Practices

Countdown to Easter – Family Activities

Forty ways to celebrate the greatest event in history by Annette LaPlaca

Lent is the 40 days,
not counting Sundays, before Easter. These Scripture readings, fun
activities, discussion points and hymns to read or sing will help your
family focus on the most pivotal Christian truth: Christ died and rose
to save us from sin!

  1. Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, gets its name
    from an ancient tradition of throwing ashes on one’s head to
    demonstrate sorrow for sins. Explain to your child that Lent is not a
    time to be gloomy, but a time to consider how much we need the
    salvation that Christ secured for us. If your church doesn’t have an
    Ash Wednesday service, consider taking an older child to visit another
    church.
  2. Buy an Easter lily for your home. The lily
    symbolizes new life because something so strikingly fragrant and
    beautiful grows from a lifeless-looking bulb.
  3. Paint a spring mural. Put up a wall-sized piece of
    paper, tape newspaper to the floor, dress your child in old clothes and
    get out the paints! Even if it’s not greening up outside, you can start
    springtime indoors.
  4. Take a “new life walk” outdoors, searching out tiny shoots, sprouting buds on trees and eggs in birds’ nests.
  5. The season of Lent alternates times of remembering
    Christ’s suffering with celebrating the Resurrection (every Sunday
    during the season). Adopt a European tradition and collect bells you
    have around the house (jingle bells from Christmas?) to ring on the
    Sundays of Lent.
  6. Lent is traditionally a season for “giving up” as a
    symbolic, outward act of identifying with Christ’s suffering. Your
    child may want to choose something to “sacrifice” for the 40 days of
    Lent—trips to McDonald’s, after-school TV, chocolate.
  7. Explain the word redemption, using the dictionary definition as well as the Christian doctrine (hints: “recovering ownership” and “restoring value=”).
  8. Sing together the hymn “O Sacred Head”:
    “O Sacred Head once wounded,
    with grief and pain weighed down,
    how scornfully surrounded
    with thorns Thine only crown!

    How pale Thou are with anguish,
    with sore abuse and scorn!
    How does that visage languish,
    which once was bright as morn.”
  9. Bring springtime indoors. Buy potted crocuses, daffodils or tulips for your home.
  10. Help your child understand why Jesus was called
    “the Lamb of God” (his role as the unblemished sacrifice: Ex. 12:21-24;
    John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7-8). With your child, make a lamb. Glue cotton
    balls to a small paper plate, then add pink and black
    construction-paper eyes, ears, muzzle, nose and hooves.
  11. Read or summarize Exodus 12:1-42 to give an older
    child a context for the Passover celebration that Jesus observed the
    last week before his death. Explain Christ’s death as the ultimate
    sacrifice for sin and discuss the significance of God giving up his
    firstborn Son.
  12. Fill a clay pot with soil and grass seeds. Your kids will be able to watch the swift growth of the grass shoots.
  13. Look up 2 Corinthians 5:17. As a symbol of a “new
    creation,” make butterflies using a large piece of wrapping tissue
    scrunched and secured in the middle with a clothespin.
  14. Make homemade pretzels, which originated as a Lenten treat.
  15. Define resurrection for your kids. Have an
    older child undertake a “Bible hunt” to identify people who died and
    were raised to life. In every case, Who did the resurrecting?
  16. Sing or recite together a few lines from “How Great Thou Art”:
    “And when I think:
    that God his Son not sparing,
    sent him to die—I scarce can take it in;
    that on the cross,
    my burden gladly bearing,
    he bled and died, to take away my sin!”
  17. Buy inexpensive packets of summer flowers, place
    each packet in a separate envelope, then decorate the envelopes with
    pictures of the full-grown flowers. School-age children can write the
    flower name on the envelope. Offer these as Easter gifts for friends or
    neighbors who enjoy gardening.
  18. Make this a gift-giving season. The gift of
    Immanuel, which we celebrate at Christmas, finds its ultimate
    expression in Christ’s sacrifice. Homemade gifts, such as cookies or
    cross-shaped paper bookmarks, are best.
  19. To “give up” something as a family, eat a late
    breakfast and skip lunch on Saturdays during Lent. Give the money you
    save to a local organization that helps the poor or to your church’s
    benevolent fund.
  20. Create simple spring animal puppets using paper
    lunch sacks with construction-paper faces glued to the bottom panel.
    Then have a family puppet show!
  21. Find an old muffin tin and fill the cups with soil.
    Help your child plant a different type of flower seed in each
    compartment. As the plants begin to come up, thin out the growth by
    removing weaker sprouts so two or three healthy flowers grow in each
    cup.
  22. The old word lenten means “springtime”—a season of new life. Visit a farm or petting zoo and look for newborns: piglets, bunnies, lambs or chicks.
  23. Read Matthew 26:1-16, 47-56. Talk about your
    child’s experiences of betrayal or disappointment in friendships.
    Imagine Jesus’ personal hurt at Judas’s treachery and the subsequent
    desertion of Christ’s closest allies.
  24. Define atonement, helping your kids understand the ideas of making amends or repaying a debt that is owed.
  25. Recite together these lines from “Man of Sorrows”:
    “Man of sorrows!
    What a name for the Son of God,
    who came ruined sinners to reclaim!
    Hallelujah—what a Savior!”
  26. Read Isaiah 53:2-8. Depending on the maturity and readiness of your child, describe Jesus’ sufferings on the cross.
  27. Explain the word alleluia, which comes from a Greek translation of a Hebrew phrase meaning “Praise the Lord”—a call to worship.
  28. In Greece, Christians celebrate Easter with a
    festive outdoor banquet. On the first warm-enough day, eat lunch
    together outdoors.
  29. Create egg-shaped art. Cut an egg shape out of
    cardboard. Use it to trace onto drawing paper. Then turn your ovals
    into crayon pictures of rolypoly rabbits or chicks.
  30. Explain repentance in terms of understanding God’s holiness and seeing yourself through his eyes. Emphasize God’s loving desire to redeem sinners.
  31. The idea of new clothes for Easter comes from the
    Easter Sunday tradition of some churches to bring in new members or to
    baptize new believers dressed in white. Just for fun, make an Easter
    bonnet by decorating a paper plate with silk or paper flowers. Two
    slits on opposite sides of the plate allow a ribbon to pass through so
    you can tie it underneath your child’s chin.
  32. Sing together words from “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”:
    “See all your sins on Jesus laid:
    the Lamb of God was slain.
    His soul was once an offering made
    for every soul of man.”
  33. Act out the “parade” of Palm Sunday as a family.
    Have family members take turns putting themselves in the place of
    Jesus, receiving a royal welcome but knowing that the crowd’s
    intentions would change in less than a week. Note: the word hosanna translates “save us, we beseech thee.”
  34. Make hot cross buns—small, spicy, sweet buns that are a traditional Easter treat.
  35. Clean house! Jewish families typically cleaned before the Passover celebration.
  36. Prepare to observe Maundy Thursday. The word Maundy comes from a root word meaning “mandate” or “command.” Look up John 13:34-35 to discover the “new commandment” Jesus gives.
  37. Discuss Jesus’ experiences in the garden of
    Gethsemane in Matthew 26:36-46. Then read his prayer for all
    believers—including your family—in John 17:20-26.
  38. The name Good Friday probably evolved from
    the phrase “God’s Friday.” Talk about why the day Christ died is
    ultimately very good—the best—because we all need a Savior.
  39. Get a clearer idea of the miracle of the tomb rock
    rolling away by finding a large rock and trying to roll it yourselves.
    Note that only an act of God could put the guards to sleep and move
    such a big stone.
  40. Practice the traditional Easter greeting: “Christ is risen!” and the reply: “He is risen indeed!”

Annette LaPlaca is the mother of two and the author of The Sunday Morning Fun Book (Shaw) and other activity books for children.

Copyright © 1999 by the author or Christianity Today International/Christian Parenting Today magazine.  Click here for reprint information on Christian Parenting Today. March/April 1999, Vol. 11, No. 4, Page 31