's lives, like a birthday cake. When a pretty cake is decorated for a birthday party, it is hard to wait until the guests arrive to eat some, but it would be very disappointing to serve friends a birthday cake with a chunk taken out of it.

Mealtime manners

Mealtime is a good time to practice patience. Suggestions include waiting until everyone is sitting down and has been served prior to beginning eating; eating slowly using utensils; waiting patiently until everyone is finished their first helpings before having seconds; and waiting patiently when you have asked for an item to be passed. Talk about how mealtime is more enjoyable when we show patience and use respectful manners.

Mealtime manners

Pretend the Queen (or someone equally important) is coming to dinner. The menu is not significant, as the focus should be on how the food is eaten and on finer points of conduct.

Depending on the age of your children, introduce appropriate manners for them to follow. This is a basic list. Add to it as you desire:

  • Begin every meal by thanking God for your food.
  • Remember to say, “Please” and “Thank you.”
  • Sit straight on your chair without rocking it.
  • Wait for everyone to be seated and served before you start eating.
  • At the beginning of the meal, place your napkin in your lap, and use it to wipe your mouth and hands.
  • Use your fork and spoon to eat food unless it is finger food. If you are unsure, ask.
  • Put only bite-sized pieces into your mouth. Eat like a bunny, not a wolf.
  • Chew with your mouth closed. Chew quietly. Be careful not to slurp.
  • Speak when your mouth is empty. Speak quietly.
  • Ask politely for food to be passed instead of reaching across the table.
  • Before helping yourself to the last portion of food, ask if anyone else would like it, or would like to share it with you.
  • If bodily functions occur during a meal such as burping, passing gas, sneezing or coughing, these things should be done as quietly and discreetly as possible. If necessary, excuse yourself from the table to not disturb others who are eating.
  • Be kind to others at the table. Do not complain about the food to be respectful of those who prepared the food.
  • End every meal by asking to be excused, taking your dishes to the sink and thanking the person who made the meal.

Wise choices

This activity makes a simple addition to mealtime or snack time. In addition to your regular food, you will need some mouldy food or something equally unappealing. (Meticulous housekeepers may need to plan ahead and grow some mould, while the rest of us can just reach to the back of our refrigerators to find a prop.) The goal is to offer your child a choice between eating rotten food and fresh food to illustrate how important it is to choose friends wisely.

Place a plate full of rotten food on the table along with your regular meal or snacks. Pass it around as you would any of the other food. Expect to hear comments like, “Yuck! What is that?” Or, “Do we have to have some of that that?” Or maybe, “Eww! I don’t want that sitting beside me!” After everyone has had a chance to decline the rotten food, discuss why no one chose the bad food.

Questions for discussion
  • Why didn’t anyone take any of the ________ (list the rotten food)?
  • Normally, to avoid offending the hostess, you take a small serving of everything that is passed to you. Why didn’t you do that today?
  • What does the word “contaminate” mean?
  • How could the rotten food have polluted the good food?
  • What are some ways that you can “pollute” or “contaminate” your mind?
  • If being pure means you are choosing righteousness, what does “impure” mean?
  • We all made sure we avoided the rotten food. How can we be as sure to avoid sin?
Key concepts

Nobody likes to have rotten food placed on the serving table, let alone on their plates. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary says the word “contaminate” means to “make impure by contact or mixture” or to “pollute.” No one wanted the rotten food anywhere near the food they were going to eat for fear that the mould or yucky stuff would “pollute” the food they were going to eat, making it “impure.”

Just as contact would have made the good food impure, there are ways we can “pollute” our minds. We can expose ourselves to potentially rotten influences by watching certain television programs, cartoons and movies, and even through reading certain books. We can also be influenced to do wrong by spending time with people who choose to sin. It’s important that we take just as much care in avoiding sinful influences as we did in avoiding the rotten food. The Bible tells us that seeking God with our whole heart and living our lives based on what it says in God’s Word is the way a young man (or woman) can stay pure.

Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 22:24-25 “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ ”

Psalm 1:1-6 “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does he prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

Psalm 119:9-10 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word. I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands.”

Appearance, desire and deception

This activity aims to teach children that their appetites can be deceiving. For a Biblical perspective, refer to Ecclesiastes 6:7.

Prepare ahead of time by purchasing some candy that looks good and sweet on the outside but tastes the opposite of how it appears. For example, sour chews, candy-coated black licorice and cinnamon hearts look good, but don’t always taste good.

Allow your kids to try the candy, but be sure to have a glass of water handy! Use the discussion questions to help explain the following truth: Things can look really good, causing us to desire them, but in the end when we get them we can be disappointed. In life, if we are always seeking to feed our appetites, we can end up more concerned about our physical desires than we are about God. When something is more important to us than God, it is called an idol. God tells us in the Ten Commandments that He doesn’t want us to worship anything but Him (Deuteronomy 5:7-10).

Questions for discussion
  • Do you think you could ever get enough candy?
  • What flavour do you think this candy will be?
  • Do you think it will be good?
  • Did you like the candy?
  • Did it look good before you ate it?
  • When you see someone else eating candy, do you usually want some, too?
  • Do you know what an appetite is?
  • When it comes to candy, do you have a large or small appetite?
  • Just because something looks good and you really want it, is it always good?
  • How can your appetite get you into trouble?
Relevant Scripture

Ecclesiastes 6:7 “All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied.”

“Practice” eating candy

After a meal, put out a bowl of small candies like chocolate-coated candies, mini-chocolate chips or a kind of appetizing food item on the table. Sit down together and sample only one candy each. Ask your children to savour the taste and describe how the candy tastes. Next, everyone samples one more. Ask if the second piece tasted as good as the first. Have a few more and see if the candy still tastes as good.

To model contentedness for your children say, for example, “I sure enjoyed that sweet treat, but I think I’ve had enough for now.” See if they follow your lead. Then read Proverbs 25:16. Afterwards, ask your children if they think you should eat more candy or save it for another day.

Talk about being content with just a few candies rather than needing to eat the whole bowl to be satisfied. Pray together and ask that you would all desire healthy food and be content with having sweets in moderation.

Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 25:16 “If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit.”

Judging by appearances

Make some muffin batter. (Cupcakes or cookies can be used in place of muffins if you wish.) Prior to baking the muffins, scoop out enough batter to make just a few muffins and place it in a separate bowl. Add ¼ to ½ cup of salt to that small amount of batter and mix it well. Keep track of the salty ones when you bake them.

After the muffins are baked, decorate the salty ones with icing and sprinkles. Leave the regular muffins plain. Allow your children to choose a muffin to eat. It is most likely that they will want the nicely decorated ones.

After they have tasted a salty muffin and decide that they don’t care to eat it, give them a regular muffin. For children who choose the plain muffin, you can tell them they chose wisely and have them sample the salty one anyway.

Review the questions for discussion below as you enjoy eating the regular muffins. The key points to emphasize are that appearances don’t tell us everything we need to know about others. We need to take the time to get to know others by asking them questions about themselves and spending time with them. This is how we can learn to appreciate people for who they really are, rather than judging them by how they look.

Questions for discussion
  • How are some kids different from others?
  • How do you choose which children you will play with?
  • Which kids often get left out?
  • Have you ever met someone who is like the plain muffin?
  • Have you ever met someone who is like the muffin with sprinkles?
  • What kind of people does God love – those who are like the salty muffins, or those like the plain muffins?
  • Who does God want us to love?
Relevant Scripture

1 John 4:11-12 “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”

Funny fruit

While you are grocery shopping, choose a piece of fruit or vegetable that looks funny on the outside but actually tastes sweet. Kiwi fruit, lychees, dragon fruit and coconuts are good examples.

Questions for discussion
  • Can you describe what the fruit looks like on the outside?
  • What do you imagine the fruit looks like on the inside?
  • From looking at the outside, do you think it will taste good?

Once you are home, peel or slice open the fruit and compare what your children thought the fruit would look like and what it really looks like. Taste it as well. The questions for discussion can create further opportunity to point out that only God knows what is inside our hearts and that we should not judge others.

More questions for discussion
  • Did it taste like you thought it would?
  • Who knows what is in your heart?
  • How would you feel if someone decided that they didn’t like you just by looking at a picture of you?
Relevant Scripture

James 4:12 “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Romans 2:1-3 “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?”