There are many wonderful illustrations, conversations, and activities that address how outer appearance is not as important as what lies in the heart. Between racial difference discussions, equality emphasizing, and body image talks, students will no doubt be exposed to the “don’t judge a book by its cover” maxim so much it might seem trite and cliché. But there is no overstating this critical principle, especially with younger children.
Small kids are just beginning to formulate their concepts of the world and what’s in it, and the sooner they can be inundated with the message of heart quality the better. Youngsters are quick to notice—and not shy to state- basic differences in people and things, and just as speedily they will jump to a conclusion based on what they see. If you have ever been with a child to an ice cream store, you may have noticed this…it matters very little whether the flavor is cotton candy, candy cane, bubblegum or buttered popcorn. If it’s bright and colorful it attracts immediate attention. They just assume that glittery, shiny, beautiful things are best.
Just try explaining that pink lemonade is exactly the same as yellow (with the addition of red dye no. 40) and you’ll have a battle on your hands. This little lesson uses some every day materials to remind students that we are different. There are a few parts, but of course not all are necessary. Choose what you prefer for focus elements.
Age Range: Younger students (lower elementary; adaptable older)
Materials: Drinking glasses; water; food coloring; sugar; clear containers; ketchup and mustard containers; juice and milk containers; sour cream and frosting.
Lesson: Explain to students that they will be discussing how God made us all different, and what we see on the outside is not the most important part of us. Start off with a taste test. Provide students four cups and let them know they will be sampling some different types of water. First, give everyone a taste of regular water, some tinted with blue food coloring and some with red. Do the colors taste different? (Warning: students may answer “yes”) Then go around the table and give everyone a sip of salt water and another cup of sugar water. Ask again if there is a taste difference. Point out that the sugar and salt water appear essentially the same, just like the dyed waters look different. However, what was inside the cup altered the flavor of the water, while changing the color did not keep it from being water. We might look different: some people have blue eyes and others brown, some darker or lighter skin…but inside we are all the same. God has given us the same insides.
For another activity, re-visit the salt and sugar water principle with two visibly similar items, such as sour cream and vanilla frosting, or peanut butter and maple frosting. Place them in the same container and provide a tiny spoon for a small sample of the items. Discuss how they look so much alike, and come from the same outward container, but are totally different.
In a contrasting manner, prepare ahead of time containers with unexpected contents. Swap the ketchup and mustard in their bottles, or trade milk with juice in containers (obviously this works best if the containers are not transparent). Provide something to accompany the drinks or condiments and ask children which they prefer to have. Surprise! The item you pour/squirt will not be quite what was expected. Explain that changing what was in the container did not change the item itself. Placing ketchup in a mustard bottle does not make it mustard! We might try to change our appearances to fit in with someone else or look “cool,” but we are still just the same as God made us. Only HE can truly transform what is on the inside!
Pray for God to work on our “insides” and remind us that it is our hearts that matter most to Him. Thank God for making us so unique, but loving us all the same.
Bible Verses to Reference:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. -Isaiah 53:2
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? -Matthew 6:28-30