Winter is a time when children are often trapped in the monotony of the indoors. Then, one day, the sun's rising brings heat instead of just light. The daffodils appear and the trees bud. With months of pent-up energy surging throughout their bodies, children everywhere break forth through their front doors, declaring their emancipation. How can we join these liberated prisoners in their celebration of freedom?
How can parents capitalize on the release of all this energy? Here are 10 ideas for enjoying the coming of spring with your children.
1. Create a "letter" garden. Children love to create and they love to get dirty. Beyond just playing, though, they also need to learn duty and responsibility. Why not combine it all in a "letter" garden? Plant flowers (or better yet, herbs) in the shape of each child's first initial. Rope out the letter or, perhaps, cut the garden in the shape of their first initial. Have them plant seed or seedlings inside this shape. As the flowers or herbs grow, they will have a personalized garden space that only they are responsible for. It will be great time together. An added bonus is the abundance of herbs your home will have all summer long. Be sure to thank God for the soil, for growing your garden, and for each child tending the land.
2. Reading up, then acting out. Each night, read a portion of a story from the Bible. Perhaps you'd consider the Good Samaritan, the Book of Acts, or some missionary's story. On Saturdays, set up a stage in your yard and act it out. Invite neighborhood kids to be your audience. Team up with other families who are reading the same portions to their children and do an even bigger story like Joseph, Joshua, or David and Goliath. It's a great way to help your children remember the purpose of the story and to reach out to other neighborhood children. Be sure to thank God for your yard, for your neighbors, and for His real and practical Word.
3. Lending a helping hand. Spring is a time when families head outside to tame a winter-worn yard. Fallen branches and pine needles are everywhere. This spring, as your family heads out to clean your yard, consider those on your street. Do you have any elderly or physically challenged neighbors? Perhaps there is a single parent who has more than enough to keep him/her busy. Your family could clean their yard. Even better, you could clean their yard along with them. What a great time of talking, sharing, and building relationships as you minister to some of their greatest needs—helping with the work and being great company in the process. Be sure to thank God for the seasons, for bodies that work, and for the chance to help others.
4. Keeping your head in the clouds. No list of wonderful springtime activities would be complete without this one. Have your whole family lay on a blanket (or several blankets, depending on the size of your family). Stare at the clouds and tell everyone to say what they see in the sky. Consider starting with the younger children so their older sibling's ideas are not in their minds. Be sure to thank God for the beauty, for your imagination, and for His vastness.
5. Hunting for signs. How wonderful it is that summer does not just arrive overnight. The weather and the plants transition from winter to summer through spring. Take a nature walk and look for signs of spring. Notice the budding trees, the baby bunnies, and the nesting birds. Take sketchbooks or a camera to capture what you see. You can even create a springtime collage with all of the drawings and snapshots of your discoveries. Be sure to thank God for new life, for the scent of spring, and for your sight that allows you to see His goodness.
6. Donating from your downsize day. On "Spring Cleaning" days, reduce the number of things in your home. Put a tarp or a sheet out in your yard. Place rarely-played-with toys, rarely-worn clothes, and rarely-read books on this tarp. When you're finished, box or bag it all up and give it away. You may know of a family that could use it. If not, your church or a local relief agency would certainly know of one. In the process of downsizing and simplifying, you will be a blessing to one or many families. Be sure to thank God for His provision, for the wonderful abundance, and for all that you are still keeping.
7. Taking a "tweety hike." Walk around the neighborhood or on some nature trail. Take along a camera or binoculars. Listen carefully and try to find some singing birds. Watch what they do, how they sing, and how they're made. As you repeat this, help your children recognize each bird song and the bird that sings it. Be sure to thank God for the beauty of His creation, for His creativity, and for your hearing.
8. Camping close by—really close by. Camping can be fun, and great family memories can be made there. This spring, though, pitch a tent, toss a Frisbee and tell some stories right in your backyard. If you use a camper, open it up in the driveway. The kids will think it's great to sleep outside, just 50 feet from their beds. Plus, if you need to use the restroom, the comfort of home is not that far away. Be sure to thank God for your home, for the conveniences of the indoors, and for the memories you'll create.
9. Orating outside. Choose a book of nature poetry. Read it on a walk or on a deck or porch. Help the children see the beauty of language and how to use it to describe the beautiful things God's created. Then, have them write their own poems. Once you've done this several times and they've written a few poems, take another walk and read their poems instead of the poetry book. Be sure to thank God for language, for reading, and for the new-found creativity in your children.
10. Proper priorities. No matter what, challenge yourself as a parent to stop running, stop chauffeuring, and stop going, going, going. Spring is a season that often hurries by. So is your children's childhood. Slow down and smell the roses. Slow down and watch a bunny play. Slow down and enjoy your children. Be sure to thank God for them—each and every day!
Copyright © 2005 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.