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Jun 26
Five Summertime Activities to Help Bring Children Closer to God

As summer gets underway, parents start thinking of fun and educational things they can do with their children. If you are looking for suggestions, Anna Boyagoda, Co-ordinator of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for the Archdiocese of Toronto, has some thoughts. She shares below her top five Catechesis of the Good Shepherd-inspired activity ideas for kids on summer vacation.

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) is a Montessori-style method of catechesis that responds to a child's silent request: Help me to come closer to God by myself. In the CGS, a catechist works to respond to this request by preparing an environment for the child — a special room at a parish — where everything is just their size, where all materials are handmade just for them and where they are free to work at their own pace, all the while being exposed to Scripture passages and moments of the liturgy. This room, called the atrium, is made to help them come closer to God. Since its inception in Italy in the 1950s, the program has spread to 37 countries  with 2,500 children participating in Canada. 

1. Planting Seeds

Summer is the perfect time for planting seeds. As you watch the seeds grow, reflect on the nature of God's Kingdom and the mystery of life, and how these two things are interconnected. 

Read the Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Growing Seed together (Mark 4:30-32; Mark 4:26-29). 

2. Care of the Environment

Summer is also the perfect time to focus on the "care of the environment," an important Catholic and Montessori principle, that develops concepts of stewardship and communal life. 

Outside the home, provide opportunities for gardening, watering, sweeping, raking.

Inside the home, provide opportunities and child-sized materials for:

    • Washing a table or countertop
    • Dusting
    • Sweeping the floor with a broom and dustpan
    • Mopping the floor
    • Vacuuming
    • Polishing wood furniture
    • Polishing shoes
    • Sorting laundry by colour
    • Hanging laundry to dry
    • Folding washcloths
    • Sewing on buttons
    • Washing dishes
    • Watering houseplants

The above flower-arranging exercise can help children to have a better understanding of the value and importance of caring for creation. (Photo by Anna Boyagoda)

3. Baking

How can you be like leaven in the Kingdom of God this summer? Take time to bake bread together. Reflect on how we must participate in the building of the kingdom, but that only God can bring growth. Are there acts of service that you can perform in your own neighbourhood that might be like leaven for God's Kingdom? 

Reflect on the Parable of Leaven (Matthew 13:33).

4. Outdoor Time

Spend time at the beach or in the woods; look for delightful shells and rocks that speak to us of the many gifts of the Heavenly Father. Ask, who has prepared all this for me?

Reflect on "the God who gives" and the covenant relationship through 1 John 4:19, Isaiah 46:3-4, Jeremiah 31:3, John 15:11, Romans 1:20. Pick a different passage for reflection each week for a month.

5. Planting

In August, plant a flower garden for our Blessed Mother in honour of the Feasts of the Assumption and the Queenship of Mary.

Research the Marian legends connected to each plant, so that each one carries a story. Consider planting:

    • Yellow Flag Iris, the flower of light! (the flag of Quebec is based on a banner honouring the Virgin: the white cross symbolizes purity; the blue background, heaven; and it's marked by the Fleurdelisé of our Lady)
    • Lavender (Mary's Drying Rack: during the flight to Egypt, Mary dried Jesus' clothes by hanging them on a little grey bush, it burst into bloom with fragrant lavender)
    • Lily-of the-Valley (known as Mary's Tears) 
    • Purple Flag Iris (known as Mary's Sword of Sorrow)
    • Daisy or Carnation (Mary's Roses)
    • Pansy (Our Lady's Delight)
    • Violet (Our Lady's Modesty)
    • Lady's Mantle (Our Lady's Mantle)
    • Bleeding Heart (the Heart of Mary)
    • Foxglove (Virgin's Glove)
    • Fuchsia (the Earrings of our Queen)
    • Rosemary (Mary's tree or Bouquet)

Try to find an inexpensive statue of the Blessed Mother that you can place among the flowers and plants to make it a true Marian garden.

If you like these suggestions, consider giving the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd a try. For a list of parishes with CGS programming, please visit: http://bit.ly/AtriumsArchToronto.

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