Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Good Friday with toddlers, preschoolers and elementary kids

This is the second year we've gotten the opportunity to celebrate Good Friday (yes, I know it was in MARCH....I'm a little behind with posting!) with friends.  We invited several families with little ones and for the past two years it has been my family and one other that has been able to make it--and it's been perfect.  Our friends always bring some neighborhood kids along, too, which is awesome!  This year they brought a little girl that doesn't go to church or know much about Jesus, so I spent some time thinking of how we could participate (in a child-appropriate way) in Good Friday--some of us not knowing much about Jesus.

To begin with, we held our festivities at a park near our house.  We lined the entryway with some palm branches (from our previous "Hosanna" activities) and the wooden cross my kids had made with Daddy--covered in a purple fabric.  I spent a little time talking with the children about these emblems and what they represent and remind us of.  ay wt

I decided we needed to move around a lot.  So we started the day with a hunt.  We had kids from 0-8 years in the group.  Of course the babies just kinda hung out and participated how they could....the 3-4-7-8 year olds were very excited by the hunt.  I had already hidden (or put in plain view) glass canning jars filled with objects.  I assigned each child a jar of certain objects to find and hid the jar with a difficulty relating to their age.  For example, I told the 3 year old to find the jar filled with red feet beads and I put hers right in the middle of the path.

The 4 year old had to find the cross beads, and hers was on this bench.  The older kids each had something to find, too, and theirs were a little more hidden.  

Everyone brought their unopened jar back to the table.  We talked for a bit about kings--I asked things like "What do kings wear?  Who does everything kings want? (servants), Do kings go to war a lot?  Where do kings sit?  What do kings have a lot of? (treasure)  Who do kings care most about?  (themselves) "  Then we talked about how Jesus was the King of Kings, but he was so different from other kings, and he calls us to live like him.  I told them we'd be making a bracelet to see how Jesus was a different kind of king.

To start with the kids could each put some of these beads on their bracelet--we talked about why they are purple, black and red (royalty, blood and darkness (when Jesus died))

Then we added other symbolic beads (or items) and talked about each one.
 I had already twisted some closures on a piece of wire that would be used for stringing the beads.  The stiff wire meant we didn't need to use needles.  
Dove bead--Jesus came to bring peace.
Jesus didn't have a throne--instead he died upon a cross for our sins.

Jesus wore a crown of thorns--the soldiers and the people made fun of him and he endured that because of his love for us, and to show us how we ought to act.

I had picked out several different styles of each kids' initial and put it in the jar--so they got to find their letter and choose which one they wanted to use.  We talked about how Jesus died for each one of us--he knew we'd sin and we'd need him and he went to the cross because he loves each of us.

We put a heart next to the initial to remind us he loves us.

We put a little foot on the bracelet to remind us that Jesus came to serve others, not be served.  He washed his disciples feet then called us to be servants, too.

Gold coins--to remind us that our treasure is in Heaven, where we'll get to be with Jesus--and not on earth.

So here's the finished bracelet--and using the beads the children could tell the "story" of Good Friday--the VERY good news!
 I bought a few of the beads at Walmart (Hobby Lobby would totally have a better selection but I didn't have time to get by there that week) but I really tried to use what I already had in my bead stash.  So you could change the particular items to match what you have, if necessary.  The crown of thorns was made using a piece of wired twine and I just made a circle shape with it.
The kids did great with this project--they listened very intently and were answering questions as we talked.  My Q was very proud of hers and could tell her Daddy what each thing meant later that night.  I love projects (crafts) that leave the maker with a symbolic item that can drawn them into a time of remembrance and worship with God--not just something cute.  I know we'll get ours out next Lent and go through the beads again.  I hope this will be a valuable meditation tool for the kids.  

After the bracelets we had a footwashing time.  We read the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet from a children's Bible.  Then the moms washed their kids' feet.  I think this was almost more powerful for me as a mom than it was for the kids.  And I watched my good friend wash her baby daughter's feet--her daughter who had been adopted from Ethiopia this last year--and I thought about the trail they had been on to be together....what a beautiful thing to watch this Mama wash her little ones' feet.  

Then we had the Lord's Supper together, like Jesus did with his disciples.  We read that story, as well.

I had the table set with a cross draped in purple, a crown of thorns (made from some thorny vine found near our house),  some purple flowers, and some candles.

I had brought glass, metal and ceramic mugs of all different types so each child could choose the one they wanted.  Someday I hope to get some ceramic or wooden goblets made for my kids to use each lenten season.  Wouldn't that be so cool?  In the meantime, I wanted to use something beautiful and that would add a sense of "this is important" to the ceremony.

I had baked some homemade unleavened bread.  This is the second year in a row I planned to do this activity with Q and it just didn't work out, so I made it myself.  Might have to be my own tradition from now on!
We ate the bread and drank the juice--the kids all used chalk to draw a heart around the items--we talked about the fact that communion is God's way of reminding us every week of His great love for us.  
We had some simple "favors" in brown paper bags for taking home--the Mommas got:

And the kids got:

Extra piece of communion bread (they all love that stuff!), a palm branch that says "Hosanna  Save Now" on it and a piece of black fabric--we talked about this, saying they could go home and put it over a cross in their house.  When Jesus died many people thought it was over....but on Sunday he rose from the dead and triumphed over sin and death--and this is when we remove the cloth just as Jesus removed the graveclothes.  A good visual and tactile way for children to connect with the Bible story.  

Then the kids had a great time playing together for a little while.
I love the tradition this has become for our little family and our friends.  I love seeing the serious, reverent looks on the faces of the kids as they listen and absorb.  I love having a table full of all different-aged kids who are learning a little more about Jesus all at the same time.  Such a neat experience!
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