Food, friends, and fun: the three “f” ingredients of a fantastic summer for most kids. But what’s missing from this recipe is faith – and this is the ideal time to nurture it.
While Islamic classes and summer camps are one way, there are other methods to help instill Islamic values keeping the three f’s in mind. Here are some ideas:
1. Summer Islamic Fiction and Non-Fiction Reading Program
Libraries across the country organize summer reading programs to encourage kids to read during school-free days. They can be rewarded for reading a certain number of hours by the end of the summer with prizes ranging from ice cream to iPods.
Use this as a template for an Islamic reading program with your children. Encourage them to read Islamic books, fiction or non-fiction, for a set amount of time daily (this can range from 15 minutes to 30 or more). Once they hit three hours or above per week, reward them with a prize.
2. Summer Nasheed Group
Music seems ubiquitous in summer, inside and out. Cars roll their rooftops or windows down, blasting the latest hits popular among youth, while fairs, festivals, and amusement parks drill the lyrics into kids’ heads by playing the songs over and over and over again.
The problem is, most contemporary songs feature Islamically questionable lyrics and ideas. Nasheeds, on the other hand, offer a spiritually healthier alternative. If your tween or teen enjoys singing, consider starting a Nasheed group with other Muslim kids of the same gender. Every week, they get together to practice existing Islamic songs or come up with their own.
3. Suhur Sundaes
With Ramadan falling in summer, everyone will be adjusting to a new sleep schedule, one that requires waking up earlier than even last year to fuel up before a fast during longer, hotter days.
With that in mind, start even before Ramadan to wake up for Suhur Sundaes: host a sleepover for youth where they wake up for a pre-dawn meal of sundaes. You can even make it assembly line-style, scooping out the ice cream but letting them choose the toppings. Don’t just offer the usual (e.g. chocolate syrup and candies), but provide healthy alternatives like granola, nuts, and diced fruit as well.
4. Youth-friendly Juma
Since the dawn of humankind, young people have loved to hang out, whether that was at a mountain or in a mall. So why can’t it be at the Masjid as well?
Juma is a venue for community meeting. This summer, make it a place for youth getting together as well. Some activities might be:
- A short talk series (not longer than 10 minutes, with 20 minutes for discussion) highlighting young Companions of the Prophet, and the lessons their lives offer. These individuals include Fatima, Aisha, Ali, Usama bin Zaid, Musab ibn Umayr, and other young Muslims who lived at the time of the Prophet and helped shape the early Muslim community. May Allah be pleased with them all.
- A post-Juma film discussion on a Muslim-themed movie.
- Basketball or sport of choice outside followed by a short talk, if space and facilities allow it.
Make sure to text about the event and post it on your mosque’s Facebook page.
5. Ramadan Olympics
This year, the Summer Olympics will fall right in Ramadan. Tie the two together by:
a. seeking out information about the Muslim athletes who are fasting as they participate. If appropriate, have children watch their performance and read about them. Take it a step further and have the kids prepare a brief report or presentation to family about these remarkable athletes who are enduring hunger and thirst as they strive for excellence in their sport.
b. have a family discussion about how training for the Olympics is like training for Ramadan and a life lived on Islamic principles in general. Points to emphasize:
- the need to pace yourself when you are doing anything great. Athletes don’t train for the Olympics days, weeks, or months in advance. They start early, years before they even reach the Olympics, strive for excellence, and practice, practice, practice. Similarly, to live as good Muslims, we follow the advice of the Prophet: "The deeds most loved by Allah (are those) done regularly, even if they are small" (Bukhari, Muslim). We must try our best to do the simple things regularly, and in the best way, to succeed.
- we should train for Ramadan before it starts so we can benefit from it in the best way this year. So fast before Ramadan begins for a few days to adjust to the schedule; in the weeks before it commences, arrange your schedule so you’re waking up at Suhoor time, taking an afternoon nap, and staying up long enough to do Tarawih.