Many years ago in graduate school, I had an internship that included a weekly small group of 6th grade girls, and I devised this opening/getting to know each other game using M & M candy. Each girl had their own bag of M&Ms and I had a chart of colors assigning a feeling to each color (a healthy alternative is to use colorful veggies and fruits). We went around the room and depending on what color they pulled from the bag they answered the question individually (and, of course, I participated, with some hilarious reactions from the girls – a child's laughter is priceless in my world).

Tell me something that made you:
Red - Angry
Blue - Sad
Brown - Afraid
Yellow- Happy
Orange - Embarrassed
Green - Wild card, talk about your favorite movie or song

The difference in approach with Principles-based education is using 'Thoughts' rather than some outside force or person made them mad, sad, embarrassed, etc. So it is rephrased to elicit responses with: Talk about a time when you were mad, sad, etc. Can you remember what was going on around you? What were you thinking about in that situation?

Another, fun activity is decorating 'Think Tanks' to hold notes with situations they experienced that week and what feelings or actions resulted. Talk about where did they suppose the thinking behind the feelings came from. If the experiences had all negative results or actions, prompt some memories of pleasant outcomes. Parents can pull one out at meals or quiet times and discuss, and the parents can use their own situations and learn along. The 'Think Tanks' can be elaborate boxes with stickers/beads/glitter decorations or as simple as envelopes with the child's own drawings.

Metaphors can help guide us to the understanding that 'Our thoughts light up our experience of feelings'. And, you will find the imagination of children will sparkle with astonishing metaphors. You may want to use a single word or statement as a reminder when children (and ourselves!) get caught up in our own thinking and behave in a manner less than calm and compassionate. Here are just a few:

Who has a flashlight – it's getting dark in here!

When you learn Hu Mei's secret, you may begin to wonder about your own thoughts and feelings. You might start to think about something like, let's say, a flashlight! And you know already that most flashlights have a battery inside so the light can shine, don't they?

You might begin to understand how we are all like flashlights. Do you think maybe our feelings light up from something like a battery inside each of us? You may begin to understand that our batteries are always with us, and they never run out of power! Hu Mei discovers the secret to this power inside and the secret to happiness right in front of us from each moment to the next.

Snow globe

What happens when we shake up a snow globe? Can we see clearly to the picture inside? Maybe those little flakes of snow are like our thoughts sometimes – they get all shook up and we lose sight of our calm, happy feelings. When have you felt like a snow globe that was all shook up? It doesn't take very long for the flakes to settle down. Do you think your thoughts could become calm just as fast or faster than the snow flakes?


Look inside a kaleidoscope and talk about how different something looks when it is turned slightly. Maybe we are like kaleidoscopes! When we look inside and hold it still everything in front of us seems to be broken up in many, many pieces! What happens when we turn the kaleidoscope in front of our eyes – even a teeny, tiny bit! The view of our world changes completely – wow, could that be like thoughts? What we see and feel in the 'right now' moment can change completely when our thoughts shift even a little bit. If we remember that each of us has the power inside to choose which thoughts we pay attention to...then, we can easily see a different view and with it comes a whole new feeling!