Recently, my friend Amara posted this question on Facebook:
(Miles when he was a Little)
Hey friends, what are some good resources to discuss Lent and the Lenten season with G? Most of what I've seen is geared for older kids, and just beyond his level of understanding. Thanks for your help!
As my boys are older, 9 and 13, most of what I write these days has to do with how to engage them, and their age group, because that is what I am in the thick of - the middle years. Those years when you think they are ignoring you, but in reality they are watching like hawks.
It's unnerving really.
My boys needed me with a physical intensity when they were young that wore me plumb out.
Lately, after a brief reprieve called Middle Elementary Years, things have reached a fevered pitch in the NEED department once again. But these days it's all emotional and mental. You see I have to watch them like a hawk. Without looking like I am watching. It's the dance we are calling Parenting Adolescents.
But I digress.
Back to Amara's question, which got me thinking:
How would I have explained Lent to my boys had we celebrated it diligently when they were younger?
And the answer I came up was this.
I would explain along it along the lines of a journey.
I would it explain it as A Wild Adventure.
A Noble Quest.
Like going camping in the forest, or on a African safari, or on a space trip to Mars, or stowing away on a ship with bunch of pirates or searching for a golden ring.
I would have related it to whatever kind of adventure would have enticed them most.
Then I would have told the story - probably several times, because they would interrupt me quite often with the most random comments - about the wild adventure that the Israelites went on for 40 YEARS! 40 YEARS!
And how they made a lot of mistakes.
But how God loved them. Period.
They couldn't lose his love.
And I would also tell the story of the wild adventure that Jesus went on into the wilderness for 40 DAYS! 40 DAYS!
And we could talk about the sort of things he gave up. And how bad he must have felt.
But how it was part of his quest.
And how he did it out of Love.
And we would talk in the car, and at dinner, and while coloring, while I gave them baths and we played with pirate boats, about what it would be like to go on that sort of adventure, and about the sort of mistakes we might make on a big quest. And about how great it is to know that God is always with us no matter how hard things or how many times we get in trouble - like he was with Jesus and the Israelites during their adventures.
Then I would say that one we say "thank you" to God for this always being with us and to Jesus for teaching us that we can do hard things, is that we go on our own adventure for 40 DAYS! 40 DAYS!
Because I am the crafty sort, and my kids are the costume sort, we might even make costumes for our adventure , and we would make a few items that are good to have when you go on any sort of wild journey.
For instance, when you go on a trip or an adventure there are several things it is handy to have with you
For the Map Here is one resource for a Lenten Map for kids complete with instructions. *Note the dates will be off and you will need to change those, but other than that it is pretty straight forward
My boys would have turned this into a pirate map in a heart beat.
For the Sign
I think the REMEMBER banner could be useful even at this stage - you could talk about how it's important to Remember Christ Adventure, that we are on a Adventure, the Israelite's Adventure etc.
For the Light
Light is always a big hit with kids.
You could give them a big flashlight to decorate with stickers, or together decorate a large candle that you could light each night at dinner.
You can make the connection about how the light helps us find our way when we are lost, that God is that Light in our hearts.
You can also make the connection to the Israelites who were led, in part, by a pillar of fire as they searched for the Promise Land.
And how we should share the light when we find someone who is lost along the way.
That even during a Quest and an Adventure it is important to keep our eyes open for others who may be having a hard time on their adventures, and to see how we can help them out - people who are hungry or cold or lonely
For the Bag
For this I would pack a small hobo pack - do you remember those? A handkerchief tied to a stick? Or maybe I would just give them an empty pillowcase.
And I would help them pack for their adventures but tell them they can only take what would fit in a hobo pack or pillowcase. What would they choose to take? What would it be hard to leave?
And this is how I would approach the disciplines of fasting and sacrifice for Lent.
What is something you can leave behind, aka "give up," for your 40 Day Adventure?
A favorite toy? TV Show? Sweet Treat?
Maybe at age 2 this would work, but by age 4 or 5 this idea of leaving one thing behind for those 40 Days would be something a child could comprehend. If they give up a toy, perhaps it goes to live somewhere else for the 40 Days? Or maybe you throw away all the sweet treats together?
That might not even be that great.
But maybe it will spark an idea.
But maybe it will spark an idea.
And there are many more wonderful ones out there if you need more ideas-
Here are some great collections of resources:
Megan's post on Lenten Resources
Rachel's post (she has done one every year for quite a while) on 40 Ideas for Lent
What about you? How would you answer Amara's question? Do you have a great resource you can share?