“What is Lent, Mommy?”
Talking about Lent with young children can often be difficult. For adults, Lent is a deliberate time of prayer and preparation for the Week we know is coming. Even as an adult, I still get very excited about Holy Week and Easter morning. The joy of the Easter morning victory becomes very solemn when couched in the incredible pain and suffering of the violent and cruel treatment of Jesus in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion that we often talk about during Holy Week.
It’s easier when talking to even the smallest of our children about Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus and why Christmas is so important. However, it is very different when we are talking about death, even though the story ends with such an incredible and miraculous gift to all mankind. I’ve put together some suggestions of activities that are age-appropriate for children and can help them understand Easter’s sacrifice and joy!
Object activities captivate the imagination and help children begin to understand abstract concepts. One project that my children always love making is Easter Story Cookies . These are also called Forgotten Cookies and Resurrection Cookies. There are many recipes for these (I have linked one), but they all have a common theme: assemble the ingredients and make the cookies, pausing to read a scripture that tells the story of the crucifixion. The sugar is added, and the concoction is mixed well. The cookies are placed in a heated oven, which is then turned off. The next morning, the children find that the cookies are hollow and empty on the inside–just like Jesus’ tomb. This experience with children helps them connect to very abstract beliefs.
Another fun activity is to create Resurrection Eggs with empty plastic eggs and an egg carton. I have linked directions and printable pictures to use with this project. This project begins with Palm Sunday and illustrates the actions leading up to Easter Sunday morning. There are many versions of this, some with pictures that you can color together and others suggesting actual objects that are placed in the eggs. A fun spin-off of this project is that the eggs can be stored in the egg carton and revisited each year. I have used these with various ages, and it has proven to be an activity that my children often eagerly anticipated each Easter. We still have some of the eggs that my daughters created (many, many) years ago. Even as adults they enjoy revisiting the memories of family Easter activities.
Another suggestion for sharing this season is children’s books! When I began to consider books that are helpful for sharing the Easter story, I was shocked to realize that I have shelf after shelf of Christmas books, but only a handful that tell the Easter story. One of our favorites is Parable of the Lily by Liz Curtis Higgs. This tells a beautiful story of how a gift of a box of dirt becomes a glorious spring discovery. It is beautifully illustrated by Nancy Munger. The story helps a little girl understand the power of grace and forgiveness and the true meaning of Easter. The Easterville Mystery by Melody Carlson is a story of how the townspeople of Easterville rediscover the true meaning of Easter. Susan Reagan’s illustrations are captivating. The Beginners Bible Series offers paperback books that illustrate the Easter story. The Easter Story: From the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson offers an opportunity to share with children the actual scriptures. These are only a few of the wonderful books that children enjoy, and I believe that you will enjoy reading with them, too.
It is easy to brush over children’s confusion and questions surrounding Easter, but sharing our faith with our children helps shape theirs. It’s amazing to watch as they begin to understand the wonder and awe of who Jesus is and the friendship He offers. We know talking with our children strengthens their own faith, but an honest sharing of my faith with my children has strengthened my faith in ways that cannot be described.