“Taming the Toothpaste” Object Lesson

NOTE: This lesson offers multiple opportunities. Use it to address such character concerns as these, to name a few:

  • name-calling, unkind or cruel talk, and gossip
  • self-control
  • kindness
  • respect
  • compassion

This lesson works well as either demonstration or hands-on. Choose the one that fits your time constraints and location.

Demonstration – requires toothpaste, a paper plate, and toothpicks.

– Show a tube of toothpaste. It need not be a full or fresh tube, but be sure it has several inches of toothpaste left in it. Colorful toothpaste is showy, but white can convey the lesson.

– Place the toothpaste on the table with the plate.

– Talk briefly about nice words and mean words. Ask listeners to show with silent faces how they feel when someone says nice words to them or about them. Then ask listeners to show with silent faces how they feel when someone says mean words to them or about them. Tell your listeners that words are like toothpaste.

– Choose two volunteers to come forward and help you.

– Hand the toothpaste tube to one volunteer, and tell him or her, “When I say ‘go’, I want you to squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube until I say ‘stop’. Squeeze it as fast as you can, and be sure it goes on this plate. Ready? Get set. Go!”

– Help the children cheer on the volunteer. When about 3 inches of toothpaste is on the plate, tell the volunteer, “Stop!”

– Hand the toothpaste tube to the second volunteer, saying, “Now, I want you to put the toothpaste back into the tube.”

– Be prepared for everyone to tell you that can’t be done. Insist that the volunteer try. Offer toothpicks as a help. Bring up additional volunteers if time allows. Make it fun!

– Finally, have all your volunteers sit down, and remind listeners that you said words are like toothpaste. Words can come out very fast and with little effort, but we can’t get them back into our mouths again. Once words come out of our mouths, we cannot un-say the words. They are out there to help people or to hurt people. If we speak hurtful words, we can apologize and ask for forgiveness, but we cannot take away the hurt our words caused. If we speak helpful, kind words, we don’t have to worry about trying to get them back. They will help people.

– Apply the lesson to anti-bullying – or to one of the numerous character traits it fits. Let children contribute good, kind words that are fitting to say to or about others.

– If possible, give each child a travel size tube of toothpaste as a take-home reminder.

Hands-on – travel size toothpaste tubes, paper plates, and toothpicks for each child

Proceed as you would with the demonstration lesson above. Instead of using volunteers and a large tube of toothpaste, however, let each child squeeze out toothpaste when you say “go” and stop when you say “stop”. Then ask each child to try to get the toothpaste back into the tube using toothpicks.

This squidgy hands-on activity gets children thoroughly involved in the lesson.

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