A simple Christian Easter idea

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Usually we are well into our Jesus tree count-down in the lead-up to Easter, along with other special Easter traditions. This year, with the recent arrival of our precious twins, we have been somewhat disorganised and needed something quick and easy. I put together this discussion tray using a bunch of symbols representing parts of the Easter story and over a couple of meals we passed it around the table. The children took turns choosing one symbol and explaining to each other the bible events represented by each.

We usually read an Easter book each day, taking turns to unwrap one every evening after dinner. (We do the same at Christmas.) This year, the special Easter book collection is simply out in a box on the coffee table for the children to read through when we have a few spare moments.

We always try to have a bunny free Easter and this year is no exception, we have just scaled everything back and are keeping it very low key. Still fun and hopefully adding some more special family times to our children’s memories.

Count down to a Christ-Centred Easter

We are reading the Easter story broken into daily segments for our count down to Easter and each morning the children come out to find a symbol matching the day’s reading on our Easter coffee table display. It is helping the younger ones understand the events surrounding this important time in the Christian calendar and allowing the older children to discuss, explain and notice things they haven’t bought about before. In depth discussions have been held about all sorts of things relating to the story, from scourging methods and what kind of damage was done to what our heavenly homes will be like.

Starting each day with circle time helps us get our focus right for the morning and means that I do not let the opportunity that Easter brings pass without ensuring that my own children understand what the death of Jesus means for them. They need to know that salvation and forgiveness for their sins is available  because Jesus died in their place. They need to understand that being a “good person” is not enough and that only through complete forgiveness in Jesus can we be made clean and ready to face God. Easter is a wonderful opportunity to focus on what God has done for us and the amazing simplicity of the cross and all it signifies.

 

A Christ-Centred Easter

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We missed the start of Lent again this year, however we randomly started our count-down to Easter last weekend with this simple daily plan. The stones and candles represent the days until Easter, with the candles being lit to correspond with the number of days remaining until Good Friday. The candles go out one by one as each day passes, leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross – as the light of the world dies. (A large white pillar candle will be lit on Easter Sunday to represent Jesus’ resurrection.)

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Each day in the little wooden bowl there will be a new object that represents the section of the Easter bible story that we will be reading and focussing on for that day. On day one it held palm branches and a donkey as we read about Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. Day two was a small red bag of silver coins for the 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas to betray Jesus – red because it was “blood money.”The symbols will be added to the base of the large vase, building up into a collection that reminds the children of all the events we have learnt about.IMG_9681

I have printed out some pictures from the web to go with each day’s event for the little children to cut and colour and hang on the bare branches of our Jesus tree.

We will also be reading or listening to a book each night about Easter, exactly as we do at Christmas time in our book-a-night advent count-down. These books are wrapped and the children take turns to choose and unwrap one to read each evening. I am interspersing these with a free downloadable audio recording of “The 12 Voices of Easter” as we don’t have enough books to get us all the way to Good Friday just yet. This tradition is one that they love at Christmas time and are very pleased to repeat for Easter. They are also excited to see what the new object will be each day. These are the simple traditions that we hope will give our children memories that last a lifetime.

If I get the chance, I will come back and add photographs of the symbols as I use them, but for now, here is a list of the ones we plan to do. I am reading from “The Children’s Bible” because it is simple enough for my young children to follow, yet has enough detail to cover all the main events of the Easter story and hold the attention of the older children as well.

IMG_9830Triumphal entrance Palm branches, donkey

IMG_9820I go to prepare a place in heaven for you

IMG_9828Last Supper Goblet, bread

IMG_9831Servant King Bowl of water, washcloth, soap – wash each others’ feet

IMG_9827Judas 30 silver coins

IMG_9826Garden of Gethsemane

IMG_9818 (1).jpgCaiaphas torn cloth for his torn robe, cotton wool ball clouds of heaven

IMG_9824Simon Peter Rooster feathers, handcuffs (arrested)

King Herod Crown, purple cloth, jewels

IMG_0109Pontius Pilot Bowl of water and jug, shimmering blue stones for water

IMG_9815The soldiers Dice, spears, crown of thorns, red cloth, scarlet cloak, nails

IMG_0110Simon of Cyrene Wooden cross

IMG_0111The thieves 3 crosses standing in bowl of sand

Mary Hearts – Mother’s love and sorrow

The person with the sponge Sponge with vinegar on a stick

Jesus’ Death on the Cross black cloth – darkness covered the land, piles of blocks – earthquake

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The Roman soldier Skewer spear (pierces Jesus’ side), little bowl of water and another with wine for blood – water and blood came out from Jesus’ side.

The Centurion Pile of tumbled blocks and heavy cloth (torn temple curtain) Jewelled cross symbolising Centurian’s belief

Joseph of Aramathea Stone and tomb

IMG_0124IMG_0114Nicodemus White shroud

IMG_0103IMG_0107The women spices; cloves, cinnamon, jar of ointment

IMG_0115The Tomb Empty eggs, empty tomb, butterfly (risen and changed)

IMG_0119Jesus appears – various; Fish & camp fire, sheep (feed my sheep)

us – the people of God Tray of sand for children to “write” their sins,  confess then wipe away. A pile of rock “burdens” imagine Jesus lifting all of your burdens off your shoulders and place at the cross. Playdough – sculpt things in our life that may become idols then crush them.

Ascension Cotton wool “clouds”

Holy Spirit Descends Candle, matches, oil lamp?

For more Christian Easter ideas see these posts;

Christian Easter activities for children (minus the bunny.)

“Grandpa’s Box” book review – a great book for any time but excellent as an Easter or Christmas count-down. The same bible stories told from a completely different viewpoint; as if we are engaged in a battle, which of course we are. Children who have grown up on the story surrounding Easter and are perhaps a little too familiar with it will be enthralled.

Jesus trees, Lent and Christian Easter ideas for children

Amon’s Adventure – another excellent daily reading book that is designed to be used as a count-down to Easter. There are several more in the series that we have used at Christmas time and the children love them. Each section ends on a cliff-hanger that has them begging for more as they have to wait for the next instalment the following evening. A fictional story set at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross. Good for 6-year-olds plus, although we read it to our whole family including the younger children as well.

Creating Christian Easter traditions

Jesse tree symbols for advent (can be used for Easter as well)

Christian Easter ideas for 2015

Creating Christian Easter traditions for children

 

 

Easter traditions and activities for children (minus the bunny)

Easter crosses

Easter is just around the corner and Lent has already begun. It’s time to start thinking about plans for this season if you haven’t already. I want to make more of Easter this year, considering the death and resurrection of Jesus is so important to the Christian faith, and yet Easter seems to creep up on me and not get the attention it deserves.

I have been going back over last years’ ideas (here and here) and pinning a bunch of new ideas to try on my Easter pinboard on Pinterest. (If you haven’t discovered Pinterest yet it’s a great way to keep track of all those wonderful ideas you find on the web and want to get around to doing “some day.”)

The children are colouring one symbol a day during Lent for our wooden cross “Jesus trees” and reading the related story from a fairly detailed children’s bible. I bought all the stuff to make a living hill of Calvary last year and never got it started so that is next on the plan this year. I want to make the tomb cookies with the really cool story …. and the list goes on.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering, the oranges in the photo above have no symbolism whatsoever – they just hold up the crosses really well 😉

What are you doing with your children this year?

Jesus trees, Lent and Christian Easter activities for children

This Easter we are continuing to build family traditions as we focus on the biblical events that are the foundations of the Easter celebration. Here are some of the new activities we are trying out for Easter this year. The ones we like will become yearly traditions, the others we’ll have fun doing just this time. We haven’t actually made any of these yet so they are untried recommendations, however they look like fun and we’ll take the punt that they are worth the time and effort.

We have already missed the start of lent and with our latest baby due any time now we will not be attempting the 40 day count down, but this Jesus tree activity we’ll save for next year. Similar to the Jesse tree that we made for Christmas, a Jesus tree uses picture or object symbols to represent the major biblical stories culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter. My plan for this is to collect 2 large branches and fasten them together to make a natural looking cross. We will then read the bible verses that go with each symbol, colour them in and add them to the cross over the 40 days of Lent. Free printable symbols are available at this blog, with a black and white and colour version as well.

In place of the Jesus tree count down we will use our resurrection eggs to count down the 12 days before Easer. (This year our resurrection eggs contain bible readings that retell the main events of Easter plus little symbols for each part that come from this blog.) I plan to hide one each day for the children to find and read during circle time.

These Easter story pecan cookies have an amazing amount of symbolism woven through the recipe. As each ingredient is added to the biscuits, a snippet of the Easter story is read that relates to that ingredient and even the way it is mixed or prepared has symbolism. The cookies are placed into the oven tomb are hollow when the tomb is re-opened. I can’t wait to do this one.

These resurrection rolls (scroll down at the link to find them) are also very symbolic, with the Easter story attached to the method of preparing and the ingredients used. Rather than buy a prepared dough that we probably can’t get in Australia anyway, I’ll just mix up a basic sweet dough in the bread maker and use that. Even sheets of prepared pastry would work.

We will use these symbols of Jesus to decorate Easter crosses by cutting out just the pictures and make cute cracked egg Easter cards. This article with general information about Lent was helpful as I really didn’t have much of an idea what Lent was all about and we’ll make these simple palm branches for Palm Sunday.

The legend of the pretzel was another great find this year. I had no idea that there was symbolism attached to pretzels or that they were traditionally an Easter food. We will attempt the paper pretzel pattern (although I made one myself and found it easier to do it by trial and error as I had no idea whatsoever how to follow the instructions they gave!) I think the children will have much more fun making real dough pretzels and topping them with a variety of flavours.

Another paper craft was this paper plate tomb and angel and a bunch of Easter lapbook activities from a variety of sites:

More ideas are available in my last post here.

Creating Christian Easter traditions

So much hype surrounds Christmas and with all the decorations, gifts and preparation we naturally spend quite a bit of time deliberately focussing on Jesus and the true meaning of the Christmas celebrations. Easter however tended to be very low-key and while we always read to the children about Easter in the bible we felt that much more could be done to mark this important Christian celebration than we had been doing. After all, Easter is when Jesus dies for our sins so that we may be forgiven and enabled us through His death to be judged fit to enter heaven. Probably the most important time in the Christian calendar and yet almost unnoticed for many families, other than a couple of chocolate eggs and a hot cross bun!

The following are a couple of ideas that we have begun and will extend upon over the following years in order to focus our children on the important meaning behind this time of year.

Decorations: We decorate for Christmas, why not Easter? We have started a selection of symbols, books and Easter resources that we use to make a display leading up to the Easter period. This year we are making a living Easter centrepiece that I found here: http://mustardseeds.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/03/tutorial-hill-of-calvary.html

Traditions:

  • We use a sand tray to re-tell the Easter story with a yoghurt pot tomb, rock to cover the entrance, pipecleaner people, popstick crosses, etc. and leave it out for the children to manipulate and play with.
  • On Easter Friday we re-tell the story again using a paper mache tomb that we made together a couple of years ago (in the picture above), wrapping a pipe cleaner “Jesus” in a bandage and sealing him into the tomb by rolling the stone over the entrance. On Easter Sunday we get up before the children, unwrap Jesus and leave the cloth laying in the tomb, roll the stone aside and place an angel figurine from our Christmas decorations on the top of the tomb. The first time we did this my then 5 year old daughter was stunned and stood gaping at the tomb saying in amazement “Jesus really HAS risen!!” We had to explain to her that there hadn’t really been any Easter pipe cleaner man miracle!
  • We do allow the children to have chocolate Ester eggs. For Christians wanting the focus to stay on Jesus at Easter, chocolate eggs can be quite controversial. We decided as the children would more than likely be given chocolate eggs anyway, we would use the egg and teach them the Christian symbolism behind it. The focus is on the egg being a sign of new life (Jesus coming alive again) and being hollow inside like the tomb after he rose. We read stories like “The Legend of The Easter Egg” by Lori Walburg which reinforce the symbolism behind the egg.

The Legend of the Easter Egg

  • We do have an Easter egg hunt on the Sunday. Instead of finding tonnes of chocolate eggs though, we use resurrection eggs. Commercial resurrection eggs are available online and in Christian stores and we do have a set of these, however we have made our own in a variety of forms over the last couple of years and used these. Resurrection eggs contain bible readings that retell the main events of Easter plus little symbols for each part. We usually finish the hunt with one chocolate egg each. This year our home-made resurrection eggs come from here: http://www.annieshomepage.com/eastereggstext.html

  • We have also had a treasure hunt on the Sunday where clues on large paper eggs led from one location to another. Each clue egg had the next part of the Easter story on it which we read together before following the clue to the next paper egg. We finished the hunt with real china egg cups with a chocolate egg inside for each child.
  • “The Lamb” by John Cross is another brilliant book to read at Easter or anytime really. It begins with creation and makes a clear identification between Jesus and the sacrificed lamb for forgiveness of sins. Each chapter starts with a review and has questions at the end to check understanding. Included with the book is a 60 minute CD, providing a word for word narration. I have seen my three year old come ahead in leaps and bounds in her understanding of the gospel, however it was more than sophisticated enough for anything up to teens to read on their own. An excellent resource for circle time, family devotions or just to read together.Only available in Australia here: http://www.goodseed.com/products/lamb-eng-book/


More ideas for Easter traditions and activities coming over the next couple of days.