Lent is a time of reflection that takes place during the 40 days leading up to Easter. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, the 40 days of Lent are meant to serve as a reminder of the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross. Lent is the perfect time to help children understand the real meaning behind Easter. Activities centring on the crown of thorns can be used to expound upon Christ's suffering for us.
Crafts are an excellent way to illustrate the concepts of Easter and Lent. Help children create a cross sun catcher out of construction paper, crayons and waxed paper. Cut a cross shape out of the centre of two pieces of black construction paper. Use a cheese grater to carefully obtain shavings from different coloured, unwrapped crayons. Arrange the shavings between two sheets of waxed paper and press with an iron on a low temperature, placing a dish towel between the paper and the iron. Be sure to assist children with this craft to prevent injury. A young child may not be able to create crayon shavings or iron the craft to melt the crayons, but he can participate by cutting the construction paper and arranging the crayon shavings on the waxed paper. Place the waxed paper between the two sheets of black construction paper so that the colours of the melted crayons are visible through the opening. Staple all the layers of paper together. Attach a ribbon loop to the top of the paper and hang the finished craft in a sunny window.
Another option is to create a crown of thorns out of a grapevine wreath. Begin by painting 25 to 30 toothpicks the same shade of brown as the grapevine wreath. Place the wreath on a flat service and insert toothpicks into the wreath, securing with white craft glue. The finished craft will have the appearance of a crown of thorns and can be used as an Easter centrepiece or as part of a discussion of the Easter story.
Simple object lessons are very effective at driving home important points about the crown of thorns and the season of Lent. Assemble a collection of various hats, including a representation of a crown of thorns. The hats should represent different roles or professions such as a policeman's hat, a firefighter's helmet, a crown or a baby's bonnet. Discuss the characteristics of the person who wears each hat and then discuss the crown of thorns. Ask the children who wore the crown of thorns and why. Talk about Christ's suffering on the cross. Conclude the discussion by asking the children for whom, among the people represented by the other hats, did Christ give up His life. The answer, of course, is that Christ died for all.
Another approach is to present various objects to children each day of the season of Lent. Use these objects to illustrate truths about the Easter story. For example, show children a blooming Easter lily and a plain flower bulb that can become a lily if planted. Use these objects to convey how God can take something ugly and turn it into something beautiful. Another option is to plant seeds in small pots and watch them grow, relating this new growth to new life in Christ.
Utilise food items to initiate a discussion of Lent. Roll prepared bread dough into three long cylinders. This bread will serve as an object lesson rather than used for consumption. Braid the cylinders, form into a circle and bake. Transform this circular loaf into a crown of thorns by inserting toothpicks into the bread. Each time that a family member does a good deed during the 40 days of Lent, they should pull a toothpick out of the bread and deposit it in a jar. When Easter arrives, count the number of toothpicks in the jar and talk about the good deeds that were accomplished.
Use ordinary crescent rolls to teach children about the Resurrection. Involve children in preparing the rolls by placing a marshmallow in the centre of an unfurled crescent roll. Lift up the three corners of the roll and affix the roll to the top of the marshmallow with a toothpick. Tell the children that the marshmallow is like Jesus when He was placed into the tomb. Later, when the disciples came back to the tomb, Jesus was not there because He had risen from the dead. Bake the rolls and amaze the children when the marshmallow melts and disappears.