Happy “Johnny Appleseed” Day! I wanted to share some ideas on how you can use the “Johnny Appleseed” story as an opportunity to shepherd your little ones. Even if you missed sharing the story with your little ones today, autumn is still a perfect time to talk about Johnny Appleseed as we are in the midst of the apple harvest season.
Johnny Appleseed, or John Chapman, is famous for planting apple seeds across the United States. I’ve purchased two children’s books that tell the story of Johnny Appleseed that I read with my son today:
The books are good in that they give the history of Johnny Appleseed, his love for nature and others, etc. However, they leave out the part of the story where Johnny spreads the gospel message with others. Chapman’s faith is a lesser known part of the “Johnny Appleseed” story, but in the book The Core of Johnny Appleseed: The Unknown Story of a Spiritual Trailblazer (by Ray Silverman), the author points out that the Christian faith was central to who Johnny was and what he did with his life. Besides planting nurseries, “Johnny Appleseed” lived the life of as a missionary as well. As he traveled, he spread the gospel to many adults and children, and even converted many Native Americans as well. Chapman spread what he called “good news, right fresh from heaven” right along with his apple seedlings.
The story of John Chapman is a great reminder for adults and a great teaching tool for children in that is shows what it looks like to embrace a God-given vocation. John Chapman’s primary work was not overtly religious or theological, but was instead simple, physical, and straightforward. His work was to carry seeds and seedlings to those who could use them, thereby ensuring that families and communities would have a useful crop with which to feed themselves. That work was rooted in Chapman’s faith – he viewed nature as God’s handiwork and gift and the planting of apple trees is symbolic of how God’s love is planted in us and bears fruit. Chapman looked for ways to spread his faith along with his apple trees, instead of abandoning one work to take up another. In essence, he let God use him where he was.
Isn’t that what we are called to do? Most of us aren’t called to become preachers or missionaries, but we are instead called to live out the day-to-day in faith and spread the gospel message with those God has placed in our lives. If we believe as John Chapman did that God’s love is good news for humanity, then our job is to share that good news in whatever ways we can, no matter what sort of work fills our days.
What a great teaching tool! Bloom where we are planted. Let God use us where we are. That is “good news, fresh from heaven” indeed!
So, that’s the story we can impress upon our children. And here are some fun ways to reinforce the “Johnny Appleseed” story:
1. Prepare an “Apple of your eye” craft. There are two really good verses about the “apple of your eye” in the Bible that I used for this craft – Psalm 17:8 and Proverbs 7:2. Psalm 17:8 is from a prayer of David where he asks to be kept as the “apple” of the Lord’s eye, and Proverbs 7:2 is an exhortation for us to keep the Lord’s teachings as the “apple” of our eye. I traced two apples (one green, one red) on construction paper and let Shaan use his scissors to cut them out. One the first, I wrote Psalm 17:8:
“Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings…”
I helped him write out “God Loves Me” on the apple and I wrote “I am the APPLE of his eye.” We talked about how Johnny Appleseed spread the message that God loves us to the people he met as he was planting his apple seeds.
On the second apple, I wrote Proverbs 7:2:
“Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.”
I helped him write out “I love the Bible” on the apple and I wrote “Your teachings are the APPLE of my eye.” We talked about how we show God we love him by obeying His commands, and how Johnny Appleseed obeyed the Lord by sharing the gospel message with others.
Here’s a picture of our finished products:
2. If you have the luxury of living near an apple orchard, go pick some apples fresh from the tree! My son and I travelled to Hillcrest Orchards and picked a peck and a half-peck of apples earlier this month. It gives you such an appreciation for God’s handiwork when you are able to see from whence the harvest bounty comes!
3. Make a homemade apple pie! “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good…” – Psalm 34:8. Homemade apple pies are so delicious, and as your little ones are enjoying the tasty slices, take the opportunity to talk about how a good harvest is from the Lord and remind them of Johnny Appleseed spreading the apple seeds and the gospel simultaneously. Using the apples we picked fresh from the farm, my son and I crafted our first homemade apple pie together. I loved this recipe, as there are several ways “little hands” can help, and, to be honest, it tasted quite lovely (I mixed and matched several recipes I found online). Here’s the recipe if you want to try it:
Shepherd My Child “Johnny Appleseed” Pie
- Pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie (I used Pillsbury refrigerated pie dough):
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
-3/4 teaspoon ground cinammon
- 8 apples (we used a combo of the Rome beauty and Granny Smith variety)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- foil (to cover pie crust edges)
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Then, stir in flour to form a paste. Next, add the water, white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce the temperature and let simmer.
2. While the “paste” is simmering, peel, core, and slice the apples. After the apples are sliced, pour lemon juice over them to keep them from browning while you are preparing the pie crust.
3. Use 1 of the 2 Pillsbury pie crusts to fill the bottom of the pie dish. Fill with the apples, mounded slightly. Use the 2nd pie crust to prepare a “lattice work” top. If you have never prepared a “lattice work” top before, here is a good step-by-step guide online (with pictures): How to make a Lattice Top for a Pie Crust. After you have covered the apples with the lattice work crust, gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.
4. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Cover the edge of the crust with foil to prevent excessive browning. Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until the apples are soft. Cool at least 2 hours before serving.
As I mentioned, there were all sorts of ways “little hands” could get involved in this recipe. First, I had Shaan help me by counting out 8 apples from the peck and a half we had picked from the orchards:
Little hands can also help measure out quantities, pour lemon juice over the apples, help cut the circle out of middle of the foil (so that only the crust edges will be covered), and help slice and weave the lattice work. Lots of ways for children to get involved in this recipe…and the best way to get involved is by enjoying the finished product:
4. Apple stamping (or other “hands on” apple crafts). For this activity, I simply sliced an apple in half and let Shaan use it as a “stamp.” Here’s the little artist hard at work as well as his masterpiece:
If you are looking for other great “Johnny Appleseed” craft ideas, check out this website with over 50 suggestions: 50+ Free Activities and Printables for Johnny Appleseed Day
5. Teach your children the “Johnny Appleseed” song. Here is a link to the song lyrics from DLTK’s Crafts for Kids (within the link below is an option to “play the song” as well): Johnny Appleseed Grace
Hope these ideas help you teach your little ones about Johnny Appleseed and the “good news” he shared with others! God Bless!