The wrinkled heart activity or crumpled paper activity is a powerful lesson every child needs to participate in to understand the lasting effects of bullying.
This simple activity is a valuable friendship lesson that shows students how difficult a wrinkled heart is to mend!
Who could imagine that a single sheet of scrunched up paper could be so effective in demonstrating the devastating impact unkind words and actions can have on students?
The crumpled heart activity is a powerful low-prep friendship activity that's quick and easy for teachers as it just uses some scrunched up paper or a wrinkled heart. It's a big hit with elementary and middle school students but can be adapted to be used with kids of any age.
If you're looking for bullying activities for kids to improve friendships in your classroom, this lesson is a must to add to your social-emotional learning toolbox. It helps to improve student mental health and wellness which naturally leads to a more positive and inclusive classroom community while reducing stress and anxiety for greater teacher wellbeing.
We believe this bullying experiment was originally used by a teacher in New York who used scrunched up paper to show her students the lasting impact cruel or nasty behavior can have.
When we used the wrinkled heart activity during an assembly at a school using our SEL curriculum, it was obvious it had quite an impact. We substituted a plain piece of paper for a red paper heart for younger students and a cut-out of a person for older students.
We have included instructions for our version below along with a link to print the wrinkled heart lesson template mentioned above.
If you're working with high school students, use the crumpled paper bullying lesson as shown in the video below by Tony Brent.
The Crumpled Heart Activity
This bullying activity is an immensely powerful way to deal with bad behavior in a group or grade. It can really help a bully to understand just how hurtful their words and actions can be and the lasting impact it can have on someone's mental health and self-esteem.
Instructions for The Crumpled Heart Activity
- 1Download and print the heart template onto red paper. You'll need one for each student. If you don't want to cut them all out yourself, have your students help by cutting their own.
- 2Ask children to look at how beautiful and perfect their heart is. Ask them to imagine this is their own, real heart. They're going to give it to the student standing to their right. Ask them to love and care for their heart as if it was their own.
- 3Instruct students to say mean things to the heart they were given. Crumple it up into a tight little ball, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it. (There should be a lot of laughter about now).
- 4Have students pick up the little crumpled ball, look at the student who owns the heart, and say they're sorry. Turn their attention back to the crumpled ball and apologize. Say they didn't mean to be so thoughtless; they didn't know what came over them and could they please forgive them? While apologizing, carefully uncrumple the paper heart. Place it on a table and try to smooth it out.
- 5Students now return the hearts to their owners. Have each person hold up their crumpled heart and ask them how it looks. Does it still look as beautiful as it was before they gave it away? Did the person they gave it to care for it? How do they feel about the person who didn't take care of their heart?
- 6Explain that every time a person hurls abuse, belittles, talks behind someone's back, bullies, writes unkind things on social media, etc., they are responsible for adding a crinkle to that person's heart.
- 7Even though they may apologize later, that crinkle cannot be smoothed out. Sure, it may fade over time, but that person's heart will never really be the same and the scars can remain for a lifetime.
- 8Take the opportunity to talk about the responsibility we all have to care for other people and their feelings.
If you've used the crumpled paper activity, we'd love to hear about your experience. Please get in touch and let us know how successful it was!
NOTE: If you enjoyed this paper crumpling activity, I know your students will also like the Snowball Activity. Teachers love it because it's an effective way for students to let off some steam and let go of the little things that worry them.
Updated: 12 August, 2022