Forty ways to celebrate the greatest event in history
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!
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Take a “new life walk” outdoors, searching out tiny shoots, sprouting buds on trees and eggs in birds’ nests.
- 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.
- 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.
- Explain the word redemption, using the dictionary definition as well as the Christian doctrine (hints: “recovering ownership” and “restoring value=”).
- 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.”
- Bring springtime indoors. Buy potted crocuses, daffodils or tulips for your home.
- 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.
- 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
- Fill a clay pot with soil and grass seeds. Your kids will be able to watch the swift growth of the grass shoots.
- 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.
- Make homemade pretzels, which originated as a Lenten treat.
- 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?
- 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!”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Create simple spring animal puppets using paper
lunch sacks with construction-paper faces glued to the bottom panel.
Then have a family puppet show!
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Define atonement, helping your kids understand the ideas of making amends or repaying a debt that is owed.
- 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!”
- Read Isaiah 53:2-8. Depending on the maturity and readiness of your child, describe Jesus’ sufferings on the cross.
- Explain the word alleluia, which comes from a Greek translation of a Hebrew phrase meaning “Praise the Lord”—a call to worship.
- In Greece, Christians celebrate Easter with a
festive outdoor banquet. On the first warm-enough day, eat lunch
- 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.
- Explain repentance in terms of understanding God’s holiness and seeing yourself through his eyes. Emphasize God’s loving desire to redeem sinners.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Make hot cross buns—small, spicy, sweet buns that are a traditional Easter treat.
- Clean house! Jewish families typically cleaned before the Passover celebration.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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