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S ummer provides a necessary break and “deep breath” for many families. It’s a time to slow down, try new things, and disrupt the routine of busyness. It’s also a beautiful time to step into creation to learn about the Creator! During these summer months, try some of these popular activities—nature walks, beach trips, service projects—to help initiate and develop faith conversations. These summer activity ideas are intended for preschool- and elementary-aged kids but could be adapted for older kids, too. (Or have older kids help with activity set-up and facilitation—a great way for them to try on some leadership skills!)

Gardening

Gardening is a great way to teach about faith, as plants and faith both have seeds that grow. Jesus himself used seeds and plants as metaphors for faithful Christian living (the mustard seed parable, the vine and the branches, etc.). Don’t worry: you don’t need to commit to a vast vegetable garden! Plant seeds, pull some weeds, or talk about why certain plants grow in certain places. A great story to explore through gardening with children is the parable of the sower.

Before you being planting or working on a garden or flower bed, read the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-23. Spend time showing your child the four different kinds of soil mentioned in verses 4-8 of the parable. Talk about why you can’t plan in these places (walkway or dirt path, rocky ground, or thorny or weedy ground) and why good planting soil is necessary.

Teaching resource

Trueway Kids has a free download of their family kit for the parable of the sower. It has everything you need to teach this lesson at home, including a lesson guide, the story with pictures, coloring and activity pages, games, and worship ideas.

Activity option: Seed bombs

Seed bombs are mixtures of seeds and a wet mixture of pulp. Mix a few ingredients, mold the “bomb”, let dry, and plant!

Supplies

  • Construction paper in assorted colors
  • Scissors
  • water
  • flower/wildflower seeds
  • blender or food processor

Instructions

  1. Cut the construction paper into small, 1-inch squares. Place the squares into small bowls, keeping each color in its own dish. Fill each bowl with water just until the paper is covered. Let the paper squares soak for about 20 minutes to an hour.
  2. After the squares have absorbed the water, place them into a food processor and pulse into a pulp. Repeat this with all paper colors and put the pulp back into each bowl.
  3. Once the paper is a pulp that can be formed, squeeze most of the excess water out and add your seeds. Roll into balls. Set the seed balls onto a sheet pan to dry overnight. If the “bombs” are still moist, leave them in a sunny window until they are completely dry.
  4. Plant these in your garden or anywhere you want the seeds to grow!

Nature walks or hikes

Use a nature walk or a hike as an opportunity to teach your kids about God’s abundant goodness and creation. If you have older kids, talk about the particulars of how amazing aspects of God’s creation are as you walk. With younger children, focus on reminding them that God made everything!

Consider framing your walk with Ephesians 6:10-17, talking about the “armor of God” that you put on as you go about each day (just like you put on shoes and a hat for a walk).

Teaching resource

“The Littles & Me” blog offers a free “Helmet of Salvation Nature Walk” download with scavenger hunt items related to the salvation story. Before or after you search for each item on the salvation nature walk, pause to read a passage of Scripture that relates to the focus of the item:

  • Sin (something black): Romans 3:21-26
  • The cross (two sticks): John 19:16-22
  • Jesus’s blood poured out for you (something red): Romans 5:6-10
  • The stone rolled in front of the tomb (a rock): Matthew 27: 57-66
  • Empty tomb (something empty): Matthew 28:1-10
  • Salvation in Christ alone (something white): Acts 4:8-13
  • New creation in Christ (something green): 1 Peter 1:3-4

Activity option: Binoculars

Before going out for your hike, make “binoculars” to use. Note that these are for fun and decoration only; there is no magnifying element. If you have real binoculars, bring those along on your walk!

Supplies:

  • Empty toilet paper rolls
  • Glue or tape
  • Hole punch
  • Yarn or string
  • Stickers or markers to decorate with

Directions:

  1. Glue or tape the rolls together, side-by-side
  2. Punch holes on the outside edges of each roll at one end
  3. Make a neck strap by threading one end of the yarn through one hole and knotting it tightly. Repeat for the other side.
  4. Decorate the binoculars with stickers or markers

At the beach

The beach is a fun, relaxing place to spend a summer day! As you dig and create in the sand, recount the story of the woman at the well in John 4:1-42. During this encounter, Jesus broke social and cultural barriers. Talk about what it may look like to break down similar barriers today. Challenge each person to commit to spreading the “living water” that Jesus gives.

Teaching resource

Kids Corner has free, online activities for the story of the woman at the well. There are Bible verses to memorize and a quiz that helps process what you’ve heard. A reflection section gives an overview of the barriers Jesus breaks, and suggested challenges provide ways your family can break down barriers, too (like welcoming new people in your neighborhood or befriending someone who looks different than you).

Bible memory

Spend moments through the summer hiding God’s Word in your hearts. You can incorporate Scripture into just about any activity. A few examples:

  • Scripture hopscotch: Draw a hopscotch on your driveway or sidewalk. On each square, write one word of a verse. Recite the word as you hop in each square until you’ve said the whole verse.
  • Chalk verses: Draw or write out a favorite Bible verse in chalk on your driveway. Read it together when it’s complete.
  • Jump rope: With each jump, recite a word of a verse you’re working on memorizing.
  • Water balloon or beach ball toss: Recite the next word of a verse you’ve memorized together with each catch of the ball or balloon.

Service or outreach activities

Make a habit of finding time once a week or month to serve as a family and focus on people in need. Who can you bless? How can you share the love of God? Here are a few ideas to get you started thinking about ways your family can serve others:

Lawn service

Is there someone who could use assistance mowing their lawn or cleaning up their yard? Look around your neighborhood or think of people from school or church—a widow? A family with a new baby? Someone recovering from surgery?

Lemonade stand

Choose a ministry to support, and set up a lemonade stand in your driveway or neighborhood. Proceeds will go to the chosen ministry. Be sure to make a poster that shares about the ministry you are supporting and why. Consider getting permission to set up the lemonade stand at a local park.

Water giveaway

Hand out bottled water (or popsicles) to people you see outside. Workers, walkers, and people who are homeless would all benefit and appreciate a kind gesture and cool treat.

Serve at a local ministry

Opportunities abound to help at local food banks, shelters, retirement homes, donation centers, and other charitable organizations. Discuss with kids about needs that are often taken for granted: food, clothing, shelter, blankets, toys, books. Serve together and be reminded of God’s daily blessings. Consider committing to this kind of service throughout the year.

Thank you notes

Take time to talk about the important people in your children’s lives and be sure to express that gratitude. Consider grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, classmates, teachers, friends, mentors, pastors, and neighbors. Write a thank you note (or email) to each person. Kids can choose a Bible verse that expresses thanks or encouragement for each person. This is a great activity for a rainy summer day.

Drive-in movie night

Invite your neighbors and friends for a movie night in your driveway. Grab some cardboard boxes big enough for kids to sit in. Have kids decorate the boxes to look like cars. When it gets dark enough, project a kid-friendly Christian movie onto your garage door or a hanging sheet. The kids can view the movie while sitting in their “cars” in the driveway. Adults (and kids) can sit in chairs or on blankets in the grass. Consider serving popcorn, snacks, and juice boxes.

Shelley Henning has been involved in children’s and family ministry for over two decades. She currently serves the Reformed Church in America as the facilitator for KidMin, the children’s ministry branch of Next Generation Engagement. She is also the co-founder and CEO of Grow Family and has written a book, numerous articles, and curriculum related to children and family ministry. You can connect with Shelley by email at shenning@rca.org.