The Last Supper: One Last Holy Week Post!

This is one last Holy week activity I did at home with my daughter that I wanted to share, then I’ll be moving on to more ways to celebrate Pascha! (Please excuse my tardiness :)) Since I have been doing Montessori lessons with my daughter at home, I wanted to begin introducing the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd presentations.  To this end, I created a very simple version of the materials used to present the Last Supper (the figures are usually beautifully hand painted). In the atrium, this is one of the first Paschal presentations a child receives (after the Parable of the Good Shepherd).

I made Jesus and the apostles from wooden peg dolls and simple felt clothes, with belts cut from from felt and leather trim.  I shaped the chalice and candle holders from Sculpey-style dough, and baked and then painted them with gold acrylic paint (the candles are birthday candles).  The bread is sculpted from the same dough, though I ran out of time to make a diskos (or paten). The table is made from 4 wooden spools and some scrap wood I found in an inexpensive woodcraft kit from Ben Franklin.  The “upper room” background is cut from a cereal box, and I used a wooden box from Micheal’s to hold all the materials.

The smaller, handled box also came from Micheal’s, and was great for carrying the materials with us to church.  I did the presentation at home first, and though my  little gal was very interested, she asked to run off and play immediately after.  So it was even more moving to see her get the materials out later at church, and ever so carefully set them up one by one, and feed the bread and wine to each apostle. You just cannot underestimate how much those little brains (and hearts) are absorbing!

This is just one of the beautiful CGS presentations for Pascha;  you can read more about them in a Catholic setting here.  (However,  it is hard to do it justice in writing;  if you ever have the chance to observe in an atrium, please take it! You will be moved.)   For a wonderful introduction to how the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is coming to be used and modified for the Orthodox Church, please see here. I had the pleasure of attending part of my training at St. Athanasius in Santa Barbara, and got to witness firsthand  the amazing work that Seraphima and the other catechists have done to spread this amazing approach to Orthodox churches across the country.   If you would like to learn more, Sofia Cavaletti’s seminal book The Religious Potential of the Child is usually the best place to start. (Amazon has it intermittently, you can order it  here and here).  For a preview on google books, click here.

Ok, more ways to celebrate the 50 days of Pascha coming soon!

Christ is Risen! Resurrection Eggs for Preschoolers

Christ is Risen! I hope everyone had a blessed Holy Week and joyous Pascha (Easter).  Though evening services with a 3 year old and six month old were definitely a challenge this year, I was happy that some of the little activities I planned for my daughter really sparked her interest and added to her understanding and experience of the feast.  Here is one I wanted to share with you:

Resurrection Eggs for Preschoolers

I got the idea to modify Resurrection Eggs for younger children from here.  Julie at the Happy Home Fairy made a great set of eggs, as well as an adorable free printable, to explain the Resurrection to toddlers , so I just modified it a bit for my daughter.

The objects I used in our eggs were as follows:

1) a donkey, to recall Palm Sunday (from the store-bought Resurrection set)

2)  a chalice and “bread” for the mystical/last supper (goblet from the Playmobil Nativity set, could also use the one from the RE set-ours was lost, and a wooden trim piece from the wood crafts section at Michael’s)

3) a wooden cross, also from Michael’s wood crafts

4) shroud/linen (made out of felt because that’s what we had, next time I would use a softer fabric)

5) stone (collected by my daughter a days earlier 😉

6) the last egg is empty to illustrate the empty tomb.

This is such a great activity for toddlers and preschoolers because the colorful plastic eggs are irresistible for this age group!  As my daughter opened each egg, I gave a simple explanation for the object inside, and she of course loved opening and closing them all.  When we had gone through the whole story, I hinted that perhaps the empty egg would be filled with a sweet treat on Easter. And sure enough, she remembered to run and check first thing on Sunday morning!

Preparing for Holy Week..

Pascha is ever so quickly approaching! Here are some easy activities to get ready for Holy Week:

This Holy Week Clock from The Liturgical Year for Little Ones is a great visual countdown of the days to Pascha.  All of the links for the coloring pages are included.

Or isn’t this neat- making a real working oil lamp, similar to those used in Biblical times, to illustrate the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  All you need is a bit off an old candle wick, some olive oil, and clay (you can use an air-dry clay like Model Magic, available at most craft stores, as well as Target & Wal-mart, I believe).  If you have a full-size oil lamp, it can be a great illustration of the parable as well (we have one I purchased very inexpensively for power outages, a similar one is available here).

In addition to the Palm Sunday set, I am also trying to make more little felt sets that my daughter can use at home, as well as  take to church. I just started this one for Holy Thursday, another one could be made for Holy Friday with a cross, tomb and stone, etc.  There are lots of possibilities, depending on your artistic skills-I’ll see how it ours go over! I plan to store them in these little pencil cases I found at Wal-mart for $1 apiece.

This last idea I wasn’t sure if I was going to link, since we are so close to Pascha, but I liked it so much  I just had to! Martianne’s family at Training Happy Hearts  decorates little baby food jars, pokes holes in them, and labels them “pray”, “fast” and “give”.

Martianne writes:

Last year, we made very simple jars for each of us to reflect upon and keep track of our efforts with prayer, fasting and almsgiving during the Lenten season… Basically, we just made holes in the top of some jars and then created labels that said “pray”, “fast” and “give” along with our names.  We placed these on our Liturgical Table, and, nearby, we kept a jar of dry beans.  Nightly, we reflected on how we prayed, fasted or offered ourselves to other people, adding up to three beans to our jar in accordance with what we did.  Then, at Easter, the beans were “made new” by taking them away and replacing them with a sweet, long-lasting treat (lollipops, by the kids choice) to symbolize the enduring gift of Jesus.  This simple daily activity really helped drive home the message to our children that Lent is a time to cleanse and prepare ourselves for the joy of Jesus’ coming through prayer, fasting and giving.
Isn’t that a sweet idea? Martianne also shares that this year they made one set of jars for the whole family, which I think is wonderful as well, as it can bring the family together in their efforts (and minimize that pesky sibling rivalry!)  And of course instead of lollipops, the beans could be replaced  with jelly beans, M&M’s, or whatever your children enjoy. Something to file away for next year!

Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday

I can’t believe how quickly Holy Week is approaching. Time has completely gotten away from me! On that note, I wanted to share some ideas for Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, since they are quickly approaching.

Sylvia at Adventures of an Orthodox Mom has a beautiful post about her family tradition surrounding Lazarus Saturday, and has a recipe for Lazarakia posted, too.   Also,  Orthodoxeducation.blogspot has a fun “mummy” wrapping activity that looks fun for older kids!

For Palm Sunday, I was inspired by the “Hosanna” banner here and decided to make a simple one myself. Leanna used pretty doilies and real palm leaves to form the letters; I used simply construction paper and markers, so this is an activity that could easily be made with a group of children.  After cutting out the leaf shapes, I just wrote the letters, and lacking a hole punch, used clothespins to hang the leaves from a green ribbon.  Since my daughter is very interested in cutting right now, but has limited skills, I think she will enjoy snipping around the edges to make them even more “palm”-like.   There are lots of possibilities with these banners, you can use whatever materials you have on hand to decorate them more.  One fun idea would be to trace the letters in glue and add beans, little torn leaves, glitter, etc, though you may need to use cardstock to hold up to the glue.

Younger children can enjoy drawing and cutting out their own paper palms to wave; you can attach them to chopsticks, pencils, straws, etc.  I also created this little Palm Sunday set for my daughter to play with.  I have had the wooden peg dolls since my Catachesis training, being too intimidated to start painting them, given my horrible drawing skills. When I saw similar Godly Play/CGS figures outfitted in felt, I figured even I couldn’t mess that up! So I cut out some simple felt clothes, and left the faces blank (because I like this in the Waldorf approach, and also because all I can draw are smiley faces!) I then cut out cloaks and palms from felt; if you are a more talented artist than I, you could cut the figures out of felt as well.

You can purchase the peg dolls online or at Hobby Lobby, Ben Franklin, or AC Moore (they no longer sell them at my Michael’s).  Short on time? Check out the amazing Holy week/Pascha set offered at Orthodox Christian Craft Supply. Their learning box offers 11 crafts for Holy week and Pascha for only $15! Hopefully there is still time for shipping. When my daughter gets a little older I will definitely be purchasing a set for us to make.

A few Holy week ideas to link/share coming soon!

A Lenten Centerpiece

I have wanted to share so many more Lenten ideas these past weeks, but things have been a bit hectic as of late. So here is one idea that I have implemented in our house and am really enjoying-a Lenten centerpiece (I’ve seen them referred to as “Lenterpieces” around the web!)

The idea behind a Lenten centerpiece, for me, is to be a great visual reminder of Lent at every meal, and every time I walk by our dining room table (which happens to be part of our living room as well).  I’ve found that just by placing an icon in an unexpected place, your eye will be drawn to it so much more than the others in your home which your eyes have become more accustomed to seeing.

Our centerpiece is very simple, as you can see: a purple silk runner with a lace ribbon, an icon, candle, empty bowl, and alms jar. The empty bowl is a reminder of fasting of course, for both ourselves, as well as a reminder of those who don’t have enough food to eat (The Catholic tradition has a wonderful Lenten charity effort called Operation Rice Bowl that inspired me in this).  The alms jar can be filled with ideas for the whole family to choose from each day-for some wonderful ideas check out Phyllis Onest’s “Lenten Bouquet” here. There are lots of other inspiring ideas here too). The icon can be changed out as to the appropriate day, and can be a wonderful conversation starter around the dinner table.  And of course the candle can be lit before mealtime prayers, and serve as a point of interest for little ones during quiet prayer time.

There are many more great ideas for Lenten centerpieces around the web, ours is definitely one of the more simple ones.  But I have already found that it is working in our home as a visual reminder to stay focused on Christ amidst the busyness of everyday life. And it was so sweet to have my three year old daughter tell me after breakfast that she had to move the “beautiful purple fabric” so she didn’t spill her cereal milk on it. This coming from a little gal who just recently experimented with drawing on the ottomans, and is prone to leaving a trail of toys, clothes, and crumbs wherever she goes!