Summertime can feel like an obstacle to overcome for parents of school-aged kids. How do we keep our kids busy without over-scheduling them? How do we manage our own responsibilities while also ensuring our children’s minds don’t wither away from hours of screen time? Can anything keep kids interested, occupied, productive, and even learning during summer vacation?
Remember playdough, finger paint, and crayons? Toddler days were messy! But while the medium may (or may not) change, our kids’ creativity doesn’t. Let’s occupy their busy minds by filling their busy hands with opportunities to create. Adapt the following ideas to the ages and abilities of your children.
Set up a dedicated spot in your home—a table, nook, or entire room if you have it—for artistic endeavors stocked with a supply of paper, pencils, paint, and other creative tools. Name a particular hour of your day as “art class” and explore a passion or talent your child may possess. And if you just can’t handle glitter, paint, or modeling clay, find a friend who can and trade playdates with them. When my kids were between five and twelve years old, I always loved taking them to my friend Susie, who, as an actual artist, was happy for them to join her kids in making a huge mess on her kitchen table. They came home with glittery hair, colorful smudges, and shining eyes as they showed me their newest handmade treasures.
Books are the doorway to the future, exercising children’s imaginations, thinking, comprehension skills, and creativity. Stories help them understand the world and imagine a new world in which they can play a part. The power of reading inspired Dolly Parton, for instance, to create her Imagination Library, which sends a book per month to children from birth to five years old.
While babies are napping, toddlers can enjoy “rest time” with books until they doze off. Older kids can settle down during the heat of the day with a reading hour. Or jazz up your routine with a weekly trip to the library where they can discover new stories and foster a lifelong habit of reading.
Begin with the best book in the world, the Bible. A short time reading God’s Word will start every day with pure goodness. Don’t make it complicated—even opening your physical Bible and then retelling the story in your own words teaches your children the value of hearing from God every day. Let them participate and help you as they are able. Maybe have them draw a picture depicting something from the story that day.
Once they start reading, many children begin dramatizing the stories they love. Do your kids enjoy imitating or quoting their favorite characters and scenes? Clean out your closets and offer your rejects or old favorites to a costume bin. Encourage the kids to act out their morning Bible stories, write screenplays, get into character, and become someone new on stage. Cheer on your cotton ball-bearded Moses and blue sash-draped Mary. Ooh and aah when “Jesus” multiplies the cheese and crackers. Always say yes when they ask if you want to watch.
Reading often leads to writing. Keep old school notebooks from the recycle bin, tear out the used pages, and reuse what’s left as “dreaming and drafting” notebooks. Let your kids’ creative instincts run wild! Don’t worry about penmanship or grammar. When they feel they’ve completed a poem or short story and are ready to share, help them re-write it neatly or even type it into the computer (we can’t ignore sneaking in easy learning). Print out a final version to share with friends and family. Celebrate your child’s imagination and hard work.
Storytelling takes many forms, and video is easily the most popular type of media right now. Disney, for example, rules the screens in many households. The kids will ask to watch their favorite episodes or movies all day long, and we are often tempted to let them vegetate in front of the screen. But why not put the camera—or your iPhone—into their hands instead? Using free apps such as iMovie or InShot, young aspiring producers can learn basic editing skills for photography and video. Movie night can take on a whole new angle.
Let’s encourage our kids to tell stories that reflect their faith and God’s character. The original kids’ series The Creators, a product of the RightNow Media video production team, tells the story of a group of friends who join forces to create films that are “meaningful, virtuous, and good.” The Creators weaves biblical truths into engaging stories with humor and the right dose of seriousness. Perhaps a short time in front of a show will inspire your kids to produce their own series!
When God created humans, he made us in his image (Genesis 1:27). That means we are made to be creators too—it’s part of our DNA and our purpose. Who says we have to wait until we are adults to make wonderful things?