Lent is one of the favourite times of year in our family. Oh of course Advent and Christmas are a lot of fun but Lent is so powerful and meaningful. It’s a great time to learn more about God and to move ahead in our journey towards Jesus.
We try to make each and every day of this season special but in true Creative Cynchronicity fashion, we also try to keep it very simple. That’s why I suggest you read through this list of 75+ ways to share Lent with your children and just choose a few ideas that really resonate with you.
75+ Ways to Share Lent with Your Children
*****Newly updated for 2021!!!*****
Some of these ideas may not mean much to you if you’re not Catholic but don’t let that stop you from picking out the ones that appeal to you. No one can possibly do ALL of these anyway. Skip over the ones that mean nothing to you as a non-Catholic and choose the ones you and your family will enjoy the most.
A few of these ideas may not work or may need to be adapted depending on what level of pandemic restrictions you are at in your area at the time.
Make King Cake for Mardi Gras.
If you’re Catholic, this is tradition but you don’t have to be Catholic to take part. It’s a great way to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
Here are 99+ Creative Ideas for what you can give up or take up for Lent. You could each choose something or decide as a family what you’d like to do.
Put together a Lenten wreath.
Grapevines make a wreath similar to a crown of thorns. Purple ribbon can be woven through this. You can also discuss as a family what symbols of Lent that they might want to add. Tie or wire them on.
We have used things like a large nail (assuming your kids are old enough and it’s not a safety hazard), a crucifix, bits of black cloth, palm leaves, silver coins, and more. This can be a wreath that hangs on the door or one that sits on a table. Much like an Advent wreath, we added a candle to light for each Sunday of Lent.
I really like this cross-shaped Lenten cross. You could make this together and then light the candles each day for family devotional time.
Decorate a candle to use on your prayer table (home altar) or to put in the center of your Lenten wreath.
Cloves are reminiscent of the spices and incense used as part of Jesus’ burial. Use 5 cloves pushed into the candle in the shape of cross. Often the scent of the cloves will intensify from the heat of the lit candle. If you want a more interactive way of decorating candles, this one involving coloring pictures on tissue paper works well.
Make an altar cloth or table runner.
Using fabric crayons, markers, or paints, work together to create a beautiful altar cloth or table runner to put on your home altar. You could also use it as a table runner on your dining table throughout the Lenten season.
Create a home altar.
I mentioned making some things for your home altar, but maybe you don’t even have one. We used to have one in my classroom when I was a teacher and we called it our “beautiful table”.
I encouraged the kids to bring in things they thought were beautiful to place on it for a while. Yes that meant that sometimes we had Hot Wheels and Barbies on there, but it was important to embrace and affirm the kids’ perceptions of beauty.
When my daughter was little, we made it a sort of home version of show and tell. We would, every week or two, add new items to our altar and explain why we had chosen them. Sometimes, they were seasonal items and other times, they were just something that sparked interest at the time.
Consider adding things like a Crucifix, holy water, holy oil, flowers (an Easter lily?), rosaries, and candles.
You don’t have to stay for a full hour. Simply go to “say hello” to Jesus and stay for as long as the kids can manage.
Make kid-friendly Stations of the Cross for at home.
There are lots of printable ones available online that can be colored and hung up around the house. Or this idea involves making a Montessori style Stations of the Cross in a box, using both images and some symbolic items that children can hold.
Here’s one that involves making small crosses, one for each station. We made ours similar to these. They are created from popsicle sticks and in grotto form. This is a Stations of the Cross paper bag book. You could make these with the kids so they each have their own.
Resurrection eggs are similar to the Stations of the Cross idea.
They tell key points of the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection through symbols inside plastic eggs. You can buy Resurrection Eggs at Christian stores but why not make your own set? It’s easy and when I did this with my own daughter, she really enjoyed helping to come up with ideas for the symbols.
Bury the Alleluia.
One year, on Easter (well, for us it was Easter Monday, a holiday here in Canada), we made a felt banner together. I cut out the word Alleluia and put that on it. My daughter then chose what other shapes and symbols she wanted to add to it. We displayed this in our home from then on.
On Ash Wednesday the following year, we decorated a lidded box. We used construction paper and then outlined each shape with black marker to make a look similar to stained glass. If you do the same, be sure to use some Mod Podge or clear contact paper to preserve it better.
On every Ash Wednesday from then on, we would symbolically “bury the Alleluia” by placing the banner away in the box. We tucked the box in a closet for the rest of Lent. On Easter Sunday, it was one of my daughter’s favourite activities to get the box out and put the banner back on display in our home.
Color Easter eggs together!
This is a common tradition in many homes but we often don’t talk about WHY. Discuss the symbolism of the eggs (new life). You could even let the kids use crayons to put Easter designs (crosses for example) on before dyeing. It will work like a resist technique. Or after the eggs are dyed and dry, let the kids add stickers they picked out at the Christian store to them.
Make perfume diffusers and talk about the story of how Mary helped prepare Jesus for burial by anointing his feet with perfume.
Oh Amanda has a lovely idea for this here. Want to make your own perfume to use for this activity? This one uses food extracts to make a food grade perfume. If you’d prefer one that’s more floral scented, this one uses flowers and/or herbs.
We like to make these the night before Easter. It’s a very visual way of representing Jesus’s death, burial, and then the empty tomb because He is risen.
Learn an Easter song together.
Christ the Lord is Risen Today is a popular one. Other personal favorites are Because He Lives and Your Great Name. If you’ve got little kids, my daughter always loved to sing God’s Not Dead and Ho-Ho-Ho-Hosanna.
We displayed these outside our bedroom doors until the following Ash Wednesday when we would burn them. The ashes were placed in a dish on our prayer table for the season of Lent.
If your church is closed for in-person services or you are unable to attend, you can make paper palm leaves. Use them to act out the story of Palm Sunday or decorate your home altar with them.
Since the vestments used in church are red, you could carry this theme into your home by serving a red dinner or dessert.
Yes it’s a little cheesy but it’s a fun idea!
They symbolize hands folded in prayer and are a traditional Lenten recipe.
This provides a powerful image of Calvary and can serve as a focal point for family discussions and prayers. Here’s another option for designing one.
Watch an Easter themed or Christian show or movie together.
There are lots to choose from on Netflix: Here’s a great list of titles available on Netflix Canada.
Read the story of the temptation of Jesus in the desert.
Talk about temptations that each of us face every day. What can we do to stay strong in the face of temptation? You can even make this a more concrete lesson by baking a family favourite recipe (cookies, for example) and placing it where it can be seen by the whole family. The goal is to set a time limit and for each family member to avoid temptation by not eating any of the cookies until the time limit is up. Discuss how difficult it was and what each did to avoid giving in.
Pick a service activity to perform together as a family
Or do one each Saturday during Lent. This could be working at the local food bank, visiting a nursing home, helping a neighbour, going through clothing and toys to find items to donate to charity, and so on.
This is not only a wonderful bonding exercise (I spent so many hours in the kitchen with my mom and grandmothers) and a great way to learn math and other cooking skills, but also a good time to talk about why we go meatless on Fridays.
There’s a German tradition of making Seven Herb soup on Maundy Thursday. These herbs are a sign of spring, but also can be easily tied to Passover and the Seder. The herbs are bitter until they’ve been cooked and so this works perfectly with the bitter herbs used in the Seder meal.
The number of herbs has been chosen to specifically reference the Seven Last Words of Jesus.
Visit a local garden or even a garden center.
Share the story of the garden of Gethsemane as you wander through. If at a garden center, you might even let each child pick out a small plant to care for at home.
Attend a passion play.
Be conscious of ages and personalities when choosing this activity as it can be too overwhelming for young or especially sensitive children.
Put on a puppet play.
Make puppets (even simple finger puppets or ones out of craft sticks or clothespins) and put on your own simplified passion play as a family.
Choose someone special in your family who has passed on and go to church to light a candle for them.
Even if you aren’t Catholic, Catholic churches welcome you to come in and light a candle for your loved ones or other intentions.
Write a letter to a member of the clergy or a missionary.
Ask them a faith question or simply thank them for what they do.
Make a prayer chain.
Write down the name of someone you’d like to pray for on a strip of paper. The kids can decorate these strips too! Make sure you have one for each day of Lent. Form a paper chain out of these pieces of paper and hang up to display. Each day, tear off a strip and pray for that person as a family. Serves as a great way to countdown to Easter too!
Just as we have an Advent book basket, we put together a Lent book basket.
We didn’t always find enough Lenten or Easter themed books with a Christian message to have one for each evening’s bedtime story throughout Lent, so we supplemented with secular Easter books with good messages or with other Bible story books (Noah’s Ark, Moses, etc). Here are my book recommendations.
Have a Passover Seder.
We have one every year and we look forward to it probably more than anything else we do all year long. Follow a Seder ceremony online (here’s the one we use) or use the basic outline as a foundation and create your own. After all, celebrating Passover is what Jesus was doing on the night before He died.
Each time a family member makes a sacrifice during Lent, track it in some way to show how they can add up.
This method uses a “bean jar”. You could use an image that is sectioned off – like you would find in a colouring book – and each time a sacrifice is made, the person who made it gets to colour in a section. The goal would be to finish the picture by Easter.
Or how about filling in a cross with a coloured piece of paper for each sacrifice, trying to make a “stained glass” cross by Easter? In my classroom, we had a long piece of paper that covered the length of a wall. At one end, we would put a symbol for ourselves and at the other a picture of Jesus or the cross. For each sacrifice or good deed, we would place a cut out of a stepping stone in hopes to fully complete the path before Easter. Here’s another great stepping stone to the cross idea.
Make a springtime banner.
The kids can add things like birds and flowers to it. Add images of caterpillars to it. For each good deed they do for someone else, they can remove a caterpillar and replace it with a butterfly.
Relatively flat, you could send these or make a porch drop-off for family and friends too.
Every year we find a donation calendar online that assigns dollar amounts to various things in life.
These are often connected to things that we have that many others around the world don’t. For example, it might say to donate 50 cents for each television you have or 25 cents for each year of school completed. The one from Rice Bowl is a great one to use and they have other helpful Lenten resources there.
Talk about the meaning behind them.
Have a big pancake feast on Shrove Tuesday.
Share the meaning behind it.
Do a foot washing with your family on Holy Thursday.
Tell the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.
Meditate as a family.
It doesn’t have to last long. Even just 10 minutes of silence can be really calming and centering.
Practice good stewardship and do something to help the earth.
You could cleanup an area of a local park or make and put out bird feeders.
Gather together as a family to renew your baptismal vows.
You can even get holy water from your church and each person can make the sign of the cross with water too. Or family members can “anoint” each other with the holy water.
In solidarity with the homeless, as a family see what it’s like to sleep on the floor instead of in your beds.
In solidarity with those who are limited in their access to clean water, drink only water for a day. Or how about a week?
Say the rosary (or just one decade) each day during Lent.
Sunday is meant to be a day of rejoicing, even during Lent.
Do something really special together as a family (even as simple as an afternoon of board games or movies together).
Make Sunday family dinner a thing – at least during Lent.
When we still lived in the US, every Sunday we would have a big dinner at my grandparents’ house. It was treated like a special occasion. Add the “special” back into Sunday dinner. Let the kids assemble a centerpiece. Light candles. Use the good china.
One of my favourite times of day when I was a child was bedtime because it meant my dad was going to sing me to sleep.
Add singing a song into your kids’ bedtime routine and use this time to learn new praise songs.
Read the story of Zacchaeus and take an “abundance inventory”.
Decide on what you could as a family donate (even a donation of time).
Set up a Lenten tree.
This could be a branch you’ve gathered from outside and then placed into some sort of base (secure with clay or plaster). Make ornaments related to Lent and to Jesus’ life. Or make ornaments to represent each Bible story you read throughout Lent.
On Easter, you can make and add decorated eggs (plastic or Styrofoam) and other symbols of Easter to the tree. These symbols depict the story of the path to the cross and would be another good resource for creating ornaments.
What she has created here, is more like the cross beam of a cross, but you could certainly nail two pieces of wood together and make an actual cross for this activity.
The kids will enjoy helping to make the ornaments for it!
On Ash Wednesday, hold a simple candle-lighting service at home.
Have each person reflect on things they’d like to let go of – bad habits and so on. Burn those as a way of releasing them. Prayer: Lord have mercy on us, forgive us, and help us to do better.
Each Sunday (in conjunction with lighting a candle on your Lenten wreath if you have one), do some simple family devotions at home.
Instead of just doing meat-free Fridays, add in sugar-free Tuesdays too.
Shatter a clay pot and give each family member a piece.
Read the story of the potter and the clay in Jeremiah, discussing how God can form us like clay. Our Lenten journey is meant to help with that process! A fun activity at the end of Lent is to give each member of the family a lump of clay and let them form their own little clay pots with a reminder of that story.
Choose something to fast from other than food.
On the days of Lenten fasting, the whole family (even those too young or old or with health issues) can take part together in that fast. Perhaps you will choose TV or social media or something of that sort.
Make crucifixes for each person to display in their bedrooms or throughout the house. These are simple to put together from clothespins but quite unique and special.
Teach your children a song that tells the basic story of Easter.
This is a great tangible reminder of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Each morning you could take a moment to have everyone hold their necklaces in their hands, close their eyes, and say a prayer to keep God with them throughout the day. It’s a wonderful way to take a moment of calm together before leaving for a busy day.
Pray the seven Penitential Psalms as a family.
This is a great thing to do during Holy Week. These Psalms are: Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143.
Take part in the Sacrament of Penance together.
If your kids are too young to take part in this at church, you can hold a simple penance ceremony at home. A simple way is to write down things each person is sorry for (or let the little ones draw pictures for theirs).
Then, if you have a fireplace or campfire handy, you could symbolically burn these. Barring that, you could simply rip them up into tiny pieces of paper. If you’re okay with the mess, celebrate the release of these sins by throwing the paper up in the air like confetti!
Plant seeds together.
This is a great tangible reminder of the message of new life. The seeds are buried in the soil and then grow into a plant. Grass seeds or bean seeds grow quite quickly. We have often grown grass in shallow dishes and then made a centerpiece with it, nestling Easter eggs into the grass.
Do some spring cleaning.
Based on the Jewish custom of cleaning before Passover, Wednesday of Holy Week is a traditional day in many countries for a pre-Easter housecleaning.
Attend a sunrise service on Easter morning.
An outdoor one is especially meaningful.
Do daily or weekly devotionals as a family.
This website has some suggestions of appropriate devotionals for children.
Wear new clothes on Easter.
This tradition comes from the tradition of new converts being given white robes to symbolize their new lives. When I was little, we all got brand new “fancy” outfits for Easter.
You can do something more practical if this is clothing that would only be worn once or twice (especially as quickly as kids grow!). It could even just be one item of clothing, like a new pair of socks or a new hat.
You might even want to get plain t-shirts and let everyone decorate them.
Visit a new church or two.
This springs from the tradition of making Holy Week pilgrimages. It can be a fun and interesting experience to attend a church different from your own. Or perhaps you want to attend a special historical church or shrine in your area.
Make and serve sweet bread.
Making sweet breads during Holy Week and serving them on Easter Sunday is a common tradition in many countries. This braided Italian Easter Egg Loaf is delicious and makes for a pretty centerpiece too!
You can use this for your Seder, or if you’re not having a Seder, this could simply be served with grape juice on Holy Thursday in honor of the Last Supper.
Serve 12 Fruits Salad.
This is a lovely option for Easter Sunday, symbolizing the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit. You can choose any 12 fruits you want, but these can be especially meaningful and symbolic:
- Apples – symbol of salvation
- Strawberries – symbol of righteousness
- Grapes – symbol of the Eucharist
- Blueberries – symbol of Our Lady
- Figs – symbol of fruitfulness
- Pears – symbol of Mary
- Oranges – symbol of purity
- Cherries – symbol of good works
- Peaches – symbol of rebirth
- Pomegranate seeds – symbol of the resurrection
- Pineapple – symbol of hospitality
- Lemon (use only the juice) – symbol of fidelity
You can drizzle on a bit of honey to symbolize the sweetness of Christ and His ministry and sprinkle on some slivered almonds to symbolize divine approval.
Serve as is, over angel food cake or ice cream, with whipped cream, or curry mayonnaise.
Hold a St. Joseph’s Table.
This is a ritual meal traditionally held in the Sicilian community. It goes back to Medieval times and is held as close to his feast day of March 19th as possible to ask for St. Joseph’s intercession on behalf of someone else.
Add toothpicks to symbolize sins and jewels to symbolize good deeds.
Create a Jellybean Prayer Jar for each child.
This is a fun and visual way to show the sacrifices and special steps taken during Lent. At the end, any empty space is filled in with white jellybeans to symbolize the grace of Christ, further extending the lesson in God’s love.
There are some great ideas for doing this at the link above. You can even make wooden peg dolls to represent the key players in the Holy Week story and “act” it out.
More Lenten Resources
How will you share Lent with your children? I’d love to read about your ideas in the comments below.