The Bible has a lot to say about reflecting or meditating on God’s Words. Philippians 4:8 also tells us about the types of things about which we – and our kids – should be spending our time thinking. Deeper thinking can help kids put together the pieces of what a Christian life is – what God is calling them to do – who He wants them to be.
Unfortunately, most of us were never really taught how to meditate, reflect or do deeper thinking – even about God and His Words. While some with a more analytical personality may naturally do these things, for many of us it will be a learned spiritual discipline.
Learning anything requires practice if we want to become good at it. Which means if we want our kids to practice thinking more deeply about God and His Words, we need to have engaging activities to help them better understand the spiritual discipline and practice it.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Take your kids to a beautiful sight in nature. After you’ve explored, sit down and talk while you rest or enjoy a snack or picnic. Ask thinking questions like, “Why do think God gave us so many beautiful things to enjoy?” or “What is your favorite thing God created for us?”. Older children and teens might enjoy thinking questions like, “How do you think God wants us to be good stewards of His Creation?” or “What do you think God wants us to do when He said mankind was to have dominion over everything He created?”. Hopefully, some deeper questions will send you all back to the Bible for a deeper dive into what else God may have to say on a particular topic.
Allow a few extra minutes at bed time for reflection. Talk about what they thought went well that day. Ask them where they think God would want them to do something differently if the same things happened again or how they saw God working during the day. There are all sorts of deeper questions you can ask. Remember though that kids will see this as a way to stall bedtime. Or your conversations may be so good you lose track of time. If that happens, think of ways to put a comma in the conversation until the next night or have the discussions on nights that don’t require an early wake up time the next morning. (I’d suggest making bedtime earlier, but we all know how well that will be received!)
Have family dinners. You may have seen “table talk” cards that are encouraging conversation at the dinner table. Often, these are just deeper thinking and sharing questions. You can easily make your own set of table talk cards. They don’t have to all be spiritual in nature. Sometimes a simple conversation will gradually lead to talking about much deeper faith type subjects.
Solve mysteries, logical fallacy stories and logic puzzles together. Technically this is a purely secular activity, but it teaches your kids to look past the obvious. Often things that are said which are negative about God and all things Christianity seem logical and reasonable on the surface. Dig just a tad deeper and the logic falls apart. We also need to be aware that just because a Christian may use poor logic when explaining something in the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong in their conclusion about what God wants. Logical fallacy stories are a great way to have these conversations. Ultimately, your kids need to understand they need to keep checking everything by the Bible and what it actually says. (The Fallacy Detective Series was one of our favorites when our daughter was young.)
Have fun “what if” conversations. The topics don’t matter. Watch for opportunities as you have these conversations to mention things God would want them to know on the topic. For example, if your question is “What would you do if you won a million dollars?”, you can work in all sorts of comments about generosity, helping others, being good stewards and more.
Have fun with it, but spend time focusing your family on God’s Words, commands and principles. Spend time encouraging your kids to think about the plans God has for their lives, how to use the gifts He gave them and other important spiritual topics. Reflection is a great way to encourage spiritual growth in your family. It’s definitely worth your time and effort.
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Many families make at least a day trip to the beach during the summer months. It’s a great way to enjoy nature, get some exercise and just have fun. Did you know though you can also have fun at the beach using its resources to teach your kids about God? You don’t have to “sermonize”, just work in casual observations and conversation as you do various activities.
There are probably a ton of things you can do at the beach to point your kids to God, but here are a few of our favorites:
Watch the sunrise or sunset. Take your towels and sit with your kids enjoying the beauty. It’s a great quite time to have a family devotional. Or just talk with your kids about the beauty of God’s creation and how much He must love us to give us so many beautiful things to see in our world. End your time with a prayer thanking God for His blessings.
Take a walk along the shoreline. This is a great time to have those important parent/kid talks about anything and everything. Let your children take the lead. If they are reluctant to talk, asking an open ended question might get them talking. This isn’t a time for lecturing, just listening and trying to get to know your children’s hearts.
Collect seashells (Don’t keep any with animals still inside.) This is a great way to get your kids to notice God’s creativity. Talk about the diversity in the shells you find. If you keep finding the same type of clam or oyster shells, challenge your kids to look closer and see if they can notice differences in the same type of shell. Talk about the creativity we have if we are reflecting God’s image. Discuss the gifts God has given them to serve Him. Encourage them to think of creative ways to use those gifts to serve others and share their faith.
Notice the waves and the tides – high and low. Talk about how God knows what the world needs – and more importantly, what we need. What are the advantages of each tide? Or just tides and waves in general? (For example, coral needs the action of waves to grow. Coral tanks in aquariums have to create fake waves to keep the coral alive and growing.) What things does God give us that we need? Or have a discussion about needs versus wants. There are a lot of possible application lessons in the waves and tides.
Do something with your child that is exercise – running, swimming, biking on the boardwalk bike path, peddle carts, etc. Afterwards talk about the importance of keeping our bodies healthy so we have the strength and health to serve God. Talk about the other areas of health like mental, emotional and spiritual. What does God want us to do to stay healthy in those areas? What new healthy habits can your family develop?
Build a sand castle. If you build it near the water’s edge, you know what will eventually happen. When your castle is damaged or destroyed by a wave, you can talk about the things that can destroy or damage us. Talk about the ways you could protect your sand castle. Then talk about the ways God tries to protect us by giving us commands to follow.
The beach can be an amazing fun family vacation. It will create lots of family memories. Why not also use that special family time and the teachable moments at the beach to strengthen your children’s spiritual foundations? It’s time well spent.
Young children are concrete thinkers and often have difficulty understanding some of the many abstract concepts in the Bible. Even older kids may struggle with understanding ideas like the power of God. There are some fun things you can do with your kids though, to help them begin to understand a little more about God’s power.
Start by reading Genesis 1:14-16 about God creating the sun. Ask your kids what they already know about the sun. Explain that God made the sun to give off very strong heat and light. Tell them you are going to do some things to see just how powerful the sun is.
“It wasn’t my fault!” This one sentence from your children can test every bit of godly patience you have managed to acquire in a lifetime. Why? Because it is often followed by a long list of excuses – most of which are just ridiculous.
The reality is your child made a choice – probably not a great one from his or her response. The “it’s not my fault conversation” is merely an attempt to wiggle out of personal responsibility and consequences.
Sadly, we live in a world that actually encourages people to define themselves by their victimhood. While some people actually are the victims of crimes, manipulation and the evil actions of others, many are the victims of their own poor choices. Encouraging them to have a lifelong victim mentality is not in anyone’s best interest.
Did you know kids need boredom to grow? A huge part of learning can only be done when you have unstructured free time to think on deeper levels and explore. This is just as true for spiritual growth as it is in other areas of your kids’ lives.
There’s a trick to this unstructured free time though. You have to create an environment where thinking and experimentation will actually happen. If your kids spend all of their free time playing video games or watching Netflix, there will be no positive growth.
So what does an environment look like that encourages growth when there is unscheduled free time? Here are some ways you can create that type of environment for your kids.