Trees are in bloom. Lilac blossoms scent the air. The sound of lawn mowers and children playing fill the neighborhood. Spring seems to have officially sprung, and with it the mounting excitement that summer is just around the corner.
Wait a minute? Summer? Summer? It’s that time of year that parents all over America simultaneously look forward to and dread. While parents and students have a break from the demands of the school year, they also seem to have endless days and nights full of rambunctious kids always lamenting, “We’re bored.”
But that time and those attitudes actually provide a wonderful opportunity for parents and church educators. Outside of traditional camps and vacation Bible school programs, there are a variety of ideas available to help give children meaningful summer experiences that work their bodies, stimulate their minds, and remind them of the love of Christ.
Host an Olympic Event
The Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Summer Olympics is scheduled for July 27, 2012. Why not capitalize on all hoopla with a celebration of your own? Older children might enjoy having friends come over to watch their favorite event. Younger children might want to make it a more active affair, meeting once a day for an hour or so at a local park or a one-day event to engage in a mini-Olympics of their own. Activities could include various “Olympic” competitions such as foot races, jumping competitions, and a tug-of-war. While athletes get refreshed with a few red, white and blue snacks, you can read to them Isaiah 40:31, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will fly up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary.” End with a ceremony awarding inexpensive medals for each student, praising not only the winners of the competitions but highlighting the individual strengths of each athlete as well—the good sportsmanship award, the best effort award, the most improved, best attitude, etc.
Celebrate a Birthday
Almost every child loves a birthday party, but if there seems to be a shortage of birthday gatherings, you can always create one. Think about throwing a birthday party for a foreign missionary’s child or a child someone sponsors through a mission program. Provide all the typical birthday fare—a cake, party games and favors, but ask that gifts come in the form of donations that can be given to the “birthday” child or child’s family. If all else, fails, choose a favorite cartoon character. When my son was young, he particularly enjoyed the Arthur cartoons. So, one summer day, we invited a group of children to come celebrate Arthur’s birthday. I provided the drinks, the cake and some small wading pools and sprinklers for the children to enjoy. Everyone else brought goodies to share. It’s an event my son remembers to this day. Silly? Yes, but who says life has to be serious all the time? Historically, God’s people have celebrated a number of special days and activities. We can too. Remind children that Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord acted; we will rejoice and celebrate in it!”
Create a Camp
Not every camp has to be expensive or involve over-night or even day-long stays. Sometimes having just an hour or two is more than enough time to have fun with friends. Try your hand at creating original camp experiences. Find church members who might play host/hostess for an afternoon. What about a music camp? Students could experiment with various instruments, learn songs that could be performed for parents or a nursing home audience, make their own music video or build a homemade instrument. Or what about an art camp? Every day students could try a new medium—play dough/clay, paint, chalk, water colors, etc. How about hosting a camp where participants perform one generous activity each time they meet? Or a bike camp where children ride their bikes through different obstacle courses or over different trails each day? A Lego or Lincoln Log camp? A book or movie-themed camp? A nature camp? The possibilities are as limitless as a child’s imagination. Emphasize to children how God created each of us uniquely with different interests and different talents. Read to them from Psalms 139:14, “I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful. I know that very well.” Ask them to thank God for the characteristics that make them unique.
Summer doesn’t have to be a time filled with too much television and too much whining. Nor does it need be filled from morning to night with activity. Most children, like adults, appreciate a balance between having something fun to do and having nothing to do at all. The key is remembering to follow our Lord’s example to love and welcome the time you have with children and to gladly cease the opportunity to enrich their lives in Jesus’ name.