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After the long Autumn term – which feels like it’ll never end – this term, by comparison, goes in a flash. Linger in January for a moment too long, and suddenly it’s Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and BANG! We’re into Lent.
I love using the seasons and festivals to make some family traditions and – more importantly, for me – draw my family closer to Jesus.
But our family life right now is so manic that I live day-to-day, with little forward planning. I’ll get to Shrove Tuesday evening with nothing prepared to get my littlies through Lent, and think “Dammit! I wanted to make MEMORIES!” In protest, I will give up Pinterest and every other vehicle designed to make parents feel rubbish, and bury my head in the sand, pulling out the odd tradition whenever it fits or I remember.
So – this year will be different. Yes it will! Lent starts in three weeks, and I’m determined to make the most of it. If you fancy finding something family-oriented to teach your kiddoes about Lent, Easter and the Christian tradition, I’ve pulled together a few tried-and-tested ideas for you here:
Use ready-made stories and creative activities
There are many resources out there which will give you ready-made material, but one which I particularly recommend is Follow Me.
For more detail, you can check out my review of this all-age Lent devotional – but allow me to give the bare facts here: it’s fun, it’s flexible and Amy’s done the hard work for you, so all you need is this book and (occasionally) a few basic props or materials – nothing you can’t find around the house.
You can pick and choose what works best for your kids (everything’s designed to make you consider a Bible story from different perspectives and angles) and you simply choose what appeals.
Whether you want something to use every day, or just once a week, this resource works well. I reckon it’s best for primary-aged kids, and probably slightly younger too – we used this two years ago for our then 4- and 6-year olds, and are planning to use it this year for our 3-3-6-8 combo.
Pray with a Lent prayer tree
This is a simple concept, but one which is engaging for children and adults alike.
You pray for a different friend, family member or situation each day – it can be as simple as mentioning them by name, or you can print out some photos to keep things visual and stimulating for your little ones. And then you stick their name or photo on your ‘tree’. We used this when our kids were very young – babies and toddlers – but obviously as your kids grow, this idea becomes more about them verbalising their own prayers.
You can make one, of course (I did this a few years back but it didn’t get used again!) – but to save time and effort, I thoroughly recommend Hope & Ginger’s beautiful Lent prayer tree. You get a beautiful A4 tree to stick on the wall, stickers to add each day that you pray, and a fabulous journal, with an idea of what to pray about each day throughout Lent.
Sign up for 40acts
This is a wonderful and practical way of developing kindness, generosity and selflessness through Lent, and is a great fit for creative/industrious children who prefer to be doing rather than listening. You don’t have to follow a particular faith to enjoy and get lots out of 40acts!
Last year Missy did it, and she raised £80 for charity through selling cakes and cookies she’d baked herself. With our help, she researched which charities to donate to. The best part is that the actual poster containing the 40acts is FREE – you just download and print it. But if you want the convenience of a pack containing resources and stickers to go along with this, I recommend Godventure’s ‘Exploring Generosity’.
Start a gift-giving tradition
Yes, I know our privileged Western kids have way too much as it is, but hear me out on this one. If Lent is supposed to be a time of focussing on, and drawing closer to, Jesus, then perhaps one of the most wonderful, yet simplest, traditions we can start for our children is to give ‘Lent presents’: something to help them in their faith journey.
Last year, on Ash Wednesday morning, my children woke up to an unexpected gift at the breakfast table. Mister, then 7, received his first unabridged Bible (we went for the International Children’s Bible, which is a very clear translation for early readers), and Missy received the Exploring Generosity kit mentioned above.
We Western Christian parents spend so much on our kids each year in clothes, toys, hobbies and interests – how much more, then, should we be prioritising generous investment in good-quality resources to help them develop their faith?
Explore the Lent Family Creative Journal
This is a simpler resource to take you through Lent than Follow Me – and it’s free in PDF form!
The downside is there’s not as much material to work with, but that takes the pressure off having to do something every day. It’s just as creative, with lots of different activity suggestions, but you may need to put in more effort to actually do them – think of it as the scaffolding for what could be a really explorative, creative Lent if you’re prepared to add the bricks.
Of course the random picking of odd traditions here or there as you remember is a fun way to go as well! None of the above ideas are necessary in order to cultivate a prayerful, God-centred family life – but I hope they’re helpful to those of you who have the time and desire to try something different this year.
Over to you…which great Lent resources or traditions can you recommend? Have you used any of the above? I’d love to know what you end up trying out!
And, for more ideas, check out 30 Simple Lent Ideas for Families!