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.

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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.