As we observe the season of Lent, I’ve been thinking about how careful we need to be to not “leave Jesus hanging on the cross” as we talk about His death and resurrection with the young children in our lives.
I’ve hesitated writing this post because the last thing I want to do is make someone feel self-conscious or sad about doing this in the past. Let me be the first to say that I don’t always do this perfectly! And, if you are someone who has never thought about this issue before, please don’t stress about it. Here’s just something to think about going forward: Don’t leave Jesus on the cross!
Here’s what I mean:
In the Church, especially around Easter, we have a tendency to focus on our sin and on the sadness and sorrow of Good Friday and the crucifixion. Rightly, we want people to understand their sin and need for a Savior.
Talking about our sins and all the things we’ve done wrong and how Jesus died on the cross to redeem our sins.
Writing our sins down on a piece of paper and hammering them into a wooden cross.
But, we have to be careful with children to not “stay” in that zone, for two reasons:
Children don’t have the same time concept as adults. My 3 -year-old still can’t quite remember the difference between yesterday and tomorrow. She can’t always recall a conversation I had with her earlier today. While this will obviously get better, even elementary school children don’t have a superb sense of time, in the same way teenagers and adults do.
Until around age 12, children are not abstract thinkers. They need things concretely explained to them. When we do an activity like “nailing our sins to the cross” (by writing a sin on a piece of paper), they can’t retain that activity over the course of two days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. They’re not processing that symbolism the same way adults do.
So, here’s a general rule when working with children, I would say all the way up through age 12 or so:
Don’t leave Jesus on the cross. If you talk about the crucifixion, talk about the resurrection in the next breath. If you lead an activity about sin and death, wrap it up with a component describing His victory from the grave.
In our family, I try to make sure we always say something like, “Jesus died on the cross and rose againon Easter,” rather than simply talking about Jesus dying on the cross and leaving it at that.
After all, what’s the value of His death on the cross if we don’t remember He rose again on Easter morning?
I want the victory of Easter to be ingrained in the minds and hearts of the children I teach.
I want to be sensitive to any Catholic Christian readers of Faith Passed Down. I understand there are reasons for crucifixes depicting Jesus on the cross, and I’m not trying to demean that practice.
Just make sure that as you view a cross with Jesus hanging on it with your young children, you point out that He’s not on the cross anymore – we can remember our sins and also remember that He rose victorious from the grave!
We’ve been enjoying some Lent/Easter activities at our house this week, and I wanted to share some ideas that have worked for us. I’ve included tips for doing these crafts with a variety of age groups.
This is the only idea on this list not from Pinterest, but instead from my own mom! She is a Christian-school Kindergarten teacher and I remember making this poster long ago when I was a student in her class!
I adapted it based on my memories, and we’re making it gradually as the days get closer to Easter.
I cut out a cross from purple construction paper (I just happened to have no plain purple paper, but did have this beautiful scrapbook paper when I went hunting!) Together Elle and I glued it to a piece of black construction paper. We used white glue to make an outline of the cross and added some glitter to make it fancy.
Now each day (as I think of it), we’re adding a symbol of the Easter story. I would use a hot-glue gun if possible, though it’s been working okay for me so far to just use regular Elmer’s glue.
Here are ideas for what to include:
green paper palm branch – for Palm Sunday
matzah cracker – for the bread Jesus broke at the Last Supper, saying, “This is My body.”
cardboard wine cup, painted silver – for the cup, saying “This is My blood.”
nickel – to represent the pieces of silver that Judas received for betraying Jesus.
a small piece of thorns – for the crown of thorns – You could use a stick that looks a little “pokey” if you don’t have access to thorns or are worried about injury.
white cotton – to represent the linens used to wrap Jesus’ body
sponge – to represent the sponge used to give Jesus a drink when He was on the cross
plastic toothpick sword, for the spear used to pierce Jesus’ side
paper bowl + small piece of white cloth, used to represent washing of disciples’ feet
white cloth or gauze – grave cloths used to wrap Jesus’ body
We had already put glitter on the outside of the cross, and then I was talking to my mom and she said that after Easter, they would put tissue paper to outline the cross as a “victory! Hooray He is risen!” sort of thing. I loved that idea. You could have kids crumple up little balls of brightly colored tissue and glue, or you can also use the end of a pencil (the eraser side) – wrap a tissue square around it, then place it on some glue, and it will look like flowers.
For younger kids: Cut and prepare all the parts of the poster ahead of time. If using hot glue, you will need to the gluing. Even for toddlers/preschoolers, this is a nice way to talk about the significance of some of these items – similar to doing Resurrection Eggs, but with a tangible thing to look at on the wall.
For older children/teenagers: They can cut and prepare the parts of the poster themselves. You could even offer a number of items, but allow them to choose the ones most significant (for example, make 6 items available, but have them choose each choose their 4 favorites). You could provide variety through different kinds of patterned scrapbook paper for the cross or different colors of glitter.
I loved how super-simple this activity was, with just colored construction paper and a glue stick.
For younger kids: Cut out all the squares + a cross for each child ahead of time. Assist with gluing.
For older children/teenagers: Offer whole sheets of paper and have students cut out the squares and crosses themselves. You could provide ideas for different “shaped” crosses (some with curly embellishments on the end, different sizes, etc.) You could also provide different patterns of paper for variety.
Another super simple activity. Afterwards, we used the branches to role-play the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem. We waved the branches and shouted “Hosanna.” My 3 year old went and got her stuffed dog off her bed and “rode” it like a donkey when she pretended to be Jesus!
For younger kids: This is perfect for young children who are still learning cutting skills. You cut out the shape of the palm branch, then let the child cut out the “fringe.”
For older children/teenagers: This craft may be too basic for older children or teenagers.
Here’s another activity we’re doing gradually, adding a symbol or two as the week goes on (that’s why it’s not all colored-in yet in the picture above.)
For younger kids: Cut out the shapes ahead of time. For my 3 year old, she seemed to color more thoroughly when I cut out the details of the entire shape and provided a piece of scratch paper underneath, rather than when I gave her the whole piece of paper, including some extra space on the outside of the shape, planning to cut it out later.
For older children/teenagers: Provide the entire printable (available at link above) and let them do their own cutting. I had trouble getting the text to print on the eggs, so I am just handwriting on a blank egg. Older children/teenagers with small penmanship can do this, too.
Check out the linked post for the idea behind this project, and a wonderful book to go along with it. The blog post doesn’t provide very specific directions, so here’s what we did:
Trace handprints with a pencil onto a white piece of paper. (I just used computer paper, and it folded/rolled very easily, which was nice.)
Cut out the handprints.
Take a green pipe cleaner (the entire thing) + a small piece of yellow pipe cleaner (I cut a full-length one into thirds). Wrap the yellow piece around the tip of the green pipe cleaner – I just twisted them together. You’re trying to make the yellow pollen part of the lily, along with the green stem.
Wrap/roll the handprint around the pipe cleaner, enclosing the yellow part, and secure with tape.
We made a few and put into a vase. We also made some hearts (“Because Jesus loves us!” said Elle) and wrapped those two together, which made kind of a tulip shape.
For younger kids: This activity would be great for kids who can cut. We’re not there yet with my 3-year-old, so I did find myself doing most of the “work” of this craft, but she was happy to help fold the pipe cleaner and tape it, and we did end up with a lovely table decoration!
For older children: Allow them to do the tracing and cutting themselves. Provide different colored paper for variety, or recommend trying different shapes besides just a handprint.
**Have you done any activities for Lent/Easter? Leave a comment below telling your favorites.