If they gave out awards for whining and complaining, I am pretty sure someone under the age of eighteen would win. One of the top complaints many parents have is the amount of complaining and whining their children do each day. There is a fun activity you can do with your kids to help them understand why complaining may not be their best option.
To make this activity really fun, you will need to do a little work ahead of time. You will need a small bottle of tonic water, tap water or a bottle of water that tastes really good if your tap water doesn’t, a batch of ”manna” cookies and some roasted quail. You can find a simple recipe for pretend manna here. (Note: No one really knows what manna tasted like other than the vague description given in the Bible. You may want to omit the coriander seeds if your kids don’t like the taste of cilantro.) Your butcher may keep quail in the back if it is not on display or they can often order it for you. You can omit any or all of the foods, but the activity will be more fun and meaningful if you use them.
Call your kids together. If you have a large yard or can go to a nearby park on a warm day, it can add yet another layer of engagement. Tell or read your children the story in Exodus 15:22-26. If you are walking around, you can review what has happened to the Israelites up until this point in the story. The goal is to walk them around enough so they are uncomfortable enough to be thirsty, but not miserable. When you get to the point of the story when they arrive in Marah, give your kids a sip of the tonic water before you tell them the water the Israelites found was bitter.
Ask them what they might have done if they were the Israelites, had walked for three days without fresh water and then tasted that water. Then explain that the Israelites grumbled and complained. Ask your children how God must have felt after He had rescued them from slavery, parted the Red Sea for them (which also saved them from the Egyptians) and then they grumbled and complained because they didn’t like the taste of the water. Finish the story, giving them the “sweet” tap or bottled water.
Next, read or tell them the story of God giving the Israelites manna, found in Exodus 16. Point out that just after the water incident, the people started grumbling about food. Let them taste the manna you made. Explain that while we don’t know the exact taste of manna, this is what some people think it may have tasted like. Ask your kids if they like it. Now have them imagine what it would be like for that to be the only food you got to eat each day – for every meal – for what ended up being forty years!
Your kids will probably empathize more with the Israelites once they realize how much manna they had to eat and how boring it would be after awhile – no matter how much they liked it at first. Then tell them the story in the rest of the chapter about the quail. I love reading this directly from scripture, because God’s frustration with the grumbling and complaining is so clear and His response to their request for meat is actually rather funny. If you have cooked quail, allow them to taste it. This could be part of a meal you have at home or a picnic you have kept on ice.
As you eat, talk about why grumbling and complaining frustrated God so much. Then ask them to think of things people grumble and complain about today that probably annoy God. Finally, ask them why they think it annoys you so much when they grumble and complain to you. Younger children may need help making the connection, but older children should figure it out fairly easily.
End your time together by finding ways to memorize and remember Philippians 2:14. Brainstorm ways you can eliminate whining and complaining from your lives. (Don’t be surprised if your kids point out you complain a lot, too. It is a bad habit for most of us.)
Have fun with it, but use this family fun time as a springboard for eliminating whining and complaining from your home.