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Alternate Activity 1: Free Will By Age

Alternate Activity 1: Free Will By Age
Alternate Activity 1: Free Will By Age

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Two signs on newsprint, one saying NONE OR NEARLY NONE and the other saying AS MUCH AS THEY WANT
  • Optional: Painter's tape or tacks to attach the signs

Preparation for Activity

  • Hang or place one sign on one wall and the other sign on the opposite wall. Choose walls the youth can move between easily.

Description of Activity

Invite your group to explore how much free will people have at different ages.

Point out the two signs saying NONE OR NEARLY NONE and AS MUCH AS THEY WANT. They should be placed on facing walls with space between for youth to move.

Say that you will call out different human ages. Whenever you say an age, you want youth to stand at or anywhere between the two signs to show how much free will people at that age are allowed to use. Call out the ages individually, allowing time in between for discussion. As you get to different stages, ask some of these questions:


Do infants have any free will? Can they use it? Can infants do anything they want? If so, does that mean they have free will? Who can stop them? Does anybody want to move after thinking about that? Or could it be that infants have no free will because most of their actions are controlled by basic drives for food, shelter, and comfort and are not always deliberate? Does anybody want to move after thinking about that?

Five years old

How much more could you do when you were five than when you were a tiny baby? Does that mean you had more free will? Could you use your free will more as a five-year-old?

Ten years old

How much more could you do when you were ten than when you were five? Could you have all the free will you wanted and do anything you wanted? Should parents and teachers let ten-year-olds do anything they want?

Your own age

What about now? Do you have free will? Can you use it? Can you do anything you want? Should you be able to? What will you say to somebody your age when you are a parent or teacher?

Sixteen years old

What's your guess about sixteen-year-olds? Do they have a lot more freedom than you do? What about those who drive-does that change things? Can they use their free will whenever and however they want? Should they be able to? Or should they do what their parents say? Or what their church says? Or what the law says? Or what their teachers say?

Twenty years old

Now think about twenty-year-olds. Do they have free will? Can they use it any way they want? What happens to a twenty-year-old who tries to buy a beer? If the twenty-year-old goes to jail, does that mean she or he did not really have free will? Or does it mean the person made a bad decision about how to use free will?


Finally, we get to adults. How much free will do they have? How much can they use? How much are adults controlled? What about parents? Can parents do anything they want? Or do they have to spend their time taking care of kids and working at places where their bosses tell them what to do? What do you think? Do you want to move after talking about this?

Ask youth to return to their seats, and conduct a brief discussion. Ask how free will fits in with virtue and sin. Does free will allow people to choose between right and wrong? Do most people use their free will in a good way, as best they can? If there were no free will, would we have any laws? Any jails? Any religions talking about how to behave? Were youth using free will when they decided how to answer the questions? What else helped them decide how to answer?

Including All Participants

If some of your participants have limited mobility, devise a different way for the group to make their judgments known. You might give them paper and pencils and ask them to use a scale of 10, with 0 standing for NONE OR NEARLY NONE and 10 standing for AS MUCH AS THEY WANT. Each participant can hold up a sign. Do not assume, however, that a youth using a wheelchair or crutches would not enjoy the movement of this activity as much as any other youth.

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