Summer is all about fun in the sun - traveling, water play, and getting some exercise outdoors. Some families are off to visit relatives, taking much-needed vacations, or even planning for umrah and Hajj. For most of us, however, summer months are nothing more than a staycation for our children – a few weeks of downtime after a very hectic school year. Parents are generally still working while their kids are settling into a routine of sleeping in and lounging the rest of the day in their pajamas. Younger children may be attending daycare or summer camps while older siblings enjoy some autonomy.
Yet, there are plenty of summer days when parent’s and kids’ schedules overlap, leaving space for quality time with family. Extremely hot or rainy days can sometimes ruin our summertime plans, but not if we are prepared ahead of time. These can be the best opportunities to incorporate Islamic teachings into indoor play.
To help kiddos make the most of this time, here are 16 faith-based learning games and activity ideas tried and tested in my own home:
1. Build a mosque out of blocks, Legos, or empty boxes.
What child does not love playing with boxes? If you have any empty boxes or building blocks, have your children build their very own masjid. There are a great variety of blocks out there to choose from, whether they be wooden, foam, or plastic. Even a few shoe boxes will do! The kids can build a beautiful mosque they can pray in themselves, or one in which they can have their action figures, Lego men, or stuffed animals pray. Don’t forget the minaret!
2. Make your own prayer rug.
With a rectangular sheet of paper or fabric, design a prayer rug. Modify this activity depending on the age of your child - younger children can use paper while an older child can learn how to knit or sew their own rug. Cut fringes into the opposite shorter sides with scissors or use a hole puncher to add yarn for the fringe. After completing the prayer rugs, the whole family can practice praying with them or using dolls or stuffed animals to demonstrate how to pray properly. This activity is great to motivate young children to pray and for older siblings to help them learn.
3. Construct masks of the animals in the Quran.
Children love to dress up. Why not take that as an opportunity to teach them something about Islam? Find construction paper, cardboard, or cardstock; scissors; string or elastic; a hole puncher or stapler; markers, crayons, or colored pencils; and any other decorative items you can use to make a cute animal mask. There are 25 animals mentioned in the Quran, so plenty to choose from such as cows, camels, sheep, elephants, bees, ants, and more. Your child can draw the animal face or color it after you draw it, cut it out, and add the eye holes using scissors. Punch holes on the sides and add your string or elastic band to hold the mask in place. Discuss the animal and its importance in the corresponding verses of the Quran. Voila! You have a fun activity and an awesome lesson all in one. Make sure to take pictures and ask your child to tell other relatives about their mask, why they chose that particular animal, and where they can find more information about it in the Quran.
4. Eat like the Prophet, peace be upon him.
Do your daughters love a good tea party? Level it up by preparing a meal using an ingredient that the Prophet Muahmmad, peace and blessings be upon him, loved like dates or honey. Sit on the floor to eat and decorate the area with cushions, a mat, or cloth as it may have looked during the time of the Prophet. Talk about good Islamic manners during your meal like saying Bismillah, in the name of Allah, and eating with the right hand, etc.
5. Become a calligraphy artist.
Research different calligraphy styles with your child. Use watercolors, markers, or ink pens, and while looking at examples (there are also videos online), paint Arabic letters on paper or paper plates. For younger children, you can also find coloring pages with Islamic etiquettes in calligraphy on them. Hang your artwork on the wall to impress family members and friends.
6. Scavenger hunt.
A scavenger hunt or a treasure hunt can be a ton of fun for your little ones. Grab some Islamic-themed items from around your home or draw them on index cards. Put some maps in each room, along with an object you hide for the kids to find. Start in one area of your house with the first map. The objective is to collect all the items. One example for a scavenger hunt theme can be Hajj – hide some white towels or sheets (ihram), a model of the Kaaba, a toy airplane, a postcard from Makkah, some pebbles (for throwing at the Shaytaan), etc. Make the game as easy or as complicated as you want depending on your child’s age and abilities.
7. Gingerbread Muslims.
Prepare and decorate gingerbread cookies in the shape of Muslim men and women. You can easily get a recipe online or buy the dough already made. The frosting (sugar cream) can also be bought ready to decorate, as well as sprinkles, colored sugar, candy, and anything else you need. Create beards, hijabs, abayas, thobes, buttons, turbans, kufis, and more. Not only will your child enjoy baking and decorating their gingerbread Muslim, but also eating it! This idea can also be used with sugar cookies since gingerbread is more of a Fall and Winter treat. Either are fun and delicious!
8. Play Islamic dress-up.
Dig into mom and dad’s closet or have your children design their very own Islamic traditional clothing with old t-shirts, fabric, scarves, and accessories. Have them pick out or make their own abaya, hijab, thobe, or turban. While we know there is no one style of clothing that can be deemed “Islamic,” discuss with your child how the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and his companions or other important Muslim figures in history dressed. Have them choose a style they love to dress themselves or their favorite toys. For older children, have them use a needle and thread to sew pieces of fabric together. They can then engage in imaginative play where they imitate great Muslims from our past. Sword battles are especially popular in my house!
9. Make a “Muslim puppet” out of a paper bag or sock.
Get all the tools and decorations you'll need like glue, markers, pens, construction paper, buttons, feathers, googly eyes, yarn, and scissors. Design an animal or “human” puppet (with few features). A good idea is to make a bird by gluing on lots of colorful feathers (real feathers or cut construction paper can be used). Upon completion of the puppet, choose an Islamic theme that your child can present with the puppet. Children can put on a puppet show for their siblings or for their parents.
10. Create an Islamic mosaic with pieces of cereal boxes.
Cut and save shapes out of cereal boxes or any other type of colorful, thin cardboard box. On a piece of paper, you or your child can draw the outline of a mihrab or prayer nook. You may also look up and print a black and white coloring page of a mihrab online. Using glue or a glue stick, place shapes into a pattern around your mihrab. Once all the colorful pieces of cardboard are glued onto the mihrab outline, you should have a lovely design. Talk to your child about all the beautifully decorated masajids around the world. Together you can search for some online and compare your own mosaic to some of the intricate tiles of the world’s most famous mosques.
11. Use playdough to make Arabic letters.
Make learning the Arabic alphabet fun and engaging with playdough! Using different colored playdough, have your child shape the Arabic letters. Place them on wax paper or regular white printer paper. Identify each letter and practice putting them together so your child knows how and where letters connect to form Arabic words. You can also make the diacritical marks with a different colored playdough and practice the sound each letter makes depending on the diacritical mark. Here is a recipe for making your own playdough!
12. Shaving cream fun.
Speaking of Arabic letters, here is another example of an exciting way children can practice their Arabic writing using shaving cream. On a flat surface like a table or the bathroom tiles, spray a bunch of shaving cream and spread it out with your hands. Allow your children to use this shaving cream “whiteboard” to write letters or draw with their fingertips. This activity is a hit during bath time. I recommend spraying the shaving cream on the bath tiles for easy cleanup. You could also put it in a large baking try.
13. Make Muslim wood peg dolls.
Search on Amazon or any craft store for wood peg dolls. They are often sold in sets of a dozen or more and they come in varying sizes, from 2 inches to 4 or 5 inches in height. Your children can use paint or even sharpie markers to paint their wood peg dolls. They can paint colorful kufis, khimars, and dresses on these dolls to make them little Muslim figurines. The simplicity of the peg dolls makes for an Islamically permissible alternative to other action figure style toys. Depending on the scholarly opinion you hold, you may opt to keep the dolls’ faces completely blank. The goal is to let your children spend some time designing their dolls and having halal fun. And then creating make believe scenes with their Muslim community.
14. Create your very own dua book or journal.
Gather white paper (either lined or blank). Make a cover using colorful construction paper or cardstock. Staple together or punch holes on the side and tie together with ribbon or yarn. Decorate with glitter, stickers, drawings, etc. Children can jot down special duas or reminders inside their personalized dua book or journal. Want to skip the creative process? Purchase a journal for each of your children and instruct them to write at least one page a day reflecting on their summer break. This can be a great opportunity to get your children to start journaling.
15. Indoor camping adventure.
Camping does not have to happen outside. Be inventive and build a campsite indoors with your children. If you prefer to be hands-off, let your child or children take lead to set up a tent and gather their supplies. Use your basement, living room, dining room, or any room in your house that you deem fit as your campsite. Keep the lights off in the evening and allow the kids to use flashlights and lanterns. Let them sleep in their makeshift tents for a night or two. Talk about Muslim nomads of the past and refugees of today and how they managed to live in tents. Offer hot chocolate, smores, barbecued hot dogs or burgers to enhance the camping experience.
16. Explore other languages.
Plan to learn a few simple words in different languages. Identify a few languages and print out new words or phrases. You may also use an app like Duolingo. Teach your child to say things like greetings, “my name is,” “thank you,” and “please.” You can turn it into a geography lesson, as well, by studying the countries where these languages are spoken and searching for them on a map. It is vastly important for Muslim children to know about other nationalities and languages to build their tolerance and sensitivity toward people outside their own culture. After all, Muslims are everywhere in the world and we are all brothers and sisters to one another.
These are just a few ideas of things you can do indoors with your children this summer. There are plenty of other awesome activities, lessons, and arts and craft ideas you can find online. Remember, first and foremost, summertime is about winding down after a chaotic ten months of rigorous study. It is called a “break” for a reason – to break free from the stress of work and responsibilities. Most children need a breather after all that learning. Allow them to set the pace and discuss with them before you plan out a schedule of activities. It is perfectly ok to have lots of downtime and even for them to whine, “I’m bored!” Boredom breeds creativity and creativity leads to learning and enjoyment.
May your summer be filled with opportunities for fun, family, and building great memories, inshaAllah, God willing.
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.