February note from Dri: Preparing for Lent with Kids

Not only is February 14th Valentines Day, but this year it is also Ash Wednesday and the start of the season of Lent.  We have put together this Lenten Guide to help the congregation walk through this season. But how do we include children in what is one of the most somber seasons of the church year? 

In her book, Sacred Seasons: A Family Guide to Center Your Year around Jesus, Danielle Hitchen says, “Obviously, expecting children to fast for forty days from anything is unrealistic and potentially unhealthy, especially if they don’t have a proper theological understanding of what they are doing and why.” But she goes on to explain that there are still ways to practice the three pillars of Lent (fasting, prayer, and giving) if we set them up well. It can be tricky to include them in what is often a deeply personal season of introspection, but we’ve found some great resources for you. Be sure to grab our Lenten Guide by the bulletins this Sunday and let’s begin!

Ideas for Observing Lent as with kids:

Lighting Lenten Candles –  There is something about fire that is particularly appealing to kids (and many adults too). This is not just for kids, so you enjoyed the Advent Wreath, give this a try! Use a purple tablecloth or table runner or a rough fabric like burlap. Undyed linen is also commonly used during Lent. Use a dish or tray you already have. I used a cake stand with a lip. Fill it sand, dried beans, or even rice. I used rice because our sandbox was quite wet. Place five violet candles in the shape of a cross, with the pink candle in the center of the cross, as shown below. Like the Advent Wreath in reverse, we start with all candles lit on the first Sunday and slowly extinguish one each week, starting the second week, in the order show below. For example, on the second week you only like candles two through six; the third week, light candles three through six, and so on. As the darkness deepens, we are reminded of Christ’s journey to Golgotha. For your convenience, we have ordered these candles in bulk and will make sets of these candles available for pick up this Sunday for $3.50 (cash/check) or $3.75 (online) just to cover costs. 

Jesus Storybook Bible Paper Chain – Read through the Jesus Storybook Bible using this paper chain and reading guide. Each day, tear off a link and read the story on the back as you count down to Easter. If you don’t have access to a printer, that’s ok. Pre-printed copies will be available this Sunday by the Children’s Worship Guides.

One-Day Fasts – As a family decide on six one-day fasts, one each week, during Lent. These could be desserts, screens, drinks other than water or whatever your family chooses. Be sure to remind your kids about the fast the night before and why you’re fasting. When they inevitably begin asking for the fasted thing, pray with them and gently redirect them.

One-Week Fast – Similar to the one-day fasts, fast from one thing each day of the week for one week of Lent. Again, remind them each night of the next day’s fast and gently redirect when the hunger for that thing sets in.

Photo Credit: AltonBrown.com

Make Pretzels – Soft pretzels are a tasty treat traditionally eaten during Lent since the fifth century. They were initially only enjoyed between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday each year. Being made up of primarily of water, salt, yeast, and flour, pretzels adhere to the rules of the traditional fast. Pretzel comes from the German bretzal, which is from the Latin bracellae, meaning “little arms.” Indeed, the pretzel looks like arms crossed in prayer or to receive a blessing. Click the image for a delicious recipe from Alton Brown to try at home.

Observe a Friday Fast – Abstaining from meat on Fridays. This is in remembrance of Christ being crucified on a Friday. 

Observe a Sunday Feast –  Enjoy delicious dessert on Sundays with your family. Some easy options are ice cream sundaes or fresh berries with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Fast of the Eyes – It’s typical for churches to cover crosses, crucifixes, statues and icons of Christ with purple or black cloth. If you have any of these items on display in your home, consider covering them during Lent. Or simply pair down your regular decorations and wait to put up spring decorations until Easter.

Memorize Together – Choose a passage, like Psalm 51 or 121, the Lord’s Prayer, the 10 Commandments, or the Apostles Creed and commit to memorizing it together. You can say it together in the morning, or evening. Be sure to set a realistic goal appropriate for the age of your child(ren) and your family’s activity level. If every day isn’t possible, shoot for 2-3. If an entire Psalm isn’t age appropriate, select a single verse and add if you see fit.

Giving Jar – Make a giving jar to collect change to give away. You can offer extra chore opportunities to earn more money.

Give It Away – Take the opportunity to clean out unused toys and clothes in good continue to donate to a local charity like Manna Center or Potters House.

For more ways to help your family center your year around Jesus, check out the Sacred Season: A Family Guide to Center Your Year Around Jesus by Danielle Hitchen. It’s a wonderful resource for parents to know the history and background of the church year, as well as practical ways to observe the different seasons with your family. Click the button below for a direct link to Catechesis Books for this book and other resources. Also available on Amazon.