One of the things that's really hit me since having children, is how little a deal I have made of Easter in the past. As a Christian, Easter is the big celebration - remembering Jesus' death and resurrection stands at the heart of my faith, and yet so often, the day would creep up on me unexpected, a couple of chocolate eggs would be exchanged, and it would all be over in the blink of an eye.
When I began to think about the time and effort I have put in to preparing my family for Christmas, I began to realise that somehow the balance had got a bit skewed. We spend a month building up to Christmas, preparing our children's hearts to remember what its really all about, and yet Easter got next to no preparation at all.
And so we became convinced that we needed to change that; that somehow, our children should be as excited in the tun-up to Easter as they are in the run-up to Christmas.
So we started some traditions. This will be our fifth Easter with Ava, our fourth with Heidi and Jonas' first. Gradually we are building up a set of traditions that help our little family understand what Easter is really all about... traditions that will help them understand what the events of that Passover weekend over 2000 years ago really meant... and why it has so much significance for them today.
And the funny thing is, the more I thought about it, the more I researched and talked to others, the more I realised that many other parents were feeling just the same as me.
How do we teach out children the real meaning of Easter?
Here are some of the ways we've sought to make Easter meaningful for our little ones over the past five years... why not try some of them out? And please share other ideas and inspiration in the comments below!
1. Resurrection Garden
The idea here is to make a little garden with your children – using soil, grass, flowers, and place a tomb in it, covered over by a large stone (the tomb is a cut out potato). As the garden sits there in the run-up to Easter, the little garden will die… the flowers will droop, the grass turn yellow, and the soil dry out. On the night before Easter Sunday, you can roll the stone away, and transform the garden into a flurry of life, using little flowers etc. It's a beautiful visual of the miracle of Jesus resurrection... and that through his resurrection, life comes! You can see how we made ours here.
2. Countdown Eggs
The idea, similar to our family Advent Calendar, is to unfold the Easter story bit by bit as the week goes by, and to hopefully help the children to understand that Easter is not just about spring chickens and bunnies (cute as they are!) An egg is opened each day in the 12 days running up to Easter Sunday, and inside is found a verse and an item which tell the next part of the story... If you'd like to find out more, you can read about them here. They really help build up to the big day, and are great are really familiarizing children with the details of the story. We made ours in the past, but last year I gave in and bought some “proper” ones on Amazon. They are lovely, and a worthwhile investment.
3. Easter Breakfast
A special meal is central to any celebration. We wanted to have a meal together as a family where we could enjoy each other's company, make the day a bit special and share the Easter story. Of course, boiled eggs and soldiers were a must, and a little treat in everyone's place... little Easter baskets filled with chocolate eggs and Easter biscuits... Of course, you could have an Easter lunch, or dinner... but we wanted to celebrate in the morning the fact that Jesus had risen!!
4. Telling the Story
The telling of the Easter story is a key part to our Easter breakfast. We highly recommend "The Beginner's Bible" or the "Jesus Storybook Bible" by Sally Lloyd Jones for little ones. Its wonderful to be reminded of the story behind this celebration... and if you've made a Resurrection Garden, it makes a great set for any playmobile or little characters to reenact in!
5. Easter Nature Hunt
This is a really cute idea which we are going to try for the first time this year. Each child gets a list of items to find on a walk, or in the garden, each of which can be used to tell the Easter story...
1. Something pointed and sharp to represent the crown of thorns
2. Something made of wood to represent the cross
3. Something dead to represent the Saviour's death (a leaf or something?)
4. Something dark to represent the darkness
5. Something hard and round to represent the stone rolled across the tomb
6. Something alive to represent Jesus' resurrection
I'm thinking our girls are just about ready to give that a go this year!
6. Bake Resurrection Bread
This fabulous book from the Good Book Company has some resurrection bread that we're going to give a go this year... we'll keep you posted!
It’s a challenge to find Easter stories that centre around the cross and resurrection which are child-friendly and appealing to little ones. Most “Easter” stories seem to revolve around the theme of bunnies and chocolate, which is no harm, but which doesn’t really help your children grasp Easter’s real meaning. This year, we were given a copy of “The Garden, The Curtain and The Cross” by Carl Laferton, and while I’ll be doing a full review on my blog next week, it’s a fabulous book for showing how the cross and resurrection are the culmination of the whole Bible’s story. It’s beautifully illustrated, has repeated lines that our girls particularly enjoyed, and is a book you will want to read over and over. Pop over to The Good Book Company’s website to check it out!
So there you have it... seven ideas to get you started! And if this is the first year you've thought about introducing a little more meaning to Easter, start small... try one or two so you don't feel overwhelmed (these traditions have gradually built up over five years in our house...)
And don't forget to let me know how you get on!