For parents of small children, summer vacation only means one thing — a non-stop set of demands for activities. I don’t know about the other parents out there, but these days, every time I accidentally glance at the calendar, I get a shot of nerves.
Yes, there are exciting places to go, wonderful things to see and do in our town, but going out in public for an organized activity requires a lot of planning for a family and can get exhausting. We have an excellent summer Bible School at our church, but it’s only for a week, and our kids have commented how they’re now “too big” for it. What is there to do?
Well, if you’re a Catholic family like us and have concerns not just for filling the free time but also for keeping your faith alive despite distractions, I have some great ways to do just that. Yes, you can get out your prayer cards every day during family time, but you can also go beyond that with some terrific activities. Here are some great ways to keep everyone having fun during summer vacation while maintaining a connection with their Catholic faith.
Make a Giant Rosary
Prayer can seem like a bummer to a little one, so turn the tables on the old stereotypes with this amazing, pool noodle rosary. Pool noodles are inexpensive, easy to find and simply amazing for crafts. In this version, the noodle is cut into small pieces, including little flowers, so you have what you need for each Hail Mary and Our Father.
The pieces are strung together and finished off with a super easy cross. Throw it in the pool and swim up to it to call a prayer up to the summer sky, jump through the opening, tow it behind you and just have fun with it!
Be sure to ask the kids to help you make it so they feel a good sense of ownership and feel involved at every step. They’ll be much happier about using it that way.
Try Some Imaginative Prayer
Imaginative prayer is essentially what it sounds like, but I really enjoy it because it invites participants to take a more active role in the prayer itself. It’s also ideal for older children who may have become a bit more jaded or listless.
Imaginative prayer starts with a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit asking for help “entering” a story. Then, it’s important to read an active, colorful story from the Bible.
You can choose one of the stories from the saints or just one that you know your audience will enjoy. Explain that all of you are going to do your best to get into the story by imagining what it’s like to be the main character.
Be sure to end something like this with a reflection and time to come out of the story. This is a wonderful way to help readers take another look at a text and see it from another angle. You can also do it with younger readers, but be ready for them to jump up and act it out at every opportunity!
Make a Jar of Prayer Sticks
Prayer sticks are a kind of grab bag, or jar, of people to pray for. You can organize it however works for you, just be sure to get your little ones involved, once again. They can color and decorate the sticks while you talk about different objectives or different people to pray for.
This example uses different colors for different days of the week and a symbol, such as a flower or a star, as a reminder of what specifically to pray for. If one stick has grandma’s name and a little flower on the end, it means we’re praying for grandmother’s salvation.
The randomness of the activity adds a nice little twist to the act of prayer. Plus, getting your children involved in the creation of the prayer sticks will help them feel excited about using them every day. Don’t be afraid to get creative with them — pray for the goldfish, to find lost toys, and to remember to clean our rooms. God never punished anyone for being joyful.
Learn the Books of the Bible
Reading the Bible can be very daunting, especially for younger children. An excellent way to break up the text is by looking at it one book at a time and memorizing the names of each book and what order they go in the cannon. A way to do this is a building game, modeled after Jenga (though you can play with a lot of different blocks).
If you’re lucky enough to have access to uniform, rectangular cardboard boxes, you can make a giant version of this game for the backyard or recreation room. If not, don’t stress. These blocks are usually available in dollar stores or for very cheap, and you can follow this guide to make them Biblical.
For younger players, you can boil the game down to some simple tasks: sounding out the words, organizing them into Old Testament/New Testament as they draw them out, remembering something from church as they take a turn, or just about anything really. Older players can be challenged to stack them in order or to answer a trivia questions about each book they’ve drawn. This is a terrific way to focus on the Bible while having fun.
Tell a Story with an Activity
Okay, I’m taking a page out of Bible Camp here, but hey, if it works, it works. I especially enjoy the story of Noah’s Ark at summer time because you can go outside and look at the beautiful plants and animals.
Start by hunting for bugs, inspecting plants and then imagining having to gather up two of everything and care for them. Ask your children what they remember about the story and see if they can tell it to you.
Noah’s Ark is a favorite for kids – they love the high stakes and the storm. This is a great one to act out with smaller kids who get caught up in their imaginations.
After a rehash of the story, make some rainbow bubble snakes and talk about what the rainbow represents. This a great chance to reflect on the importance of keeping our promises and looking to God for guidance in our lives.
Bubble snakes are extremely easy to make and a ton of fun. They’ll be the perfect ending to any Bible story and keep everyone giggling and playing.
In whatever way you reach out for God’s love over the summer months, I hope you have a safe and blessed summer vacation, full of fun, prayers and special memories with those close to you. Happy summer!