Teaching Children to Treasure the Ten Commandments
by Tiffany and Bill Kinser
We came up with a fun way to teach our fourth grade religious education class the Ten Commandments.
We came up with a fun way to teach our fourth grade religious education class the Ten Commandments. We want them to understand that the Commandments are treasures and that they can be used as an examination of conscience in preparation for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, especially during Lent. We spread out these lessons and crafts over several weeks and don’t let the children take the boxes or the crafts home until we have discussed all Ten Commandments. We make the boxes and crafts part of every class, taking the time in each class to review the Commandments we have already completed.
First we have students decorate “treasure chests” with tempera paint and craft jewels that we purchase from a craft store. Any kind of simple box will work though. We select a token for each Commandment, not something necessarily symbolic but rather unique, that will help the children remember what the Commandment is about. We talk about each Commandment as the children work with these tokens. You will notice that some of the craft items need preparation time before class.
The First Commandment: I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.
A dollar bill: We use clipart images of dollar bills. Over the image of George Washington, each child pastes a familiar image of Jesus, or draws one for that purpose. In place of “Federal Reserve Note,” they put “First Commandment.” In place of “The United States of America,” they put “The Law of the Lord.” In place of “One Dollar,” they put “One True God.” As the children “decorate” their dollars and mount them on pieces of construction paper, we talk about how some things, money for example, can become more important than God.
The Second Commandment: Do not use the Lord’s name in vain.
A two-cent gold coin: We get wooden disks and paint them gold, one for each child. We take them and magazines to class and have the children cut out various mouths. The children paste a mouth—or as many mouths as they want—on one side of their wooden disks, and a large 2¢ on the other side, along with the words “You shall not use the Lord’s name in vain.” We talk about what it means to swear in God’s name and how respecting the Lord’s name is a way of living our Christian faith.
The Third Commandment: Keep holy the Lord’s Day.
Sun-catcher heart: Ahead of time, we make sun-catcher sheets, one for each child, by shaving crayons (with pencil sharpeners) and then melting the shavings between sheets of wax paper. We take these to class and each child traces a heart pattern on the wax paper, cuts it out, and writes on the heart the words “Sunday Is Special.” They punch a hole in the top of their hearts and thread yarn through and knot it. We then give each child a suction-cup hook so that they can hang up their sun-catcher hearts at home to remind the whole family how important it is to keep the Lord’s Day holy by going to Mass.
The Fourth Commandment: Honor your parents.
Badge of honor: We cover large disks with plain white fabric, one for each child, and hot-glue a ruffled edge around each one. On the back of each we glue a small clasp. We take these to class and each child decorates a “badge” and writes on it the word HONOR. They attach ribbons to the “badge” and write MOTHER or MOM and FATHER or DAD on them. As they do this, we talk about how we can honor the selfless love and generous goodness of parents.
The Fifth Commandment: You shall not kill.
Baby footprint: We have the children pick out their favorite color of card stock and their favorite color of washable ink. They then form their hands into fists, dip the “pinky-finger” side of the fists into the ink, and press the fists onto the card stock. This makes a “baby footprint.” (You may recall doing this as a child when the windows would fog.) The children then use their fingerprints to add “toes” to the images and write the words “Respect Life” on the card stock. As the children work, we talk about how precious all of life is and the simple things they can do to respect life.
The Sixth Commandment: You shall not commit adultery.
Wedding rings: From a craft store, we get huge plastic “diamonds” with tiny holes in the bottom. We put the “diamonds” on circular rings and hot-glue them in place. We take these to class, give one to each child, and talk about how the human body is holy and what it means to respect our bodies with chaste living.
The Seventh Commandment: You shall not steal.
Lock and key: Over the years we have tried different things for this craft. It seems the children’s favorite is a simple lock and key—a small padlock and attached key. We give one to each child and talk about respecting other people’s property and the importance of treating others with justice and mercy.
The Eighth Commandment: You shall not bear false witness.
Message in a bottle: We collect small plastic bottles, one for each child. In class, we let the children put craft sand and small craft shells into the bottles. Then they write on small pieces of paper the words “Be Truthful” and slip these pieces of paper into the bottles and then secure the lids. We talk about how lying damages relationships and the message we learn and can easily remember in the Golden Rule.
The Ninth Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
Pure-heart bracelet: We give each child a small baggie filled with beads, including nine beads with letters on them that spell out the words PURE HEART, and elastic string. They thread the beads on the string to make a bracelet with the saying PURE HEART. We talk about what it means to “covet” and the importance of living with modesty and purity.
The Tenth Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
Grateful flower: We get small wooden flowers with eight petals from a craft store, one for each child. The children paint and decorate their flowers and then write a letter on each petal to make the word GRATEFUL. We talk about envy and how our greatest desire is for God alone.
After the last class on the Ten Commandments, the children put all the tokens in their treasure chests and take the chests home to show their families. Each token helps the children—and their families—easily recall the Commandment to which it is associated.
Bill and Tiffany have co-taught fourth grade religious education at St. John the Baptist Church in Edmond, OK, for the past four years. They have been married for 17 years and have three children.
The Ten Commandments
1. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the LORD’s Day.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 496-497)
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