North Americans celebrate Easter in a variety of ways — treat-filled baskets, egg hunts, new Sunday clothes. Although there is nothing wrong with these traditions, Easter is so much bigger than dyed eggs and bunnies. As Christians, we celebrate Christ's resurrection and the new life He gives us.
To help you bring the Easter story to life for your children, the editors of Thriving Family have compiled a week of Christ-focused activities. They are not meant to replace your family's traditional Easter activities, but to help your children learn more about Jesus' sacrifice and victory over death at Easter.
In Jesus' time, palm branches were used in celebrations or to honor dignitaries. Read John 12:12-13. Have your kids make palm branches out of green construction paper and decorate the dinner table with their creations. Place extra "branches" on a path from the entryway to the table to mark a path of honor. Before dinner, discuss the meaning of Hosanna, which could have been an appeal for divine help or salvation, or a way to praise Jesus. Ask your children what they might shout if they saw Jesus coming down the road today.
Bake bread as a family, and discuss why Jesus called himself the Bread of Life. Point out that just as bread gives us nutrition and sustains us physically, Jesus offers us eternal life and sustains us spiritually. Put the bread in a basket. Then add some Easter goodies and at least one item that shares the Easter message, such as a bookmark, tract or Biblezine (for tweens). Deliver the basket to someone who may need an extra dose of kindness this week.
Make an Easter picture tree. Anchor a small branch in a pot. Have your kids look through magazines and cut out images that remind them of Jesus. Examples: A lamp because He is the Light of the World or a road because He is the one way to heaven. Glue pictures on card stock, attach short pieces of string, and hang the pictures on the branches.
Send your children on an Easter scavenger hunt. Instruct them to find items that symbolize different parts of the Easter story. Examples: A rock (the tomb), two sticks (the Cross), something black (sin), something red (blood), something white (a clean heart), something green (growing in Christ). Older children can go on a digital scavenger hunt, taking photographs of items that remind them of Easter.
1.Experience your own Maundy Thursday foot-washing ceremony. Fill a bucket with water. Grab a few towels, gather your family, and share the story found in John 13:1-17. Then take turns washing each other's feet and praying for one another.
2.Read Luke 22:39-46. Visit a garden or park and pray there. Chat about Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Have your kids talk about what plans they have for tomorrow and what Jesus may have been thinking about for the next day.
3.Talk with your children about a time when a friend hurt their feelings. Read Matthew 26:14-16, 47-56. Then give your children a dollar bill. Ask if they would trade it for five nickels. Thirty pennies? Determine which has the most value. Discuss how Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins and what a poor trade he made. Ask your children how Jesus must have felt when His friend betrayed Him.
1.Make a cross out of wood scraps. Ask each family member to think of an attitude or action from the past week that they knew didn't make God happy. Have family members write their thoughts on a piece of paper, fold it and pin it to the cross. Talk about how Jesus suffered the punishment for all of our sins so that we would not have to.
2.Place a white carnation in a vase. Read 1 Peter 1:18-19. Discuss with your children what it meant that Jesus was a "lamb without blemish or defect." Add a dozen drops of red food coloring to the water. Watch what happens over the next two or three days. Use the red flower petals as a reminder that Jesus took our sins upon himself when He died on the Cross.
3.Have your kids take turns sharing stories about bullies from school or cyberbullies online. Talk about how people often treat others unkindly because they are hurting inside, and point out that they need forgiveness just like we do. Read the story about the repentant criminal who hung on the cross next to Jesus (Luke 23:39-43). Let your children tell how they may have acted unkind when they didn't take the thoughts or feelings of another into consideration. Lead them in prayer, confessing your failings in this area. Allow your kids time (but don't force them) to confess, also.
1.Take a morning walk around your neighborhood. Talk about how spring reminds us of the new life Jesus gives us. Point out the signs of new life that are starting to appear.
2.Let your kids help you clean your windows. Talk about how much better they can see through them afterward. Read Luke 18:31-34. Explain that the disciples did not see clearly at first. They did not understand that Jesus had to die and rise from the dead — until He did!
3.That evening, decorate a plain white tablecloth with fabric markers or a disposable plastic one with Sharpies. Let your children illustrate the tablecloth with symbols of Easter. Use the tablecloth for Easter dinner the following day.
1.Read Matthew 27:57-61. Then ask your children for a volunteer. Wrap him or her in toilet paper, or "grave clothes." After your kids have stopped giggling, allow the volunteer to break free from the toilet paper. Talk about how sad the disciples must have felt and how happy they must have been when they saw that Jesus had conquered death.
2.Go to a park, search for an oversized boulder and try to move it. Read Matthew 27:62-66; 28:1-4. Discuss how a large stone couldn't keep Jesus in the tomb and how surprised the soldiers must have been when it was rolled away.
3.During Easter dinner, have cupcakes for dessert with one candle on each. Use trick candles to show how Jesus, the Light of the World, appeared to be extinguished but wasn't. Light the candles and together blow them out. When the candles relight themselves, talk about how everyone thought Jesus' light had disappeared, but it hadn't. He was and still is alive!
4.Take a night hike as a family. Observe how a flashlight ensures safe stepping. Remind your children how Jesus came into the world to guide our steps and show us the way to God.
~ Get more Easter activities from Focus on the Family. ~
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------This article first appeared in the March/April, 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was originally titled "Exploring Easter." Copyright © 2011 by Focus on the Family. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
He has Risen!