Countless families and children become refugees when extreme poverty or violence force them to leave their homes. The journey to a new land is often long and hard. Counting Kindness, by Hollis Kurman, focuses on the positive experiences refugees might have along the way if others welcome and care for them.
Use one or more of these activities to help children (3-8 years) explore the challenges, hopes, and needs of refugees.
Leaving home behind. The family in the story decides to relocate because they are scared. Look at the first picture of the family and ask children: How do you think the children feel about leaving their home? How do you think the mommy feels? What do you think the family will miss about their home? What do you think they wish they could bring with them as they leave?
Making wishes. One child makes five wishes while in the refugee camp. Invite children to make a wishing book. Give them three sheets of blank paper stapled into a booklet, with ‘My Wishes’ written on the front page and the numbers 1 through 5 at the bottom of the following pages.. Ask: If you were waiting to enter a new land, what are five things that you might wish for? Encourage them to draw pictures of their wishes, one per page of their booklet. Alternatively, make a wishing poster, with numbered images of all the children’s wishes on one big sheet.
Imagining new places. Use this short visualization to help children imagine going to a new school. Say: Close your eyes. Imagine you are standing outside a new school. (pause) Walk toward the front door. (pause) How do you feel? (pause) Walk through the door and down the hallway to your classroom. (pause) Step through the doorway and look around. (pause) How do you feel? (pause) See your new classmates smiling at you. (pause) See welcome signs on the walls (pause). See people ready to help you. (pause) How do you feel now? (pause) When you are ready, open your eyes. Invite children to share how they felt at different points during the visualization.
Keeping count. This simple counting book shows 10 ways that people help refugees. Review the count to ten and then brainstorm with children some other options for helping. Challenge them to come up with enough ideas to count to 15, then 20, and then 25. A large group of children or extended family might even be able to think of 50 ways to help!
Celebrating a new home. The refugees celebrate their first week in their new home with balloons and posters. Ask children: How do you think the refugees felt when they finally got to their new home? Why do you think they wanted to celebrate? What are your favorite ways to celebrate? Invite children to act out, throwing a party for refugees that includes all of the celebration activities they have named.