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!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day-two weeks late! I want to share some photos and activities from our recent Hope & Joy meeting. Though it is too late to use them this year, I wanted to add  them to the archive as a resource for the future.  I hope you enjoy!

Since we focused on St. Valentine last year, this year we decided to focus on love (surprise!), specifically Christ’s greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:36-40*    (We  chose to stop there and not read the entire parable, but to save that for a later date.  Since we are a small church, we invite even the youngest siblings to participate, from the littlest 3’s up to age 12.  So we strive to pare down our lesson to the most essential, and make the  activities accessible to everyone, since attention spans can be short on saturday afternoons!)

We started with a brief introduction asking what rules and commandments are (they tell us what to do and how to act, etc).  We asked if anyone could think of any rules they had read in the Bible (the Ten Commandments). Then we introduced the Scripture reading by saying that in the Bible, Jesus has told us the VERY MOST (emphasis here!) important commandment, or rule, about how we should live and act.  We shared that we can find Jesus’ words in different parts of the Bible, but today we will read from the Book of Matthew.  We then read the verses, and asked the children about what they had heard. (“What was the first most important, the greatest, commandment, that Jesus told the people? What was the second?”).  We then talked about the ways we can show God we love Him, and talked about who our neighbors are, and how we show love to them.  The children, of course, had wonderful answers, and we filled in the gaps when necessary!  We then segued to our activities by holding up a paper cut out of a heart, and asking the littlest ones what it was, and the older ones, what it made them think of.  We talked about the symbolism of the heart as one for love**, and that we would be doing some fun “heart” activities that would remind us of Christ’s greatest commandment to LOVE.

 

We started with painting these wooden heart frames, that I found at Michael’s for $1 apiece (you could also probably find something similar at A.C. Moore, Hobby Lobby, Ben Franklin, etc).  Michael’s is great because they are always offering coupons, which I take full advantage of!  (If the price is too steep for your larger group of children, you could also make the frames out of cardboard or styrofoam food packaging, cutting the hearts out beforehand with an exact-o knife.)  We told the children that there was only one condition to these frames: they could not be kept for themselves, but had to be given to someone they love!  It was so sweet to hear the children  share who (and why) they would give their frames to.

 

While the paint dried on our frames, we make some heart tortilla “cookies, similar to the ones pictured above.  I had seen this idea floating around the web, and thought it would be great to make something a little healthier that cupcakes or cookies (though there is a time for those, too!)  These are super easy to make-all you need are soft flour tortillas (any size), melted butter, and various kinds of colored sugar and sprinkles, of course!!  The younger children can use cookie cutters to cut out their hearts (we found metal ones cut better than plastic) and older children can use kitchen shears if they would like.  Then we brushed the hearts with melted butter using pastry brushes (or your fingers if you don’t have those!) and sprinkled with sprinkles.  Bake them at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you would like them.  Yum!

My 3 year old's paper plate version

Lastly, I found these neat  paper decorations (wind-catchers) at the craft store as well.  They can be decorated as simply or as elaborately as you would like- we used markers & crayons, but you could also use glue and glitter, torn tissue paper and doilies, etc.  We then glued a cut-out paper heart printed with the Bible verse to the very center-older children can write it out themselves. Since these decorations may be hard to find, I experimented with making one of my own out of a paper plate.  You simply cut a spiral into the plate, and as you get closer to the center, cut it into a heart shape.  Glue the verse inside in the same manner, then add a string for hanging. I took my daughter’s outside to photograph, and it twirled in the wind so much it was hard to photograph!

We sent everyone home with heart-covered pencils and chocolate-covered pretzel hearts 🙂

UPDATE: pictures of all 3 of these projects, coming soon! Thanks for your patience.

And here are some other easy heart crafts from the web:

Glitter Heart doilies

Doilies + glitter= easy and fun! see here.

Marshmallow pops!

 

So easy and yummy!   We made these last year, and used only water applied with our fingertips to make the colored sugar stick. If you use sprinkles you probably need the melted candy bark. Heart-shaped marshmallows work great, too! see here.

 

*alternatively Luke 10: 25-28, Mark 12:28-31

**With older children, you could also tie in the symbolism of the cross, with the vertical plank toward God and the horizontal plank to our neighbors.