Connect the DotsWhy does a connect-the-dots activity, made into a contest, where a prize is involved equal disaster?

I’ll tell you…

I wanted to do a game with the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students when we were doing the story on the Temple being built by King Solomon. My children’s coordinator found an elaborate connect-the-dots sheet on the Internet and I thought it was perfect for what I was thinking.

It had 64 dots!

I thought this would be so fun! The plan was to give the students each a copy of the 64-dot sheet and then the first 10 students who completed all the dots and ran it up to the front for verification would get a prize: a Kit-Kat. The students were so excited about the possibility of getting a piece of candy and trying to beat their fellow students. To give some perspective, we split up the K, 1 and 2 students into 6 small groups by grade and gender. At each small group table, there are, on average, about 7 students.

So we were ready… the students had the sheets in front of them (upside down) and a pen… and they were ready to race.


And they were off. I could tell that they were all excited and engaged. They really wanted to be in the top 10 so they could get a Kit-Kat! The first couple of students who got done were from the 2nd grade boys group. Then there were a couple more from the 2nd grade boys group. This is the point where I started to sense an impending disaster. Then there were a couple of 2nd grade girls who made it in the top ten.

As these 2nd graders are turning their completed sheets in and getting candy, I start to notice panic at the 1st grade and Kindergarten tables. There’s only a few spots left in the top 10. Seeing that the 2nd grade students were dominating, I made a quick decision to extend the prize to the top 15 thinking this would alleviate the growing panic. It had, however, the opposite effect, because it allowed ALL of the 2nd grade students to get a prize and a couple of 1st grade girls.

By the end of the game, where the top 15 had received their prize and the chance of winning a Kit-Kat had been extinguished, almost all of the 1st grade and Kindergarten girls were in tears. And you would think that a developmental specialist (as I claim to be at times) would have realized in the planning stages of this game that it would have favored the older students who could count to 64!

I had simply forgot that Kindergarten students, even most 1st graders, cannot count (without help) to 64.

I felt horrible. It wasn’t until the very end of the game, as I saw the crocodile tears of these young girls that I had made a serious miscalculation. I had mistakenly thought that this would make a great game and a fun contest. Nope. It turned into a disaster!

How did it end?

Well, I had to apologize to the students (and the leaders, because they were questioning my wisdom!). I felt so bad. They forgave me and we made the following week’s game much easier and allowed everyone to “win.”

Published by Jeremy Mavis

Married to one. Father of two. Friend to several. Blogger to many. Pastor to all. And a passionate follower of Jesus Christ.

5 replies on “Connect-the-Dots + Contest + Kit-Kats = Disaster”

  1. Oh my Jeremy……tough lesson to learn, but one that will be well-remembered! I’ve had to adjust a number of games & activities to accommodate cognitive and dexterity abilities. One way perhaps to play this same game would have been to have 64-dots for the 2nd graders, 30-dots for the 1st graders and 12 to 20-dots for the Kindergarteners and designated that the first 3 of each age group would receive a prize. I’m not really “sold” on the idea that everyone gets a prize no matter what. However, there are times when everyone may receive a reward but the “winners” may get 2 of whatever it is or first choice before the others to acknowledge their outstanding effort or accomplishment.
    Just as there are times we employ games and activities that focus on the “team” or “individual.” Part of the fun, as a leader, is taking a great idea (i.e., game, activity, lesson, etc.) and adjusting it to fit you group of kids. Anyways, that’s the part I enjoy!

    1. Renee, adjusting the amount of dots per age group is a good suggestion, as well as the idea that the first 3 from each age group get a prize… that way the deck isn’t stacked in the older kids favor. I allowed everyone to win the following week out of repentance and restoring goodwill :) I didn’t really acknowledge the mistake to the kids that day (because the game was only supposed to be a filler for an activity in between two Bible story readings), but spoke more about it the following week and apologized and did a more developmentally appropriate game :)

      Typically I can take a game and adjust it as needed for an age-range (i.e. K-2, 3-5, 6-8, or 9-12). What caught me off-guard in this account was I didn’t consider the developmental capabilities within the K-2 range. It wasn’t until we were in the middle of the game did I realize that a Kindergarten kid typically cannot count to 64 and even if their small group leader helped them, the SG cannot help all 6-8 kids in their small group at once! Especially when it’s a race against 2nd grade connect-the-dot experts.

      Yes, indeed… it was a tough lesson to learn, but it will surely be well-remembered!!

  2. Oh, BTW…….thanks for posting realities in challenges of Children’s Ministry and not just the success stories. I’m sure that those of us in Children’s Ministry can ALL share an “oops!” and the lesson-learned.

  3. So glad you posted your disaster, I can relate and each time I also was excited because I had already planned for success. Onward for upward.

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