The Lenten season occurs between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday which is the day before Easter Sunday. In the Catholic and other Christian traditions, Lent is a period of fasting and abstinence when people reflect and pray and may refrain from indulging in certain activities such as smoking, drinking alcohol or eating chocolate for those forty days. These may be difficult concepts for children to comprehend. When designing lesson plans to teach children the concept of Lent, include activities to help them understand the prayerful, giving and contemplative part of Lent.
Design a plan to introduce children to the history of the Lenten Season. Discuss why we get ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday and why palms are handed out on Palm Sunday. Consider printing out short crossword or word search puzzles as a fun activity which will help the children learn about the History of Lent. Include words like Good Friday, Calvary and Easter Vigil and discuss them as the children are completing the puzzle. There are several websites such as www.churchyear.net where you can print out Lenten puzzles to include in your lesson plan.
Stations of the Cross
Designing Lenten lesson plans for children should include a discussion of the Stations of the Cross. The Stations of the Cross consist of prayers at each of each station of Christ's Passion on the way to Calvary where he died on the cross. If possible, take the children into the church and walk them through the Stations of the Cross which are usually on the walls of most Catholic churches and many other churches. Talk about each station emphasising the loving deeds of Veronica who wiped the face of Jesus or Simon who helped Jesus carry the arduous cross. Teach children a short prayer designed to help them learn how to help others or accept problems they may experience in their lives with God's help.
An important part of Lent includes prayerful giving. As we fast and refrain from certain indulgences, we are also expected to use the time of Lent to contemplate our spiritual lives. One way to help children learn to do this is through giving. Consider purchasing or making Lenten calendars and ask the children to put a coin into a slot for each day and say an accompanying prayer for an intention such as ending poverty. Look into Operation Rice Bowl activities as part of your lesson plan. Give the children a cardboard rice bowl (or any bowl will do) and ask them to eat a simple meal once a week. Instruct them to put the money that they saved by eating the simple meal into the rice bowl and collect it during your last lesson before Easter. Send the money to Operation Rice Bowl, an organisation designed to help end world hunger.