As the days lengthen and the weather warms, parents search for Halal ways to keep their children amused. Along with trips to amusement parks, swimming lessons, and barbeque parties, consider a simple walk in the neighborhood park or conservation area.
With a little creativity, your kids can gain numerous benefits from a walk in the forest. Grab the opportunity for your kids to:
Do some hands-on science. Touch and observe things around you and talk about them. Pick up an acorn and ask your kids, "What's inside?" and "How does it get there?". Discuss the "green stuff" growing on a rock, see if you notice signs of succession or ask your kids why the leaves are green in summer. Let your children's natural curiosity guide the learning. You don't have to know all the answers. Take some samples home for further experiments, research, or 'show and tell'.
Remember Allah. Ask your children who created the things around them. Encourage them to point out signs of Allah's existence and to praise Allah when they see something that amazes them. Remind them of verses of the Quran about nature like:
"Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth; (here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise (2:164)."
Get some exercise. Children often spend their day in stationary activities like television, video games, and internet. A walk gives them physical exercise to refresh their mind and bodies.
Appreciate art and beauty. Comment on the natural beauty in Allah's creation. Reflect on the colors, contrasts and lines you see in nature. If art interests your kids, encourage them to paint or photograph the scenes.
Learn to conserve. Ask your kids how the resources they see benefit us and how we harm them. Remind them of their responsibility towards the environment, as the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "The world is green and beautiful and God has appointed you as His stewards over it. He sees how you acquit yourselves..." (Muslim). Brainstorm ways you and your kids can change your lifestyle to protect these resources.
Identify species and sounds. Pick up reference books from the library and help your kids identify the trees, flowers and birds you see. Learn the names of local birds and animals and count how many you spot.
Start a collection. Children love to collect. Find something that interests your kids -- leaves, wildflowers, insects, pebbles -- and help them collect, label and display their project. Show them how to collect without damaging nature.
Strengthen your bond. Talk about school, work, friends and future plans as you walk. The time you spend on weekly walks will strengthen your relationship with your kids.
Clear their mind and lungs. You and your kids will appreciate fresh air and a peaceful break after a busy day indoors.
Pick up navigation skills. Take a map and compass on your walk. Plan a route together, follow it on the map and learn how to use a compass as you go.
Shehnaz Toorawa is a teacher with a degree in professional writing and geography. She has also completed a Shariah degree from the American Open University. She is a homeschooling mother and involved in several educational projects.