Green stick versus dry stick

Pop a pair of garden sheers in your pocket, then take your kids out for a walk in a forested area.

Have your kids gather some dry sticks off the ground that are about the width of a pencil, while you prune a green branch from a tree. Choose a branch that’s also about the width of a pencil.

Let your kids try breaking the sticks, as well as your green branch. (Hopefully the green branch will be much more flexible than the dry sticks and harder to break.)

Explain that sometimes people can be like dry sticks. Another term we use for them is “rigid” because they refuse to bend or adapt to changes in their routine. When things don’t go the way “dry stick” kinds of people want, they may pout, refuse to play or even have a tantrum.

On the other hand, people can also be like the green stick. They’re much more flexible in their attitude. They are willing to participate in games and activities suggested by others, and they don’t mind trying new things and new ways of doing things. “Green stick” kinds of people are pleasant to be around because they are easy going, cooperative and willing to try new activities or games. They are also more willing to adapt to unexpected changes in life.

As you continue your walk, or on your drive home, share these examples with your kids and let them decide whether the person in the story is being like a dry stick or a green stick:

  • Tanya likes to play hockey on the driveway. One day her dad suggested they try kicking a soccer ball or throwing a baseball around instead. Tanya refused, saying the only sport she ever wants to play is hockey.
  • Richard enjoys drawing and colouring so his parents have offered to pay for art classes for him. Richard isn’t sure if he will like painting and drawing in front of a teacher, but he agreed to try the classes anyway.
  • Jenny loves white bread, but her mom said that their family was going to start eating brown bread instead, because it’s healthier. Now every time Jenny sees the whole grain bread on the table, she complains about how much she hates brown bread.
  • Jody and Danny’s parents were planning a family vacation in Mexico. But a few weeks before they were to leave, the family’s plans had to change and they visited an uncle and aunt in Alberta instead. Jody was disappointed, but tried to think about how visiting their uncle and aunt could still be fun. Danny, on the other hand, pouted the entire holiday and whined about how much he wished they were at the beach instead.
Relevant Scripture

Psalm 23:1-3 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

Proverbs 19:20 “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

1 Peter 2:25 “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Operation worm rescue

Explain to your kids that worms come out of the ground during rainy periods to migrate. When the ground is wet, they can move safely over sidewalks and driveways. But when the sun comes out, they can dry out before they get a chance to return to the soil.

Using your bare hands, or wearing rubber gloves, help the worms that have been caught out on the sidewalk by returning them to the grass or garden. Say encouraging words to the worms, such as Bye, bye little guy. Here you go, back to your home. Or, The sun is coming out; go home and stay safe!

Use the questions for discussion to help your children connect the concept of compassion to this activity.

Note: A book or DVD version of the story Sara and the Starfish makes a nice complement to this activity.

Questions for discussion
  • What could happen to worms if it gets hot and sunny before they can get off the sidewalk?
  • Who has the power to make a difference for the worms?
  • How did you feel when you rescued the worms?
  • The worms had a problem. We noticed and we cared enough to help. Can you remember the word that describes the feeling we were demonstrating? (Compassion)
  • When we rescued the worms, how were we being like God?
  • What are some ways we can “rescue” people?
Key concepts

The worms faced a life or death issue. If they didn’t get back into the cool, damp soil before the sun came out, they would have dried out and died. We noticed their problem and we were big enough to help, so we took the time to do so.

It feels good to help those who are in need – even if they are just small creatures. “Rescuing” or caring for people is even more rewarding. We show compassion or “rescue” people whenever we notice that someone has a problem and we care enough to do something to help. When we show compassion to anyone or anything, we are being loving and merciful like God is.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 145:8-9 “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.

Compassion starts small

It’s important to teach children to be merciful when dealing with all living creatures, both plants and animals.

Share Luke 12:6 with your children, which tells us that God is aware when a bird is killed, and help your children understand that all God’s creatures are precious to Him. Establish as one of your family’s values the simple rule If God made it, we don’t hurt it.

When you find an insect or spider in your home, put a glass over it and slip a piece of thick paper or cardboard under the glass to contain the creature. Then place the glass on a firm surface where your children can observe it.

Spend time with your children admiring the beauty of God’s creation. Look with fascination at the coordination of its leg movements and at the intricacy of its features. Thank God for the beauty of the creepy crawly and then return it to the outdoors. Talk about how much happier it must be now that it has been allowed to go back to its home.

Relevant Scripture

Luke 12:6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.

Shining like stars

On a clear night, have your children look up in the sky and tell you what they see. As you continue star-gazing, read Philippians 2:14-16a: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life . . .”

Take some time to talk about how easy it is to complain instead of being thankful. We “shine like stars” when we do things without grumbling and have an attitude of gratitude, rather than a “sad-itude.” (A sad-itude shows when a person is sad, upset or complaining because he / she is not getting what he / she wants.) The best way to stomp out a sad-itude is to think of a reason to praise God.

God feeds you, me and the bumble bee

Plan to go exploring outdoors to discuss how God cares for animals. As you walk with your kids, point out the animals you see and discuss how God takes care of them. Below you’ll also find some facts about animals mentioned in the Bible: lions, wild donkeys, cows, mountain goats and sea life. Included with the animal facts are some additional ideas to use on your walk.

For each type of animal, invite your children to think about how God takes care of them.

Questions for discussion
  • What does each animal eat?
  • How does it get its food?
  • Where does it live?
  • How does it stay safe?
  • Where does it get water?

Read aloud the animal facts provided later in this section. Point out that animals need the same things we do: food, water and protection from the weather and from enemies. The Bible tells us that God cares for the animals. The Bible also says that God considers us much more valuable than birds, so we can be sure that God will take care of us too.

Pray with your kids, praising and thanking God for His love and care. Here’s a sample prayer based on Psalm 147:7-9 and Luke 12:22-24:

Dear God, it makes me so happy to see how You care for us and for all the animals that I want to sing! You put clouds in the sky and send rain to help all the plants grow. Thank You for the rain that waters the earth! Thank You that we don’t need to worry about being fed and that the animals don’t have to worry either. Seeing what good care You take of the animals reminds me that You will take care of me too. Thank You Jesus! Amen.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 147:7-9 “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp. He covers the sky with clouds; He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.”

Luke 12:22-24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”

Animal facts for discussion


On your walk, invite one or two children to hide in the grass or trees, pretending to be lions who jump out on the rest of your group. After your “lion encounter,” read Job 38:39-41 (see below). Explain that, in this Bible passage, God is reminding Job that He cares for the lions and the ravens. Now discuss the needs of lions using the facts below.

Habitat: Lions live in grasslands, dense bush and woodlands, but not in jungles.

Diet: It may sound odd, but the female lions do much more of the hunting than the males. Their prey includes large animals such as wildebeests, zebras, buffaloes, young elephants, rhinos, hippos and giraffes. Lions will also eat smaller animals like mice, lizards, tortoises, warthogs, antelopes and even crocodiles. As for water, lions drink water daily if there is water around; however, they can go for four or five days without drinking any water at all.

Protection and predators: Their size, strength, sharp claws and teeth provide lions with protection from other animals; however, people kill lions for cultural rituals and for sport. Lions are now considered a protected animal in many parts of Africa.

Source for lion facts:

Relevant Scripture

Job 38:39-41 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?”

Wild donkeys

Invite your children to pretend they are wild donkeys running around, kicking up their heels. You could even have a lion chase a donkey. After the frolic, call your wild animals together and read Psalm 104:10-13, 21-22. Next, discuss the needs of wild donkeys and your choice of birds.

Habitat: The African wild donkey lives in hilly and stony deserts and in the bushlands and grasslands. It avoids sandy areas.

Diet: Wild donkeys need to live where there is water to drink. The African wild donkey is considered a “grazer,” meaning that it eats mainly grasses and small shrubs or plants. It can eat even the hardest desert grasses because it uses its teeth and hooves to break up the clumps of grass.

Protection and predators: The wild donkey can run very fast! It can run as fast as cars typically drive on city streets (50 km/h). People still hunt donkeys, as do large wild cats. The African wild donkey is an endangered species, meaning there are so few left that they are in danger of being completely gone.

Source for wild donkey facts:

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 104:10-13 “He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from His upper chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of His work.”

Psalm 104:21-22 “The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens.”

Domestic cattle

Have your children pretend to be cows by finding some grass and pretending to eat it. Then read Psalm 104:14-15. Invite your children to think of food we get “from the earth.” (You can trace any food’s origin to the earth!) Now discuss the needs of cows and the ways cows provide food for us too.

Habitat: Cows can live almost anywhere in the world as long as their owners provide shelter and food for them. Cows can even live outdoors during the cold Canadian winter. There are many different kinds of cows. The breeds that are best at producing milk are called dairy cows. Beef cattle are the ones raised for their meat.

Diet: Cows eat grass, hay (dried grasses and plants), grain and silage (which is kind of like sauerkraut made with grass). Like humans, cows are happiest when they have water to drink every day.

Protection and predators: The farmer cares for his herd of cows by providing food, adequate shelter and protection from predators like coyotes. Coyotes will typically prey on very young or weak cows. The mother cow will protect her calf from predators by snorting and pawing the ground with her hooves. If need be, she will charge and head butt a person or any other creature who she thinks is threatening her calf.

Wild cows still exist in a wide range of species, including bison, yak, banteng, gaur, water buffalo, anoa, tamaraw and saola. Many of these animals are endangered. If you have children who are especially interested in nature, you could do some research on these animals together.

Source for wild cattle facts:

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 104:14-15 “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate – bringing forth foodfrom the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.”

Mountain goat

Ideally you’ll be able to find a play structure or some rocks where your children can pretend to be mountain boats. Read Psalm 104:18, then discuss the unique habitat and needs of mountain goats.

Habitat: The Rocky Mountain goat lives in the mountain areas of Western Canada and the United States.

Diet: Grasses, leaves and evergreen trees are the foods favoured by mountain goats. Mountain goats drink from mountain springs and streams and can also eat snow for hydration.

Protection and predators: Bears and cougars are the mountain goat’s main enemies. Mountain goats stay safe by being quick and sure footed. They are extremely agile on rocky ledges and are very efficient climbers. They can climb up 457 m (1,500 feet) in just 20 minutes. (At this rate a mountain goat could climb to the top of the CN Tower, the tallest building in Canada, in less than 25 minutes. The CN Tower measures 1,815.4 feet.)

Since the Rocky Mountain goat lives in areas where people don’t usually go, or can’t go, the mountain goat has not been as affected by human activity as many other large North American mammals have been.

Source for mountain goat facts:

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 104:18 “The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys.” (A “coney” or “hyrax” is a small mammal that superficially resembles a guinea pig.)

Sea life

Lastly, invite your children to pretend to be fish, or some other kind of sea creature. Read Psalm 104:25,27-28. If you wish, you can research the needs of the sea animals your children are most interested in.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 104:25, 27-28 “There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small. . . . These all look to You to give them their food at the proper time. When You give it to them, they gather it up; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”

Eyes and ears in action

Another way to have your children hone their listening skills is to have them practice using their sense of hearing outdoors. If possible, find a location away from the urban buzz. Have your children close their eyes and listen. After listening for a minute, have them call out what they heard so that you can record it. Repeat this step two to four times, then have them open their eyes and see if they can find everything that they heard.

Animal ears sure can hear

Observe a cat or another animal stalking its prey. Point out its perked ears. Also notice the animal’s eyes: they will be very focused on the object it is stalking. Perked ears and focused eyes are signs of attentiveness. Explain that, just as the cat must be attentive to gain its dinner, we must be attentive in order to learn things.

Read Proverbs 2:1-6 and Ezekiel 40:4. Identify the senses that the Bible suggests we use to gain wisdom. Then ask the following questions.

Questions for discussion
  • Would coyotes/cats/wolves (list a predator) find a meal if they did not use their eyes and their ears?
  • What might you miss out on in life if you are not attentive?
  • What animal would you like to pretend to be? (Later, when a child is not listening, call them by their animal name as well as their given name to gently remind them of their intention. You might, for example, say something like: “Mike coyote, are you paying attention with your eyes and your ears?”)
Relevant Scripture

Proverbs 2:1-6 “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

Ezekiel 40:4 “The man said to me, ‘Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the house of Israel everything you see.’ ”

All we like sheep

Find some sheep in a farmer’s field, at the zoo or at an agricultural fair and spend some time observing them.

Questions for discussion

Encourage dialogue on Jesus’ role as a sacrificial lamb by asking these questions:

  • What colour is the sheep or lamb’s wool?
  • Does it look clean?
  • Which do you think is the most perfectly formed sheep?

Explain that in Jesus’ day, the people would out pick the best lamb to give to God. They would kill it and offer if to God as a sacrifice. Because they offered the required sacrifice, God would forgive them for the bad things they had done.

When Jesus came, He was called the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Like the lamb, He was sacrificed so that God would forgive us for all the wrong that we have done and will do. Because Jesus chose to be the lamb who died on the cross, we don’t have to sacrifice lambs as the Israelites did.

Relevant Scripture

John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ ”

More questions for discussion

Use this series of questions to help your children understand the concept of Jesus as our shepherd:

  • Who takes care of the sheep?
  • When the sheep wander away, who brings them back?
  • What keeps the sheep from wandering off?

During your discussion, share these key points with your children:

In the Bible, people are often referred to as sheep because we often wander away from God and His truths. We want to do things our own way. Jesus is the shepherd who can bring us back to God. We need to believe and accept that Jesus died on the cross to forgive us for the bad things that we have done.

If we believe in Jesus, then Jesus will bring us back to God. God will be pleased with us again because of what Jesus has done for our sake. So Jesus is like a shepherd – our shepherd! The fence that God has given us to remind us not to wander away from God’s plan for our lives is the Bible (Psalm 119:9-11).

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 119:9-11 “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. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”

Warm fuzzies and cold pricklies

Going outside for a walk is even more fun when you’re searching for “warm fuzzies” and “cold pricklies”! Warm fuzzies are items that might be lifted by a very gentle breeze, such as dandelion fluff, small seeds and feathers. Have your children collect some examples and put them in a zippered plastic bag marked “warm fuzzies.” In another bag, marked “cold pricklies,” gather collected items that only a strong wind could move, such as sticks and small rocks.

After the objects have been collected, have your children sit down on a blanket, or take your items indoors. Let your children take turns picking out an object and deciding what kind of words or actions would go along with each object – gentle and kind, or cruel and harsh. For example, a child might take out some dandelion fluff and say, “This dandelion fluff reminds me of a hug.” Someone else might take out a rock and say, this reminds me of someone saying, “I really wish you weren’t my brother.”

After everyone has had a chance to share their ideas, the objects can be put into a bowl to serve as a “warm fuzzies and cold pricklies centrepiece” for the kitchen table.

Summarize the lesson by explaining that when we are gentle in our words and actions, we are less likely to hurt others and much more pleasant for others to be around.

Read the verses below and pray together, asking God to fill your home with warm fuzzies instead of cold pricklies. Later, if you notice your son or daughter using harsh words or actions, ask him/her if he/she is throwing rocks or pussy willows, or similar items collected on your scavenger hunt.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Proverbs 3:31-32 “Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways, for the Lord detests a perverse man, but takes the upright into His confidence.”

Note: The original story that introduced the now popular terms “warm fuzzies” and “cold pricklies” was written by Claude Steiner. Before reading this story to your children, however, be aware that it does involve a wicked witch.

Harmonious relationships in nature

Spend some time exploring a fascinating aspect of nature called symbiosis. Search the Internet or the library to familiarize yourself with the basics. Then, explain to your children that there are special friendships (symbiotic mutualistic) in nature which are helping and harmonious relationships. Symbiotic mutualistic relationships occur when two different organisms (plant or animal species) live together and help each other survive. (For contrast, you may also want to familiarize your children with parasitic relationships where one organism benefits, while the other is harmed.)

An example of mutualistic relationships includes the crocodile and the thick knee (bird). The bird feeds on the food left between the crocodile’s teeth, and the crocodile benefits by having its teeth cleaned.

After learning about these kinds of relationships in nature, you can ask your children to identify helping and harmonious relationships in your home. Explain that God designed people within a family unit to have “special friendships” like the animals living in mutualistic symbiosis. It is God’s plan that family members love and care for and help each other. However, when there is discord, unkindness, lack of respect, and/or selfishness within a family, individual members are harmed by others. Living with continual conflict within a family can be considered parasitic and detrimental to relationships. End the discussion by praying together asking God to help you to be a family that lives together peacefully.