Use this fun mnemonic picture game to teach the ten commandments to kids and help them (and you!) remember them in order. Download, print, and play!
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When I was a child, I attended Primary (that’s what our church calls Sunday School for children) every week. One Sunday, my teacher shared with us some goofy-looking pictures that incorporated the numbers of each of the ten commandments to help us remember them. And you know what? Decades later, I still can tell you all ten commandments in order.
Pictures are powerful teaching tools!
As part of our family scripture study lately, we’ve been learning about Moses and the Israelites in Exodus. I wanted to teach my kids the ten commandments as I was taught, so I decided to make my own version of the picture memory clues I learned almost 30 years ago.
They worked so well for me and my family that I’m sharing them with you, too!
Why mnemonic devices are so helpful
Mnemonic devices (like this picture trick) are extremely effective in helping our brains retain information. By linking the information you’re trying to learn with something familiar (a picture), you create patterns in your brain that strengthen your memory pathways to that thing.
For example, drawing a picture that includes both the number of the commandment and something related to the words of the commandment helps your brain connect the two. Because it’s visual, you’re also engaging more parts of your brain in the learning, and so you’re more likely to remember!
Think about all the mnemonics you learned as a student in school…
If I say HOMES, can you name the five great lakes?
If I name Roy G. Biv, can you order the colors of the rainbow?
Mnemonics can be used for learning all sorts of things! Including the ten commandments…
What are the 10 commandments in order?
The wording of the ten commandments on these printable cards is from Exodus (chapter 20) of the King James Version of the Bible. Drumroll, please…
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
- Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
- Honor thy father and mother.
- Thou shalt not kill.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness.
- Thou shalt not covet.
How I teach the ten commandments to kids using pictures
When I taught the commandments to my own kids, I found that some of them were easy to understand (like #6), but others use unfamiliar vocabulary that needed explanation (like #7 and #10).
Using the picture clues made it easy to teach my kids not only the WORDS of the commandments, but the MEANING as well (because ultimately that’s the part that really matters, right?).
Here’s how I explained each of the commandments using the picture clue cards:
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me. The bright, glowing number ONE in the picture represents God. We believe in only one god, not the many gods that the Egyptians (where the Israelites had been living before) believed in. We should also make sure that God is first in our lives.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. The number TWO has the head of a cow to remind us of the golden calf idol that the Israelites made to worship while Moses was up on the mountain. Today our idols might be other things, like cars, money, being famous, or anything else that becomes more important than loving God and our fellow men.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. The number THREE looks a little like two lips speaking. We need to be respectful in the way that we talk about God and not use his name as a swear word.
- Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. The number FOUR has a hole in the middle to remind us to keep the sabbath day holy (I love a good pun!). We talked about what that means for our family, including brainstorming some ideas of activities that help us use Sunday as a special day to rest and worship.
- Honor thy father and mother. Number FIVE has a picture of a man and woman that represent a father and a mother. This is a good opportunity to express your love for your crazy kiddos and remind them that families work best when everyone shows respect to each other.
- Thou shalt not kill. The number SIX is turned sideways to remind us of a gun shooting a bullet. This one is pretty easy for kids to understand.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery. SEVEN can be a tricky commandment to explain, especially to very young children. I kept things simple. The picture shows a heart that is being broken in half by the number seven. This reminds us that married couples should keep all the promises they made when they got married, including to love and take care of each other.
- Thou shalt not steal. The number EIGHT is turned sideways and looks like a robber’s mask. This is another easy one.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness. Yes, I know that the commandment has nothing to with forest creatures, but the picture of number NINE as a bear triggers the phrase “bear false witness.” Bearing witness means to say something is true, so the commandment is teaching us to be honest in all things.
- Thou shalt not covet. The number TEN is hidden inside the word “covet”, which means to be jealous. It was a great chance to talk about how it’s human nature to want the good things that other people have, but that focusing on what we don’t have can make us unhappy. Instead, if we focus on being grateful for what we do have, we will be happier!
Fun ways to use pictures to teach the ten commandments to kids
First, you’ll need to download and print the 10 commandments picture cards. To download, click the button below:
Note: I recommend printing on cardstock and laminating your cards if you want them to last. I love my Purple Cows laminator, and it’s been going strong for almost 10 years.
Alright, let’s play!
Start out by showing your kids each of the pictures and explaining the commandment associated with each one. Once you’ve done that, there are lots of ways to use them to make learning the commandments fun for your family!
Here are some ideas to try:
- Memory. In addition to the picture cards, you can also download cards that have the text of each of the ten commandments. The combination is perfect for playing a memory matching game together as a family.
- Draw Pile. Put the pictures facedown in a pile and take turns flipping one over. Can you recite the commandment for that picture? If so, keep the card! If not, place it on the bottom of the stack and move to the next player. (I like to recite the ones they miss for them to help them learn the words.)
- Charades. Put all the pictures in a bowl or bag, split into teams and take turns acting out the commandments.
- Grab it! Spread out all the pictures on a table (or floor). Read one of the commandments and see which player can grab the related picture first. You can play this so that the parent reads the commandments each time, or set it up so that whoever grabs the commandment gets to be the “caller” for the next commandment (this is helpful in giving younger children a chance to grab while an older sibling calls out the clue).
What other ways can you think of to use these picture cards to teach the ten commandments to kids?
Want more free printables to make family life easier and more fun? Try these!