A few months ago my stepdaughter said, ?Mom, you were always so good at coming up with fun things to do.?
I gaped at her in astonishment. I had no idea what she was talking about.
"You know, Mom, that time when we went camping and we decorated the pinecones . . .? she reminded me. ?Heather and I thought that was just the neatest thing.?
I had always scrambled to keep ahead of my girls. And I had often felt overwhelmed by the enormity of keeping them occupied on Sabbath afternoons and summer days when they came to me complaining, ?I'm bored.? If you've ever heard that comment, here are some ideas to try. Below each idea are Bible passages to read together and questions to talk about.
1 Start a story with your own children as the main characters. It can be as wild and fanciful as you and your children desire. Have them draw pictures to illustrate the story. Keep these pictures in a binder, and add to them as the story expands. Don?t be afraid to let the story go off on unexpected tangents. The sillier, the better.
Read: Any Bible story.
Talk about: What is your favorite Bible story? Why? What kind of story would you like Jesus to write with your life?
2 Spray paint some gravel a shiny gold color to create ?gold nuggets.? Then choose variable-sized ones to hide in fairly shallow containers of sand, one for each child. Provide slotted spoons or clean kitty litter scoops for each of your little gold rush enthusiasts, as well as Baggies to contain the nuggets they find. To make this even more fun, set up a pretend store on some old shelves in a corner of your yard or in the playroom. Decorate the shelves with brightly colored cloth, and let the children use their gold to ?buy? cheap things you have around the house or get at a dollar store.
Read: Revelation 21:21: ?The street of the city was made of pure gold. The gold was clear as glass.? *
Talk about: What will it be like to be in heaven? What do you want to do when you get there?
3 Gather colorful leaves with your children, and help them press the leaves flat. When the leaves are pressed, the children can pick out their favorites and arrange them between two laminating pages, pressing the pages together carefully to remove the bubbles. Use a construction paper border, or frame the creations in cheap frames, since these pictures do not last. An alternative is to laminate the leaves separately by pressing them between the laminating pages with enough room between each of the leaves to cut them out and arrange them. If you laminate long-stemmed leaves, you can also make bouquets with them.
Read: Jeremiah 17:7, 8: ?The person who trusts in the Lord will be blessed. . . . He will be strong, like a tree planted near water. . . . Its leaves are always green.?
Talk about: What does it mean to trust someone? How does trust in God make us strong like a healthy tree? What Bible characters can you think of who trusted in God, even when things got hard for them?
4 Decorate pinecones with wild?flowers or artificial flowers. Use the tiny wildflowers along your own road or in a local meadow. If you are going to a state park, bring along several varieties of artificial flowers with small florets that you can cut off with scissors. Give your children full creative license, and take photos of their artistic achievement. No two pinecone creations will be identical
Read: Isaiah 40:8: ?The grass dies, and the flowers fall. But the word of our God will live forever.?
Talk about: What does it mean to last forever? What item would you most like to last forever? Why do you think the Bible has lasted for so many years?
5 Play mix and match. Cut out from magazines or catalogs many examples of different types
of clothing, or have an older child do this. Then encourage your young children to put outfits together. What combinations make the best-looking outfits? What colors go together? Do boots, dress shoes, or sneakers look good with each outfit? Feed your child's own sense of style rather than have them be dominated by the fashion scene. Little ones will want your input, too. This takes more prep time than some activities, but the more variety your children have from which to choose their outfits, the more fun they will have.
Read: 1 Corinthians 15:53-55: ?This body that will ruin must clothe itself with something that will never ruin. And this body that dies must clothe itself with something that will never die. . . .?
Talk about: Why are we sad when something gets ruined or someone dies? Why do people and living things die? What has God done to fix the problem of death?
6 Make up your own family song. If one or more of your family members is musically inclined, you can even record it and play it often enough for everyone to memorize the tune and words. If it is a short song, sing it together once a week, once a day, or whenever you prefer, making it a family tradition.
Read: Exodus 15:2: ?The Lord gives me strength and makes me sing. He has saved me. He is my God, and I will praise him.?
Talk about: What makes you want to sing? What kinds of songs does God want us to sing and listen to? How can we praise God through singing?
7 Adopt a grandma or grandpa at a nearby nursing home. Contact the administrator and see who has the fewest visitors. Then visit and introduce yourselves, having your children sing little songs or show pictures they have colored. Digital cameras make it easy to create a scrapbook for your adopted grandparent. Help your children decorate the outside of the scrapbook. Make this a whole family adventure. Contact with the older generation will do a lot for your children as well as for you. Kids are often too many miles away from grandparents and will benefit from the unconditional love of the older folks. However, if personalities don't mix, don?t give up. Find another person to adopt.
Read: Leviticus 19:32: ?Show respect to old people.?
Talk about: What does it mean to show respect for someone (or something)? What can we learn from older people? What can they learn or gain from us?
By planning fun and helpful activities with your children, you will get to know them in ways you never would
otherwise. And you won't have to hear ?I'm bored!?
* Scriptures quoted from the International Children's Bible?, New Century Version?, copyright ? 1986, 1988, 1999 by Tommy Nelson?, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, Tennessee 37214. Used by permission.
Ann E. Slaughter is a legal assistant in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.