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Faith In Action: Toys for a Local Animal Shelter, Session 10: Joy in Nature: Animal Play

In "World of Wonder," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Handout 1, Animals Toys from Recycled Materials
  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Clean, used jeans, sweatshirts, fleece items, or old rope
  • Scissors, including left-handed scissors
  • Bags or boxes for finished animal toys
  • Closing Song poster from Session 1 (see Session 1, Leader Resource 4)
  • Optional: A copy of the story, "Henry Bergh," from the Tapestry of Faith program Riddle and Mystery

Preparation for Activity

  • Consult with the religious educator to set a date for this activity and decide whether to make and deliver the toys in the same session or two different sessions.
  • Select a local animal shelter to receive the toys and get permission and suggestions for the toys you will make.
  • Gather materials for the toys from the congregation and ask for volunteers to help with toy-making.
  • Recruit additional volunteers to photograph or video the toy making as well as the visit.
  • Arrange work tables, one project per table, with the needed materials.
  • If you will deliver the toys in this session, make appropriate arrangements for the field trip.
  • If you are not able to visit, invite a representative of that shelter to pick up the toys, visit with your group, and talk about the needs of the animals they care for—why the animals need help and what their organization does to help them. Ask them to address the need that animals have to play and encourage them to prepare stories about animals they have seen playing.
  • Optional: Read a story about Unitarian Henry Bergh, founder of the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, in the Tapestry of Faith curriculum for 6th grade, Riddle and Mystery. Consider adapting the story for this age group and telling it while the children work on making toys.

Description of Activity

Part I, Making the Toys

Having learned about the importance of play, this activity empowers participants to take action to benefit shelter cats and dogs by making toys for them to play with. Care of the earth is reinforced by using recycled materials (be sure to point this out to the group).

Gather in a circle. Ask children to tell you briefly why playing is important for animals. Affirm that animals learn when they play, and playing reduces animals' stress and helps them create bonds with other animals.

Say, in these words or your own:

When animals are kept in captivity, like in a zoo or at an animal shelter for dogs and cats that don't have homes, they stay healthier and get sick less often if they are allowed to play. Today we are going to make toys for cats and dogs to play with while the animal shelter tries to find them a good home. This will help the animals stay happier and healthier.

Set up the materials for each toy at a different table and staff each table with a volunteer (a congregational youth group may enjoy leading these projects). Divide children into small group at each table, and explain that they will move from table to table to make different toys. Each table leader will demonstrate how to make the toys.

Optional: If you are not taking the toys to a shelter or having a shelter representative come today, close the session by gathering participants in a circle and leading a brief discussion with questions such as:

  • I wonder how making the toys can help the web of life.
  • I wonder what else we could do to help animals.
  • Have you ever played with an animal or seen an animal playing? What was it like?
  • I wonder why play is important in the web of life.

Close by saying:

As Unitarian Universalists we believe it is important to take care of all of the living beings in the web of life because we are all connected to each other.

Ask the World of Wonder children to lead participants in the song "We've Got the Whole World in Our Hands." Plan to share the photos or video with the children.

Part II, Delivering the Toys

By creating and donating toys to a local animal shelter, participants make a concrete connection with the animals that they are helping. This both fosters empathy and also empowers the children as caregivers.

If possible, travel together to the animal shelter to donate the toys. If you are visiting a shelter, take a tour and visit with the animals there. As you go, encourage the children to notice how the animals are behaving and especially watch for playfulness.

Or, gather the participants who worked on the toys at your congregation with a representative of the shelter that will receive the toys. Have the representative talk briefly about the animals they serve, addressing the need that animals have to play and sharing stories about animals they have seen playing.

When you are finished, gather in a circle and briefly ask children what they know about why playing is important for animals. Remind them that when animals play: they learn, their stress is reduced, and they create bonds with other animals.

Process with questions such as:

  • I wonder what the cats and dogs might do with the toys we gave them.
  • Do you think the animals feel joy when they play?
  • I wonder what else we could do to help animals.
  • I wonder why play is important in the web of life.
  • I wonder what you feel when you see animals playing.
  • I wonder if you think it is important for Unitarian Universalists to help animals. Why?

Close by saying:

As Unitarian Universalists we believe it is important to take care of all of the living beings in the web of life because we are all connected to each other.

Ask the World of Wonder children to lead participants in the song "We've Got the Whole World in Our Hands."

Plan to share the photos or video with the children in a subsequent session.

For more information contact web@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, May 17, 2013.

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