the good way

Sabbath with Kids

Session 3 • Sabbath • Activation

Parenting is exhausting and there is definitely a need for parents to intentionally plan for times of rest and retreat away from their kids. However, as parents, we also need to cultivate time with our kids that feels slow, restful and maybe even delightful.

Is Sabbath with kids even possible?


As adults, learning to slow down is challenging, and for kids it will be too. Making any change to your family routine will take time and intentionality. Every family is unique and your family will have its own unique challenges and limitations, but learning to Sabbath with your kids is within your reach. This is a great opportunity to get creative and dream a little about what you want your family life to look like, and then to begin making slow steps towards that becoming a reality.

So, where do you start?


When making any change in your routine and dynamic, start by talking about it as a family. Explain why you want to make this change and how you think it will benefit all of you. Involve your children in the discussion and invite their ideas about what would make for a restful or delightful Sabbath. You could ask them:

  • What are your favorite things for us to do as a family?
  • What could we do to make our Sabbath special, or different from every other day?

Being Present

Hopefully your Sabbath with kids will create pockets of time that are restful for you as a parent, but often in order for that to happen, you also need to cultivate times with your kids when you are absolutely and fully present to them. If you’re playing lego with them, then only play lego with them, don’t be half checked out scrolling news stories on your phone. If you’re at the playground, be engaged with them, don’t read a book on the bench and ignore them. If you’re having a princess tea party, then be all in, don’t be half present and half cleaning their bedroom at the same time. When children get your full, undivided attention some of the time, they increasingly become more understanding of the need for them to sometimes play alone or with a sibling, so that you can have some time to yourself.

Time alone

It’s helpful to set aside special toys or games that are only to be used on the Sabbath, so that children will look forward to playing with them for that part of the day when you want some time to yourself. (You can even set aside a few Christmas or birthday presents for this purpose). If playing on their own is new for them, you might have to start with 20 minutes and gradually build.

Families with two parents may want to ‘divide and conquer’ - one parent hangs with the children for a couple of hours to give the other a well deserved break and then they swap. It’s beneficial to have at least part of the day when you can have some family fun altogether.

Creating ritual

Play and delight come easily to children so involve them in thinking about fun ideas for your Sabbath. During the week you can ask them, what would be something fun for us to do as a family on our Sabbath this week? Maybe you can each make suggestions (you can even put these into a pot) and agree to pick a different one each week. What you do will obviously depend on the age of your kids but you could consider:

  • Visiting a new neighborhood
  • Going upstate to a State Park
  • Visiting a museum or gallery
  • Checking out a new playground
  • Going out for a fun dessert
  • Watching a movie together
  • Eating out

It’s also important that children understand that Sabbath is something that God desires for us, and that we do it as an act of worship. Create space for them to contemplate God too. You can mark your Sabbath by lighting a candle, having a special family meal (breakfast for dinner?! have a special dessert), reading a Psalm or children’s Bible story before dinner, expressing gratitude, or speaking words of blessing or encouragement over one another. You can ask meal time questions like:

  • What was the best part of your week?
  • What was the hardest part of your week?
  • What are you grateful for today?
  • Where did you experience God or beauty this week?
  • What is one thing you love about our family?

Single parents

Getting time to yourself is most likely extremely challenging, and yet life will be completely unsustainable for you if you don’t get some time to rest. Whilst there may be ways that you can create Sabbath rhythms and rituals with your kids, it is really important that you invite help from others. Is there a friend, family member or someone from your church family who would come and hang out with your kids for a few hours so that you could have some time to yourself? Be willing to receive help when it is offered from someone you trust.

In this video story, John and his two daughters talk a little bit about what Sabbath is like in their family.

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