“Oh no Melanie,” my mother said. “We are walking right back into Mr. Johnson’s store and you are picking up that litter and you need to apologize!”
I was 9 years old and on summer break. Mr. Johnson owned a local grocery store, and every Monday my mother and I would pick up the groceries we needed for the week. Mr. Johnson would hand me two pieces of candy for helping my mother bag the groceries and I would eat them right there on the spot. My mother always taught me the importance of character, she would often quote, “character is what you are when no one is looking.”
Mr. Johnson took pride in his store and had signs with friendly reminders to customers to not litter and to “please throw away your trash.” One day after receiving my candy from Mr. Johnson, I walked outside to my mother’s car with the groceries, opened the piece of candy, and threw the candy paper on the ground thinking no one was looking. Or at least I thought that no one was looking! My mother was right behind me and said ‘‘Oh no Melanie,” my mother said. “We are walking right back into Mr. Johnson’s store and you are picking up that litter and you need to apologize! Remember, character is what you are when no one is looking!”
What Is Character Building?
Now it’s my own kids’ summer break, and I remember those lessons my mom taught all year long: character is what you are when no one is looking. And while summer break is when most kids have checked out of their daily schedule of classwork and homework, you can still be intentional about cultivating their character.
Even from an early age, children can be shown how to interact with others with respect, kindness, empathy, kindness, respect, and honesty. The bible has a lot to say about character! There are over 40 scriptures in the bible on having a godly character, treating people with the love of Jesus. To help you think more intentionally about character building, we’ve created a list of activities for you to do with your children over summer break. These character-building activities are centered around helping kids develop a strong sense of identity and integrity, which will hopefully foster good character that will help them as they get older.
Activities for Character Building
Create It: Catch It Character Bulletin Board
A Character Bulletin Board is a fun and interactive way to teach about character. Write different character traits and their definitions out on a bulletin board. While out and about, have children spot or “catch” someone with exhibiting good character. When the children arrive home, have them discuss the good character they saw and then write it under the appropriate character trait on the bulletin board. Need an example about how to start your character bulletin board? Check out this neat example of a character bulletin board and there is even a free pdf download with printables!
Write About It: Keep a Character Journal
A Character Journal can be used by children as a way to record and reflect the ways that they themselves model positive character traits. It can be used much like a morning devotional. In the morning before the day begins, choose a character trait you want to exhibit that day. Write the word inside of your journal (even look for a corresponding bible verse) and document ways throughout the day you truly modeled the selected character trait. For example, if the character trait for the day is kindness, look for ways in which you can be kind to others. At the end of the day, use your journal to reflect and record how you were kind, or if you missed an opportunity to show kindness.
By teaching children how to describe these behaviors with the proper terms, they will be able to model good character on their own and see when others are treating them with those same values. Need some positive character traits to use as a journal prompt? Check out the link by writeshop!
This helpful video defines character from a child’s perspective. Watch it together!
Model It: Character Cup
In many households, grabbing a cup of coffee in the morning is a customary practice. Use the morning as a time the family can get together and grab a cup of character instead! Get a piece of paper and write down a few positive character traits (write out the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22–23 if you need some ideas). Cut the character traits out and place them inside a coffee mug. In the morning, gather together as a family and have each family member select one character trait from the coffee mug. In the evening, sit down with your family and have each person share how they put their character trait into action for the day.
This activity is a wonderful way to connect with your family and may give you ideas on how you model your selected character trait. If you are stumped on listing positive character traits, the website discipleship tools has compiled an extensive and helpful list!
Learn It: Minno Character Resources
Character development takes time! Character is a spiritual fruit that is truly built from our real, godly relationship and commitment to Christ as Lord. At Minno, building and fostering good character in children is important and we have some resources that can aid you in your journey.
Character Quest with Clive and Ian
12 short video devotionals featuring Clive and Ian from What’s in the Bible? will teach your kids all about important character traits from the Bible—from generosity to courage to compassion and more!
Buck Denver’s Hammer of Strength: A Lesson in Loving Others
Buck Denver wants to show everyone how strong he is, so he goes around whacking things with a giant carnival hammer to prove just that. But before he gets himself or anyone else hurt, Buck’s friends encourage him to show his strength by loving others. Buck protests, thinking love is just gentle hugs and mushy-gushy kisses, but through love-filled Bible stories, the gang helps Buck realize love is hugs and kisses, but most of all, love is putting others first, which takes the greatest strength of all. Check out the book (and the others in this series) here.
We hope we have provided you with some fun, interactive, and engaging activities to foster character building over the summer. We would love to hear some of the ways you are helping your children and family members to cultivate positive character traits. Visit our Facebook page and share your ideas!