We have all had times when our kids have stumped us with really tough questions, right? How do we go about answering them? Back in the day our parents might have told us “that’s just how it is”, or “just have faith”. All that is good and well, but we do need to do more.
Inspiring Little Minds: Bringing Together Children and Faith
My name is Sarah Fazel, and in this article I aim to show you how you can empower your children with a strong Islamic identity and belief system in a fun and relatable way.
I got my teaching certificate from the University of Texas in Austin (UT) and moved to the UK in 2011. When I moved to the UK, I began teaching almost immediately and only stopped when my first son was born. As moms here will know, it can get lonely staying at home so I used to hop around to as many different children’s classes as possible – library time, children centres, Gymboree – you name it. My son loved it and so did I. However, I felt the need to look for Islamic classes with a similar fun and exciting energy, and I didn’t find much out there.
I know there was madrasa to look forward to at the age of 5, but I wanted my son to start interacting with the religion in a fun way from an early age. We all know Prophet Mohammad (S)’s famous quote of acquiring knowledge from the “cradle to the grave”. Also, I don’t know if you can relate to this, but some madrasa systems have a huge emphasis on Shaitan and the consequences of our religion. I didn’t want my son’s first experience of religion to be that – especially as we all know children are sinless and don’t have that accountability. I didn’t want him to be scared of God before he learned to love Him.
After looking for a while and not finding much out there, and with some not-so-subtle nudges from my friends, Inspiring Little Minds (ILM) was born. We started with younger kids (1.5-2 years old) and it grew with my son and now caters to 4 to 7 year olds. I then had my second son, and so we have very recently opened up ILM tots classes for 1-3 years old. God help me if I have a third child!
ILM is an interactive class to help our little ones learn, love, and live the teachings of Islam and the Quran through fun and creative ways. We learn to love God through singing, stories, crafts, interactive lessons, visuals, games, and more.
I recognized, especially in this changing environment, that children need to learn through fun. It needs to be fast-paced (due to short attention spans), exciting, and interactive. They also learn best through the 5 different senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. It is really important to know which of these your child learns through best. Some children are more visual learners and others more auditory. Whichever is your child’s strongest sense, is the one you want to be focusing on when teaching them anything. They grasp the concept better that way. Not to say you only use one sense, but that’s the one you can focus on.
ILM adapted its lessons to meet all the different needs. For visual learners, we do a lot of visual demonstrations and experiments. For auditory learners, there is a wide range of songs in our class. For physical learners, a lot of movement, craft, and even cooking! We find that there’s some way or another that all children can best process the concepts being taught.
We have all had times when our kids have stumped us with really tough questions, right? How do we go about answering them? Back in the day our parents might have told us “that’s just how it is”, or “just have faith”. All that is good and well, but we do need to do more. For example one of my friends told me her son has just gone through a Diwali presentation in school and learned about all their Gods, so he was asking why we don’t have more Gods? Wouldn’t it be better if we did? How would you answer this in a way that can be fun and easily relatable to your child?
In our ILM classes, we decided to play the popular childhood game ‘Simon Says’. In this way, we asked the children to follow basic instructions from one Simon. We then introduced a second Simon. This Simon gave the children contradicting instructions at the same time as the first. The children, as expected, were confused and didn’t know who to follow. In that way we taught them if two Simons are confusing and we don’t know who to follow, how would it be with two God’s? We would then end with a suitable book during storytime to tie the whole concept and lesson together well.
I know some of you are thinking ‘you expect me to come up with that?’ The answer is no, I don’t! But luckily there are so many resources out there to help you answer your children’s’ tough questions such as ILM classes. During this lockdown period, ILM has created complimentary mini-sessions on YouTube for all children to benefit from inshaAllah. These are held every Friday at 11am UK time, and will run throughout the holy month of Ramadhan.
I would like to add this: We as parents, myself included, tend to spend a lot of money on resources to supplement our child’s secular education, whether it be phonics books, tuition, or extra-curricular activities like art class, gymnastics, and football. How much do we spend on your child’s Islamic education? Secular activities are all great and help your children become successful in this life, but if we spend on Islamic education and resources we are paving their way for the hereafter.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, however you look at it, the children of our generation and future generations are not growing up the same way we did, so we shouldn’t necessarily teach them the way we were taught. They’re surrounded by a society where other religions are celebrating in an ostentatious way with their lavish Christmas parties and Diwali dances, they’re being taught that obscene things are now the norm, or even ‘cool’. They’re even being taught that not believing in God is the way forward.
Islam, with its seemingly conservative belief, is being questioned by their friends and looked upon as restrictive or even un-British. They are questioned more, thus they are more curious. They don’t accept ‘that’s just how it is’ as an answer any more like we may have – but why should they? Islam is a religion that actually recommends researching and learning about all the religions before affirming your own beliefs. So let them question.
However, let us make the effort to provide them the answers that they need in ways they can understand. Let’s also make an effort to make our holidays and events fun for them as well. For example, I know there are great resources out there to make them excited about Eid and Ramadhan without having to rely on non-Islamic methods of celebrating.
Finally, show your children that Islam is a beautiful religion and our God is loving, in a way that’s easily understandable and relatable to them, so that when they’re confronted about who they are, they should be able to hold their head up high, and – I quote from a song we sing in class – ‘stand up for Islam proudly’.
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