It is now November, which means that Halloween, along with its candy, costumes, and masks, is officially over.
But when the candy is eaten and the costumes exchanged for pajamas, do the masks really come off?
Yes, the physical ones, the ones we can see, come off, but what about the ones we can’t see? The smiles and the toughness that hide pain and fear? Sadly, these masks do not go away when Halloween is over. Instead, they are worn on the faces of children throughout the school year as they deal with bullying, troubles at home, and other difficult issues...
While children can typically identify when someone is angry or upset, they may find it difficult to understand that the emotion one is displaying may not be the emotion one is feeling and may in fact be the result of a different emotion. Victims of bullying often fake smiles, and bullies themselves wear masks of toughness to cover their pain and confusion. Helping our children understand this is a big step towards ending bullying. When kids grasp that problems have roots and that there may be more to a person or situation than meets the eye, then they are in a better position to begin identifying and working through those issues and understanding their peers.
Because this is such a vital lesson, the earlier it is taught, the better. To help children learn that sometimes one emotion or attitude is hiding another, we have created a fun mask-making craft! This craft has been designed to go along with the reading of the picture book This is A. Blob, by L.A. Kefalos, however, it can be modified to fit with your current lesson. This is A. Blob follows a sticky, purple blob named A. Blob, that wreaks havoc on the playground with its bullying ways. As the story progresses, readers learn there may be more to A. Blob than first meets the eye. Not only does the book show bullying from the perspective of both bully and victim, it was written specifically for younger children, making it a perfect intro to the topic of bullying and emotional masks. To read a longer review, check out our previous blog, In a New Light.
Let’s get started!
I chose fairly basic materials so that this craft could be easily mastered by young children, but feel free to adapt to your tastes and the needs of your classroom!
The kids won’t be making their masks until later, but this lesson calls for yours to be made at the beginning, so I’ll go ahead and insert instructions here:
First, read This is A. Blob out loud to the class. Discuss what it means to be a bully and why they think A. Blob is a bully. Encourage the students to connect A. Blob and its story to real-life people and situations.
Introduce the idea of emotional masks to the children. Bring out the mask with A. Blob on it. Hold up the side with the angry face and have the students describe you: what are you feeling? What assumptions might be made about your personality? Then flip the mask around and ask the same question. Remind the students that both faces are part of the same mask and the same character.
Next, explain how we all sometimes wear emotional masks because we are too afraid or hurt to show our real emotions. Explain how we must be careful not to judge a book by its cover, or a face by its mask.
To illustrate further, have the students make their own masks. On one side, show an emotion such as a smile or anger and on the other side, show the emotion that is being masked. Have students show their masks to the class and explain why they chose these emotions and these masks. Talk about what situations might cause a person to use an emotional mask. To help drive these ideas home, have the students do some role play.
This is the basic outline of the craft and lesson. The wonderful thing about this craft is that it can take so many different directions and can be used with just about any age. The masks can be as simple or as complex as you would like, the role playing can span one day or multiple days, and the masks themselves can be utilized as a tool to help students sort through their emotions and the emotions of others throughout the school year.
If you try this out in your classroom, share pictures of your masks and let us know how you used them in your lesson!
It's Labor Day!
For some, Labor Day is a day off to relax, maybe barbecue, and enjoy a day,well, not laboring. For others, it is the last hold on summer before school and commitments kick into high gear. But what is Labor Day supposed to mean? I decided to do a bit of research to find out.
According to the U.S Department of Labor: “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” The first Labor Day celebration was held in 1882 in New York City -- a hub of industry and a shining example of the achievements of the working man. In these early days, the holiday was celebrated with a parade showing off various trades and organizations, followed by a festival for the amusement of the workers being honored. Essentially, the day was built to celebrate the working man and to give him or her a much needed day off to show gratitude for the labor which keeps America running.
Labor Day is a day to say “thank you” to America’s laborers, but how many of us take the time to show our thanks? I recently came across an article by Amy of the blog, Teach Mama, describing how she and her family decided to take their day off and make a difference. Inspired by a show on PBS Kids, she decided to make Labor Day, Neighbor Day-- a day filled with helping those nearby and making their day a little bit brighter. I love this idea, not only because it spreads kindness—something we need more of in this world—but also because it brings us back to the original intention of Labor Day—showing our love and gratitude to those around us.
To help with your Neighbor Day celebration, I have created a list of 11 easy ways to show kindness to those right on your own street:
1. Take over a pretty potted plant for them to enjoy or collect a bouquet from your own garden.
2. Mow your neighbor’s lawn—This is probably one of the kindest things you can do as most people dread this chore. Make sure you ask first, though!
3. Place a kind note in their mailbox. It could be a note of encouragement, a compliment on the house or gardening, or even an invitation to have lunch together sometime.
4. Take in their trash cans. This is a chore I always put off for some reason. If you know your neighbors well enough to know where they store their cans and you know they won’t mind you walking up their drive, take a couple extra minutes to bring them up from the curb.
5. Offer to help carry in groceries.
6. Offer to weed your neighbor’s garden.
7. Smile and say hello! This seems simple, but it’s amazing how such a small act can brighten a day! Check out our post from June about National Smile Power Day to learn how a smile really can make a difference!
8. Collect any litter that has accumulated along your street.
9. Pay one of your neighbor’s utility bills while you are paying yours. This idea came from the blog Mom It Forward and I absolutely love it. You never know when someone may be struggling between keeping the electricity on and buying groceries.
10. Make some cookies and bring them over to your neighbor. Now, this is one that may require some previous interaction with your neighbor. For example, you wouldn’t want to make cookies for a neighbor with diabetes or a nut allergy! If you know the person is lonely, bring some lemonade too and offer to stay and chat.
11. Bring over some good books—what better way to share a piece of your heart? For some books that teach the importance of kindness check out our post In A New Light!
These are just a few ideas to get you started! The great thing about each Neighbor Day activity is that each can be done on any day of the year and by someone of any age! What a great way to teach our children that kindness starts at home.
If these ideas get you energized, consider checking out these organizations for even more inspiration:
Small Acts Big Change- This group was actually started by kids and continues to be run by children today! They operate under the belief that small acts of kindness can cause big change in this world and from the results of their work—they’re right! Right now and through the whole month of September, Small Acts Big Change is hosting an entire month of Random Acts of Kindness. Each day they challenge their followers and themselves to complete a certain kindness challenge. Are you up for the challenge??
RandomActsOfKindness.org- An entire website dedicated to random acts of kindness! Check out the website for kindness ideas, stories, and resources for spreading kindness in your school or workplace.
Let us know in the comments how you plan on celebrating Labor Day—or Neighbor Day—this year!
Our latest release, This is A. Blob, by L.A Kefalos illustrates to children what can happen when bullying, instead of kindness, is let loose on the school playground. Find your copy on Amazon.com or at LaughingLeopardPress.com
They’re all the rage these past few years as Marvel unleashes movies in its Avenger’s series. From movies to purses to backpacks and now even to library summer reading programs, it’s hard to miss the superhero sensation! Walking through my local library, looking at the capes and hero emblems decorating the walls, I had to wonder: why are we so captivated by these masked vigilantes? I believe there are two reasons. First, superheroes are ordinary people doing extraordinary things! They are standing up for the little guy and making the world a better place. Superheroes do what we are often too afraid to do ourselves.
The second reason for our superhero fascination is captured in the library’s summer reading tagline: “Every Hero Has a Story”. As much as we love to watch superhuman people perform amazing feats of bravery, we love it even more when we are given a glimpse of their humanity. We appreciate the real-life struggles each hero faces because we see ourselves. We begin to think, “If he can do it, maybe I can too…”
The truth is, there are no superheroes, but there are heroes.
They are ordinary people with ordinary stories who made extraordinary choices.
It is those choices that transform them. This is one of the most important lessons we can instill in our children. Not only can children look up to superheroes, they can BE superheroes! As our children gear up for another school year, this is an especially important message. School is filled with many wonderful things, but it can, unfortunately, also be full of hardships and trials. As hard as they try, teachers cannot be everywhere and situations will arise when children will have to take care of matters themselves. So what can we do to prepare our kids to make the choice to be heroes instead of bullies this school year?
Here is a list of activities to get you started:
1: Act like a hero
Talk with your kids about what makes someone a hero. Why do we look up to heroes? What qualities do we admire and how can we replicate them in our everyday lives? A fun way to visualize this is to create a collage. Have your child cut out pictures of people he or she admires (they don’t necessarily have to be superheroes) along with words that describe that admirable person such as honor, truth, and courage. Help them to see that this is how a hero behaves.
Discuss a few small ways your child can be a hero at school, such as always being respectful and honest with his or her teacher, sitting with someone at lunch who doesn’t have a friend, or refusing to participate in bullying activities. Marvel actually made some awesome special edition comic book covers in support of bully prevention month that show favorite superheroes preventing bullying. These could serve as great inspiration for ways your child can be a hero instead of a bully!
Also be sure to check out an earlier blog post we wrote called In a New Light for some tips and books to prepare your child to deal with bullying.
A quick word of caution: kids are still kids and while it is our job to teach them how to handle life on their own, we need to be sure to let them know when it is time to call for adult backup. Hey, even Batman called for reinforcements sometimes!
2. Talk like a hero
This is a tip I picked up from the fantastic blogger Carrots are Orange. When her children are fighting and the inevitable name calling begins, she asks them the simple question: “Is this how heroes talk? Would a hero say ‘stupid’?” If mean names and insults start flying, recall the hero collages and ask your child if he or she is acting very much like a hero right now. Chances are, they will see their words more clearly.
3. Dress like a hero
4. Be a hero!
With your child, act out different scenarios they might encounter at school, such as one student calling another stupid, gossiping about the teacher, pushing, or being left out at recess. Talk about how a hero would behave in these situations. What are words, phrases, and actions that could help the situation instead of make it worse? Discuss how it probably won’t be easy and it might even be a little scary to speak up and go against the flow. It might be hard to choose kind words over angry ones or to not call names in retaliation, but remind them that
difficult is not impossible.
Especially not for a hero! Remind your child to look down at his or her hero bracelet and choose to be a hero today. And remind him or her that sometimes heroes call for backup. Make a list of adults your child can go to in times of trouble and discuss what those situations might look like. Think of this list as a superhero tool-belt.
I hope you find these tips helpful as you and your child prepare to begin another school year!
To be a real hero today, consider donating to these worthwhile causes that work hard each and every day to end bullying, comfort victims of bullying, and make the world a better place:
Stand For The Silent
Small Acts Big Change
Stomp Out Bullying
Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center
To help young children (ages 4-8) understand the issue of bullying check out This is A. Blob by L.A Kefalos. In a beautifully illustrated tale of a playground bully’s antics, readers discover that A. Blob and, perhaps others like it, may not be exactly what they seem. Through this story, children are encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of another and consider what can be done to help bullies and the victims of bullying.
Let us know in the comments what your secret superhero name would be!
While bullying has been an issue for many generations, technological advancements we have today leave people open to threats in the comfort of their own homes. With progress comes challenges and unfortunately cyber-bullying is a byproduct of this. However, this doesn’t mean that other bullying isn’t happening, because it is. Bullying can also happen at school and during extra curricular activities. Bullying can be the cause of depression and suicide, which is why many people are speaking out about it and advocating for a bully-free world. Thanks to HelpGuide.org, we have new insights on ways to cope with and prevent bullying.
Many times children being bullied wonder why they’re the ones being taunted. Victims might feel that something is wrong with them. HelpGuide.org helps us understand what goes on in a bully’s mind and it typically has nothing to do with the people they target. Those who bully can be jealous of the target, act out to become popular, stronger, or more powerful than the target, to escape their own problems, or because they’re being bullied themselves. If possible, instead of becoming more introverted, it can be helpful to look at the issue from a different light. The following are some tips for reframing the bullying situation to help regain a sense of control:
· Try to view bullying from a different perspective. The bully is an unhappy, frustrated person who wants to have control over your feelings so that you feel as badly as they do. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
· Look at the big picture. Bullying can be extremely painful, but try asking yourself how important it will seem to you in the long run. Will it matter in a year? Is it worth getting so upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
· Focus on the positive. Reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. Make a list and refer to it whenever you feel down.
· Find the humor. If you’re relaxed enough to recognize the absurdity of a bullying situation, and to comment on it with humor, you’ll likely no longer be an interesting target for a bully.
· Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control—including the behavior of other people. Rather than allowing interactions to cause undue stress, focus on the things you can control, such as the way you choose to react to bullies.
If you have children, walk through these steps with them and help them to understand how and why to implement each suggestion. Role-play different scenarios where one of you is the bully and one of you is being bullied. How do you feel in each scenario? Why do you think the other person is acting or reacting in that way?
Another great way to help children understand and cope with bullying is through literature. Books open the doors to discussion and allow children to see situations from a new perspective. Here are a couple books that show bullying from the perspective of the victim and the bully. These books encourage children to consider the views of others:
This is A. Blob by L.A Kefalos
This picture book is the first in a series that follows the antics of a playground bully named A. Blob, a sticky blob of purple goo that wreaks havoc at school with its bullying ways. What is great about this book is that the bully is race and gender neutral, so children can project their own experiences into the story. As the story progresses, we learn that A. Blob has pain of its own and perhaps the acts of bullying are a cry for help. The text rhymes and the illustrations are beautiful, making this book a good tool for introducing bullying situations to young children.
The Weird Series by Erin Frankel
This is a series of 3 picture books, each showing the same bullying situation from 3 different perspectives (the bully, the victim, and the bystander). With each character getting her own book, children are able to get a more in-depth view of each situation than they might if everything was put into just one story. The Weird Series is geared for 8-11 year olds. Like This is A. Blob, The Weird Series is perfect for helping children to understand both the causes and effects of bullying.
Bullying is a difficult issue to deal with and understand. It’s complex, sticky, and nuanced. Thankfully it is not unsolvable. By using tools such as those provided by Helpguide.org and authors like L.A. Kefalos and Erin Frankel, we can help children to gain a new perspective on bullying, understand the issue, and begin to end bullying once and for all.
What tools have you used to help children understand the issue of bullying? What helped you to gain a new perspective? Share your experiences in the comments or talk with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!
Purchase This is A. Blob from our website, or check it out on Amazon!
See the trailer for This is A. Blob
Purchase The Weird Series
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.