8 Ideas to help children love creation and the Creator
My husband Mark currently has a passion for running. He has been running for about a year and is getting into it more and more. He has recently completed his first half marathon run and is hoping to do his first marathon next year, something he has theoretically dreamed about since he was younger but only in the ‘I really can’t be bothered to get off the couch and stop eating ice cream’ kind of dream. Even when he started running the idea of running a marathon was not one he was aiming for - he just wanted to get fit. After he did his first 10km and found some friends who also like to run, he is encouraged to keep going.
My son Joel (8) has recently begun to be inspired to run too. Not only has he seen his dad and friends interested in running, he has got involved with the Sunday kids club mini-marathon in our local shanty town ministry. He is determined to get good at running too. Not wanting to be left behind, Daniel (10) and Kaleb (5) joined yesterday morning’s training - a 2km run around the neighborhood!
When Mark started running a year ago he wasn’t very encouraged to run. He did it because there were no rugby teams nearby to play with and he needed to keep fit. Getting up earlier to run was a lot of effort and he wasn’t very inspired. But as he has got fitter and as he has found more people to chat to about running and started joining in races he has become passionate about it. In fact, you will often find him talking about it to anyone who is interested.
In a similar (but less heart-racing!) way, meeting God in creation this month has been something that started with a level of resistance in me and has ended with something that I am passionate about! I have found new ways to engage with God, a new understanding of God and of creation and a greater level of connection with God and the world around me. It is something that I want my children to experience too, but not because they are made to, but because it is a natural extension of our lives and they see that passion in me and are inspired like they are to run with their Dad!
I have encouraged the boys to come and walk with me along the beach this month several times and a couple of times they agreed. As children, and active boys, the ways they engage with God in creation are different from me and it took me a while to be okay with that. They like the action and to get hands and feet into creation. They love sliding face first down sand mounds, filling every crevice with sand. They enjoy running into the sea (despite my cautionary shouts to not get wet!) and the shock of the cold water around their ankles. They like finding crab claws they can snap at each other and sticks they can sword fight with. In the moment it can be hard to get them to engage with God in creation, but I have learned this month that often it comes later. We can talk about the things we appreciated in creation later on at bedtime. Although they will occasionally point out things of beauty and say ‘Wow! Isn’t that amazing!’, they are more often saying ‘Pow! Look at this huge stick I've found!’
So how can we help children love creation and the Creator in a way they can engage with?
1) Point out wonders in creation without expecting an excited response:
- If I get an excited response, great! If I don’t it still doesn’t matter. When I was younger I remember my mum pointing out many things to me in creation and me thinking - ‘ok, whatever!’ - not appreciating them at all. But now I am an adult I really appreciate the fact that she did that. Even if my kids don’t appreciate creation right now, I may well be seeding a love of creation for the future.
2) Allow them the time to explore and point them back to God later:
- As I wrote earlier, it is hard to get children to stop and meet with God in the midst of running in and out of the sea and chasing up the sand, but we can easily help our children to recall their adventures and thank God for them later when they are calmer! We have found before bed is a great time to share memories of the day and process them and be thankful.
3) Allow them to interact with creation in their own way and give them time to look carefully at the details:
Allow them to make mud-pies, collect rocks and shells and sticks and interact with creation with their five senses. Dress them in clothes that are fine to get dirty, wet and ripped and encourage them to climb trees, roll down hills and paddle in water. Allow your them time to look at the details of the things around them.
4) Use tools: magnifying glasses, binoculars, cameras and art materials:
Magnifying glasses, binoculars and cameras can be great tools in getting children to look carefully at things, whether it be flowers, bugs, shells, rocks, pine cones or dirt because they help them focus at one thing at a time. For children who like drawing, getting them to draw something from nature helps them focus on the details too.
5) Help them look after creation:
Whether it be teaching them about recycling or making sure they actually do take responsibility for looking after their pet animals, teaching children to care for their world and animals is an important aspect of creation care for now and for future generations. Teach them about the authority they have been given by God as His children to tend and take care for creation, and they will find much joy in their lives as they see the fruits of their labours - animals who respond to their care and tenderness, plants that grow, gardens that look beautiful or produce things to eat. Getting them to help grow their own food also helps them understand the time and care that goes into growing just one plant and encourages them not to take their food for granted or waste it.
7) Look at instagram photos together of creation and wonder together:
One of the things my boys have loved this month is looking through my instagram feed at amazing photo after amazing photo of things in creation. I am following many creation photographers to fill my mind with God’s beautiful creation and we go through the photos together with exclamations of ‘wow’!, ‘isn’t God amazing!’ - an impromptu worship time! I recommend @natgeo @wildlife.adventure @aeriel.photo @astronomypicturesdaily @thehubblescope @creationhq @earthpix @nakedplanet @awesome.earth among others!
Watching nature documentaries and other photos online together can also inspire wonder for creation in children (and us!)
8) Read great literature to inspire children to love creation and the Creator.
Now that is another post, so look out for it later in the week - I am going to share several books for children and adults to encourage a love for God's creation and Him.
Creation is like a bizillion sign-posts to the greatness of our Creator. Each time we wonder and encourage our children to wonder we are point signs to Him and encouraging our children to love His creation and the Creator.
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This September has been a month where I am intentionally getting outside into creation to meet with God. It is part of a year long embracing of grace through different spiritual disciplines. You can read more about the year here, and more about this month's focus on creation here. Look out for a post later this week with some great book ideas to inspire you and children to love creation and the Creator more!