06 May The Spiritual Rescue Boat – An Action Play For Kids
If you are looking for a low-prep and highly engaging Krishna conscious activity for children, this is the one! I have done it as a part of our homeschooling lesson, and the children were asking to play it again the next day, which does not happen very often! The inspiration for this activity I found in the book from Aruddha Devi Dasi – “Srimad Bhagavatam, a comprehensive guide for young readers” (Canto 1, Volume 1). In the lesson about sages of Naimisharanya, she suggests that we can make with children a boat of knowledge, or Bhagavatam boat (out of paper or some other material), and put it to float in a container filled with water, discussing how to cross over the ocean of material existence. I liked the idea and decided to transform it into a dramatic activity that I knew my kids would be excited about.
So, we set up a Spiritual Rescue Boat action-play, sailing in the boat of knowledge and saving the fallen souls from the ocean of birth and death. We prepared a paper origami boat, the saving ropes out of wool strings, and we were trying to save some of the kid’s toys from the ocean made of blue silk scarfs. Simple as that, but it turned out to be great fun! Kids were changing the roles of saviors, alternately (each of them was trying to save his/her toys). The savior would invite the person, presented by the doll, to come on board by revealing the arguments why to do so. I was playing the role of the dolls-fallen souls, who would hesitate, asking the questions, asking what to bring along, etc. Few times we changed this up and took the opposite roles – I was a savior and they took the role of a fallen soul. We divided the ocean into three parts: heavenly planets, earthly planes, and hellish regions. We put the appropriate characters in each part of the material ocean (my son was happy to use his monster toys for the hell regions!). And the fun could begin!
During this action-play, they were able to express their knowledge and understanding of Krishna consciousness and to practice the skills of arguing based on spiritual facts. It was my pleasure to see how much passion and endeavor they invested in finding the good arguments to persuade fallen souls to accept the refuge of a lifeboat. And we laughed at the silly arguments that fallen souls were expressing, trying to keep enjoying in the ocean.
Using the toys for this activity was a hit for my kids. It gave them the feeling of a play and inspiration to relate to the qualities that these toys represent to them (some are naughty, some are refined, some are proud, some are evil, etc.). We included a few animal toys as well.
Guideline on how to set up the Spiritual Rescue Boat action-play
Step 1 – make a boat
We made an origami paper boat. I chose a big piece of tick drawing paper so that the boat has some substance and size. We made smaller boats for practice as well. You can color and decorate the boat, but my kids were not patient to do it. So we had a simple but firm paper boat, actually two boats, one for each child. Find the instructions how to make simple origami boat here: http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-boat.html
Step 2 – make the saving ropes
We made small saving ropes by cutting the pieces of wool string and making a loop at the end. If you want to practice some more handwork skills, you can make the braid-ropes.
Step 3 – write down the names of saving ropes
I wrote down on the small pieces of paper the names such are: honoring prasadam, chanting the holy name, reading the holy scriptures, visiting the temple, visiting the places of pilgrimage. To make the activity more challenging, I wrote down some other phrases as well, like going on vacation, eating meat, watching cartoons, go for fishing, and similar. I mixed up all the pieces of paper and they had to choose which of them could be appropriate for saving ropes, and which to throw away. Then we took what we have chosen and put it inside the boat (you can attach the pieces of paper to the ropes with duct tape to make the saving ropes more authentic). During our saving mission, we used a specific rope for different characters, like we use honoring prasadam for those who like to eat, visiting the places of pilgrimage for those who like to travel, etc.
Step 4 – set up the scene
The only thing you need for the scene is an ocean. The easiest way is to cover a table with a blue scarf or some other cloth. If you want to practice some art, you can paint or draw an ocean with children, using one big piece or a few smaller pieces of paper. You can draw different types of waves in the ocean: light and beautiful for the heavenly area, and dark and scary for the hellish area.
Step 5 – choose the characters for the fallen souls
This is the funniest part of a game. Let the children choose the characters from their toy collection, or make them out of paper. For older children, you can use the photos of different kinds of people from the internet or the newspapers. Spread the characters all over the ocean. According to their qualities, some will “float” in heaven part, some on earth part and some in hell part.
What spiritual benefits this action-play can bring to your children?
They can begin to understand the nature of material existence and the way how to overcome it.
They can learn the difference between spiritual and material activities, and what are their results.
They can learn about the basic structure of the material universe and what kind of living beings reside in different parts of it according to their qualities and activities.
They can practice preaching skills by learning what arguments to use for different people and situations. Of course, you have to help them by portraying characters and their material attachments by playing their roles and “spicing up” with some funny, silly, or more complex arguments, depending on the age of the children.
This Spiritual Rescue Boat action-play is one of the most engaging spiritual learning activities that I have done with my kids. I am planning to repeat it from time to time, adding some more complex elements and subjects for discussion as the children are growing. I hope that your kids would be excited about this activity as well and that you would have great spiritual learning fun by playing it together!
My children like dramatic arts and I try to use this kind of artistic expression as my teaching tool whenever I can. You can read about using narrative pantomime for acting out Krishna’s pastimes with children here: https://golokadreamland.com/a-playful-meditation-on-krishnas-pastimes/