Listers, as a Catholic parent the most important duty for me is to shape my children into being excellent members of the body of Christ. Although the task is a virtuous one, it can be a bit arduous as younger children have small or non-existent attention spans. Although I am not an advocate of “dumbing” down or making the essence of our faith less serious for the sake of reaching our children, I do believe we have to temper our theologically-charged faith into terms that our children can understand. Perhaps this is a more challenging task than keeping our children still during prayer. Also young children are visual and tactile learners, which means they remember things when they have the opportunity to get to create something. Fortunately, as we all live in the “Information Age” there are many resources within our reach that can help us capture our children’s attention without sacrificing the seriousness of our Catholic faith. These are great resources for godparents and religious education directors too. N. B. I do not advocate these things as a replacement to daily family prayer time, which is an essential element in the day-to-day worship of God in the domestic church, but these websites can help supplement, illustrate, and, perhaps, guide the discussion of faith in terms that children can understand. Here is a compilation of some my favorite websites:
#1 Catholic Icing
Catholic Icing is the perfect place to find projects for those little visual and tactile learners in
your life. Catholic Icing has much of its content centered around the liturgical calendar and saints’ feast days. When Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter are coming up, this blog is a great place to find creative ways to get your children or godchildren to start thinking about and preparing for the upcoming season. For example, to teach your children about sacrifices for Lent, you can make a Lenten Crown of Thorns. If they make a sacrifice like sharing toys with their younger brother or sister they are allowed to pull a thorn out of the crown. Catholic icing has everything from coloring pages, countdown calendars, party ideas (especially feast days of Saints), mobiles, gifts, and songs. Also another great aspect of this website is that all the content is free!
#2 Catholic Toolbox
Run by a stay-at-home mother, Catholic Toolbox is geared towards the religious education director type, but it can be used by the more ambitious parent. I highly recommend Catholic Toolbox to parents who wish to home school their children. Most of the website is filled with lesson plans already made, so it takes the guess work out of making up a curriculum for your children. The lesson plans are extremely comprehensive, including suggestions for books to read, songs to sing, and crafts to do on a variety of topics ranging from Bible stories and liturgical celebrations. Like Catholic Icing, there are lists upon lists of amazing projects, crafts, and activities you can do with your children. Another aspect of this website is the list of games that help children memorize prayers, doctrines, and other important facts about our Christian faith. This website is geared to engaging our children in a interactive discussion of our faith.
Geared to nurturing the Catholic Mom (hence the name CatholicMom.com), this website also provides some great resources and suggestions on how to raise the best little Catholics straight from the cradle to adulthood. It also links to other Catholic websites that have fun and creative ways to teach children about our faith (they collaborate closely with Catholic Toolbox). Also the contributors make tips for Catholic music, movies, and even travel. The website is a useful tool for lifting up mothers in their lives and in their faith, with helpful blogs about prayer, spiritual formation, vocations, marriage, and basically anything affecting the life of a Catholic mom.
#4 Fathers for Good
Many of the Catholic parenting websites are wired mostly for mothers, but this one is especially for dads. In society where fatherhood is often put on the wayside, Fathers for Good emphasizes the absolute necessity of fathers being effective heads of the domestic church. It has blog posts about Catholic parenting issues from a father’s perspective. A notable feature on Fathers for Good is the “Reel Reviews,” which reviews currents movies from a Catholic perspective. This website is a rare resource for Catholic men who endeavor to lead their families towards a closer relationship with God. www.fathersforgood.org
There is a role only a father can fill and gifts only a father can give. In a culture that often does not favor fatherhood or masculine virtue, we wish to highlight the unique contributions of men, husbands and fathers. The world would be lacking without them.
#5 Holy Heroes
Holy Heroes is a product driven website. The online store offers a variety of products ranging from well-illustrated coloring books, prayer cds, lives of the saints cds, children’s books, etc. I highly recommend the prayer cds, which range from the different Mysteries of the Rosary, to the Stations of the Cross, to a beautifully sung Chaplet of Divine Mercy, all of which are done reverently by children. These cds are a great tool for teaching children to pray (Godparents! These are perfect gifts!). However awesome the products are, the main reason Holy Heroes is on this list is their free online Adventure series that occurs during Lent, Advent and the Summer. These series are free tri-weekly online videos, mp3s, printable coloring pages, puzzles, and worksheets that are geared towards teaching and preparing your children for those specific liturgical seasons on the Church calendar.
#6 Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact
And now for something completely different, I bring you The Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, a free online archive of amazingly illustrated, public domain Catholic comic books from 1946-1972. This series goes along with the recent resurgence of interest in graphic novels and comic books, and it is not only informative but (now more than ever) extremely entertaining. Originally published by George A. Pflaum in Dayton, Ohio, these books taught children about a variety of topics like science, history, religion, and the social mores of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. What might be of particular interest for you all, Listers, is how these Catholic comic books are filled with hundreds of wonderful retold versions of the lives of the Saints and excellent renditions of Bible stories. There are legends and stories of the origins of particular Catholic customs like “The Legend of Pancake Tuesday” and “The Legend of the Poinsettia.” Also there are instructional segments that describe the history of several doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic faith like the sacraments and the Immaculate Conception. Although they are in comic book form, these books are extremely respectful and enlightening. The illustrations and writing are compelling enough to capture the imagination of children, all the while teaching them in a respectful way about the Catholic faith. This online collection of children’s periodicals can be viewed for free by the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at the Catholic University of America through the Washington Research Library Consortium website.
Listers, I know there is probably a lot more online resources out there for teaching your children our faith. If there is a website that you think that should be added to the list, please let us know by leaving a comment.