If you're part of a Christian family, the Easter season represents a holy time, not just baskets and bunnies -- but it can be difficult to remind your toddler or preschooler of that. Kids are often more concerned with the number of chocolate eggs they'll get than with the sacrifices of Lent; however, engaging them in reverent yet fun activities can keep their hearts on the reason for the festivities.
Create a Countdown Crown for the 40 days of Lent. Using construction paper, make a large circle and glue the ends together -- this represents the crown. Make colorful smaller loops of paper, numbered 40 to 1. Glue the smaller loop -- the thorns -- to the paper crown. Present the Countdown Crown to your preschooler, using it as an opportunity to tell the story of Jesus' crucifixion. During each evening of Lent, ask your preschooler to pull off a small loop. When all the "thorns" have been removed, what remains on Easter morning is just the crown, which represents the glory of Jesus in His resurrection.
Place a bowl of cookies next to an empty jar. Each time your toddler or preschooler performs a kind act, says a prayer, sings a hymn or makes a sacrifice for Lent, ask him to put a cookie in the jar. On Easter, count all the cookies and then reward your toddler with a favorite, special treat. Explain to your toddler or preschooler that this is a reminder that all the sacrifices they make on earth will one day be rewarded in Heaven.
Have your toddler or preschooler create his own Crown of Thorns by rolling nonhardening clay into a snake and connecting the ends to form a circle. Keep a bag of cotton balls near the crown. Each evening during Lent, ask your toddler or preschooler to tell you something Jesus did during His life or a reason He died. For each reason he provides, ask him to stick a cotton ball into the crown to represent a thorn. On Easter, use the completed crown as a centerpiece.
Traditionally, Christians give up something they like to eat or do as a sacrifice for Lent. Explain to your toddler or preschooler that the small sacrifices they make remind them of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made, and ask them to remember Jesus' sacrifice by contributing to community efforts. Help your preschooler or toddler to pick out some old toys to donate to less fortunate children, or to help you collect canned food for a food bank. Create a sacrifice garland by tracing each child's hand on construction paper and writing his name on it. Ask your toddler or preschooler to draw a picture of what they did to help the community. Hang the hands in a prominent place to remind your toddler or preschooler of their small sacrifices and the way they helped the community.