I’d like to thank my parents. Years ago they gave me a pair of crazy colored socks for Christmas. These unexpectedly comfortable socks perfectly fit my unusually large feet and I soon discovered they were a useful tool for children’s ministry. Not long after receiving those socks, I was commissioned to teach a Bible lesson in a community center classroom crowded with clamoring kids. They were pretty rowdy when I arrived and I needed to get their attention. So with my Bible in hand and crazy socks from Christmas on my feet I strode to the front of the room and said the first thing that popped into my mind, “Guess what color my socks are.” The room instantly quieted down and all eyes were fixed on me. “Wow! That worked!” I thought, and my crazy sock crusade commenced. I started collecting crazy socks and using them to connect with kids.
Maybe crazy socks aren’t your thing. That’s totally fine because ALL of the ideas I’m about to share work incredibly well with other objects that may be more in line with your personal taste. Check out my article “How to Use a Mystery Bag in Sunday School” for a similar yet “sock-free” concept that could be used for most of these activities while also relating to the topic of your lesson. (Though you may want to seriously rethink your lack of crazy socks. According to a 2014 Harvard study, crazy socks are an indicator of success, creativity, and brilliance! Who needs a doctorate? I’ve got dinosaur socks!) Let’s take a look at some ideas and then I’ll suggest alternative resources for people with tamer taste in footwear.
Crazy Sock Solutions for Common Sunday School Situations
Prompted by my accidental success with the kids at the community center, I’ve started using crazy socks as a motivation for kids to pay attention and follow class rules.
Crazy Sock Colors Just walk to the front of the room and say, “We’re going to play a game. You have to guess what color my socks are before our class is over.” (Obviously this won’t work well if your socks are already visible, so flip-flops and shorts are out for this game.) Next, explain that throughout your entire class you’ll be watching like a hawk for kids who are doing an epic job following the rules and those kids will get a chance to guess what color your socks are and at the end of class you’ll take off a shoe and show them who was right.
Crazy Sock Choices Another fun way to motivate positive behavior with crazy socks is to have the kids compete to determine which pair of crazy socks you’ll wear next. To do this, bring two pairs of crazy socks and divide the kids into two teams. Assign a different sock to each team and explain that you’ll be watching closely to see which team follows the rules most excellently and that you will wear the winning team’s socks for the rest of the day.
Whether I’m a guest speaker at a Good News Club or a substitute teacher in Sunday School, I have frequently taught groups of kids who didn’t know me from Adam. I’ve started using crazy socks as a fun way to break the ice and get to know the kids while they warm up to me. It works something like this:
Teacher: Stomp your feet if you’re wearing socks.
Kids: (STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! Go the little feet on the floor.)
Teacher: I’m wearing socks too. In fact, my socks have pictures of animals on them. Put your hand on your head if you want to try to guess what kind of animal it is.
Kids: (THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! Go the little hands on the heads.)
Teacher: Hmmm…(strokes beard thoughtfully then points at the girl with the pink unicorn shirt)…What’s your name?
Teacher: Ok Alyssa, what kind of animal do you think I have on my socks?
Teacher: Nope, it’s not unicorns. Unicorns are pretty cool though! Are they your favorite animal?
Presto! You’ve learned Alyssa’s name and now you’re about to learn her favorite animal! (Of course not all crazy socks have pictures of animals, some have pictures of food and some are just brightly colored so you’ll have to adjust this game accordingly—or just buy more socks!) Keep playing until you’ve interacted with several of the kids and helped them see you’re a trustworthy and even interesting individual.
You’ve probably been there. It’s past time for church to be over and you need something to engage your children’s church class during the final 3 ½ points of the sermon. With crazy socks you’re instantly ready to play easy games with the sweet little munchkins until their parents arrive.
What Color Are My Socks? This is pretty much the same game I’ve already explained. Just have the kids take turns guessing what color your socks are. I’ve done this with hundreds of kids and they love it! It’s easy to explain and easy to play so it’s my top choice when I find myself in need of a quick game.
Same As My Socks Without showing the kids what color your socks are, have them go stand next to something (or point at something) that they suspect is the same color as your socks. Once they’ve all chosen an object, show them what color your socks are so they can see who guessed correctly. Then have work together to list more things that are the same color as your socks. If your socks happen to be multi-colored you can assign a different color to each team and have them compete!
Crazy Sock Alternatives
I mostly use these ideas with crazy socks. (After all, I must maintain my image of Harvard-level success and brilliance.) But you can easily tweak most of these activities to work in a variety of ways. Such as…
What I Have I Got In My Pocket? Just slip a mystery object into your pocket ahead of time and have the kids guess what it is. (My darling wife has pointed out the tragedy that some women’s clothing is manufactured without pockets. Fear not ladies, you can adjust this game to “What Have I Got In My Purse?”)
What Did I Eat For Breakfast? Have the kids take turns guessing what you ate for breakfast. You can also let them share what they ate for breakfast to make it a bit more of an ice-breaker.
What’s This Picture On My Phone? Snap an up-close picture of a common object ahead of time and let the kids take turns looking at it and guessing what it is. The kids in my Good News Club love this game!
Whether or not you switch to crazy socks, you can easily use simple ideas to jazz up your teaching game. Do you have fun ways you like to break the ice or motivate positive behavior with the kids you teach? Please share them in the comments so we can learn from each other and together put our best foot forward. (And maybe our best foot will even be clad in a crazy sock!)