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Promises: the boy who cried wolf

To show how our society depends on trusting one another and making promises.

by The Revds Trevor and Juliet Donnelly

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To show how our society depends on trusting one another and making promises.

Preparation and materials

  • You may wish to use props for enacting the story (e.g. wolf mask, grandmother costume, etc.).
  • Various items that remind us of promises – a cheque book; a wedding ring; a bowl of water (baptism); an ordination stole; a £10 note; other items such as a Brownie sash/promise badge or driving licence.
  • There are many versions of the story available. A concise one (to which you’ll need to add the word ‘promise’) can be found at


  1. Begin by telling the story of ‘The Boy who cried Wolf’, making sure you emphasize that each time the boy says there is a wolf he promises he is telling the truth. You may wish to ask for volunteers to act out the various parts: the boy, the grandmother who sends him out to look after the sheep, the wolf, and the villagers who (the first two times) come running to help.

    (If you think the version of the story where the boy is killed by the wolf is too grisly, instead have the wolf kill the sheep the boy was looking after.)
  2. Ask your cast to sit down, and ask for new volunteers to hold up each of the items representing promises as you describe them. Tell the children that you want to talk about promises. The boy in the story broke his promises, and very bad things happened as a result. Our whole world runs on promises. Ask if the children can identify the following:

    A cheque book – this is not money, but rather a written promise that your bank will pay money.

    A wedding ring – a symbol of a promise to love and help each other through life.

    A bowl of water – this is to make us think of baptism, where parents and godparents promise to look after their child (flicking a little bit of the water at the children ‘to remind them of their baptism’ is a custom in some churches, and certainly livens up an assembly).

    An ordination stole (the scarf-like thing clergy wear – or other another symbol of a religious leader) – symbolizes the promise that religious leaders make to care for and teach the people in their care.

    Continue with any other items you have brought: a Brownie sash with the Brownie promise badge, or a driving licence.

    Finally the £10 note. Ask one of the children to read the text on the note that says: ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ten pounds’. Remind the children of the cheque, that was not real money, and then explain that even ‘real’ money is just pieces of paper. It is only because we all agree to make it worth something that we can use it; it is only because of the bank’s promise that it is of any value.
  3. Ask if any of the children would like to tell everyone about a promise they made. Ask if anyone is brave enough to admit to breaking a promise. Take time to talk about what the children describe and thank the children for their input.
  4. Mention that sometimes we get it wrong and break promises. Sometimes we make foolish promises that we can’t keep and we have to break them. But most of us, most of the time, must make and trust promises for any community (group of people like a school, a village, town or even the whole country) to run successfully.

    If we tell a lot of lies and do not keep our promises we may not be trusted when we really need people to believe us – just like the boy who cried wolf.

    Promises are important, and we need to make them carefully, and respect the promises of others too.

Time for reflection


Close your eyes and remember a promise you have made.

Now think of a promise you have broken.

Think of something good you could do today.

Maybe some help you could give a friend.

Maybe saying thank you to the person who has prepared your meals.

Make a promise to yourself to do that something good today.



Loving God, help us to keep our promises.

Make us wise in the promises we make.

Help us all to be trustworthy people,

so that we can live together in love and harmony.



‘Our Father’ (Come and Praise, 51)

Publication date: July 2006   (Vol.8 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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