Teaching Peace With Elyse: Let It Go!

As "Let It Go," the hit song from the movie Frozen, resounds from the voices of young children globally, I put on my "teacher-as-researcher" hat. This song that has caught fire, what did it mean to the children? I was fascinated.

Whenever they spontaneously burst into song, I requested that they sing it slower so that I could understand the words. I was curious as to which words were remembered and if these were particularly important to the children. They belted out the song like professional singers. Afterwards, I would ask them questions based on their choice of words.

Questions:                                                             Answers:

What was being let go of?                                   Fear, anger, the past

What was kept inside?                                          Love

Why did they have to keep it inside?                  To keep others safe from the powers

Depending on both the ages and the individual children, different answers were given. I am often amazed at how wise and insightful very young children can be. I wondered if they had discussed the movie with their parents or amongst themselves.

Yesterday, Dash, 3 years old, brought to expressive arts a partially written story he’d been dictating. He paused in his dictation at the words "let it go." He repeated the words, wanting me to write "let it go" over and over. I thought there might be another way to capture his enthusiasm.

"Could you use the musical note stickers to show the words?" I asked. He liked the scaffolding and began to place the stickers on his paper. Finding a lone heart in the sticker box, he placed it on his paper.

He commented about it being ripped. I spoke of how adults sometimes call being sad a broken heart. He wanted to fix it. His friend brought him a very long piece of tape. Dash said that he only needed a small straight piece, but he let his friend help him mend the broken heart.

I replenished the sticker box with additional hearts. There were now plenty of hearts available. "Lots of love," he said, placing many on the paper.


He began to enthusiastically sing “Let It Go." When asked what was being "kept inside" he said "love."

 Love was being kept inside. "She needed the love," he said referring to the movie I had yet to see. "She needed to feel loved. If she gave it away she wouldn't have any," he told me quite seriously.

His good friend replied with some distress, using the teachings of another song: "Love is something if you give it away you’ll end up having more. But, you have to give it away or you won't get any more!"

"No, I won't give it away. I'm keeping it all inside."

"You have to share!"

"No, I won't." He pointed to where he had contained the love stickers with decorator tape. "I need all that love!"

"Not even a little?" his friend asked, frustrated and worried.

"Well, maybe a smidgeon," Dash demonstrated with his fingers how much he was willing to give away.

"But how will you get more if you don't share. No one will give you anymore." The friend’s frustration and concern was rapidly rising as their ideas came full circle, still bumping into each other.

Deciding to add another idea to the argument and knowing that one of the children loved big ideas, I said, "I know some people who will always give you love. It’s a very special love, what's called unconditional love. They will love you no matter what you do or don’t do." I then paused for emphasis and said, "Your parents."

"Yes, my parents will always love me," said this usually very generous child. His temporary need was validated. He’d share when he chose to. And the other child was also happy, or at least distracted, as this young philosopher pondered the new idea of unconditional love. 

Sometimes as teachers we need to add new ideas to a discussion in order to help children find peaceful solutions to what seem like unsolvable problems.

Guidelines for further research:

Use children’s interest in this movie as a way to deepen their skills in emotional intelligence. As EQ is an important tool of peace, discuss:

  • If you hold in your feelings, particularly anger, fear or sadness, what happens?
  • How can you let it out appropriately?
  • How does it feel when someone knows you're afraid?
  • Who thinks letting your fear out, what's called being vulnerable, is brave? Is it as brave as not having any fear?

UPDATE: I’m on my second viewing of Frozen, taking notes on the children’s thoughts and feelings as compared to my own. As one of the parents said, "It can be used to work out life questions."

Had I not watched the movie, I wouldn’t have instantly recognized a 4-year-old’s drawing as Elsa creating a beautiful ice palace with her powers.