Thursday, Feb 26
When our older children were preschoolers, I had a difficult time trying to explain Lent. Words like “sacrifice,” “suffering,” and “penance” weren’t typical topics of conversation over fruit snacks or Pirate’s Booty. I remember being worried about the children being too young to understand or grasp the details of the story. For example, how would I explain to them why the Jews were singing “Hosanna!” one day, and “Crucify Him!” the next? I was overwhelmed. Over time, I collected books that would help me to tell the story of Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Illustrations in children’s books depicting Jesus’ crucifixion tend to be appropriate for kids. And many of the stories that I got out at the library (and later purchased for our home library) depicted the story through the eyes of animals, which is very appealing to preschoolers. Advent and Christmas books that tell the Nativity story utilizing animals are easy to find. There aren’t nearly as many for Lent and Easter, but I have compiled a list for you. These books will hopefully be a child-like way of teaching your little ones the mysteries of the faith that we adults know so well.
Happy Saints Way of the Cross eBook, Victor Teh
The Tale of Three Trees, Retold by Angela Elwell Hung
Stations of the Cross by Father Lovasik, S.V.D.
The Story of Easter by Aileen Fisher
Jesus Written and Illustrated by Demi
Eyewitness Animals: The Story of Easter by Robin Gurrie
The Miracles of Jesus by Tomie DePaola
The Jesus Garden: An Easter Legend by Antoinette Bosco
The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith
The Easter Swallows by Vicki Howie
Easter Eggs for Anya: A Ukrainian Celebration of New Life in Christ by Virginia Kroll
The Very First Easter by Paul L. Maier
The Easter Story by Patricia Pingry
The Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul
Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day by Carol Benoist and Cathy Gilmore
Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco
An Easter Garden is a beautiful way to share the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection with your children. And the peg people are so fun to make and can be used year after year. We usually don’t plant our Easter Garden until about half way through Lent simply because it’s so cold and I like to keep kids working with potting soil outside. Our Easter Garden gets the most use during Holy Week. The children love putting the little peg person Jesus in the tomb. They set up all the characters in the garden and act out the events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Happily, this is a teaching tool that is useful for a large range of ages. Even my ten year old loves “playing” with the peg people in the Easter Garden. It looks a lot like playing, at least, but I know what’s really happening. He’s recalling the story of his salvation, and that’s good stuff.
Once a week during Lent, we pray The Stations of the Cross in the comfort of our living room. I look forward to going to Friday Stations at our Parish Church someday, but we’re just not at that point yet. Praying the Stations at home allows us to utilize shorter children’s meditations and prayers. We can go at our own pace, and to be honest, that’s a pretty fast one. We are able to stop and start when we need to, and do them at a time of day that is suitable to our family’s schedule. The first year we did the Stations at home was very difficult. The children who were not yet school age really struggled to sit still. You might not be able to see it in the photo above, but I am “snuggling” with Bright Eyes in order to keep him calm and still. Some might call it “pinning him down.” This past weekend, we prayed the Stations on Saturday, right after we put Little One to bed. It was calm, and peaceful. Everyone sat still with their little Happy Saints Way of the Cross Booklet and read. We knelt on the floor for the Twelfth Station and when we made it to the end, allowed the children to blow out all the candles. (Isn’t it funny how they love blowing out candles so much?) The Hubs and I reflected later that evening about how far they’ve all come. It’s taken us a few years, but the children really are growing up and learning how to be prayerful and reverent.
I hope these ideas help you if you’re journeying through Lent with preschoolers.