Soul Matters for Children
Family Story: The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper and Gabi Swiatkowska
A boy and his grandfather discuss the Golden Rule. Simple words yet not simple to apply. The Golden Rule is an example of a promise or a covenant that faiths ask people to make.
After reading the book, take time to have a family conversation. Here are some questions to consider talking about.
- Do you remember what religions had a version of the golden rule?
- Do Unitarian Universalists have a version of the golden rule?
- (Inherent Worth and dignity of every person/ All people are important.)
- Do you find it easy or hard to follow the Golden Rule?
- Is there anything wrong with the golden rule?
- Example: What if I love to be tickled and my sibling does not. Is it ok to tickle my sibling?
Family Activities: Hand Art Poster
Invite those who you consider to be in your family to dinner. After dinner, invite everyone to trace their hands and write or draw your promise(s) to each other on it. When everyone has done this, put all the hands together to make a poster to show the promises you make to one another. You’re invited to keep this poster visible in a place where everyone can see it. You can make colour copies to send home with others if they don’t live with you.
Family Movie: Up
Up centers on Carl, an elderly widower who travels to South America with wilderness explorer Russell so that he can fulfill a promise made to his late wife Ellie. Along the way, they meet a talking dog named Dug and encounter a giant bird named Kevin, who is being hunted by the explorer Charles Muntz, whom Carl had idolized in childhood.
Widening the Circle
Family Story: Viola Desmond Won’t be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner, Illustrations by Richard Rudnicki
In 1946 when Viola Desmond was told that she had to move her seat from the main floor to the balcony because of her race, she refused to move to the upstairs area. The police took her to jail and fined her, but her actions inspired others.
After reading the book, take time to have a family conversation about what you would do if you were in the movie theatre when this took place.
Learn About Black UUs
Black Lives of UU’s teach-in resources include stories of four Unitarians and Universalists born in the 19th century who lived into the 20th: Lewis McGee, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Fannie Barrier Williams, and Annie B. Jordan Willis. With each story are questions and activities to further connect with these figures and what their achievements mean for us today.
Family Movie: CoCo
Coco‘s rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly — and deeply affecting — approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death.
Living With Intention
Family Story: Beautiful Oops by Barney Salzburg
“Here’s a story about making mistakes. If we learn from our mistakes, we can sometimes make something beautiful instead. Here we go.”
Even though this book is for young children, all ages have learned from it. Here’s a video of the book with song:
After reading the book, take time to reflect on these questions.
- What part of the story do you remember the most?
- What did you like about the story?
- What didn’t you like about the story?
- What do you think this story teaches us?
- Have you ever made a mistake but were able to learn from it or even make something more beautiful?
A Mistakes Ritual
What do you do when you make mistakes and want to make up? Many faiths have a ritual. UU’s don’t – YET. Create one because we all make mistakes and need a way to return to our intentions. What can the group create? Use these steps as a general guideline and invite the group to come up with their own ritual.
A mistake hurts and reminds us we are failing. How do we return to our intentions?
● Opening words. Tell the story about the mistake.
● Meditation. Imagine what it would be like if it got better.
● Action Plan. Make a plan. Do something to help make it better.
● Express Gratitude. Song, poem, art. Give thanks and gratitude for what you do have.
● Music. Set aside anger to be free from its poison.
● Celebrate a return to Intention. Permission to heal.
A Path of Intention
Use permanent markers to decorate and write the following words on smooth rocks. The words are from Samuel Beckett’s Worstward Ho –
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Go outside and create a path outlined with the inscribed rocks. Make a path with the rocks somewhere your family regularly walks to remind you to keep trying to fulfill their intentions. Invite people to walk the Path of Intention when things get tough.
Family Movie: Hairspray
Pleasantly plump teenager Tracy Turnblad teaches 1962 Baltimore a thing or two about integration after landing a spot on a local TV dance show.
Opening to Joy
Family Story: The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
Read aloud by Michelle and Barack Obama
This story is a great way to explore how sharing and being generous creates more joy in the world and for ourselves. Jerome loves collecting all kinds of words. It makes him happy. But we also learn that what makes him even happier is taking the words he collects and sharing them with others.
After reading the book, take time to reflect on these questions.
- What was your favorite part of the story?
- How did you feel when he started writing poetry with his words?
- What awesome words would you collect?
- What things have you collected?
- Have you ever given away your collection to other children? Or have you thought about what it would be like to share it with others?
- Do you feel happy and joyful when people share things with you? Why do you think receiving gifts and generosity makes us feel so happy?
Create Paper Crane, Dove and Chalice Snowflakes for others
Gather as a family to make paper cranes, doves and/or Chalice snowflakes for a shut-in or someone who is missing family at this season. Write wishes and greetings on the snowflakes, cranes, and doves.
Make an Origami Crane (This is an intermediate origami craft and will be too hard for most children under 8.)
For children who need an easier option: Dove Crafts
Fold Chalice Snowflakes (from the UUA Worship Web)
Family Movie: Inside Out
After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.
Family Story: Granddad’s Prayers of the Earth by Douglas Wood
A great way to explore the importance of death and love is by sharing this book. And guess what? It’s about prayers and how prayers can help with death and love! Does everyone know what a prayer is? People do it a lot of different ways but a good way to think about it is… [maybe something like expressing your hopes to the universe or to God.]
In this story, a boy and his grandfather reflect on prayers. And as they do, they tell us that one of the ways we hold on to history is by remembering the ones we love in prayers. By remembering that love, the world can seem right again. After reading the book, take time to reflect on the following questions.
- Have you ever thought of what a prayer is? What do you think prayer is?
- If you were walking in the woods, what would you pick up and put in your pocket?
- What did you think about the conversation between Grandad and his grandson about prayer?
- Have you ever lost someone or a pet and felt empty like the boy?
- Some people say that they can hear the voices of their loved ones whom they have lost. Can you share a time when it seemed like your loved one, person or pet, was speaking to you?
Rock Crafts – In the book, the boy picks up a rock and puts it in his pocket. Invite the children to collect river rocks and other rocks then glue them with a glue gun to form a cairn to place in a special place or paint the rocks to act as markers.
Now that it’s come back into the movie theatres, it might be time to go and watch Avatar again! A paralyzed Marine becomes mobile again using an avatar. It’s here that he falls in love with a Na’vi woman and becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world that he is learning is his own.
Family Story: Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Letitch Smith
This story is a great way to explore how listening builds relationships. It’s a story about a group of people who use special sounds to listen to and help people heal. These people are Indigenous [Native American] Women, who are Jingle Dancers. They are using this special tradition of theirs to help the world heal the fear caused by the pandemic. The Jingle Dancers story also shows how important it is to not just ask people to help you but also listen carefully when they can’t give you exactly what you’re asking for. In the book, Jenna, the main character, respectfully and clearly communicates her need to her four female relatives for the tins to make the jingles. They, in turn, communicate clearly, their own needs, hopes, and wants.
After reading the story, take some time to talk with your child using one, or several of these prompts.
- What was your favorite part of the story?
- How did you feel when Jenna got to complete the four rows on her dress?
- Do you know about any traditions from Native Americans in your area?
- When did an adult (family, friend, or neighbor) help you with a project?
- When Jenna asks the women in her life for help, she also listens to them when they ask her to dance for them. When you ask someone for something, do think it’s a good idea to also ask them if you can do something for them in return?
- When have you asked for what you need so that others can listen and understand?
- Is it sometimes scary to ask others for something you need?
Special Note: Jingle Dancers are bringing their tradition to help the world heal the fear during the pandemic. The dresses, also known as Prayer Dresses, mimic the sound of falling rain and bring a sense of peace. Here’s a site that explores the history of the Jingle Dress: https://www.ncai.org/news/articles/2020/08/12/the-history-of-the-jingle-dress-dance
Here’s a video that talks about the healing power of the jingle dress to the land:
Here’s an additional video as well where jingle dancers talk share their love of jingle dancing:
Remember playing Simon Says as a child? Turns out it’s a great game for teaching listening skills! To refresh your memory on how the game is played, one person is designated as the leader and calls out the actions. Everyone else must follow the leader and do the action, but only when Simon says. For example, Simon says, touch your toes. Everyone must touch their toes.
Then the leader has to try and get everyone to do an action without saying Simon says. If someone does the action and the leader did not say Simon says, that person is out of the game. For example, if the leader says just “touch your toes” and someone touches their toes, they are out of the game.
The leader can try to make things more difficult by speeding up the pace of calling out the actions. Here’s a chart to get you started!
Now that the nights are getting longer, it’s easy to want to curl up with a good movie. How about drawing loved ones close on a weekend evening to watch Brave! We get to follow along with Merida, a feisty girl who does not like to take orders. This gets her into trouble with her mom and their relationship is put to the test.
This movie lets children know that while you may fight with your parents or other loved ones at times, family is very important, and having the ability to listen to each other is all it takes. Also, this movie teaches children that there is nothing wrong with not conforming to gendered beliefs and activities and that there is nothing wrong with being independent.
Family Story: Rou & the Great Race by Pam Fong
Create flowers out of paper! Gather as a family and keep trying! You’ll find that new possibilities will reveal themselves. There’s more than one way to create the flowers, more than one way to look at a problem. Here’s a couple of sites to spark the imagination!