Activity time: 7 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Chime or other sound instrument
Preparation for Activity
- Create a space where the group can stand in a circle and move around a bit.
Description of Activity
This activity invites children to learn kinesthetically (through movement and bodily experience) as they explore what happens to us physically when we focus on gratitude versus displeasure. NOTE: It is intentional to have participants focus first on displeasure, then on gratitude. This allows any negative feelings generated in the first part of the exercise to be replaced with more positive feelings, so participants will end the activity on a positive note.
Gather in a standing circle. Briefly ask participants what they think it means to be grateful or thankful. After they've had a chance to respond, say in your own words,
Being grateful means appreciating things. It means we notice and take pleasure when something or someone gives us a gift, or helps us, or does something we like. When we remember to give thanks and to focus on gratitude, it can change how we feel inside.
Today we will be thinking about the things we are grateful for. But first we will think about the things we aren't grateful for-things we really hate.
Invite participants to close their eyes for a moment and think about the things they really hate. After a moment, explain that when you ring the chime, everyone may talk at once, saying aloud the things that really don't feel grateful for. Invite them to move, while they say those things, in whatever way their body feels like moving when they think about the things they hate. Say:
The only rule for the movements is that you cannot destroy items or hurt other people. When I ring the chime a second time, everyone will freeze.
When you are ready to begin, ring the chime. Do not participate in the activity, but pay close attention to the participants. Watch for signs of distress and monitor children's movements to be sure they are not harmful.
Allow participants to rant for approximately one minute. Then, ring the chime and instruct participants to stand normally in the circle. Process, using questions such as:
- What sort of ways did your body want to move when we did this?
- How are you feeling right now? Are you calm? Angry?
- What was it like to hear or see your friends doing this?
Now tell the group they will try something different. Instruct them, this time, to close their eyes and think about things they are grateful for and things they love. Explain that when you ring the chime, participants may say out loud the things they are thankful for, moving their bodies in whatever way it feels like when they think about the things they are grateful for.
Allow a minute, then ring the chime. Bring the group back to a standing circle and debrief the experience using questions such as:
- What sorts of ways did your body want to move when we did this? How were these movements different from before?
- Which was easier-thinking of things you hate, or things you are grateful for?
- How are you feeling right now? How are those feelings different than before?
- What was it like to hear or see your friends expressing things they hate? What about seeing your friends express things they are grateful for and love?
- Which made you feel happier inside: thinking about the things you hate or the things you are grateful for?
Including All Participants
For some participants, loud noise and chaos are very overwhelming and stressful. If you know there is a child in the group for whom this will be the case, adapt this activity by providing more guidelines about how loudly participants can talk and what sorts of movements are acceptable. In addition, you can provide plenty of space between participants while they are moving around. Watch participants closely as they engage in this activity and be prepared to offer extra support to any child that may find it upsetting; for example, you might offer a child a quieter space to sit in for a few minutes. You can also engage the child in a dialogue, affirming their reaction and naming the fact that when we focus on things that we hate it doesn't feel good and it can make us act in ways that are unpleasant and overwhelming for others.
If any participants have mobility issues, have the group do this activity while seated.