Teaching Kids to Be Amazed
by Kristen White
As we were waiting for the amusement park ride, my 10-year-old son said, “Mom, you have to hurry to get a seat when it’s our turn.”
“Why?” I asked, since we were at the very front of the line.
He looked at me as if I were the slowest mother on earth. “Because,” he sighed, “there are wide seats and tiny seats and, no offense, but I don’t think you’ll fit in the tiny seats; you really need to get a wide seat, so hurry, OK?”
His grammar could have offended me. His comment about the width of my seat could have offended me. But I was too busy staring at the seats. They actually were slightly different widths! How did he notice such a small detail?
Around us each day are little and great amazements that we overlook, human inventions and astounding creations of God. We rush through life and zoom our kids through their routines, and we miss out on the pleasure of noticing interesting and beautiful things. We miss out on wonder.
Wrapped Up in Rush or Worship?
Wonder means to get wrapped up in the amazement of something. In today’s culture, we get wrapped up in the popularity of things and the status they can bring us. We get wrapped up in getting things done. But we rarely get wrapped up in marveling about how amazing things are. When was the last time you got up close to a frog or flower and intentionally studied it? “Why should I waste time staring at frogs?” you chide. “I have too many other things demanding my attention.”
There is an excellent reason: Wonder produces worship. It calls your attention to the Creator. The ultimate purpose of wonder is to become amazed by God. The result of that amazement is worship, emptied of self and wrapped up in God’s mastery and brilliance. That purpose and result alone would be enough, but many more benefits make wonder worth the time. Consider the following.
• Wonder feeds your countenance. You feed your brain fast food all the time: tidbits of radio news, dumbed-down TV shows, quick online tips. Taking time to wonder is like giving a juicy apple to your mind and soul.
• Wonder reduces stress. Even though it may seem like mental work at first, wondering releases stress. It takes your mind off of stressors and focuses your mind on the awesomeness of God instead.
• Wonder teaches creativity and problem-solving skills.Wondering with your children helps them learn to find solutions. Think about it: All inventions start with wonder.
• Wonder teaches your kids to value and practice creativity. At its core, creativity is making something special out of a limited number of supplies. Jan Karon, award-winning author of the Mitford series, says her sister-in-law teases her for making too much out of nothing in nature. Karon declares, “Something out of nothing! Isn’t that the very crux of the creative process?”
• Wonder bonds families together with shared discoveries. If you are learning together as a family, you always have something interesting to talk about and unify your family.
Teach Your Kids to Wonder
It is possible to teach children, even children who are not naturally detail-oriented, to observe and wonder. Try these three keys to develop a sense of wonder in your kids.
1. Ask questions that prompt your kids to notice amazing details, especially in nature. Say: “Listen! I hear something. What do you hear?” Or: “I see ______ in the grass. Can you find it? What else can you find that is tiny?” Or: “It smells good. How would you describe the smell?” When you read picture books, point out facial expressions and small details in clothing or in the background of pictures. Ask who, what, where, when, why, and how. Questions spark children’s interest, teach them to use their senses, and invite them to contribute their feelings to family discussions.
2. Research what your kids wonder about. Keep a notepad handy to write down your children’s questions. You cannot answer every question, but many times, just a few minutes online can give you interesting answers. (Be sure to use appropriate safety measures when you use the Internet.) Take advantage of the juvenile reference section in your local library to explore topics of interest to your kids.
3. Model observant and worshipful remarks. Do not keep your awe to yourself when you see something strikingly beautiful. Tell your kids how much you like what God makes. Say: “I love how the trees make shadows on the road,” or “I am so glad God made flowers to have a smell, aren’t you?” Talk about God as an artistic Creator and an involved Provider.
A Family Journey
Learning to wonder is a fabulous family journey. Children are naturally finders of fascinating discoveries in nature; do not quench that God-given wonder with the busyness and logic of life. Make time to explore — not just nature, but also art, music, architecture, and inventions.
6 Good-Weather Wonders
Enjoy the sun and explore God’s amazing creation using these ideas. Do not forget the sunscreen and bug spray!
1. Go letterboxing. See www.letterboxing.org for info on this great stamping treasure hunt.
2. Grow herbs from seeds. Plant, water, mark growth, feel and smell leaves, and compare and use the full-grown plants. Herbs are easy to grow and vary vastly in texture and size.
3. Hunt for “building rocks.” Before you hike the creek bed, think of animals you might build out of rocks. Let your kids wash and paint the rocks.
4. Chase a country sunset or starry sky. My oldest daughter loves the memory of hopping in the car with me to find a spot far in the country where we could see the sun go down on an especially brilliant evening. Find a good viewing spot for a sunset or starry sky and take the family there.
5. Eat breakfast on the front porch. Listen for the birds and watch for other little creatures. Look at the sky and flowers. As the day progresses, point out the changes in the sky, temperature, where the shadows fall, and blossoms.
6. Adopt a tree branch. Tie a ribbon on an accessible branch. Visit the branch frequently and notice changes in the size or color of the leaves. Take pictures and chart the branch for as long as you can.
Creative Expression Without Frustration
To allow your kids to develop artistic creativity without keeping the house in shambles, try these ideas.
• Have creativity supplies on hand, so you will not have to run out for each small project. These are staples that my family loves: puppets, Legos®, dress-up clothes, old magazines, clay, felt, rick-rack, ribbon, craft sticks, wiggle eyes, paint pens, high-quality colored pencils, embroidery thread, ink pads/rubber stamps, glue, and all sorts of paper.
• Store supplies in labeled plastic shoeboxes. (You can slide these into a hanging sweater organizer for easy storage.) Teach children to put away what they get out before moving to the next project.
• If you have trouble parting with your child’s work, take pictures of it instead of keeping it all, especially 3-D pieces and posters. You will have a record of progress without the stacks.