When trying to make religious occasions accessible to kids, it seems as though the “holy grail” of them all is Lent and even, to a certain extent, Easter.
We got through Easter last year with my then 2 year old by telling her that we were celebrating Jesus “going to heaven.” She accepted this explanation without rancor and even managed to internalize why we color eggs, ate lamb, and went to church more
The bunny is still a stretch, even for me, so we just left it as “the Easter bunny wanted to help so much that God gave him this special job every year.” Amusingly enough, now that we are starting to talk about Easter this year (and are discussing the potential for another child this year), I told my now preschooler that “bunnies are symbols of new life (fertility) because they have lots of babies.” To which she responded, “Mommy, you should be the Easter bunny this year because you have lots of babies too!”
But this year, we wanted to go a bit deeper into our faith and help Jenna celebrate the season of Lent. She absolutely loved the Advent calendar that we made, and I adore the concept of the Jesse Tree, which we’ll be trying for the first time this winter. So, I wanted to do something similar to prepare for and celebrate Easter.
Enter: the Lenten tree.
I saw this idea of a Lenten activity tree and, the idea of having Lenten activities tied to the basic premises of “prayer, fasting, and almsgiving” really resonated with me. As opposed to hanging the paper activities, I decided to use plastic Easter eggs. Given the fact that my children are VERY enamored with plastic eggs, I chose to use them to house our various activities (that, and I got over zealous at an impressive after-Easter sale last year and am in possession of roughly 150 plastic Easter eggs).
Finally, I wanted to create a family tradition that would grow with us and also could inspire the purpose of Lent (preparing for Easter through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) and the meaning of Easter (rising from death to life) for my young kids. So, here’s what we’re going to do:
(1) Make a “Lenten Tree” with basic branches and plain white eggs. Every day, open one white egg (I’m going to unobtrusively number them so I can make sure we can accomplish each task while bearing in mind our other weekly commitments) and complete the activity. Place the completed egg around the tree. We’re using part of our homemade cupcake stand for this purpose.
(2) Eventually, on the Saturday before Easter, we will have a bare tree.
(3) On Easter morning, the plain white eggs will have been replaced with brightly colored eggs. They will be back on the tree, along with some other decorations/treats, and they will be filled with “goodies” (food, stickers, small toys, etc).
That’s the plan! Ultimately, here’s what I’m hoping to model: (1) life of service to God through each daily task; (2) death in its basic scarcity as seen by the bare tree branches; and (3) resurrection in all of its “milk and honey” glory with the transformation of the tree on Easter to vibrant colors and treats!
Here’s what I used:
- Lenten Tree
- Homemade cupcake stand
- 8 bags of shred (3 brown, 1 purple, 4 combination green and shiny)
- Easter tree
- 50 plastic eggs (I have two kids, so an even number is somewhat essential for familial accord)
- Goodies (just be careful of chokeables for the littles)
- Goldfish, raisins, fruit chews, puffs, yogurt drops, nuts, mini pretzels (really, any mini food)
- stickers, matchbox cars, legos, play jewelry, temporary tattoos, glow sticks, hair clips, beads + lace to make a bracelet/necklace, balloon, sponge capsule animals, play-do, mini nail polish, bouncing ball, marbles
(1) Compile your own Lenten activities and plan when you’d like to accomplish each activity during Lent.
(2) Sometime before Ash Wednesday, go on a walk to collect branches.
Author’s Note: Jenna loves to “collect treasures” on our walks, so she was thrilled to have them used in our latest project.
(3) Fill your vase with the rocks and branches, and put it somewhere prominent. Add any other decoration you think would set the mood (we used a raffa ribbon to keep things basic).
(5) Paint eggs, let dry, add second coat. You really could use any paint you want, but I liked the matte look of chalk paint the best.
(6) After the paint dries, number your eggs with pen or sharpie (pencil will etch your paint more easily).
Author’s Note: Keep a list of which activity is in which numbered egg so that you can alter your plans as need be.
(8) Stuff colored eggs with “goodies,” string them as white eggs above (I used green ribbon instead of purple for the Easter eggs), and store in a safe place until Easter morning.
(9) Place on your stand and surround with “shred” (available at the Dollar Store and most local craft stores).
Here’s what the transformation will *hopefully* look like off of the stand:
And on the stand: