The Most Fun and Faithful Summer Activities for Your Kids
Summertime is a time full of fun! Oftentimes, we consider summer a “vacation” from schoolwork and other work, but we should not take a vacation from our faith in the summertime. Here are seven fun ways to help develop a child’s spiritual life during the leisurely summer months.
1. Take a camping trip with St. George the patron saint of camping and hiking.
What could be scarier than a ghost story? How about facing a dragon! This summer take the kids camping and enjoy a good campfire. Camping is a great opportunity to unplug, spend some quality time, and create some memories. When evening rolls around, swap one of those campfire ghost stories with story of St. George the dragon slayer. St. George was a Roman soldier under the emperor Diocletian and part of the emperor's own guard. In the year 303 A.D. Diocletian ordered the persecution and execution of all Christians. Diocletian sought to bribe George to give up his faith. However, George refused to renounce his faith. He was eventually executed.
There are several versions of the story of St. George and the dragon. The main version involves the city of Silene (believed to be in modern day Libya). As the story goes a dragon (or possibly a crocodile) made its nest in the spring from which the townspeople collected their water. The dragon then attacked anyone who might come to draw water. The townspeople then resorted to appeasing the dragon by sacrifices, first sheep and eventually human. Then one day George appeared just as a young maiden was about to be devoured. He faced the dragon, defended himself with the sign of the cross and killed the dragon. Moved by George’s great deed the whole town converted to Christianity. Visit Catholic.org for more details about St. George.
St. George is the patron saint of England. He is often depicted slaying the dragon which represents evil.
Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the boy scouts, made St. George the patron of scouting. He even had a favorite poem about the saint which goes as follows:
“My warmest good wishes I am sending to you
And hoping that the winter is through
You will start out afresh to follow the lead
Of our Patron Saint George and his spirited steed;
Not only to tackle what ever my befall,
But also successfully to win through it all
And then may you have an enjoyable spell
Of hiking, and jolly good camping as well.”
2. Visit a new church or shrine as part of your family vacation
It’s time for summer vacation. As you are out seeing the sites, make one of them a religious site. The United States is full of beautiful cathedrals and religious shrines. Chances are you will be driving right by one. The practice of pilgrimage or visiting holy sites is a time-honored tradition in the Catholic Church and an important spiritual practice. The artwork in many of these shrines and churches rival that of any museum. Sit still, pray, and admire the beauty of these holy places for even just 15 minutes. It can be a powerful moment of encounter with the Lord for the whole family.
3. Create a Catholic Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is fun for all ages! Come up with a list of Catholic items for your child to find. For a young child, it can be as simple as finding the candles, crucifix, and the statue of Mary in the church or your home prayer space.
For older children, you can make the clues harder. Have them look for their patron saint’s favorite activity or St. Brigid of Ireland’s favorite treat (which I think is ice cream)! Additionally, children can look for specific liturgical items, such as a monstrance for adoration. Giving them a digital camera or a phone with a camera is a great way to be able to relive the clues even after the hunt is finished.
4. Make a Prayer Box
Children of all ages can make an age appropriate prayer box to encourage daily prayer. First, get a box. It can be as simple as a plastic tub with a cover or something much more elaborate depending upon the child’s age and interest in arts and crafts.
In the box, allow the child to put in special religious items. Some ideas include a rosary, religious books, a crucifix to hold, prayer cards, an age appropriate bible and a small statue. For younger children, books with beautiful pictures will help capture their imagination. Religious coloring books may also be appropriate. For older children, allow them to pick books that interest them, such as a book about their patron saint. Your local Catholic bookstore is a great place to browse through a selection of books to find an interesting one.
5. Ask St. Christopher’s Intercession
The name Christopher means “Christ-bearer.” According to legend, after learning about Christianity St. Christopher decided to work helping people cross a dangerous river because he was told it would please God. One day, as St. Christopher helped a child across, the river rose and the child’s weight grew and he became extremely heavy. The child told St. Christopher that He was the Christ, and that when St. Christopher carried him, St. Christopher also carried the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. The child then vanished.
St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers and children. His feast day is July 25. Before traveling this summer, ask St. Christopher’s intercession for safe travels.
More information about St. Christopher can be found here. Additionally, if you are traveling over the weekend, check out masstimes.org for local Mass times.
6. Catholic Movie Night
Hot summer days means it is necessary to cool off! Consider instituting a monthly or weekly tradition of Catholic movie night! First, pick a movie that is Catholic in nature. There are numerous good movies and other resources with a subscription to formed.org. If you prefer to watch more mainstream movies as a family, be prepared to discuss the movie as a family following the viewing. Ask questions of your child and discuss how the characters did or did not act in accordance with the teachings of Christ. For additional movie ideas, check out the Media Review Office of Catholic News Service's top 10 movies overall and top 10 family films of 2016.
7. Cook a Yummy Treat to Celebrate St. Martha
St. Martha’s feast day is July 29. In the Gospel, Martha invites Jesus and his disciples into her home and is frustrated when her sister Mary listens to Jesus instead of helping Martha serve their guests.Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part, which is listening to Jesus instead of being distracted by other things. Martha is the patron saint of cooks and servants. To celebrate her feast day, tell her story or read Luke 10:38-42 before making a yummy treat with your child. More information about St. Martha can be found here.