How to Explain Red Ribbon Week to Our Little Guys

I struggle each year with a creative way to explain Red Ribbon Week to my younger preschool and elementary-aged students. I don’t think this community of children need to hear the repeated “Don’t Do Drugs” mantra. It just doesn’t make much sense to them. In fact, I didn’t even buy red ribbons for my students this year. 

GASP! I know. What a terrible, terrible counselor. But I’ll be honest. I wanted a more meaningful activity. One that they might actually remember and keep as a momento. Not a red ribbon that will be splattered with ketchup and mud in 4 minutes, fall off before lunch, and find stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe on their way out to carpool. 

How To Explain RRW to Young Students

So here is what I did, I focused on RESPECT! If you know me, have read my blog, have even glance through my blog titles, you know that I love respect. Do I talk about bullying. NOPE. Do people think I’m terrible because I don’t talk about bullying? Sure, but you know what, teaching our children about respect is far more powerful than to be teaching them about bullies. We need more good and less name-calling going on in our society. I pride myself on my proactive counseling program. So why should Red Ribbon Week be done any differently?

I took the ideas behind Red Ribbon Week and boiled them down to 5 main points:

Respect in 5 Points

We talked about how each of these 5 points discusses respect. Therefore, Red Ribbon Week comes down to respecting ourselves (and our bodies), respecting our friends, respecting our education, respecting God (remember I work in a Catholic school) and adults, and a respect/understanding for other’s feelings. 

After we discuss one point, we place a bead on our bracelet. I always discuss our new bead, review all the other beads, and then place it on the bracelet. 

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So a portion of the lesson sounds like this:

When we celebrate Red Ribbon Week, we are really celebrating respect. We hear the word respect a lot, but who can tell me what respect actually means? 

Look at all these examples! We can have respect for many different things in our lives. During Red Ribbon Week, we celebrate respecting 5 things. That works because we have 5 fingers on one hand!

First, we want to celebrate respecting our bodies and brains. Our bodies and brains have such an important job to do. They have to learn and grow. To learn and grow, we have to put healthy food in our bodies. Once we have healthy food in our body, our brains are ready to learn. What would happen if all me did was eat sugar, and candy, and soda?!

Let’s put a blue bead on our bracelet to show that we respect our brains and bodies. 

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TADAA! I do that same sort of explanation for the rest of the five points. At the end of class, we tie the bracelet to their arm to remind them what we celebrate during Red Ribbon Week.

Anyone else have any creative, age-appropriate Red Ribbon Week activities for preschool and elementary students?

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Find an Updated Version of the Lesson Here!


  1. Connie says:

    I too have struggled with a meaningful way to observe Red Ribbon Week. I love the idea of teaching respect and giving a visual reminder or each of the 5 points via a bracelet. I will certainly add this to my classroom activities.
    Thank you.

  2. Lori Curry says:

    I always talk to the younger students about good and bad choices. I teach them to respect their bodies by always choosing healthy options. We talk about the dangers of cigarettes, alcohol, and medicine.

    • Kal says:

      Lori, I like the addition of teaching them about medicine! I always use that example when we talk about things that are okay and not okay to share!

  3. Lori says:

    This is really wonderful and exactly what i have been struggling with.
    Any other ideas for red ribbon week would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Sharon says:

    We focus on making safe, healthy and kind choices. Every year we do something a bit different (activity-wise) but always safe, healthy and kind choices…..kind to others and to yourself so you can have the life that is best for you. I do explain the origin of red ribbon week to grades 3-5 but point out the our focus is making safe, healthy and kind choices…and if we do, we will not choose violence, unhealthy substances or bullying.

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