Age Specific Activities and Discussions to Explain the Resurrection and Make Wonderful Memories
BY CHRISTIE JOHNSON & OLYA FESSARD APRIL 2019
Explaining Easter to you young children is tricky. It’s somewhat like explaining childbirth. If you give too much detail, you risk frightening them. And yet, you want to share the beautiful story. It requires a delicate balance and age-appropriateness to make Easter special and meaningful to them. Perhaps you might decide to give them a little more detail each year as they grow up. But where to start?
A few years back, one mom shared this story about Easter that we think is worth repeating. Brandi Avera of Warner Robins told us, “Easter is extremely important to our family. As Christians, this day symbolizes that we serve a risen savior.” To mark the holiday, Avera started a tradition with her son when he was two years old in hopes of making the holiday more meaningful.
“We started making resurrection rolls,” she says. The rolls are an Easter recipe using rolls with marshmallows wrapped inside that become hollow as they bake; they represent the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. Avera says when you break them open, they are empty inside.
“At first, he just wanted to eat the raw dough. He always loves helping in the kitchen and this was a fun way to show him the true meaning of Easter, as well as create great memories,” she adds. “Hudson is always surprised to see that the marshmallow is gone when the rolls are done and this opens up a great teaching moment for us, as parents. It’s almost like a game of hide and seek or peek a boo!”
Senior Minister Jimmy Asbell from Vineville United Methodist Church says Easter is a celebration for Christians because it is the day that God raised Jesus from the dead. “The eggs, the candy, the new clothes that are part of the celebration are fun and fine as long as we teach what we are celebrating,” he says. “The story behind the celebration gives meaning and purpose to what we do.”
But even church leaders admit this can be a hard concept for children to grasp. A good start might be reading the Easter story to kids from an age-appropriate Bible. Decide on a specific time, maybe a few minutes before the egg hunt to make it not just about the egg hunt or getting the goodies from the plastic shells. Although opening the shells and leaving them empty can also be a teaching tool.
For many, Easter also marks the beginning of the spring season, a chance to celebrate new life and new beginnings. It’s the perfect opportunity for parents to create a memorable way to mark the holiday. Here are some suggestions:
Make it a day of service
“Visit a shut-in, make Easter baskets for children in need and care baskets for the adults,” says Garrett. It’s a great time to give back.
The Jellybean prayer jar
This popular craft is used by numerous Protestant and Catholic sources. The craft is ordinarily started on Ash Wednesday, but don’t let this stop you; there’s still time to fill the prayer jar!
You’ll just need a small jar for each child who’ll be participating. Paste a copy of a prayer on each jar after you determine what behavior each color of jellybean represents (as seen below). White jellybeans cannot be earned! They signify God’s grace and will be used later. Here is an example of what some of the colors could represent. (Feel free to personalize this part of the prayer based on your own children, their ages, and their specific understanding of Biblical concepts.)
Red symbolizes the blood Jesus gave for us. Each morning, choose something that can be sacrificed to earn the red jellybean. It must be something that the child would have had the opportunity to have or do that day.
Green is for the palm’s cool shade. Green jellybeans can be earned for good deeds. Example: It was a good deed to provide shade for Jesus with the palm.
Yellow is for God’s light so bright! Yellow jellybeans can be earned by sharing God’s light through showing kindness to others.
Orange is for prayers at twilight or bedtime. Orange jellybeans can be earned for attentive behavior during bedtime prayers / Bible reading.
Black (or blue if kids don’t like black flavor) is for sweet rest at night. Black jellybeans can be earned for going to bed without fuss.
Purple is for Jesus’ days of sorrow (or His Passion). Purple jellybeans can be earned by apologizing to anyone we hurt with our words or actions.
Pink is for forgiveness and each new tomorrow. Pink jellybeans can be earned when we forgive those who hurt us, whether or not they apologize to us
White is for the Grace of Christ. It is a gift, and can not be earned.
On Easter morning, Mom and Dad fill up the empty space in the jar with white jellybeans, to symbolize God’s grace.
Using 12 plastic eggs, fill each with a symbol that shows Christ’s sacrifice:
Egg # 1: Crouton, small piece of bread, or broken cracker to represent the “last supper.”
Egg #2: Feather to represent the rooster that crowed after Peter denied Jesus those three times.
Egg #3: Three silver coins to represent the money Judas sold and betrayed, Jesus for.
Egg #4: Photo of Jesus crowned in thorns. Talk about how the thorns pierced His head for us. The massive thorns that grow in the Middle East are up to six inches long each.
Egg #5: Two small sticks that can be held up in the shape of a cross. Talk about the cross and how it was used to put common criminals to death.
Egg #6: Large nails representing the nails that held Jesus’ hands and feet to the cross.
Egg #7: Cotton ball with vinegar representing the vinegar that was offered to Jesus when he said, “I thirst.”
Egg #8: Tooth pick representing the spear that was shoved into the side of Jesus.
Egg # 9: Cotton ball with essential oils or whole cloves representing the spices, oils, and perfumes that were used to anoint His body before His burial.
Egg #10: White cloth to represent the cloths that were wrapped around His body after His death.
Egg # 11: A small rock representing the grave in the garden and the stone that was rolled away from the entrance when Jesus rose again.
Egg #12: An empty egg to represent the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurection!
Alternate Egg-filling Ideas: a small cross, a small sponge dipped in vinegar, black cloth (the temple curtain or dark day), a small grapevine wreath (crown of thorns), flowers (Easter), a small numeral 3 (three days), a small piece of evergreen (palm branch), a cracker (Last Supper), a stone, and any other objects you wish to use to tell the Easter story.
Easter story cookies
This craft from Catholicmom.com makes baking cookies with the children a meaningful bonding experience. Each part of the cookie making process reveals a portion of the Easter story. These special cookies should be made the evening before Easter.
1 c. whole pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
1 c. sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place pecans in zipper baggy and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested, the Roman soldiers beat Him. Read John 19:1-3.
Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1-tsp. vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross He was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.
Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.
Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.
So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1-c. sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16.
Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God’s eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isa.1: 18 and John 3:1-3.
Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matt. 27:57-60.
Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door, and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. Read Matt. 27:65-66.
Now it’s time for bed. Explain that he or she may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22.
On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matt. 28:1-9.
Egg hunt at night
Drop glow sticks into plastic eggs and hide them outside at night. Let the kids loose to find them.
Plant an Easter lily
These beautiful, fragrant flowers will bloom every year. Plant one every year and fill your garden with memories.
Note: If you have cats that go outside, this idea should be skipped as even a slight amout of the lily’s pollen or a nibbled petal can cause organ failure in cats.
Attend a sunrise service
Attend a sunrise service: Riverside United Methodist Church at 735 Pierce Avenue will celebrate Easter with a Sunrise Service held at 7:00 a.m., April 21, 2019. An interdenominational worship service is offered by several churches on Wesleyan College’s Great Lawn. Call first. Search and you will find a service near you.
Whatever you do, Easter offers the perfect chance to create lasting memories with your children that can quickly become a seasonal tradition. At the same time you will be helping to raise your children to value Christ and the true meaning behind Easter rather than the Easter Bunny! #
Resurrection Rolls Recipe
1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough
8 large marshmallows
Give each child one triangle shaped section of crescent roll. This represents the tomb.
Each child takes one marshmallow which represents the body of Christ.
Dip the marshmallow in the butter and roll in cinnamon and sugar mixture. This represents the oils and spices the body was anointed with upon burial.
Lay the marshmallow on the dough and carefully wrap it around the marshmallow.
Make sure all seams are pinched together well. (Otherwise the marshmallow will ooze out of the seams)
Bake according to package directions.
Break open the tomb and the body