SPARKLERS / Kindness & friendship

Common Ground

An interactive game that explores all the things we have in common, rather than focusing on our differences.
Connections with the NZ Curriculum and Mental Health Education Guide (learn more)

Learning outcomes

Tamariki understand that people can be similar or different, and the importance of accepting and including others.

He aha ai? – Why we love it

Because we are social beings we are naturally drawn to those who ‘look’ like us. We do this unconsciously but it can feed into the assumption that because others don’t look like me, they aren’t like me. This activity debunks all that!

Hei mahi - What to do

You may like to print this activity, so you have a bunch of questions on hand! Then take your tamariki to a grassy area or clear LOTS of space indoors, and ask them to create a large circle.

Let tamariki know that: the only rule for this game is to listen carefully... if any of the statements you hear relate to you, run into the centre of the circle, meet others who are the same, then head back to your place in the circle again. The space where they run into is called the common ground.

Try this out with:

  • You are wearing socks.
  • You go to this school! (hehe!)

Let tamariki know that they’re playing the game exactly right – running into the circle, then out again if the statement relates to them. Keep going with the questions below and any others you’d like to add to the mix, giving some safety guidelines if needed.

  • You have dark hair.
  • You like pineapple on your pizza.
  • You’ve eaten ice-cream in the last few days.
  • You often seem to be running late.
  • You have sandwiches in your lunchbox today.
  • You love dancing.
  • You try not to judge people by how they look.
  • You like being inside more than outside.
  • You have more than one sibling.
  • You want to work in a creative job when you grow up.
  • Your house has three bedrooms.
  • You’ve stood up for someone who was being picked on.
  • You were born overseas.
  • You walk to school.
  • You are vegetarian.

Finish the game on a high – there is no need to complete all the statements.

Head indoors again, or ask tamariki to cluster and sit for your debrief, asking:

  • What did you notice about this game?
  • Why do you think it’s called common ground?
  • Did you know you had so many things in-common with class members?
  • Why is it interesting and good to look for common ground?
  • How could this idea travel with you?

The idea of this game is just to have the kōrero and begin tamariki thinking about how we behave, and how we can be better at including others.

Exploring inclusivity & acceptance

This game can be a cool way to reinforce inclusivity and acceptance.

Before playing, we’d suggest getting tamariki thinking along a positive track, by having a korero around why it’s good to accept people just as they are.

You could also ask: What is ‘gender’? How can gendered stereotypes be limiting? Can girls do anything?! What about boys? What does it mean to be open and accepting? Can they think of any celebrities who encourage us to be kind to others, and to be who we really are? (Harry Styles, Lady Gaga, Pink, Taylor Swift).

When you’re ready to return to the game, play as normal, but mix in some questions that challenge gender stereotypes, at an age appropriate level. E.g.

  • You think it’s cool for girls to play rugby!
  • You like planning kind surprises.
  • Your favourite colour is blue.
  • You think it’s okay for boys to like pink.
  • You think men and women should be able to do any job they like.
  • You think it’s okay for girls to have short hair.
  • You think boys can be great at cooking.
  • One of your sports idols is a woman.
  • You think everyone is either a boy or a girl.

When you return to class, ask if any of the questions got them thinking.

Depending on your tamariki, you may want to broaden their understanding of gender minority identities. E.g. Lots of people think everyone is either a boy or a girl, but actually some wonderful people are born between boy and girl (just under 2% of people are intersex). Some boys realise: Actually I'm a girl! and some girls realise: Actually I'm a boy! (transgender), and some are in the middle (non binary).

There’s no pressure to cover all of LGBTQIA+ in one go! But if your school community does include students who identify as trans, some positive, strengths-based kōrero can be a good way to broaden tamariki understanding and acceptance.

And if you hear any, we like these suggested responses to gender-based questions or put-downs.

For more information, or to support whānau supporting their child with their sexuality or gender, we've put together this guide - How to support our rainbow kids

What next

Explore other activities that focus on kindness and common ground, such as:

A special message from InsideOUT

Firstly, thank you for your support in bringing rainbow identities into the classroom! It will make a huge difference to rainbow kids in your class (or those with rainbow parents) to see themselves in the world, and know they are OK, and can thrive, shine and grow freely.

Some young kids already know they are transgender, or nonbinary, or just 'different somehow'. Others will grow into it later. Either way, little conversations let them know they are OK.

In general, we find kids are totally open to these conversations, as long as you use age-appropriate, factual language. A child that says 'but boys don't wear skirts!!' isn't being prejudiced, they are just trying to understand the world. They will probably be satisfied with 'some boys don't wear skirts, but some do'. Likewise 'but all boys have penises' can be met with 'most boys have penises, but not all'.

Whatever comes up, keep it simple and factual and you'll be fine.

Sometimes people think that we at InsideOUT are trying to label kids and make them grow up too fast. You might face the same objection. However, what we want is for kids to be able to play, try out wearing a skirt or sparkles or a silly santa beard if that calls to them, try out 'he' or 'she' if they want, and in time grow healthily into whichever adult they are.

Five year old Sam might grow into being Samuel or Samantha, and might fall in love with a woman or a man or neither. Either way, we want Sam to thrive, free of bullying or shame, and able to make their own choices. Thank you for gently introducing all kids to the fact that rainbow people exist, and are all good.

Bronwyn Kerr

Thanks to...

InsideOUT for being so cool and running workshops to explore this kōrero more.

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