The Four Signs

The Four Signs

This lesson was shared with children from age 5 to 7.
We began by recalling the sadness Siddhartha had felt when he witnessed suffering by people and animals at The Plowing Ceremony.

Then the story of Four Signs was read.
The books I have listed in the resource section all have a simple retelling of this story for children.
You can also find it by clicking here.

As the story was read, children took turns laying out the following symbols:

The First Sign

The Second Sign

The Third Sign

The Fourth Sign
After reading the story, children were asked to try to remember one of the four signs.  They took turns matching labels to the correct felt symbol.

I like using felt boards with children in this age group.  Being able to place a felt piece on the board or label a felt piece is a big treat for the kids.  It encourages even the youngest in my group to stay focused on the story.

Keep it simple.
For the youngest children, I avoid getting too fancy or having too many things on the felt board.
I ask myself, "What do I really want them to remember?"  In this lesson I wanted them to remember the 4 signs so those were the only symbols I laid out.  I didn't even include Buddha or Channa, his chariot driver, in the illustrations.

Use what you have.
I've got a lot of felt and it's cheap, but paper, cloth, clay, anything you have on hand can be used to make a simple visual aid.

Looking at the first three signs, we discussed how sad Siddhartha was about the suffering of others.
We discussed that everyone gets sick, everyone grows older, and eventually, everyone dies.  That's a heavy theme for a young child.  Heck, that's a heavy theme for an adult.

After talking about all the things in nature that get sick, suffer and die, it was important to point out the fourth sign.  This is the child's hope!  Yes, the first three signs are sad, BUT the fourth sign brings happiness.  Choosing to become a renunciate was how Siddhartha eventually found enlightenment and a way for everyone to end this cycle of suffering!  Let this lesson end with that promise.

If there's time left, the children could take turns acting out the story.  My kids love performing and it's one more way to make the story stick in their memories.

Our classes always end with chanting in the Pali language led by one of the monks.

May all be free from suffering with the power of the Triple Gem.


  1. You just made my next lesson topic a lot easier.Although I have gone over four signs topic a while back this might entice my new 4-5 year olds. Thanks for the great ideas as always!

  2. I'm so glad you found it helpful! Good luck with the little ones. I'd love to hear how the lesson goes.

    Thanks for the positive feedback.