Seven Things You Can Do With Your Young Children to Introduce Them to Holy Week
If you grew up in a traditional church, you probably have a good idea of what Holy Week is about. Holy Week is the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday in the Church calendar. During this week, as followers of Jesus, we meditate on what Jesus’ time on earth leading up to his resurrection was like. We wave palm branches and shout “Hosanna!” to mark Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday. Throughout the week, Jesus drove out the money changers from the temple, He shared the Last Supper with His disciples on Maundy Thursday, on Good Friday Jesus was crucified, died and was buried in the tomb, and then the main event, Easter Sunday, is when Jesus rose from the dead. This period is when we meditate and consider the sacrifice of Jesus and celebrate the most pivotal moment in time, when God redeemed man to Himself through the death of His Son. This is where hope entered the world, when death was defeated, when we were reconciled to our Creator, for ever and ever AMEN!
I love Easter and I get so excited about celebrating Jesus, but I feel like my kids don’t get it, and how can they? All they see in the grocery store are chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, and they like searching for dyed eggs around the house and yard, but with just these symbols, they have no idea the depth and wonder of the event that we are celebrating. My kids are still very small and I know that the concepts of creation, redemption, suffering and sin may go WAAAAAAY over their heads, BUT I also know that creating unique experiences for them during significant times throughout the year will impact them for a lifetime. Our family will always dye eggs and eat candy on Easter, but I think there is so much more to give our kids than a giant chocolate bunny.
I’ve come up with seven things you can do to introduce your toddler to Holy Week this year give them a small glimmer of what Easter is really about:
1. Buy an Easter Lily
There is a reason we love the smell of pine trees at Christmas and it isn’t because we all like it to have the forest in our living room. The part of your brain that processes scent is very near the place that stores memory. So often times, if you smell something specific, it will bring back memories of when you last smelled that scent. Pretty cool! My mother always had Easter lilies in the house during Holy Week and that smell became an Easter-related-scent to me and will always be. I want to create that same kind of drawback for my boys. When they smell easter lilies, I want them to remember the anticipation of Easter Morning.
The ‘How To’:
- Buy an Easter Lily
- Try not to kill it (if you are like me and can’t keep plants alive.)
- Water it...maybe?
2. Memorize A Scripture
I know they can barely talk, but if they can know the words and actions to a song, they can memorize a scripture.
The ‘How To’:
- Choose a scripture that is short and has words that they will be able to understand—stay away from words like ‘transgressions’ and ‘tabernacle’
- Write it down on paper for them to decorate and then hang it somewhere in the house so they can see it.
- Make up a song or actions to the verse.
- Practice the verse everyday at the same time.
- Don’t forget the reference!
Here are some suggestions for verses to memorize: John 3:16. John 14:6, Galatians 2:20, 1 John 3:16
3. Learn a New Song
There are so many great songs out there about Easter. We might simply know them as hymns or worship songs, but our kids may not know them at all! Christmas carols are sung the world over but there is no Easter equivalent to ‘Silent Night’.
The ‘How To’:
- Pick a song.
- Make up actions (if it doesn’t already have them).
- Sing it together everyday.
Here are some song suggestions (these are all old-school and very church camp-y but I still remember them!): Lord, I Lift Your Name On High, One Way, Jesus (Holy and Anointed One), I Love You Lord, Amazing Grace
4. Wash Their Little Feet
This is such beautiful act of love and servanthood performed by the most powerful person who ever walked this dusty earth. I serve my kids everyday, unendingly, but in this act I am demonstrating what Jesus did, and I can talk to them about who Jesus was while I am washing their toes. It teaches them about Jesus but also gives you an opportunity to love on your kids. It might impact them more than you know.
The ‘How To’:
- Set up a foot washing station, using an appropriate sized chair for your little one with towels, warm water, some nice smelling soaps, oils and lotions.
- Put on some worship music or just something quiet to play in the background.
- Dress up in a costume of some sort, scarves, towels, be creative!
- Do it later in the day, so that their feet might actually be dirty and stinky.
- Have conversation with them throughout, talk to them the whole time.
- Have fun! Play with them, let them splash in the water a little. Sing your favorite song together. Do what feels natural but try to keep the focus on Jesus, your connection and the act of washing their feet.
- Read the bible story in John 13 - use a children’s Bible (The Jesus Story Book Bible is my favorite) or the proper Bible if you prefer.
I know how hard it is to get these little ones to just sit still already, but I have found that if you make an occasion out of something like this, they will remember it, even if in the moment they seem uninterested or too squirrely to make any of the effort worth it.
5. Take Communion
Depending on your religious beliefs, this can be done more as a creative experience than the actual Holy Sacrament of Communion. Follow the rules of what you believe in this one…
The ‘How To’:
- Get some bread—preferably something different than they normally have. Maybe even get them to pick it out at the store for your special communion meal.
- Get some grape juice or wine—again preferably something that they don’t normally drink (with the wine, that won’t be a problem…)
- Create the scene. Dress up, set up a table on the floor, light candles (located safely away from curious little hands), music, whatever feels natural.
- Read the bible story (in Matthew 26:17-30, Luke 22:7-23 or for the more Litergical reading, use 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
- Share one cup, break the bread for them.
- Do this on Maundy Thursday.
6. Act Out Parts of the Easter Story
This can be really fun, especially if you have more people around like siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Get everyone to play a part! In my family, we always did this on Christmas with the story of Jesus’ birth. My sister and I would argue about who was going to be Mary and my older sisters’ boyfriends were always the donkey’s for us to ride. It seems a bit silly BUT we ALWAYS knew what Christmas was about. I want this for my boys at Easter time.
The ‘How To’:
- Chose a part of the story. I suggest:
- The Triumphal Entry (Palm Sunday)
- the Last Supper
- Judas’s Betrayal
- The Women and Disciples Going to the Tomb on Easter Morning
- Note: If you wanted to do the crucifixion and death of Jesus, I think it can be done but with this age group in mind. You just have to do it in a way that is appropriate but probably not getting into the reality of the violence of the whole thing.
- Assign roles and get into costume. Gather props.
- Have someone read the story while the actors play out the parts. If you don’t have someone to read, record yourself reading the story in advance and play it while you help act out the story.
7. Pray In A New Way
If you are reading all this, I’ll bet you are a Christian and most likely a parent to get this far in the blog post. You probably already pray with your kids. During Holy Week, do something different than your normal rhythm of prayer.
The ‘How To’:
- Choose a significant time of day, and pray at that time. Even if you aren’t all together, you are still praying as a family. Dad can report back if he has been at work, etc.
- Choose a new topic - pray for peace, pray for your neighbors, pray for the lost. Your kids get used to what you pray for and sometimes don’t know that they can branch out to include other things unless it is modeled for them.
- Choose a new posture—pray on your knees, pray with arms outstretched, pray alone for a minute and come back together. My kids get used to holding hands at the table or folding their hands so that they don’t touch everything in the world—let’s change it up!
I’m going to be doing each of these things with my family during Holy Week and blogging about it. One of the great things about all of these activities are all free—except the Easter Lily—and this makes it totally possible to do with little to no prep! Below is my plan for Holy Week, if you want to follow along with The Appel Family, that would be wonderful! You can either visit Faintnotmom.com daily to see what activity we are doing during Holy Week. I’d love to hear what you are doing with your family during Holy Week!