Sum, Sum, Summertime

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By Liz

{Note from Sheila: Last spring, one of my mentors spoke at a MOPS meeting about the impending summer.  Her words were so inspiring, I’ve asked her if I could share them here.}

Boy, do I envy you!!!  Summertime is coming.  The best part of the word summertime is “time” – if you play your cards right, there are no weekly places to be, no coats, no sweaters, no hurried schedule.

Summertime with little ones is one of God’s special delights for Moms.  This is where all your months of diaper changes and meals prepared and nursing care pays off.  Because of all that loving service, you have earned their confidence and established the right to teach. Right now, in these preschool years, they come to you with all their questions and whatever you answer is their truth.

And in the summertime you have the gift of time to focus on those questions and the precious person who asked them.  And that includes babbling babies.  They want to know what that white puffy thing in the sky is; they just don’t have the words to ask.  You point at everything and give names to them.  You teach all the time.  When those white puffy things turn black and rumble with terrifying sound, they watch and learn from your response.  Whether you mean to or not, this summer you will set patterns for your children’s learning attitudes toward everything from bugs to people to God Himself.

You are the catalysts of curiosity, the birth coaches of memories.  God has given you the fun job of introducing His creation, and summer is a marvelous stage.

I’m including a list of summer activities just to refresh your own memories from childhood.  If we took time, we could add hundreds of ideas.  But it’s not the activities that are important.  You’ll notice at the top of the page that this is NOT a Summertime “To Do” List, but a “To Be” List.  That’s because again, it’s not the activity that is of primary importance, but the being together while doing it—and having lots of time to enjoy what you’re doing, like watching ants on your stomach in the grass.

It’s that time spent wondering together that validates and affirms and teaches little ones to be observant and curious and investigative —  because YOU enjoy being observant and curious and investigative.

Depending on their age, they may not have many questions about an activity.  It’s enough for them to learn how to identify something and take pleasure in your pleasure in examining it closely. If you’re wise, you don’t give too much more info than they want to know about those ants or mud pies or lightning bugs—just an amazing fact or two to whet their appetite.

When they reach the “Why is the sky blue?” stage you can show them how you learn.  Be excited if they ask you a question you don’t know the answer to.  Say, “I don’t know.  Should we try to find out together?” and take them with you on your search of books, internet, asking someone.

And while Googling that question is OK, kids need to have new facts and vocabulary repeated several times.  (I read somewhere 17 times) before they make it their own.  So my favorite resource is the juvenile non-fiction section of the library.  Because it’s great for them to have books with lots of pictures about worms or stars or birds or whatever the current interest is lying around for them to look at again and again.

That helps with things like #28, the Thunder Show.  You can explain that hot air-cold air-friction-spark to your 4 and 5-year-olds and show them how you got that information from a science book.  Not only are you teaching them the mechanics of a thunderstorm, but you are showing them how to conquer fear of the unknown by finding explanations and showing how it is all part of God’s plan for His creation and a reflection of His glory.

Of all the things on this list, my favorites are the ones at night when Dad is home.  In the Old Testament, God commanded the Jews to cut down tree branches and build little sleeping huts or booths in their yards or roofs and sleep in them a whole week to remember the time God had taken care of the Jews in the wilderness.  It was called the Feast of Booths.  Can’t you imagine how fun that was for kids—to make a “house” with their family out of branches, then sleeping together with the stars peeking through and hearing about their history and heritage and about how God took care of them.

Periodically I would suggest a star show for our family night, but then my husband, Ben, would go me one better, and we would have the star show on the roof (over my dire protestations—the idea of little ones on a roof still makes my heart beat fast).  But no one ever fell off, and my kids certainly have great memories of lying on warm shingles on a cool night picking out constellations and looking for shooting stars.

Observation boxes teach respect for the animals God has made.  We’ve kept worms, grown carrots and beans, had a small aquarium that contained tadpoles that grew into frogs, minnows and the small bassling that ate every one of them one night, baby turtles, then it sprung a leak and turned into a terrarium for preying mantis.  The deal was that the kids always understood that this was temporary observation with a responsibility to discover how to provide for the needs of the animal, then it was to be returned to its habitat.

All these things that you do with your children help them with the who, what, when, where and how of the world around them, but as any of you who have 4- and 5-year-olds know, of equal interest is the why.  They are trying hard to build a framework for all the facts they are learning.  Preschoolers are concrete.  If there is a word “monster” then there must be monsters.  If there is a word “God” then there is a God.  Who is He?  What is He like? are common preschool questions.  One morning in the middle of a crowded Hardees restaurant, my 4-year-old Jonathan asked too loudly, “Does God poop?”

The library won’t be able to help you with questions about God.  Nor can you send a preschooler to Sunday School and church to learn about God.  At this age, by His specific design, God has chosen you to be the primary instructor.  And while you can go to the Christian bookstore and buy Bible storybooks about God, it is your relationship with God—or your lack of relationship—that teaches. What I mean by that is, little ones hear “Oh my God!” (and worse) roll off people’s lips so easily wherever they go.    Then they look at you for instruction.  They may not ask aloud, but all children look to their parents to find out:  Who is God to you?  Do you think He created you?  If so, is He in charge?  Do you obey Him like I have to obey you?  Do you talk to Him?  Does He talk to you?

You can’t hide; they know where you live.  Whether you know it or not, your relationship with God is obvious to your children.  Back when Jesus was on earth, an old Bible scholar came to Jesus to discuss God.  But Jesus wouldn’t talk about God intellectually with the teacher.  Instead, Jesus essentially told the old man that he never would be able to understand God Who was Spirit with just his mind.  He was going to have to open his heart up and come to God on God’s terms.  The same is true for Moms.  You can’t teach your children about a spiritual relationship with God unless you have a spiritual relationship with God yourself.

God is Spirit, pure and selfless.  We are flesh, defiant and selfish.  The two don’t communicate apart from Jesus, the Creator become flesh.  Because of love, God initiated the encounter by sending Jesus, asking if we want a pure relationship with Him.  In order to respond, flesh has to realize and admit to a defiant, selfish stance and give it up.  According to the Bible, that submission to God is the beginning of wisdom, which gives us Moms access to a far larger library than even Google has.

Summertime “To Be” List

1) find four leaf clovers

2) make flower chains

3)  catch lightning bugs

4)  find empty bird nests

5)  pick wildflowers & press them

6)  pick wildflowers & put them in dyed water (Queen Anne’s Lace works well)

7)  picnic on a blanket in the yard

8)  buy a treat from a tinkling ice cream truck

9)  make Popsicles

10) pick your own blueberries

11) see who can find the first star

12) find the Big Dipper, Orion’s belt

13) borrow a telescope/binoculars to look at the moon

14) sleep in a tent in your back yard

15) mix a little soap with washable paint and paint each other’s feet (near a hose)

16) borrow a microscope to look at pond water

17) use a magnifying glass in the grass under a shady tree

18) climb a tree

19) build a fort with cardboard boxes

20) lie in grass & find shapes in the clouds

21) catch crawdads in a shallow creek

22) build observation boxes or aquariums

23) let your preschooler have his/her own pot outside to grow a vegetable

24) go for a Winnie the Pooh explore

25) visit a new park

26) have your own rock or tree or special place outside to sing/read/snack/talk

27) collect bugs, rocks, leaves

28) Thunder Show:  get chairs to sit near (but not too near) a window to watch & explain a thunderstorm

29) walk in the rain

30) make mud pies

Liz is a wonderful mom to six and grandmother to one in North Carolina.  She likes to mentor younger Christian women and is a wonderful example of a godly wife and mother.  I count myself blessed to know her!

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Author: Sheila Stover

I'm a grace-loving, coffee-guzzling, overseas-living wife, mom, home school teacher and I process it all through writing when I can!

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