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? 

Family Activity

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.

Holding History

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?

Family Activity

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.

Family Movie

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.

Cultivating Relationship

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:

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:

Family Activity

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!

Family Movie

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.

Embracing Possibility

Family Story: Rou & the Great Race by Pam Fong

In a time when a flower is so rare that it is the grand prize of an annual race, Rou’s only wish is to win for her grandma, who is haunted by memories of when flowers were once abundant. But sometimes the real prize is not what’s offered by others, but what we make for ourselves.” – Amazon

In this science fiction picture book for children, Rou notices the possibilities of the trampled plant. She and her grandmother grow it into many flowers. Sometimes it takes a bit of looking before we notice the hidden possibilities in life.

Family Activity

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!

Lily Handprint Flower

Tissue Paper Flowers

Family Movie: The Greatest Showman (2017)

This family-friendly musical is sure to keep everyone entertained! Hugh Jackman plays P.T. Barnum, a prominent Universalist who was the most influential American showman of the nineteenth century. This film follows his rise into showbiz and worldwide fame. (Available on Disney+)