Over the last few weeks, our children’s worlds seem to have shrunk dramatically. While they were used to going from school to friends’ houses to sports practices or dance classes, now they’re limited to moving from the bedroom to the living room to the kitchen. Time outdoors is a welcome respite to confining hours indoors — and it is an opportunity to be reminded that God is with us. This activity helps children see God in the natural world and know that God is always close by.
Start your time with your children by reading a piece of Scripture that celebrates creation. For younger children, you may want to choose the “classic” creation story (Genesis 1-2:4) since the text will likely be familiar. For older children, choose one of the psalms praising creation, such as Psalm 8 or Psalm 65. (You may even want to use a hymn instead of a reading. There are many wonderful renditions of “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “For the Beauty of the Earth” available online.)
After your Bible reading (or hymn sing), ask the children what they noticed about God’s creation in that piece. Then encourage them to think about all the words or phrases they would use to describe God. If they need some prompting, you might offer a few suggestions (“I notice that God is caring when God gives manna (food) to the Israelites when they are wandering in the wilderness.” Or, “God is incredibly loving because God comes to earth in Jesus to be close to us.”) As children offer ideas, write them down on a sheet of paper.
Now it’s time to go outdoors!
Grab the list you created along with a camera (or a cell phone with a camera) and head outside. Ask your children to look for things in God’s creation that remind them of one or more of the words or phrases they used to describe God. When they find an example, take a photo.
Here are a few of the photos my church friends and I have taken as we’ve searched for images of God in nature.
“And the leaves of the trees are for the healing of all the nations” (Revelation 22:2).
God is love!
Seed pods are all about hope, just like God.
When you’ve completed your photos, make a digital collage of the pictures or print them out to hang in your home. Also, congregations may want to consider having children email their pictures and descriptions to create an online tapestry of their work.
If you’d like to expand this activity into an at-home learning opportunity, you can download plant and bird identification apps on your smart phone to use while out “in the field.” Many of the apps allow you to upload photos to help narrow down the species.
JOELLE BRUMMIT-YALE is the director of children’s and youth ministries at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When not at the church, she can usually be found at home with her son and husband caring for their many animals and developing their family homestead.