Tools for Birth to Age 5

According to Dr. Jack Schonkoff from the Harvard School on the Developing Child, by the age of five, a child’s brain infrastructure is 85% developed, which means planting the Ceeds of Peace around young children early is critical for healthy brain development.  The Ceeds of Peace begin to get planted prenatally, when a baby’s brain is beginning to form in utero. The relationship between the parents/caregivers and the physical and emotional health of the baby’s mother help shape the baby’s brain infrastructure. The more love and support the mother receives, the better chance her baby will enter the world socially and emotionally healthy. Babies start to develop relationships with the people around them in utero, but the process of learning to communicate, self-regulate, share, and interact with others takes many years to develop.  

Connection is the foundational ceed, nurtured through creating a solid attachment for the baby to the mother or primary caregiver. When a parent or caregiver positively responds to a baby’s cries, feeds the baby on a supportive schedule, cuddles the baby and talks to them frequently, the synapses that support social and emotional development become solid. When a strong connection is formed, the ceeds of critical thinking, courage, compassion, conflict resolution, collaboration, commitment and connection can thrive.     

The following are tools to support peacebuilding skills in our youngest children (birth to age 5). Early childhood is arguably one of the most intense periods of parenting, caregiving and teaching, but if the ceeds are planted early, they become rooted and children are better prepared for adolescence and life. Providing frequent hugs, responding calmly to tantrums and intense behaviors, playing games, modeling and teaching what to do with angry feelings, helping young children cooperate with one another and developing the language skills that support inclusion, love and empathy will lead you and our young children on the pathway to peace! 

Active Learning

Vary instructional strategies to develop the whole brain. Provide youth multiple sources of input including books, videos, lectures, discussions, visuals, stories and songs. Allow youth

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Active Listening

This is more than just hearing what someone else is saying.  Active listening builds trust and ensures that the other person in a conversation knows

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Acts of Kindness

Encourage individuals to perform a kind and selfless act for another person, be it someone known or unknown, with the only purpose being to brighten

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Ants on a Log

A fun and physical activity that encourages teamwork and collaboration. You will need an even number of youth to participate, ideally close to 10. Find

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Be Positive, Not Negative

An activity for “peace within and between” that focuses on negative self-talk, negative thoughts and statements about others, and complaining. A good idea is to

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Bucket Filling

An idea born in 2006 that works very well with young children, in which a bucket represents your mental and emotional self.  When your bucket

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Bucket Toss

Create laminated pictures or drawings of various needs and wants, or have the items on hand. Have youth toss the items in a “want” bucket

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Buddy Bench

A simple idea to eliminate loneliness and isolation and foster friendship and inclusion on the playground or in any public space. They work best when

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Celebrations

It is really important to celebrate both small and large successes, honor the people involved, maintain momentum, and continue to inspire improvement. Remember to build

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Change the Ending

Revisit an event that ended with a less than desirable outcome. Encourage youth to create their own alternative endings. Why did they make the choices

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Community Care

Establish age appropriate shared jobs that rotate throughout the year and that will help build the classroom or home environment. Create a classroom or family

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Contracts/Pacts

These are promises people make to each other about how to act toward one another. They create shared accountability to outcomes. Find contract templates online

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Count to Ten

Have children sit or stand in a circle. The group counts from one to ten. Anyone can say a number, but if two people say

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Create Shared Values

Create a list or use pictures to chart individuals’ values, rules or expectations. Wherever there is a common value or expectation, you’ll find the foundation

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Deflating Anger

Teach youth that anger can be a healthy emotion, and that it informs us about the importance of an issue. Teach them to remain calm

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Don’t to Do

Instead of “Don’t hit,” try “Touch nicely” and demonstrate. Reinforce by asking, “How do you touch nicely?” Instead of “Don’t touch the lamp,” say, “You

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Drama and Dance

Use drama and dance to build community, foster active learning, and support youth growth. Use both to aid classroom management, address multiple intelligences, and to

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Engaging Nature

Getting people outside can do wonders for building capacities for problem solving. Through engaging nature, youth become calm, learn to listen carefully, develop their empathic

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Family Cultural Sharing

Identify cultural treasures from the families in your classroom. Have families come in and share their cultural traditions. Highlight ways of celebrating community through dance,

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Family Meetings

Plan meetings as a whole family (try for weekly) where members discuss the upcoming week. Identify where family members might need some help. Family Meetings

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Family Narrative

Research shows that youth who have knowledge of their family history, events, challenges, and successes have more self-control, higher self-esteem, and handle difficulties better. This

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Feedback

The use of feedback can reduce stress and confusion. Immediate feedback should be specific and focus on ways that youth can improve. Try to avoid

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Field Trips

Create field trips that reinforce the Ceeds of Peace that you are planting. Service learning excursions are an example. Youth can work to better understand

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Fight or Flight

When people are upset, they access the fight/flight part of their brain. Do not try to solve problems if you or the youth are angry

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Gratitude Journal

Keep a journal with writings and/or artwork to record and express what you are most thankful for in your life. There are many small things

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Grow a Garden

Consider the benefits of establishing and maintaining a garden….. time with nature, cultivation of living plants, growing of edible foods, time to reflect, and many

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Gut Check

Project a slide or make a poster listing or showing in pictures a wide range of emotions and feelings (brave, uncomfortable, confident, jealous, peaceful, disappointed,

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Hopes & Dreams

A reflection activity that can be done as part of a family meeting, intervention, restorative justice session, or other time in which a “big picture”

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How does it feel?

After analyzing the information surrounding a problem or challenge, what is your reaction? Were the systems fair? Why or why not? Identify one or two

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Ho‘oponopono

Learn about Ho‘oponopono, the Hawaiian system for ‘setting it right,’ and restoring individual and community harmony and balance. It promotes acts of healing interpersonal conflicts

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Hugs

When appropriate, hugs help us feel better. When a child is having a tantrum, try asking for a hug or saying, “When you are ready,

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I Am Here For You

When a young person is in the throes of anger, panic, or emotional outburst, often their minds and bodies are experiencing a stress response whereby

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I Statements

Used to confront a behavior without  placing blame on another. . Also used to recognize one’s  emotions. Another use is to state a point of

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If/Then Game

A basic tool to think through consequences, “If this happens, then what do you think will happen next?” or “If we decided to do this,

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Intellectual Safety

In order to develop respectful relationships between all members of a group or community (classroom, team, family unit, etc.), there must be a clear and

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Just Because

These are positive interactions that we can make with each other “just because”, meaning they are not in response to what someone else does. “Just

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Kind and Firm

It is the AND that brings kind AND firm together to avoid extremes. Begin by validating feelings and/or choices when possible. Examples, “I know you

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Kindness Catcher

With paper, scissors and pencils, allow children to make folding “catchers” (also called “origami fortune tellers”), with their kind acts written inside the various flaps.

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Kindness Tree

Role-play one act of kindness each week with words or actions. When acts of kindness are noticed or a classmate shares an act of kindness

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Kupuna Sharing

Bring in a knowledgeable kupuna (elder) to share their life story. Discuss how roles, rights, and responsibilities look similar or different in Hawai‘i (or elsewhere)

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Let It Settle

A great visual tool to show the imbalance of a brain that is experiencing anger or rage, and how it is possible for the anger

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Logical Consequences

Use discipline to develop character and not to punish. Discipline means “to teach” and should not be punitive but should help a child to grow

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Mistakes & Learning

Establish a culture in your classroom or home where mistakes are welcomed and used as learning opportunities. Normalize mistakes by discussing them at mealtime or

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Mix Pair Share

Have the children/students mix, then teacher calls “pair” and the youth pair up. Teacher then asks a question and gives the pairs thinking time. Pairs

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Modeling

Rather than just telling children and youth how they should act, show them. Show them in your own daily actions and words with them. Intentionally

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Movement Healing

Use movement as a way to increase blood flow for effective thinking and problem solving. Build in yoga, dance, stretching, and physical exercise on a

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Mo‘olelo

The Hawaiian word for story or tradition; use classical Hawaiian stories to teach literacy, science, and culture. In so doing, youth build their own stories

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Name it to Tame It

Help youth to get more specific and expand their emotional vocabulary, replacing basic feeling words with more sophisticated terms. They graduate from using words like

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Peace Flower

A strategy for youth to problem-solve themselves. Between two children, they pass a flower back and forth. The first child begins by saying, “I felt

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Peace Relevant Literature

Multiple peace education and character education books exist (go to www.ceedsofpeace.org for many book titles). Use throughout all lessons and have readily available in the

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Peace Table

Providing a space for problem solving is important. A peace table designates expectations for where and how youth will engage with each other. Peacebuilding literature,

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Physical Activity

Reduces stress, lowers cortisol levels and enhances neuron growth and neuronal connections. Physical activity provides the brain with oxygen and glucose and releases endorphins and

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Pohaku Bowl

Have a public bowl where everyone has his or her own (identified) stone. There should also be a few unidentified stones. All stones are set

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Puzzles

Puzzles are a good way to encourage critical thinking with all ages of youth. In order to successfully complete a puzzle, they must work with

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Reflect and Reenter

When an incident occurs, youth can spend time in reflection by writing and identifying: a) what happened; b) what was my role in the problem?;

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Rewind It

Take a current event or an event within the classroom, school, family or community. If we were to rewind this event, how would we rebuild

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Role Play

A way of seeing situations play out and encouraging individuals to think critically about how to intervene, and in the process build compassion for alternate

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Rose and Thorn

A very simple communication and exploration exercise that can take place with youth and adults just about anywhere. Ideally, it would be used in a

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Safe Spaces

Ensure there is always a safe space for conversation. This is a space to gather, a place that honors, respects and makes people feel they

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Seeds of Empathy

An international evidence-based early childhood (age 3-5 years) program started in Canada in 2005 as the “younger sibling” of the Roots of Empathy K-8 program.

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Silent Signals

Adults often talk too much and our youth tune out. A silent signal speaks louder than words. Smile and point to the shoes that need

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Snack Meditation

Opportunities to share healthy snacks together builds community. Everyone begins eating together, often marking the time with a simple shared message. Parents or teachers can

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Stoplight

To help young people deal with feelings of anger and frustration, try using the visual of a stoplight: green is calm, yellow is frustrated, and

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Talking Stick

Use a tangible object like a stick, a flower, a ball, or something important to the group to facilitate civil discussions and collaborative activities. Three

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Technology Blackouts

Set aside times during the day when no one in the family touches technology. Turn off all cell phones, televisions, computers, etc. Youth who are

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Thankenstein

Adult writes at the top of a blank paper, “I’m so grateful that if I were a monster created by a mad scientist, my name

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Wagonload of Compassion

Share individual stories of people in need. Identify what everyone can contribute. Where could we find the needed materials? Together as a group, deliver the

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Web of Life

Youth sit in a circle, often at a transition point in the day. Holding a ball of yarn, they share one thing (something they like

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What Should We Do?

Show pictures and/or video of certain situations at school and in the surrounding neighborhood. Examples include: seeing garbage on the floor, an elderly person dropping

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Where in the World?

Show youth a variety of pictures of celebrations involving young people from around the world. Place cut-outs of known children/students into the celebration picture (make

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Whole Child

Design lessons that focus on the whole child, including: health, nutrition, home life, community life, culture, emotions, and safety. Reflect on all that a child

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Winning Cooperation

Youth feel encouraged when you understand and respect their point of view. Express understanding for the youth’s thoughts and feelings. Show empathy without condoning, share

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