Talking About Death and Difficult Subjects Play Activities
Children love to watch the evolution of life in their daily play. They witness the growth, life, and death weeds, plants, flowers, trees, insects, animals, pets, and family members. They hear family members talk about sickness, the old age decline of family members, and eventual deaths of older relatives. Television, movies, and video games can overwhelm children with messages about death and dying. Listed below are a few thought provoking activities that you can share with your children in memory of a loved pet or family member.
Play Activities Materials:
- A story or age appropriate book on death and dying
- Journaling with art supplies
- A plant or tree to plant in the garden with gardening soil and garden tools
- Large rocks and paint
- Scrapbook and pictures of happy times with a deceased pet or family member
- Puzzles or games that were shared with a deceased family member
- After reading a story about death ask relevant questions about the story while playing with your children.
- Illustrate the story that you have read in your journal. Write a story about the death of a loved pet or family member.
- Children can draw delightful pictures of fun times with a deceased pet or family member and create a series of stories with illustrations.
- If the child is young, they can draw pictures of stories that are transcribed by the parent.
- Brainstorm how you would want to remember a relative by going to a special place or planting a tree, plant, or flowers in memory of this person.
- Go to a nursery and select a tree, plant of flower that best commemorates happy memories of a pet or person.
- It may be relevant to a favorite fragrance, color, or type of tree, plant, or flower.
- It may represent a favorite memory of this pet or person (i.e. where a dog would hide a bone, where a cat loved to sleep outside in the sun, where a child would read a book with a relative under a particular type of tree).
- It can represent a special outing or trip with that animal or family member.
- After planting the tree, plant, or flower, paint a large rock with a decoration and dedication to the loved pet or family member. The child may want to decorate the rock and older children may write the date of death or other memorable information about the loved one.
- Create a scrapbook with your child of happy times share with the pet or family member. Over time, you and your child can revisit the photo album and discuss these happy memories as the child becomes older, the memories are different and far more thought provoking.
- Select a game or puzzle that brings back memories of the loved one. If a pet, you can purchase of puzzle of similar dogs or places your child liked to play with the dog. For a family member, select puzzles that represent happy memories. Selected games that you can play may include the types of activities your child may have played with the relative. It may have been a card game or a match game or even a preschool board game.
Relevant Common Core Standards
Listed below are California Common Core Standards in Mathematics relevant to some of these activities:
- Kindergarten Geometry: Model shapes in the world by building shapes from components (e.g. sticks and clay balls) and drawing shapes.
- First Grade Geometry: Distinguish defining attributes (e.g. triangles are closed and three sided) verses non-defining attributes (e.g. color, orientation, overall size; build and draw shapes to possess defining attributes.
- Second Grade Geometry: Reason with shapes and attributes. Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces. Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes.
Copyright © 2018 by GenParenting
Mary Ann Burke, Ed.D., Digital Education Expert, is a substitute distance learning teacher for Oak Grove School District in San Jose, California and the author of STUDENT-ENGAGED ASSESSMENT: Strategies to Empower All Learners (Rowman & Littlefield: 2020). Dr. Burke creates digital language arts and substitute teaching K – 12 activities for teachers and parents. She is the Cofounder of the Genparenting.com blog. Burke is the former Director II of Categorical & Special Projects for the Santa Clara County Office of Education that supports 31 school districts serving 272,321 students in Santa Clara County. She is also a previous Director – State & Federal Compliance for Oakland Unified School District, the former Director – Grantwriter for the Compton Unified School District, and was the initial VISTA Director for the Community Partnership Coalition in southern California. Much of her work focuses on creating innovative digital trainings and partnership programs for teachers and families to support students’ learning. These programs were featured as a best practice at a National Title I Conference, California’s Title I Conferences, AERA Conferences, an ASCD Conference, the NASSP Conference, and statewide educator conferences.