Lent for the family

Our Director of Children’s and Youth Formation, Anne Stick, has prepared a list of activities to help children engage more deeply with the season of Lent.

 

As adults journeying through this season of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, it helps to remember that the children traveling with us experience time in a different fashion. As long as Lent seems to us, it is longer still to them. Jesus was not a child when he fasted in the wilderness for forty days. How do we make the observance of Lent meaningful and appropriate for children?

 

Timekeeping

Timekeeping of some sort can be helpful. For young children making a calendar of coins and putting one in a jar a day for the poor is effective. My students have enjoyed a simple indoor rock garden: one rock for every day of Lent is placed in a spiral on a sand covered dish. A cross is placed in the center of the spiral. The children write one thing they would like to give up or take up for Lent on each stone. We light a small candle each day and place it by a stone and pray as we move the candle toward the cross during Lent.

 

 

Pretzels

True fasting is often too rigorous for children and not advisable for their growing bodies. Instead replacing a meal with a soft pretzel can be a way to introduce the concept of fasting to a child. Making soft pretzels is incredibly fun. The dough is like bake-able play dough! My grandmother helped us make these every year:

Soft Pretzels

425 °F 12-15 min.

1 T dry active yeast

1 ½ cups lukewarm water

1 tsp. salt

1T sugar

4 ½ cups unbleached flour

1 egg

Dissolve yeast in water. Beat egg and add to water. Mix salt, sugar and 3 cups flour in a bowl. Add yeast mixture and more flour to make stiff dough. Preheat oven to 425 °F.  Knead dough. Form pretzels. Place on oiled baking sheet. Beat another egg and brush on lightly. Sprinkle with salt. Bake 12-15 min.

Encourage your children to shape their pretzels traditionally to imitate the prayer posture.

As we are called to pray and fast during Lent, the pretzel has come to be seen as a Lenten food because it reminds us of the prayer posture of early Christians and it is a simple food that we can eat in place of a meal.

It is traditionally held that an Italian monk in the early 600s invented the pretzel as a reminder to his brother monks to pray during the season of Lent.

 

Stations of the Cross Eggs

Another fun way to learn during Lent is to make Stations of the Cross Eggs. Using plastic Easter eggs, an egg carton and a few craft supplies you can make these eggs with your children. Each one of the Stations of the Cross eggs, marked with a number in permanent marker, contains one paper heart with the description of the station written on it, and one symbol for that station. You can use these as an activity for the children to match up the symbols, or you can just use them to go through the Stations of the Cross one at a time. Children can use these to follow along with the Stations of the Cross in Church, as well.

How to construct Stations of the Cross Eggs:

Plastic eggs can be filled with symbols of the Stations of the Cross and organized in an egg carton. Either a twelve or eighteen egg capacity carton may be used. If using a carton for a dozen eggs, combine the falls into one egg.

Band-Aids to symbolize the falls, labeled “1,2,3” for all 3 stations where Jesus falls, which are 3, 7, and 9.

Symbols for Each Station of the Cross:

  • Station 1: Jesus is condemned to death. Piece of string for binding Jesus’ hands.
  • Station 2: Jesus carries his cross. Popsicle sticks cut down with scissors and glued into a cross shape.
  • Station 3: Jesus falls the first time. A Band-Aid.
  • Station 4: Jesus meets his mother. An image of Mary, small doll or piece of blue felt.
  • Station 5: Simon helps Jesus carry his cross. A hand shape
  • Station 6: Veronica wipes Jesus’ face. Scrap of fabric with Jesus’ face sketched on it.
  • Station 7: Jesus falls the second time. Another Band-Aid.
  • Station 8: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. A tissue to dry their tears.
  • Station 9: Jesus falls the third time. Another Band-Aid.
  • Station 10: Jesus is stripped of his garments. A small garment cut from felt with a piece of embroidery floss tied around it.
  • Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross. A small nail.
  • Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross. A small plastic crucifix, usually used to make rosaries.
  • Station 13: Jesus is taken down from the cross. A picture of Michelangelo’s Pieta.
  • Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb. A rock- for sealing the tomb.

 

Resurrection Garden

As Lent comes to a close, children delight in planning and planting miniature resurrection gardens. A small barren hill in a dish, that may have represented Golgotha topped with three small crosses, can be transformed into the tomb of Jesus. All that is needed is a small empty pot turned on its side (to represent the tomb) in a shallow dish, surrounded and covered by soil. Let your children choose small plants to cover the earth or simply sprinkle grass seed and water in time to have fresh growth for Easter.

 

Resources

A permanent wooden Advent and Lent calendar-wreath:

http://adventtolenttoascensionwreath.blogspot.com

 

The latest children’s book on Lent:

Alary, Laura, and Ann Boyajian. Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter. Paraclete Press: MA, 2016. Print.

 

Please contact me if you have any questions. I am also always interested in hearing about your family’s traditions in Lent. Please share them with me, if you have the chance. Best wishes for a blessed Lenten season.

Peace,

Anne

astick@incarnationbmore.org

Cathedral of the Incarnation