First Week Favorites ... "Being Kind"

You've probably seen a lesson like this before... it's one of my favorites and the kids always get a kick out of the lesson they learn at the end of the activity.  

All you need per team are:
• a tube of toothpaste
• a paper plate
• a plastic spoon

{Don't forget your camera... their faces are hysterical.}

My kids sit in teams of four (Kagan Cooperative Teams).  I gave "Person #1" on each team a plate and a tube of toothpaste.  Then, I gave them a little bit of time and asked each team member to take a turn squeezing all the contents out of their group's tube.  When they were finished squeezing (and laughing), I told them... "I have a super cool prize for any team who can get all their toothpaste back into the tube!  I'll make it easier, too... I'll give your team a plastic spoon... that should help."  I wished them good luck, but with the predictable confidence all first graders possess, they hardly needed my good wishes.

Watching them work together and think creatively was encouraging (and hysterical), but not one team was able to put all of the toothpaste back into their tube.  They even resorted to using fingers and pinkies ("because they're the smallest, Mrs. Knight"), but the task proved to be much harder than they thought.

The discussion that followed was priceless and a valuable life lesson was learned as we made connections between the toothpaste challenge and the way we talk to people.  The kids were happy they were able to get some of the toothpaste back into the tube, but quickly realized they would never be able to get all of it back in there.  Then we talked about how that's like the words we say to people and that, sometimes, when we say mean or unkind things, it's very difficult to take it back and get it the way it was.  

One of our new class mottos:  Think it before you speak it.


  1. Love this! …and doing it. Thanks Andrea! :-)

    1. Thanks! Have your camera ready to catch their little faces. :)

  2. Love this idea! I can't wait to try this. Thank you for sharing. :)

  3. What grade level do you suggest?

    1. Hi Laurie,

      I've done this lesson with first graders and a friend of mine did it with her 2nd grade class. I also think it would work with upper elementary, although they aren't likely to fall for the "getting it back into the tube" part. It's still a great visual way to get the message across.

      I've never taught kindergarten, so I'm not sure about the chaos that might ensue. The first few weeks of kindergarten can be a little unpredictable. ;)

  4. Replies
    1. Hi Kristi,

      I did use full-size tubes, but the travel-size would work, too. You only need one tube per group and sometimes you can find toothpaste at dollar stores. One of my followers on Pinterest also suggested using liquid glue or shaving cream. I think those are great ideas, too.

      One reason I like the toothpaste tubes is because the children actually believe they'll be able to get the toothpaste back into the tube. ;)


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