Saturday, February 18, 2012

Winter as a Spiritual Season

If you live in a colder climate, the dark, overcast days of winter can wear on a person physically and emotionally after a while. It is easy to get down and negative and our children pick up on this quickly. In the natural world we know that winter allows the soil to rest and replenish. It also gives foliage a way to rid itself of old growth in order to make room for the new growth that comes in the spring. These natural processes of death and new birth carry over into our spiritual lives as well. How and what we communicate to our children about the natural season of winter can impact their ability to weather the spiritual "winters" that come in their later years.

Snow can be magical.
Children begin to understand metaphors and put metaphorical meanings to words like "hot" and "cold" around the ages of 7 or 8. The cognitive experiences and knowledge that the child has gathered and will continue to gather are transformed into symbols that contribute to the development of abstract thinking that Piaget called the "formal operational stage". Thus, the ideas and opinions that children are exposed to about the natural world (including winter) help to shape their view of these things as positive or negative and these things take on metaphorical meanings in the child's later years. 

So what does this have to do with winter, faith and spirituality? (Where is she going with this blog post anyway??!!) God crafted the natural world to be a reflection of his character. Indeed, the Bible is full of pictures and metaphors about the seasons, and our lives have a natural rhythm, an ebb and flow to them, that is from our Creator.

Psalm 74: 17 says, "You have made both the summer and the winter."  As adults, sometimes it is spring or summer in our lives and we feel alive with new ideas and boundless energy. And sometimes it is winter. And sometimes it lasts a long time. We feel that parts of us are dying. We can't go on doing the same things and we need to rest. The "spiritual winter" seeks to give us rest, let things that need to die do so, and offers the hope of new growth. If we slow down and let it do its job, then winter becomes something that we can treasure and not just make it through. 

Learning to ice skate on a frozen pond. 
In shepherding the spiritual development of children, we can take care to pass on the beauty of winter to them. When we do enjoyable things with them in this season -  telling stories, doing experiments and making art projects - we reinforce the truth that what God has created is good and useful. Even when it's hard at times. (It's also okay to be honest and let our kids know that the winter can be long and hard as long as we communicate the positive side, too.) Helping kids to see the natural season of winter in its many facets can then in the long run help them weather the spiritual one as well.

Feeding the birds

And then we pray and believe that God will communicate to our children as he has done for countless generations that all of the seasons on this earth are meant for good as well as all of the seasons of life.

My Top 10 Fun Things to do in Winter:

1. Explore the forest and see how many colors we can find.
2. Build a fort in the forest.
3. Hang home-made bird feeders.
4. Ice Skate!
5. Make a snuggle corner for reading books and drinking hot chocolate.
6. Winter arts and crafts (cutting snowflakes or making ice ornaments).
7. Science experiments with ice
8. Sledding!
9. Tell / read / make up winter fairy tales.
10. Learn about what animals do in winter and about arctic animals.

P.S. And if you live in a crazy hot climate like Texas, then you have a whole other reason to teach your kids about the beauty of winter, because it is the only time of year that you can actually enjoy being outside!

How do you make winter into a positive experience for your children?


  1. Here's a blend of your numbers 5 & 6: In countries like Finland and Iceland, both boys and girls are taught to knit (like "home ec" lessons). Your winter crafts in 6 are wintery in theme, but knitting is a craft that is wintery because it's cozy and indoorsy (like 5).

    1. That is definitely a good one to add to the list! My daughter and I have started learning and my son has been asking to learn as well.

  2. I have been writing about our winters here in Utah for a couple months now! I love them so much and I love that my little boy can appreciate a good blanket of snow. Thanks for making me love it even more:)

    1. You're welcome! And thanks for stopping by.