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Plan Ahead: Independence Day

Carolyn Caufman

Fun activities to help children understand and value freedom.

1. Color Codes Take three children out of the room while you explain this game. Give each child in the class a red, yellow, or green piece of construction paper. Tell the children in the classroom that they can only cheer if one of the children chooses the same color they're holding.

Bring the children back in and have them take turns choosing a sheet of construction paper. (Include colors other than red, yellow, and green.) Do this several times. Then have the children sit down.

Ask: How did you feel when people cheered for you? How did you feel when people didn't cheer for you? How did people's cheers make you want to choose the colors you chose?

Say: The children in our class were loyal to certain colors. Loyal means that we always follow someone. We're loyal to God when we do what he says. And we're loyal to our country when we obey its laws.

2. Yea Team! Have children hold hands in a circle. Have children walk into the middle of the circle while saying "yea" and end with "team" when they meet in the middle. Do this several times. Then have the team work on several goals together, such as straightening up the room or making a mural.

Ask: Do you like being part of a team? What do you like about being part of a team? What are your favorite teams, and why do you like them?

Say: When we're on someone's side and cheer for them no matter what, that's called loyalty. How do we show loyalty to our church? to God? to our country?

Say: Let's practice being loyal to our country by making our country's flag.

Give children paper and markers. Show them a picture of the flag and have them create a flag to match it. Help children tape their flag to a plastic straw so they can wave it.

3. On Your Side Choose a volunteer to be Moses.

Say: Let's show our loyalty to Moses by following him and doing everything he says to do.

Play Follow the Leader for three minutes. Then have Moses choose a Joshua to replace him.

Read aloud Joshua 1:16-18.

Say: God gave the people a new leader when Moses died. And they were loyal to their new leader. Let's show our loyalty to Joshua by following him and doing everything he says to do.

Play for three minutes.

4. My Country Cheer Give each child a sheet of construction paper. Provide glue, glitter, markers, and ribbon for children to decorate their paper. Roll the paper into a "megaphone" (decorations on outside) and tape shut.

Say: This month, we'll celebrate our country's Independence Day. That's the day we became free from another country. I'll name good things about our country that we can thank God for. After each one, wave your flags and use your megaphones to yell, "Thank you, God, for..."

Name things such as freedom to come to church, freedom to say what we think, and getting to go to school.

5. Snack: See "Food for Thought."

Grades 1-3

1. I'll Protect You Form a circle with two volunteers in the middle. Using paper wads, play Dodge Ball with one child as a stationary target and the other child as the protector of the target. Change players every two minutes or when the target is hit. Play until every child has been in the middle.

Ask: What made it easy or difficult to protect the target? What made you want to do your best to protect the target? If you were a "target," what was it like to have to rely on your protector?

2. Free Indeed Form two teams and have teams stand on opposite sides of the room. Give one team a stack of white paper and the other team a stack of colored paper. Have teams make paper wads. On "go," have teams throw the paper wads at each other. The team with the most paper wads on the other team's side after three minutes wins.

Afterward, ask: How'd it feel to have a war? How'd it feel to win? to lose? What do you think about real war? If you were asked to fight for your country, what would you do?

Say: People in the Bible had to fight for their country often. But one time, the Israelites fought in a war and lost.

Have kids act out the story as you read aloud Jeremiah 52:1-30.

After the story, ask: What would it have been like to live in Jerusalem during this time? What would you have done if you had been captured?

3. Thanks a Ton! Ask: What freedoms do we enjoy in our country? What freedoms are you most grateful for? What would life be like without these freedoms?

Say: Many people have fought for our country to give us freedom. For Independence Day, let's say thank you to these people.

Give children card stock and markers. Have them create thank-you cards to give to veterans. Deliver the cards to a veterans' hospital or a veterans' administration.

4. Snack: See "Food for Thought."

Grades 4-6

1. Paper Attack Form teams. Have each team choose a person to be a king or queen. Designate a dividing line down the center of your room. Have teams each stand on a different side of the line with their king or queen standing behind them. Give each person two newspaper wads to throw at the opposing team's royalty. Tell teams to defend their royalty by blocking shots. No one may cross or reach over the center line. Play until a king or queen is hit.

Afterward, ask Which was more important to you, to hit the opposing royalty or to protect your royalty? Explain. What did it feel like as king or queen to have others defending you? What did loyalty have to do with this game?

2. Leader Loyalty! Say: When citizens of a country defend it and its leaders, it's called loyalty. Let's read about a country who was loyal to their king.

Read aloud 2 Samuel 18:1-7.

Ask: Would you have this kind of loyalty to our country's leader? Why or why not? What helps you be loyal to our country? What hinders your loyalty?

3. The Bible Says Form groups of three or fewer. Have groups each read Romans 13:1-7. Then have them discuss these questions: Why does God want us to be loyal to our country's leaders? Does God want us to obey our leaders even if they're doing wrong things? Why or why not?

After groups discuss these questions, ask for reports. Then give each group paper, an envelope, and an ink pen. Have groups each write a letter to the leader of your country, expressing their loyalty to the leader. Send the letters later.

4. Snack: See "Food for Thought."

Food For Thought

by Jody Brolsma

You'll need: A 1-ounce package of instant pudding mix, a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, 2 cups milk, 8 cups crushed ice, 3/4 cup rock salt, a 13-ounce coffee can with a lid, a 39-ounce coffee can with a lid, spoons, and bowls. (Makes enough for five.)

Directions: Mix the first three ingredients in the small coffee can. Cover tightly and place in the large can. Alternately pack ice and rock salt around the small can. Cover tightly.

Have kids form a circle and roll the can back and forth for 15 minutes. Talk about how people have had to work together to make our country strong. Then stir the contents of the small can. Roll again for 15 minutes and talk about God's role in the formation of our country.

Enjoy the ice cream and then close in prayer.

Carolyn Caufman is a children's minister in Minnesota. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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