Oh, The Lesson They’ll Learn! Use these elementary lesson ideas featuring Dr. Seuss books to teach Biblical truths.
1. Happy With What We Have
From the Book: “You shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).
Here’s the Hook: Kids will learn that God wants us to be happy with what we have and that it’s wrong to be envious of what others have.
- a variety of candy bars (one for each child),
- paper lunch bags,
- and small pieces of paper numbered from one to the total number of kids in your class.
Place one candy bar in each bag and set them on a table (make sure you have a variety). Let each child draw a number. The child who draws #1 chooses a bag, opens it, and pulls out a candy bar. The child who draws #2 may either select a new bag or take the first child’s candy bar. If he or she chooses #1’s candy, then the child who drew #1 can pick a new bag. The child who draws #3 gets the same choices, and so on. Each child must give up his or her candy if someone asks for it. When every child has a candy bar, the game is over.
- How did you feel when you saw a candy bar you wanted?
- What do you wish you could do to get it?
Say: Sometimes all of us want something that belongs to someone else. This is called coveting. But that greedy feeling we get when we want something someone else has breaks one of the Ten Commandments, “You shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor,” or anyone else for that matter. The Bible teaches us to be happy with what we have. You can munch on those candy bars while I read this story about a bird who wanted something her friend had.
(Activity from Kids’ Travel Guide to the Ten Commandments by Carol Mader, Group Publishing)
Read Gertrude McFuzz from the book Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories.
Gertrude’s Trouble: After you read the story ask,
- Did Gertrude really need a tail like Lolla-Lee-Lou?
- How did it make her feel to see Lolla-Lee-Lou’s beautiful tail?
- Have you ever felt like Gertrude felt?
- Would you have stopped after eating just one berry?
- Why do you think Gertrude kept eating berries? W
- as it nice of her to want to show off to Lolla-Lee-Lou?
- What lesson do you think Gertrude learned?
- Can you think of a time you wanted something a friend at school had?
- Did you want it so bad you thought you would do anything to get it?
Say: Remember we talked about Exodus 20:17, the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor.” What Gertrude did certainly was coveting!
Ask: How can you be happy with what you have?
- enough balls for each team of three.
Form groups of three and have each group choose one person to be “It.”
Say: We’re going to play a game of Hot Potato. The person you chose as It will try to get the ball while the other two toss it back and forth to each other and try to keep it away from It. Imagine that the ball represents an all-expense paid trip to an exotic place and each of the tossers will be able to take the trip unless It takes the ball away.
Have kids play Hot Potato for three minutes, changing players who are It if It gets the ball. Then stop the game and bring all the groups together.
- What was it like to be It?
- Did knowing what the ball represented make you want the ball more?
- How did the passers feel, knowing they already had the ball and trip?
- What did it feel like when—and if—you lost the ball and the prize to It?
Say: When we want something desperately, we often act differently and can go to extreme measures to get it. Sometimes that’s a good way to reach a goal, but when it’s out of envy for what someone else has, our motivation is wrong.
Birds of a Feather
- colored feathers
- and self-hardening clay.
Give each child a ball of clay and several feathers. Give some children more feathers than others. Have each child make a bird out of the clay and use the feathers for tail feathers. Kids will start to notice that some kids have more feathers than they do and some may start to complain. Tell them: Some of you do have fewer feathers than others. You decide how you can handle having fewer feathers without breaking the commandment; “You shall not covet.” You can ask someone else for a few feathers, or you may choose to have a bird with fewer feathers; it’s your choice how you handle it!
Have the kids take their birds home as a reminder that God gave them what they have and they need to be happy with what they have been given.
2. Who’s the Best
From the Book: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
Here’s the Hook: Kids will learn that God loves a heart that loves other people and isn’t proud or boastful. Read the story as kids act it out. Choose a narrator, a rabbit, a bear, and a worm. By acting it out, you give the kids a reason to listen to the story. You may even want to videotape it and play it for the kids as their parents arrive, they could even act it out a few times!
Read the story The Big Brag from the book Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories.
Too Much Talent
After reading the story, ask:
- What is one thing you’re really good at?
- What was the rabbit really good at? the bear? the worm?
- Do you ever talk about the things you’re really good at?
- Do you talk about them because you’re really excited about them, or do you talk about them to make other people feel jealous?
- Was the rabbit talking about himself to make the other animals jealous?”
Say: Jesus was really good at a lot of things. He could walk on water and heal people. He was especially good at miracles, and he was a great teacher! Do you remember any time in the Bible when Jesus bragged about all of the things he could do or about who his father was? I don’t remember any times when Jesus was boastful or proud in the Bible.
- Why wasn’t Jesus proud?
- Do you think that we should be boastful or proud of what we’re good at? Why or why not?
Say: Our verse for today is Philippians 2:3. It says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Let’s think about that. It’s saying we shouldn’t do things because we’re only thinking of ourselves and what we’ll get as a reward. It’s also saying we should be humble, and that means exactly what it says in the verse—consider others better than ourselves.
Stuck on You
- a sheet of poster board for each child,
- pads of sticky notes,
- and markers.
Give each child a sheet of poster board, and have them each write their name in big letters on the poster board. Distribute sticky notes, and have kids write on each note two things they like about themselves. Then have them stick the notes to their poster board.
Say: Identifying something good about yourself is easy but we’re going to try something different. On the sticky notes, write at least one positive thing about each person in our class and place it on each person’s poster. It might be a talent, something about the person’s personality that you like, or maybe it’s someone’s smile. Make sure you write at least one thing for each person.
Allow time for kids to write an affirming note for each person and place the notes on the posters. When they’re finished, have kids silently read the notes on their posterboard.
- What was different about what you wrote about yourself and what others wrote about you?
- How does it make you feel to know what people think of you?
- What would it be like if you were to write all those things that others wrote about you and then tell the class about yourself?”
Service With a Smile
- peanut butter,
- paper plates,
- and plastic knives.
Have the kids wash their hands. Then give each child a plate, a knife, and two slices of bread. Have each child make a sandwich for the person on his or her left and serve it to the person. As kids serve their friends, have them say something nice about that person. Afterward, say, “You guys have done a great job of serving each other! Serving others is one of the best ways we can show humility, and all of you thought of someone else before yourselves for this snack! Great job!”
- 3×5 cards,
- and pencils.
Give each child a 3×5 card, a pencil, and a marker.
Say: All of you have special talents that you can use to serve others. Just like the rabbit in the story who could use his hearing to help people who can’t hear, you can use your special gift to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
Say: On your card, make a coupon for someone, using the talents that God has given you to serve someone else. This isn’t a time to show off your talents, but instead a time to do something for someone else and think of the other person first. If you have big muscles, you might carry groceries in for your mother this week. If you’re a really good reader, you could read to someone younger than you. Maybe you’re just really good at telling stories and talking, and you could go to a nursing home and talk to some people who might be lonely.
Allow the children to decorate their coupons and take them home to give to someone.
Courtney Wilson is a director of children’s and family ministries in Phoenix, Arizona.
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