Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Leader Resource 3, Symbols
- Drawing paper and crayons, markers, or color pencils
Preparation for Activity
- Download Leader Resource 3, Symbols. If you wish, add symbols from your own files. Print each image large enough for all children to see when you hold it up.
Description of Activity
Participants talk about symbols and their meanings, and draw a symbol to represent themselves. Learning how symbols work helps children understand how religious rituals represent abstract ideas.
Tell the children you want to talk about symbols. Say that a symbol is something you see or touch that represents an idea that cannot be seen or touched. Say that you have examples to demonstrate what you mean.
Hold up the picture of an American flag. After participants identify it, ask the group what the flag is a symbol for. What does it represent? Is it just a piece of cloth? If no one says the flag represents the whole United States of America, give this answer. Say, "You cannot see or touch our whole country, but you can see or touch the American flag."
Next, hold up the peace symbol. Follow the same steps to solicit that it symbolizes "peace." Ask if you can touch peace or see it, as you can see or touch the peace symbol. Hold up the dove. Make sure children identify it as a dove and not just a bird. Solicit responses to what it symbolizes-"peace." Say there can be more than one symbol of the same idea.
Continue with as many symbols as time allows.
Say, in your own words:
Symbols are tangible. They are items you can touch and see. They make us think of ideas we cannot touch or see, and we call those ideas "abstract." Some rituals are like that too. Singing "Happy Birthday" makes us think of the idea of someone's special day. But lots of rituals are not symbols. Brushing your teeth every day is a ritual that cleans your teeth. It doesn't stand for something else. Buckling your seatbelt every time you get in the car is a ritual. Why do you buckle your seatbelt? Right, to keep you safe. It is not a symbol of something that you can't see or touch. Can you remember some of the everyday rituals in the story about Kamal and Abby's birthday? What did Kamal and his mom do before Abby's birthday party? [Remind the children that the story included buckling the seatbelt, and a morning cup of coffee.]
Now let's think about rituals that have more meaning. Rituals like singing "Happy Birthday," show ideas that are too big to touch or see. For example, some people who celebrate Christmas have a ritual of giving presents. What is the meaning of that ritual? Why do some people give Christmas presents? [Take and affirm responses. One answer is that it symbolizes the presents given to the baby Jesus. A participant might say the present is given to show love and that is a good answer, too.] In the story, Kamal gave Abby a gift and a card that she could touch and see, to show his friendship. The gift and card are symbols of friendship.
When we talk about rituals in our Signs group, we will mostly be talking about the kind of rituals that are symbols for something special.
Now invite the children to create an image that symbolizes them. Distribute drawing paper and markers/crayons. Say, in these words or your own:
What would a symbol that represents you look like? A symbol of you is NOT a picture of you. It might be a picture of something very special to you. A soccer ball? A violin? Ballet shoes?
Invite participants to share their symbols with the group.