If you were raised as a Sabbath-keeper, all of your Sabbath memories may not be sunshine and rainbows. Some of us had lots of rules surrounding the Sabbath. For some, it was quiet and calm, but boring and lonely. For some, it was busy and ravaged with hypocrisy and confusion.

If you’re a new Christian or new Adventist, you may hear a lot of redirect about cans and cannots that lead to confusion and frustration. If you’re a parent, it can be easy to lead your children right into the same confusion you felt as a new Christian or as a child.

As an adult, making Sabbath special is as easy as spending more time with Jesus. For your children this can look more like spending time as a family and implementing recognizeable traditions.

Children are particularly affected by traditions and events that draw on their senses. What can you do to let the environment speak to your child during this special time each week?

1. Build on the Truth

Sabbath begins at nightfall on Friday, so this is a great place to start. Teach your children the creation story the way it’s told in Genesis 1. God was very specific to declare evening and morning as one day. How do we know when Sabbath starts? Well, our eyes tell us so! If your child knows this and your family believes this, it is a great foundation to build upon. Bring in the Sabbath as the sun sets and draw attention to that foundation.

  1. As the sun sets, throw the curtains open.
  2. Light a special Sabbath candle in a special place and let it burn as the sun is setting.
  3. Brainstorm ways to draw on the significance of light and dark during the time that Sabbath begins.

2. Have a Special Meal or Treat

Children and adults alike associate special holidays and occasions with food. Thanksgiving? “Turkey Day” (even if you’re a vegetarian you might have seen a tofurkey or two). Valentine’s? Chocolates. Christmas? Homemade candies. What else? Everything else! Taco Tuesday. Sundae Sunday. My kids can even keep track of what day it is by what day kids eat free at which restaurant. We associate some of our best memories and cultural traditions with foods. This is in part because food incorporates so many of our senses. How can you bring this together each Sabbath in your home?

  1. Enlist the entire family to prepare Sabbath meals on Friday.
  2. Give the kids important jobs.
  3. Give them aprons to wear (give the boys a chef hat if they don’t want an apron).
  4. Buy special utensils for the kids to use. They will remember this.
  5. Keep a special treat on hand for Sabbath.
  6. Popcorn and smoothies before bed, herbal tea with fresh-cut lemons and a teapot that whistles, dessert before dinner.
  7. Let your family help create a new tradition.

3. Change the Scenery

If you don’t allow any t.v. watching on Sabbath, consider changing the scenery in the living area for this special time. When we were limiting television with our kids we covered the unit with the box it came in, with a “stop” sign on it so the kids knew not to touch it and not to ask.

  1. You could cover your television with a covering of some kind and instead, put a note on the tv stand– “Hey, the tv may be off for an hour or a few, but I want to do something special with you! You have until _____ o’clock to choose what we’ll do!”
  2. Cover the tv with a comfy blanket that is a favorite only for the Sabbath. When the blanket is over the tv, the kids all know that the family will cuddle on the couch for a family movie night to close the Sabbath.
  3. Incorporating a special blanket, throw pillows, or bean bag chairs will all play on the senses to cement the positive outcome you’re seeking.

4. Take a Ride

When I was a kid, we would go on drives after church. It was 30 miles to get home, but we’d get home four hours later after seeing every place Dad lived, every fishing hole he loved, and we even drove to St. Louis one Sabbath after hearing that a friend who had stayed overnight had never seen a “skyscraper”. There are a lot of ways you can incorporate the senses into a car ride.

  1. A scenic route on a sunny day is a great way to discover or rediscover a love for God’s creation.
  2. Soothing, calm music can lul the kids into a nap.
  3. Do the opposite and have a special upbeat children’s cd that you use for this special Sabbath ride.
  4. Pack a picnic basket that fits between the seats and let the kids eat in the car just this once!

5. Pay a Visit

Perhaps you spend a lot of time with others. If you frequently visit your extended family, friends, or shut-ins, you can make a Sabbath activity out of bringing handmade gifts, cards, or baked goods.

  1. Spend some time as a family cooking delicious treats.
  2. Deliver the treats, handmade cards, or gifts on your next visit.
  3. Use the experience to help your kids build healthy relationships as children and as adults.