This summer I decided to start a small camp for kids between the ages of five and eleven, where they’d learn about some interesting aspect of life (gratitude through Ramadan, kindness through the example of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), humility through Hajj, and being constant through prayer) from a story. We’d discuss it together, make a small art project on it, and then learn a simple craft that they’d be able to replicate at home. This would also give an opportunity for the kids to interact with each other outside of school and playdates. It was meant to remain small, short, beneficial, and friendly; an opportunity for our kids to meet at the mosque, and associate positive interactions with religious education, without the rigor, without grades or quizzes, just having fun making art together. Each session ran for two hours a day for four days. So I submitted my proposal to a few mosques, and two accepted, so far. This is what it looked like. Older siblings in their teens were also included as mentors and volunteers.
We read the book The Night of the Moon by Hena Khan and recalled everything of interest the kids did during the recently completed fast of Ramadan and its culmination in Eid ul Fitr.
As a book-related activity we did a negative space drawing with eraser over a penciled background. Many kids drew a mosque, some drew a moon.
Today’s craft was a friendship bracelet. Many different methods were presented, with examples and explanations as to how to make them. Depending on the age, they went from very basic, to more complex patterns and embellishments.
On this day we used Griffin Ondaatje’s retelling of an old Saudi Arabian tale involving the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) titled The Camel in the Sun, to discuss kindness towards animals, and appreciation for everything and everyone who affects our lives. We briefly entered into the subject of taking care of our things and aprre iating them, rather than constantly purchasing new ones whenever they appeared on the market. This is true for inanimate objects, and even more so for plants and animals. We briefly touched upon the importance of thinking of the makers of the things we use, and to have a deeper appreciation of not only who bought these objects for us, but who made them, and all the people in the supply chain. We discussed the necessity of taking our role as trustees of the earth more seriously, and that this includes all living beings, from plants and water supplies, to animals, to people.
The activity related to this book revolved around something that we’d like to appreciate more this summer. Some drew friends playing outdoors together, some drew pieces of clothing, some drew flowers and trees, some a pet. These were also done in negative space, on a multi-colored base, covered in dark crayon, which was then scratched off to draw the outlines of the subjects with the cap of a pen.
The craft for this day was a keychain. Given the difficulty that most of the kids (two thirds of whom were under the age of 10) encountered with some of the more complex designs I had offered on the first day for the bracelet, I kept the keychains very basic, providing at least a couple of examples for each material used.
On this day we discussed humility, and how this is exemplified in the Hajj, with Prophet Ibrahim’s (AS) example, his wife Hajer (RA), and their son Ishmail (AS). We briefly went through the eight requirements of Hajj, and the historical and moral significance of each. Although there are a few illustrated books written on the subject I couldn’t get my hands on any in time for this class, so I drew a map on a white board to provide some visual feedback. I also read Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Farewell Speech (which he gave on the first day of Eid ul Adha on mount Arafa, shortly before he passed away), which not incidentally touched upon what we had discussed yesterday. Such short reminders and interconnectedness helps in establishing memory. In it he enjoins on all Muslims to respect people (wives, neighbors, brethren, dependents, employees), their property, and stay away from usury. A few days after this speech, the last verse of the Qur’an was revealed (5:3), in which God confirms that the message has been completed.
As a lesson-derived activity I decided to go for mindfulness mandalas, inspired in Islamic geometric patterns, the art historical significance of which I also briefly explained, in passing.
Our craft today was a pop-up card featuring the Ka’ba. This was a very simple, yet highly appreciated activity for all. Some parents also got involved, and were delighted that they might very well be able to replicate this at will once at home. Eid ul Adha is quickly approaching, as it’s only about a month away.
Because these activities didn’t require much time to complete, I gave them an entire half hour of free play, in which they could move about as they pleased. If you prefer to maintain a more controlled environment, mime games are a fun way for them to get moving, have fun, use their imagination within a fairly controlled setting.
They were very happy to be able to do this for an extended period, as in previous days their time was limited to a maximum of 15 minutes. As you might know from relatively recent research in children’s free play (unstructured, preferably unsupervised) is one of the most enriching activities children experience in their young lives. This wasn’t unsupervised, but the volunteers and I stood back and didn’t interfere, unless asked to, or unless we noticed escalation rather than de-escalation. When we hold ourselves back and let kids try to resolve conflicts on their own before stepping in, you’ll be surprised to see how resourceful and actually quite insightful and respectful children can be with a bit of guidance and less interference.
This day fell on a Thursday, which is the day before the congregational prayer (salat al jumua). So we discussed the significance of Friday prayers at the mosque, and the sunan (commendable practices) to be completed on this day each week.
The book used is titled The Gift of Jumu’ah by Shazia Nalee. The book-related activity was the decoration of a prayer mat using crimpled rafia paper and/or quilled paper.
The craft for this day is the construction of a three dimensional paper mosque, which is remarkably time consuming, I allowed for an hour, but a few kids were unable to finish within that time. I highly recommend preparing a colored example to keep intact, one with all the pieces cut but not assembled, and a finished product, to be able to show the kids exactly what to color, where to cut, and what it’ll look like once it’s all done. Be especially mindful of the cutting process, as this is where it can get quite confusing for the little ones.
Here are some of our final results. Hope you enjoyed this, and that you will consider undertaking something similar at a mosque near you! All the kids had a great time, the parents were very happy to get their kids involved in something fun and educational at the same time, and for it to be held at the mosque and have Islamic themes was just the icing on the cake! Given the feedback I’ve received this far, I’m really hoping that we’ll be able to make this a regular program. It has certainly given my kids and me a really nice beginning to our summer holidays, and we’re really looking forward to a fun filled yet productive summer ahead, insha Allah!
If you do decide to do this camp, or any of the crafts here, do take a couple of minutes to comment below, share the blog, pin it, like it, and hashtag it! #Muslimkidsfun and tag me @cafecaterpillah