As a parent, you likely want to pass the beliefs and character traits you value to your children. Religious family activities facilitate this goal while disguising spiritual training as family fun and quality time together. When you integrate religious activities regularly into your family's life, it promotes family cohesion and increases your involvement in your children's education, which can result in better academic achievement and increased emotional stability. Furthermore, The Heritage Foundation, a research and educational think tank, reports that participation in religious activities promotes self-control, positive allocation of time and better attendance in school. It also exposes your children to positive role models.
Regardless of your family's religious affiliation, you can pursue the religious disciplines of your faith such as prayer or meditation, reading scripture or inspirational stories, attending services and participating in charitable works together. Taking your children to your place of worship provides opportunities for the family to fellowship with others of like-minded faith. Scripture memory games can entertain your family while implanting the important precepts of your faith. For example, you can write out a verse, cut the words apart and challenge your children to reassemble it in order. You can also review known verses by calling out a reference and asking your children to recite the verse or race to look it up and read it aloud. Daily family prayer, beyond mealtimes and bedtime rituals, as well as family devotions, provide opportunities to dialogue with your children about spiritual issues -- and set an example of how to relate to God and where to seek help in times of need.
You might find your little ones' short attention spans challenge your attempts to ground them in your faith. Faith-based crafts keep his little hands busy and help illustrate simple key concepts on which you can build as your children mature. For example, a caterpillar's transformation to a cocoon and then a butterfly lends itself to butterfly crafts, such as a coffee filter butterfly, to serve as a visual reminder of the death and resurrection of Jesus, which for Christians represents the hope of new life. To make a coffee filter butterfly, have your kids stain the coffee filter with watercolors, food coloring or markers and let it dry. Pinch it in the middle, fanning out each side. Wrap a pipe cleaner around to secure it and serve as the antenna. Jewish families can make Shabbat candleholders from craft dough or salt dough using star or heart cookie cutters -- and then painting them after they dry. This craft can serve as springboard to talk to your kids about the significance of light in the Shabbat celebration. If Islam is your religion, you can illustrate the phases of the moon from waxing crescent to waning crescent while talking about the beginning and end of Ramadan. Making paper fanoo lanterns are another way to teach your Muslim children about their faith heritage. Children of any faith can make simple placemats, napkin rings, place cards and centerpieces that reflect the spirit of the holidays important to your family's faith.
Your can also make religious activities a natural part of your family identity. Make time for family outings that provide opportunities to link experiences to your belief system. For example, a nature hike can be a sensory discovery that teaches your kids to appreciate and respect God's creations. If your family is in the habit of praying over meals, continue the tradition no matter where you eat, whether it is a picnic in the park, a beach campfire or a restaurant. Caring for the earth is an important aspect of many religions that you can put into practice by participating in a cleanup of natural habitat areas, a tree planting, or a park beautification project together.
Read It, Sing It
In every religion, there are important stories of the faith with which parents want to familiarize their children. Reading aloud is an effective way to spend quality time with your children. When you read child-friendly versions of the stories you wish to impart, you will not only improve their literacy skills, but also plant seeds of your religious tenets that can grow into a mature faith as your child grows and owns his faith for himself. Setting the stories and important principles to music in simple children's songs is another way to have fun with your children while immersing them in the beliefs you hold dear.
- Laura Kuehn, LCSW: God Focusing Activities for Christian Families
- DLTK Bible
- The Heritage Foundation: Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability
- Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center: Activities and Games
- Kveller: Activities for Jewish Holidays
- Muslim Kidsville
- DLTK Kids: Islamic/Muslim Ideas
- The Hartford Institute for Religion Research: The Religion and Family Project
- The Heritage Foundation: A Wise Investment: Benefits from Families Spending Time Together
- The Missouri Sociological Association: Religious Effects on Levels of Family Functioning
- Artists Helping Children: Ramadan Crafts for Kids
- Brigham Young University Law: How Family Religious Involvement Benefits Adults, Youth, and Children and Strengthens Families
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images