Lent for Kids

>> Saturday, February 28, 2009

With Lucas being almost 3 (and a human sponge) and our family attending a housechurch right now, I have been thinking a lot lately about the ways Hubby and I will teach him about Scripture and the church calender. He loves stories of all kinds so we try to use that vehicle as much as possible for teaching him about God. And just as during Advent, I want this Lenten season preceding Easter to be rich and full of learning experiences for our whole family. Lent is a unique season of focusing on prayer, on making God our priority and giving sacrificially to others. Last year, Lucas was a little young to be able to "get it." But this year, he is ready and eager to learn. He has the most tender and teachable heart and it is my job (and Hubby's) to fill his mind and heart and soul with the knowledge of God and the story of His redemptive work in us.
Here are some of the ways our family is observing Lent this year and making it inviting and exciting and meaningful for Lucas too.

Our big activity this year is our Jesus Tree. It is basically a felt tree with 47 different cut out characters (cut out by me, and yes it DID take forever!) that help tell the story of Jesus from his presentation at the temple as a boy through the resurrection. Each day, you and your little ones read a scripture or story from the Bible and then place the character on the tree. Lucas is WAY into telling stories so this is right up our alley. It is cool to work through the progression of Christ's life and parables and for me to have a plan and schedule to help me be intentional about it every day. Lucas is learning the stories and I feel like I may actually be teaching him something. Today was day4, Ash Wednesday being day 1, and there are 47 days in Lent total (including Sundays)- so you still have time to get going. This was a bit labor intensive (still is actually, I haven't finished cutting the pieces yet and they are quite intricate) but it will be something our family will hopefully use for years and years as we teach the boys about Lent and its significance in our lives and in the church.
Today's reading was from Matthew 4, the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert. The piece for the tree was a group of stones. Lucas said, "Mommy, why did Jesus not eat the rocks if He was hungry?" What valuable discussion we had then about obeying God even when it is hard and depending on God to sustain us! Cool lesson for such a little guy.

Here is our tree with the first week of symbols (I put extras up just so you could get a better idea of the concept.)

Our other little craft is a Lenten Chain. One of the ladies in our housechurch (God bless her!!) made these for all the kids. There are 40 purple links and 7white links for the Sundays. Each purple link has something for the child to do that day. Like draw a picture of why you love Jesus, clean your room, pray for kids who have less than you, tell your mommy thank you for all she does for your family, etc... Lucas loves to pull the link off for the day. Actually, he loves to pull links off in general so I have had to put it back together a couple times! :) But we have had fun with the activities so far. Tonight, he sat in his bed and prayed (with prompting) for kids "in Chicago and in Florida" (the main two places he is aware of in the world) that don't have a bed or food. "Help them to love God," he said (unprompted). Way to make your mama smile, Lucas!! I actually don't know what all the activites will be for the next 43 days, so kinda fun for mama too! :)

Another cool idea I saw last year and filed in the "cool idea to try someday" area of my brain... the Jelly Bean Prayer. I wasrecently reminded of this by a friend and, though we may not do it this year, we will do it someday because it is very, very cool. The basic idea is that the child earns a different color jelly bean for different tasks or behaviors throughout Lent. Then, on Easter morning, the jar is filled the rest of the way with white, unearned jelly beans teaching them the priceless lesson of God's amazing grace and love for us.

Links to other Lenten Activities for kids:
CatholicMom.com- some really great ideas and resources, even if you aren't Catholic (which I am not)
Homemaking through the Church Year- a great blog I often refer to for ideas and activities; She is hosting a Lenten Carnival which will have more lenten links than a girl could hope for! :)
Two Square Meals- one of my dearest friends who wrote a great post last Lenten season on how to include your kids in fasting during Lent.
Domestic-Church.org- some cool craft ideas, including this Lenten cross craft which I have prepped to do this week.
Heart Prayer During Lent- prayer ideas and scripts for leading your child in prayer and confession
Another cool list of activities... and yet another.

I hope this is helpful to you and inspires you to do some fun and teachable activities with your kids this Easter season. If you have ideas or resources to add, I would love it if you would share. If you want a copy of the templates I used to make the Jesus Tree, comment here or send me an e-mail.

May this Lenten season be reflective, refreshing to your soul, a time of deepening your faith and nurturing your heart. May it be full of precious and tender moments with your little ones, teachable for you both.

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Heather March 1, 2009 at 3:31 PM  

I love how intentional you and your hubby want to be about teaching your boys about Christ. Sometimes we just get out of the habit---especially when we aren't in practice of spending time with God ourselves.

The jelly bean thing is very cool and we've decided to do a simplified version of it this year and work up to all the symbolism of the colors. It's still beyond them a bit. So right now they can earn colored ones for showing God's love to someone (like an act of service, kindness or sharing), but they can not earn the white ones. We'll save those for Easter morning and let Grace fill up where they've lacked.

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