40 days of lent with the under-4’s

At 19 months, S has more books on Christmas than he is months old. We have a nice stack of children’s Bibles, some lovely books on baptism, and a few assorted board books on religious themes (the 10 commandments, the Our Father, the Hail Mary).

But we don’t have a single book for him on Lent. Or Easter.

I realized this when someone asked me for a recommendation for a book on Lent and Easter for her 3-year old. She wanted something to explain the seasons to her daughter and talk about why we give things up during Lent. Great question, I thought. And I’m embarassed to say I don’t have a single answer for her. (Yet.)

Advent and Christmas are much simpler to explain to children and certainly easier to illustrate with pretty colors and smiling faces. They’re about a baby! A birthday! A family! Animals and shepherds and kings – things kids love!

But nailing an innocent man to a cross? Repentance and resurrection? No wonder Golden Books stick to Easter eggs and bunnies.

I know there must be good resources on Lent and Easter for the toddler set, and I’m hoping some of you will pass along ideas. I’ve heard of a Jesus Tree kit to walk children through the days of Lent with the stories and teachings of Jesus. But I’m still waiting for the time and inspiration to tackle the creation of our Jesse Tree, let alone take on another liturgical season.

But what kinds of books are out there? Or even educational toys? S is still obsessed with the plush Nativity set we have, and I can’t bring myself to put it away with the Christmas decorations when he gets such delight out of finding baby Jesus and putting him in his manger bed. But I feel my liturgy professors cringe every time he sets it up on our coffee table in mid-March.

I know he’s too young right now to grasp what Lent is about. But I’d love to find some good resources for down the road. Any suggestions?

5 thoughts on “40 days of lent with the under-4’s

  1. I wish I had some simple suggestions! I will be interested to hear others’ responses! We had several great “works” in the atrium that were so helpful in explaining the Lenten themes (death/new life, sin, etc.) I think Sofia talks about a lot of them in her book, The Religious Potential of the Child. They are more appropriate for 3+ year olds though. I didn’t attempt anything this year for Lent because I didn’t think anything would “stick” with a two year old. Though we do have a little “prayer table” in our home that I just remembered I need to change the prayer cloth to purple. Hopefully by next year, though, we can add some other activities.

  2. This has brought back a flood of memories. I was trying to think of how I learned about Lent, when it clicked for me. I don’t remember books or resources of any kind. I remember mom telling me I had to give up talking back to her for Lent though. (I find this incredibly amusing now.)

    But as I think about it, the thing that strikes me most about this season is the stations of the cross. I remember looking at the stations at church, walking around and pausing at each one on Good Friday, the “living stations” presentation we’d do in grade school. I don’t have children and am not a catechist, but if I did or were, I think I’d use the stations as a springboard. It might be a little much for itty-bitty kids like S., but the image of Jesus meeting the women or falling down or having his face wiped clean by Veronica–perhaps those can help begin the conversation.

    As for Lent, I like the idea of a Jesus Tree. Mom and I used to do an Advent Tree where we’d put a little button ornament on a little tree each day of Advent. It was a moment of prayer we could share. Something similar for Lent would be a neat thing.

  3. I still haven’t come across any great resources on Lent/Easter for toddlers, though these two look promising:

    -Lauren’s comment about the Stations of the Cross reminded me of this book that I’ve seen in stores but don’t have – The Story of the Cross: The Stations of the Cross for Children (http://www.amazon.com/Story-Cross-Stations-Children/dp/0829418199/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1300073754&sr=1-5)

    -another possible good one is “The Week That Led to Easter” from Arch Books (which I remember having many of as a child & loving the illustrations) – http://www.amazon.com/Week-That-Led-Easter-Books/dp/0570075726/ref=pd_sim_b_3

    Again, I can’t personally recommend these books yet, but they might be a start! (I have, by the way, seen so many terrible children’s books on Easter in stores lately that it makes me want to pull out every theologian’s hair on my head.) Will keep you posted…

  4. Happened upon this, seeking ideas for teaching about fasting and almsgiving during Lent (my child is almost two).

    For prayer, we’ve planned a prayer chain. I’ve prepared 40 strips of colored construction paper, each with a different intention (Mommy, Daddy, the poor, children who don’t have a family, etc.). Each day, I’ll have my daughter choose a piece of paper. We’ll pray for that intention, and then make it a new link in the chain. At Easter, we’ll have a beautiful chain of links that remind us of who/what to pray for.

    Still seeking creative ways to teach about the other two pillars, though…

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