Celebrate Lent with your kids this EasterWritten by Amy Pierson
What's inside this article
Lent is a season of hope – a time to mark what is now and not yet at the same time. Families around the world observe the 40-day period with times of prayer and preparation culminating with a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. His new life brings ours to life! We trust this article will help you intentionally guide your children through the Lenten season and into Easter.
About the season
Easter is filled with joy – He is risen! Where I live, it is a season of rebirth across the board – as if Earth is hinting at what’s to come after the hardship of a cold Colorado winter. Plants spring back to life as the soil begins to warm. Even before the grass greens up, hardy, early-season flowers emerge – announcing themselves with happy colour, reminding us that Easter is right around the corner. And so are the fun festivities that come with Jesus’ new life!
When my kids were little, we made the most of the still-cold days of Lent that lead up to Easter. To me, it’s as if the earth is hinting at what is to come – we are invited to make ready for the greatest, holiest day of our faith. While not part of a liturgical community, our family’s tradition is to prepare our hearts with special devotions, Bible stories and outings – activities that include egg baskets and cute bunnies but draw our reflections much deeper.
What is Lent?
Lent is a season also known as “Eastertide.” So, welcome to the season! Millions of Christians worldwide observe this significant period in the Christian calendar. Understanding Lent’s history, purpose, and practices deepens the meaning of Easter for families wanting to enrich their faith and enliven their traditions. Just like flowers in spring, we hope exploring the roots of Lent – its connection to the Christian calendar and the significance of key events like Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter/Resurrection Sunday – will grow your walk with God.
Before Jesus began his ministry years, his cousin, John the Baptist, was urging people to “prepare the way for the Lord.” For people who love Jesus, Lent is an invitation to
- prepare our hearts
- reflect on Scripture
- repent for things that are not in line with his Word
- announce the work of Jesus’ grace in our lives.
What does it mean to “prepare your heart” for Easter?
In the Bible, Isaiah 40 and Mark 1 both tell us to get ready: “Prepare the way for the Lord, and make straight the paths for him.” But what does that mean?
Think of preparing your heart like asking the Lord to help you with some “spiritual spring cleaning.” For some, spring cleaning is an annual fresh start – a time to declutter, deep clean and cleanse the environment of what could create illness.
Lent is an opportunity to do similar things in our Christian life. Here are some tried and true suggestions to help put away the heaviness of winter in your walk with God.
Daily quiet time
First, spend time each day alone and quiet before him. Take some deep calming breaths as you remember the words of Samuel, 1 Samuel 3: 10- 11: “And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant hears.’ Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.’ ”
Then, be ready to listen. Daily, ask the Holy Spirit to help you prepare for Easter – to help you spring clean your spiritual house – as you reflect on a question like:
- What part of my life has gotten a little messy? (1 John 1:9)
- What dishes, rooms or areas of my heart feel dusty or dirty? (Matthew 23:25-26)
- Are there areas of my life that are full of the clutter of unforgiveness or bitterness? (Ephesians 4:31-32)
- What emotional closets are overflowing – keeping me from life with God? (Colossians 3:5-9)
- Is my schedule too busy to keep things clean and right with God? (Matthew 22:37-18)
- Are my relationships clean or do I need to tidy up some unresolved issues? (Matthew 5:23-24)
- Is the Fruit of the Spirit in my refrigerator ripe or mouldy? What needs tossing? (Galatians 5)
Preparation requires pacing yourself. Simply begin where you are and take time as you can to go deeper. As you reflect on the questions above, notice if there are themes. Look up Bible verses about what you sense God telling you. For example, do you struggle with anger? Read what James 1:19-20 has to say. And remember, observing Lent doesn’t “earn” you anything in God’s sight. He wants to be with you and is working right alongside in anything he calls your attention to.
Guiding your kids’ hearts
The questions and activities we’ve included will help you guide your kids’ hearts in the process of praying about their lives, reflecting on Easter Scriptures, and clearing out what doesn’t grow their life with God.
Is Lent in the Bible?
The history, significance and meaning of the 40 Days of Lent are reflected throughout Scripture.
The observation of Lent is rooted in the early Christian Church. The season takes its name from the Old English word “lencten,” meaning spring. Lent takes place over a forty-day period. In Scripture, the number “40” symbolizes times of testing, trial, growth and preparation for the miraculous work of God, for example:
- Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai
- the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.
In Matthew 3:16-17, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and the Spirit of God descended on him, announcing his sonship. “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ ”
Following his baptism, Jesus’ 40 days of prayer, fasting and preparation began. Jesus was about to enter the wilderness. It required spiritual discipline.
What does the wilderness have to do with Lent?
The wilderness is where the forty days of Lent enter the Easter picture.
After his baptism, Jesus was immediately “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” to be tested by the devil (Matthew 4:1). During that time, Jesus withdrew from worldly comforts. The Bible says that this 40-day period of solitude, prayer and fasting marked the beginning of his three-year earthly ministry.
The wilderness was a lonely, bleak and twisted piece of limestone desert located in a remote area between Jerusalem and cliffs overlooking the Dead Sea. Out there, no physical consolation was available – things were getting real. He was all alone – or was he? Imagine the conversations he must have had with his Father. This solitary stretch of wasteland brought him opportunities to seek and deeply connect with God.
The wilderness was a hard place and a hard time – but it was necessary. It prepared Jesus. At times, we all experience wilderness. We may
- go hungry
- lack funds
- feel sick
- lose someone we love
- be isolated or abandoned by friends
- go through hard times.
Scripturally, the forty days of Lent reflect Jesus’ time in the wilderness. He knew God’s plan and the sacrifice he would make to lay down his life. In the wilderness, Jesus prepared. He gave himself up.
This explains why people talk about “giving up things” for Lent.
Man shall not live by bread alone
We read about Jesus’ time in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11. “And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’
But he answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’ Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these things I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’
Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” ’ Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.”
Time of testing
Satan seems to lie in wait at desolate times like these, doesn’t he? At the end of Jesus’ forty days, when he must have been at a weak and vulnerable point, the devil came to test him. He offered Jesus three things:
- food (to a man breaking a forty-day fast, the bread Satan held out probably looked pretty good)
- earthly prestige (a chance to show off and let the angels save him from a fall),
- power and glory over all the kingdoms of the world (if he would bow to Satan).
Jesus responded with the truth of God’s Word to each temptation the devil offered. And the devil left him (Matthew 4:11).
Some practical ways to prepare your hearts during Lent
Throughout Jesus’ life, he studied God’s word. It was a large part of his preparation. Of course, it is a wonderful part of our life as disciples, too – especially during Lent. Remember, Jesus spent time in prayer and fasting. Here are some ideas for you and your family to try.
Set a family fast
Choose a family-friendly fast, such as temporarily giving up a particular treat, show, habit or screen time. Talk about the purpose of fasting and how it connects to self-discipline and drawing closer to God. Pray about how you can use your sacrifice to connect with him instead.
Take a prayer hike
Spend time outdoors in nature, taking walks or hikes as a family. (Adjust the length of your walk to fit the age and limitations of your kids.) Before you begin your trek, pray together or read a passage about God’s creation. During your walk, encourage everyone to walk quietly – praying, reflecting and connecting with God. Share about the time you had with the Lord.
Create a prayer jar
Encourage everyone to write down prayers or blessings throughout the week and keep them in a jar on your mealtime table (help note prayers for any children too young to write). Model how to do it – adding to the collection throughout Lent. Read the entries aloud several times each week and encourage one another as a family.
Make eggs-tra special sacrifices of grace
Write down acts of grace on strips of paper. Include undeserved acts of kindness, service or related verses. Make them simple tasks like writing notes of encouragement, performing chores, saying something kind or serving others. Then, place each act of grace (one slip of paper) inside a plastic egg.
Once per week, read the words of John 3:16 as a reminder before family members choose an egg. Give each person 48 hours to complete their act of grace and share their experience.
- Tell us about your act of service or kindness. How did you personalize the task?
- How did it go? Who did you interact with? How did that person(s) respond?
- How did God express his creativity through you?
- How did it make you feel?
- What does God want you to know about him from this experience?
“For-give” gift wrapping
Each family member writes a person they have forgiven, need to forgive or has forgiven them. Discuss the incredible and life-giving gift of forgiveness. Talk about ways the family can foster a culture of forgiveness (a culture of deeper love). Discuss how asking for forgiveness and forgiving are both courageous decisions and behaviours.
Just as Jesus prepared for his years of ministry, his followers observe the days leading up to Easter as a time of spiritual preparation. Each year on the Christian Calendar, Lent invites us to pray, reflect, sacrifice and serve as he did. In this way, we share the celebration of Easter together.
Preparation questions for each age and stage
Using a children’s Bible, read Matthew 3:1-4:11
What do we celebrate at Easter?
Do you know what Lent is?
Why do we prepare when guests are coming to visit? What do we do?
Do you think God wants our hearts to be clean and ready for company?
Is Lent hard or easy?
Does God like us to have fun? How can we celebrate and think about Jesus as we get ready for Easter?
How can we keep Easter in our hearts all year?
Take turns reading Matthew 3:1-4:11
What is Lent?
Do you know why it is right before Easter?
Is Lent hard? Why?
Have you ever asked God to clean up anything in your heart? What happened next?
What do you want to pray about in your life as we get ready for Easter this year?
How do you want God to help you prepare your heart during Lent?
Can you think of some ways we can keep our hearts prepared all year round?
Read Matthew 3:1-4:11
Do you know why Lent is forty days long?
Why is Lent hard?
Why did Jesus go out to the wilderness after John the Baptist baptized him?
If Jesus didn’t know God’s Word well, what do you think would have happened when the devil tested him with food, fame and power?
What does that tell you about the things that tempt you?
What do you do to prepare for Easter?
How can we make prayer, fasting and reflection a family practice to keep our hearts prepared year round?
What is the Christian calendar?
If you aren’t aware of the Christian calendar, you may not know when and why people celebrate the season of Lent or Eastertide. Along with some other sacred seasons, Lent is a prominent event on it! For believers, the Christian calendar recounts the Gospel narrative. Every year, it guides the retelling and festivities of our shared salvation story – Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. It structures the worship, liturgy and celebrations of our Christian community. Many denominations – Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and some Evangelicals – follow these rhythms. (Catholic and Orthodox Christian calendars vary slightly, celebrating even more feasts and seasons throughout the year.)
Starting with Lent, some of the days and seasons Christians celebrate include:
- Lent – the season between Epiphany and Easter. (Some traditions honour Lent through Maundy Thursday, others do so through Holy Saturday.)
- Holy Week – the week before Easter, including Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Celebrating Easter as a family this week will bring the story to life!
- Ascension – Jesus’ ascent to the Father
- Pentecost – believers received God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. Some consider this the birthday of the Christian Church.
- Advent – Liturgical “new year” marking the coming of Christ
- Christmas – Jesus’ birth and the beginning of the twelve days of Christmastide (ends on Epiphany)
- Epiphany – Jesus’ manifestation, also known as Three Kings Day, when the magi came bearing gifts for the Saviour. It also marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmastide.
- Hypapante – When Simeon met Jesus (Luke 2:25-35).
Holy Week encompasses everything that happened the week Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday through the discovery of the empty tomb on the following Easter Sunday.
On this day, practitioners apply ashes – made from burning the previous year’s Palm Sunday fronds – in the shape of a cross on the forehead to mark the beginning of Lent. These symbolize repentance and mortality and mark the beginning of 40 days of temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem described in Matthew 21:1- 11.
As Jesus passed by, the gathered crowd waved palm branches and sang the words of Psalm 118:25-26 .They recognized Jesus as the Messiah God had promised.
The Thursday before Easter is a significant day in the Lenten season. This day commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper, his final Passover meal with his disciples. Three notable events happened that evening, leaving their mark on biblical history.
First, as a servant would typically do before dinner, Jesus humbled himself to wash his disciples’ feet. Second, on this night, Jesus demonstrated and issued the mandate (the Latin word “maundy”) of John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Third, it was at this table that Judas drank the cup as the one who would betray Jesus. After this meal, Jesus and his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Good Friday reflects on the crucifixion of Jesus, acknowledging the sacrifice made for the redemption of humanity (Matthew 27:24-61).
Christ had not yet been resurrected on Holy Saturday. For many, this day represents Jesus’ victorious descent into hell on our behalf.
Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, triumph over sin and death, and the promise of new life for all who believe (Matthew 28:1-20).
Reflecting as a family
As you and your family explore the season of Lent, we encourage you to slow down. Reflecting on the significant events leading up to Easter grows faith, and the spiritual experiences you share will last a lifetime! As you walk with God and one another through Lent and Holy Week, may the journey bring Jesus’ resurrection and ongoing grace to life.
More family ideas to have fun this Easter!
Want more fun ideas to help you and your kids draw closer to God as a family as you celebrate Easter? No matter what age and stage your kids are, each activity is designed to foster spiritual growth, conversation and a deeper understanding of what faith in Jesus is all about. Pick a few activities to practice with your kids as you prepare for Easter.
Embracing the joy of Easter together strengthens faith, builds bonds, establishes lasting traditions and makes great memories!
Make a family Easter banner
God’s banner over us is love! Craft a family Easter banner or decorate a cross with symbols representing aspects of Jesus’ journey, grace and forgiveness. Older kids may have fun creating a banner for the door to their room.
Foster family bonds by prepping and cooking together. Make Easter cookies, imagine the Last Supper together over dinner some evening, or share time making Easter brunch. Demonstrate the importance of hospitality and community by inviting others to an Easter meal.
Have a watch party
Watch a classic Easter movie. (Be sure you pick something age appropriate.) Then, talk it over. Start a family discussion, inviting everyone to share their ideas. Ask: What did you notice? How did they make you feel? Did you learn anything new that you hadn’t noticed before?
Silly Lent trivia
Share the following little-known facts or – better yet – create your own trivia contest. See who answers the most questions correctly:
On Ash Wednesday, how were ashes originally dispensed to believers? (Instead of being marked in the shape of the cross on foreheads, ashes were sprinkled over the head.)
Fasting is described by some as eliminating food in order to feast on God. What are some other reasons some Christian traditions fast? (Some fast to eliminate distractions, or to redirect the funds which would be spent on food so it can be donated to the poor.)
- Eastern Orthodox traditions call the first Monday of Lent “Clean Monday,” so people don’t dread it as much.
- Mardi Gras is also called Shrove Tuesday because people feast in advance of Lent. Many Shrove Tuesday fans celebrate by eating lots of pancakes on this day because eggs and fats are not allowed during Lent by some traditions.
- Eggs were first decorated in the 13th century. Holy Week eggs – those laid during the period when the church prohibited the eating of eggs – were decorated instead.
Amy Pierson is the manager of special projects for Focus on the Family in the U.S. and an author, speaker and creative champion of spiritual transformation. She and her husband, Bill, live in Denver, inspired by their adult children and growing family.
© 2024 Focus on the Family. Used with permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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