Kids, Free Play and God

If you were a child in the 1960’s your jobs were to go to school, do chores and play. There weren’t many expectations of participating in other activities until well into elementary school. Even then, it usually was an hour or two a week until your teen years in many cases.

Today’s kids live a very different life. They are in constant planned activities from infancy. There is very little if any time to just play like children used to play. Our kids are missing out on some of the benefits of free play that even teens used to regularly get. Some of those can also be impacting the spiritual lives of young people, too.

As the world gradually returns to normal, here are some reasons you should keep your kids’ schedules lighter and allow more time for free play. (Note: Free play does not include anything that involves a device.”

  • To show their hearts. Mr. Rogers once said,”Play allows us a safe distance as we work on what’s close to our hearts.” The free play your kids choose to engage in can tell you a lot about what is important to them. What is each of your kids’ favorite way to play? What does it reveal to you about what is important to them? Does it show a loving or an angry heart? They may never articulate the things their play reveals.
  • To try out new ideas. Play is a great way to safely test new ideas in a controlled environment. What happens when you build a tower of blocks and knock it over? How do others react when you are a grumpy store clerk when playing grocery store?
  • To better understand things or problem solve. Play is a great way to begin understanding things that are confusing or try out different solutions to problems. How is that toy put together? How can I fix it if it breaks? How would my “mommy” doll respond if I said different things to her?
  • Mimic what they see, hear and experience. Play therapists sometimes use play to encourage kids to open up about traumatic events they have experienced. In fact, if your child plays the same negative pretend game over and over, you may want to get professional help determining if your child has experienced a trauma of which you are unaware. On the other hand, how your kids play pretend games like “house” may give you an idea of how they interpret your marriage or your parenting. These may also be the qualities they carry into their future families.
  • Sharing their faith. Kids who love church often choose to “play” church. It’s a way for them to practice the various acts of worship and invite friends to share in that part of their world. It’s faith sharing in its purest, simplest form.
  • Gift discovery. Have a child whose toys are always organized? She might have the gift of organization. Kids often display an early aptitude that is actually a gift from God they can develop and use to serve God. If they appear to enjoy something and have an aptitude for it, consider providing things to help them to continue to explore and develop that potential gift.

What items do your kids need to get these benefits from play? The great news is that expensive toys are often the least helpful in providing benefits to children. Common objects like pots and pans, crayons and paper, sticks and rocks can give kids an opportunity to be truly creative in their play. And that’s when the benefits really begin to appear.

A Great Way to Help Your Kids Recognize Influences

Social media influencers can make a lot of money convincing their followers to purchase specific items. Those posts are pretty obvious to most young people today. Can your kids, however, recognize when the books they read, games they play or media they watch are changing their world view, ideas or beliefs?

The answer is probably not. Why? Because content creators are often purposefully subtle (yet effective) in their attempts to influence the minds of young people. Your kids probably have no idea of what content creators may want them to believe or the actions they hope to inspire.

There’s a relatively simple way to help your kids be more aware of when others are trying to influence them and what those ideas are. After they finish interacting with any sort of content, ask your kids what the ad for it would look like. What is the tag line? In other words, what are the authors of the content trying to sell your kids?

Your kids may struggle with this at first. Another way to ask the same type of question would be to ask them the moral of the story. If they are familiar with Aesop’s fables, they know about the last line that sums up the lesson readers were supposed to have learned. What would be that last line for the movie, book, game or other creative content with which they just interacted?

If you catch subtle content they miss, ask them a question to see if their brains registered something they weren’t consciously aware connected. For example, let’s say a character decided to lie to a friend to spare their feelings. The creators believe this is perfectly acceptable, even laudatory behavior. When summing up the episode, your child doesn’t mention the incident. So, did it impact your child?

You can try the direct approach and ask what they thought about the scene. A more indirect way would be to present a similar dilemma. What would they do in a situation that is similar, but not exactly the same as the creative content?

Making your kids more aware of when others are attempting to influence them is an important skill set. It will help them think more critically about ideas they have unknowingly had repeated to them multiple times in thousands of different ways. Otherwise, they risk being brainwashed into believing sin is great, good is bad, and the world God wants is archaic and suspect.

Helping Kids Conquer Peer Pressure

If you dig deeply enough, you will find that many of the problems in the world today are caused by adults who have given into what they perceive as peer pressure. Even Christian adults are not immune to peer pressure, often with the same negative results teens and kids get when succumbing to it. Your kids will be more likely to obey God if they can learn to ignore peer pressure while they are still young.

Insulating your kids from peer pressure takes work. Kids and teens are wired to want to fit in with their peers. Spending most of their days together in school and activities only increases the pressure to conform. Some peer pressure can be positive, but often it encourages negative and even sinful choices. It is the rare young person who can stand up to peer pressure without any previous coaching from parents.

Coaching your kids is easier if you start when they are young. Small children often spend less time with peers and are more likely to still believe their parents are the people they most want to please. Helping older kids conquer peer pressure is tougher, but not impossible.

Here are some of the concepts your kids need to embrace to be able to stand up to peer pressure.

  • Pleasing God is more important than pleasing peers. This is perhaps the toughest one, because it involves attitudes, mind sets and hearts. Work with your kids on having hearts that want to please God. Encourage them to have their top goal be going to Heaven and taking others with them. Teach them their true worth is in God’s eyes, not with peers who may or may not have their best interests in mind. A child who puts God first and knows what God wants for his or her life will be much less susceptible to peer pressure that would lead to disobeying God.
  • Christians will never truly fit into the world around them. If Christians look exactly like everyone else in the world, there is something wrong. Your kids have to understand and embrace the fact that they should never want to be just like everyone else they know. While some Christians are well liked and even well loved because of the loving ways they treat others, they will still be excluded from situations because of how others perceive Christians. Or they will need to exclude themselves from participating in sinful activities. Popularity in the way most young people mean it should never be the ultimate goal.
  • Make decisions early. Often peer pressure works because young people aren’t given enough time to really think about what they are being asked to do by their peers. Having discussions about specific situations before they happen can help. Teach your kids how to make good choices about certain topics before their peers can tempt them to do those things. If they have previously decided something is a bad choice, it will be much easier for them to say no than if they are trying to process the options in real time.
  • Practice responses. Remember the temptation of Jesus? Jesus knew exactly what to say to reject Satan’s temptations. Help your kids develop a toolbox of helpful responses when faced with negative peer pressure. Don’t forget to also have them practice what to do if the pressure continues.
  • Develop escape routes. The Bible tells us God always provides an escape route when the temptation to sin gets to be too much to bare. Unfortunately, most kids and teens don’t know what to look for to escape peer pressure when it gets to to be too much. Teaching them options like walking away or talking to you or another trusted adult can help them find those escape routes God provides when they need them.
  • Memorize Bible verses. Teach them Bible verses they can repeat to themselves in their minds either to remind them of what God wants them to do or to remind them God will help them deal with the situation. If they practice them enough, those Bible verses will be in their minds for the rest of their lives.
  • Find a few good friends. Popularity generally encourages lots of shallow friendships over a handful of meaningful ones. Teach your kids how to find a true, godly friend. They only need one or two. Teach them to seek friends who will encourage them to obey God. Often these people are Christians themselves, but not always depending upon where you live. If your kids can’t find Christian friends, teach them to look for people who want to support them in their principles and morals even if they themselves don’t always follow those same standards for strictly spiritual reasons.
  • Have other options ready. Often peer pressure is to participate in a default activity when young people are bored. They’ve not been taught to think of fun things to do that don’t involve making poor choices. Teach your kids how to find other fun, more interesting things to do and present them as alternatives. It won’t always work, but it works more times than people realize. If the ideas are rejected, encourage your kids to go ahead and do something else that is fun, but a good choice. Saying no to peer pressure does not require one to sit at home alone, bored and sad. Teach them they can have fun doing what is right…even if they are doing something by themselves.

Avoiding peer pressure is tough. Otherwise it wouldn’t involve the word pressure. Working with your kids to be strong in the face of peer pressure will take time and effort, but it can help them avoid making poor choices for the rest of their lives.

Family, Faith and Fun Challenge Day 14

We hope your family has grown closer to each other and God over the last two weeks. For today’s challenge you will need large, lightly colored stones or you can draw “stones” on paper and use those.

Saturday, January 2, Day 14

Bible Reading: Matthew 28:16-20

Memory Verse: “So you must go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19

Interesting Facts: 

  • Although Christianity soon split from Judaism, at this point the followers of Jesus were using some of the meeting rooms at the Temple to wait for what would come next. 
  • Sources outside of the Bible record that the disciples and other early Christians traveled and taught about Jesus at least as far as England, France (Gaul), Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya, India, Iran (Persia), Armenia, and many more countries. 

Thoughts to Share: After Jesus rose from the dead, he spent a few more weeks on Earth before he went back to Heaven. He probably spent a lot of that time preparing the Apostles and others for their mission after he went back to Heaven. What was this mission? It is the same mission God has for Christians today, to tell as many people as we possibly can the story of Jesus and how they can have their sins forgiven and spend forever in Heaven with God.

Did you know that the stories we have studied these last two weeks are some of the stories you can tell other people to help them learn about Jesus? You can practice telling these stories to each other. Then when you want to tell the stories about Jesus to someone else, it will be easier.

Family Fun Instructions: Find or make some large white stones. Use the markers to draw a symbol on each stone to help each of you remember an important part of the story of Jesus to tell to others. Think of simple symbols that remind your family of important Bible stories. Once you have made the stones, take turns telling the story of Jesus to each other.


Parenting Tips: Here are instructions for helping your kids learn how to share their faith. Helping them practice telling the stories will help them remember it and make it easier for them to tell the stories to other people. For teens, you may want to discuss several of the sheets on this page. We also have a free baptism study if one or more of your children is ready for that conversation.

Family, Faith and Fun Challenge Day 13

Happy New Year! Time to reinforce some great spiritual habits.

Friday, January 1, Day 13

Bible Reading: Luke 24:1-49

Memory Verse: “They were saying, ‘It’s true! The Lord has risen. He’s appeared to Simon.’” Luke 24:34

Interesting Facts:

  • Stones in front of tombs at this time fit into a groove once they were in place. They would have been easy to put in place, but very hard to remove.
  • The stone in front of the grave could have weighed several thousand pounds.

Thoughts to Share: How do you think Mary, Joanna, the Apostles and other people felt as they realized Jesus had risen from the dead? They felt joy! Joy is understanding the story of Jesus. Joy is understanding Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead. Joy is knowing that when we are baptized to become a Christian, our sins are forgiven and we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Joy is knowing we can spend forever with God in Heaven.

Family Fun Instructions: Today is the first day of a New Year! Find or make items to help you celebrate. New Year’s Day is also a great time to set goals for the coming year. You can make goals for yourself and goals for your family. This worksheet will help you set goals that will be a little easier to keep. Each of you may want to use one of the blank books in the box to write down your goals and keep track of how you are doing. Spend some time celebrating the New Year and setting goals.

Parenting Tips: Here, you will find tips for helping your kids set and accomplish goals. Teaching your children how to set and keep goals will make it easier for them to do well in school, in a job, in a relationship and especially as a Christian.