A school holiday would not be complete if my family didn’t have our camping night. And by that, I mean a campout—in our living room.
While I’d like to think that my family has a sense of adventure, we aren’t quite brave enough for an actual night out in the wild. So, our next best alternative has been to pull our mattresses into the living room for movie nights with popcorn and cups of hot chocolate.
This is one of the ways our family spends the school holiday, to better bond with our 13-year-old daughter.
With the June holiday upon us, some of us may be wracking our brains for ways to entertain our children for a whole month.
The good news is, creating fond family memories need not be expensive or require a lot of effort. All it takes is for us as parents to be intentional in setting time aside to spend with our children.
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Here are some ways we can bond with our children, while drawing them closer to God this holiday:
1. Be Amazed by God’s Creation
“How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.”
When was the last time we slowed down to marvel at the sunlight sifting through the trees above our heads, or the iridescence of a snail’s shell as it makes its way across the pavement?
As adults, we often tend to gloss over the beauty of God’s creation around us and focus on the here and now, like the many chores to complete or tasks to get done.
Yet, the psalmist beckons us to behold God’s hand of creation and wisdom around us, and to praise Him in awe and wonder.
Like the psalmist, we can point our children to the wonderful attributes of our creator God, by paying closer attention to the rich biodiversity of nature around us—from the shape, colour, and veins of leaves on a plant to the vast array of wildlife in our midst.
Like the psalmist, we can point our children to the wonderful attributes of our creator God, by paying closer attention to the rich biodiversity of nature around us.
Lace up your walking shoes and grab a pair of binoculars for a hike in a nature reserve, encourage your kids to listen for wildlife, and try to spot unique trees, plants, animals, and bugs.
For a different exploration experience, try a DIY or guided intertidal or mangrove walk. Discover the array of marine life at low tide, such as hermit crabs, sea stars, sea slugs, and even corals that call the shore their home.
You might be surprised at how sharp-eyed and observant our children can be, so engage them actively during these nature walks. Point out how God’s fingerprints can be seen in nature all around us, and how He gives living creatures the ability to thrive in their natural habitat.
Round up the day by thanking God for His breathtaking handiwork, and how we are all uniquely created by God.
2. Get to Know—and Love—our Neighbours
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it:
‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ”
Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan inspires us to love our neighbours, whoever they might be. But what might this look like in reality?
One way to learn this lesson together is to start a family project to intentionally get to know our neighbours. They can be those whom we greet while waiting for the lift, families who live next door or on the same floor, or friends whom they play with at the neighbourhood playground.
As a family, we can come up with ideas on how to befriend our neighbours this holiday. And as parents, we can model for our children what a good neighbour looks like.
For example, we could greet our neighbours and strike up a conversation with them. We could also bake some cookies or prepare simple snacks to share with our neighbours, or even invite them over to play board games or have some desserts.
Through striking up conversations with them, my daughter saw how befriending our neighbours can start with a simple act of showing kindness and love to those around us.
And who knows—over time, as friendships are forged, we may even have an opportunity to share the gospel with them, or to invite them to church.
During one of the holidays, my family got together to pack and hand out mosquito “wipe out” care packs to our neighbours, as our area was a dengue hotspot.
The project got my daughter excited. She sprang into action and formed a production line, with the whole family chipping in to pack mosquito patches and hand sanitisers. We also included a cautionary note to check for stagnant water around their homes.
As we knocked on doors and handed out the care packs, we got to know some neighbours whom we had never met before. Through striking up conversations with them, my daughter saw how befriending our neighbours can start with a simple act of showing kindness and love to those around us.
3. Serve One Another . . . with a Sandwich
“Each of you should use whatever gift
you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace
in its various forms.”
—1 Peter 4:10
Aside from loving our neighbours, we can teach our children to show love and care to those living under the same roof.
Just as “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28), we too ought to have the posture of servanthood—starting at home. In raising kingdom-minded children, instilling the value of putting God and others ahead of their own needs is a process that begins from young.
A good place to put this value in action is in the kitchen. For example, we could assign our children to be chefs for the holiday, and get them to prepare a meal for the family (and at the same time, give mums a well-deserved break!).
In raising kingdom-minded children, instilling the value of putting God and others ahead of their own needs is a process that begins from young.
If you have younger children, think of simple-to-assemble meals like sandwiches, wraps, or pizza. Prepare the ingredients ahead of time before handing out the aprons. Older children can be tasked to look for recipes and help with the purchase of the ingredients.
As the family tucks into the meal, you could ask them questions such as:
- “How did you feel as you prepared the meal?”
- “What did you enjoy about it, and what did you find challenging?”
- “Can you imagine preparing meals for our family every day? Why or why not?”
These questions might help our children come to a deeper appreciation of how their parents see to all their needs.
It can also give us an opportunity to discuss their unique gifts—such as their strengths and skills—and how they might use them to serve God. We can also talk about how we can better steward the talents, resources, and time that God has given us to serve others.
4. Enjoy Meaningful Movie Nights at Home
“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Catching a movie can be a pricey affair when you factor in tickets, popcorn, and drinks. Why not have a fun movie night at home instead?
Younger children are likely to enjoy family favourites like Prince of Egypt, Toy Story, The Incredibles, or The Lego Movie. On the other hand, older children might go for movies such as The Chronicles of Narnia, Wonder, Inside Out, and Soul, or all-time classics Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire. You can also introduce local titles such as Home Run or I Not Stupid.
Pull the mattresses into your living room, or even set up a camping tent with fairy lights for that “under the stars” experience. Don’t forget to dim the lights and bring out the popcorn for everyone!
You can also make movie nights a little more meaningful. After the movie, chat with your children about what they liked about the movie. These conversations might give you opportunity to bring in the gospel—for example, how knowing Jesus, trusting in God, or obeying His Word might have changed the plot or characters.
5. Grow in God’s Word through Games and Storytelling
“I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.”
The best way to grow closer to God is to read His Word. And these days, there is a wide variety of resources out there to help us.
For example, you could read Bible picture books with younger kids, or get them to put up a play enacting their favourite Bible story with homemade props and costumes.
You can also grab a copy of Give Us This Day, a children’s devotional packed with fun-filled stories and activities on God’s Word.
For older kids, there are many games and resources online. Try, for instance, Bible trivia questions that will strengthen their knowledge of people, places, and events in the Bible—not to mention our own!
Making Memories for a Lifetime
Whether it’s doing a staycation, movie night, or day trip to the zoo or park, we can always find opportunities to make our activities more meaningful and grow closer to God and one another—during the school holiday as well as after it.
After all, what will last a lifetime more than a family culture of togetherness, built on the foundation of God’s love?