I’ve enjoyed my share of egg hunts, Easter baskets, and milk-chocolate bunnies. But it may be time to lift the resurrection of Jesus Christ above the adventures of the Easter Bunny to teach our children about the living hope we have in Jesus.
A common objection to moving beyond chicks and chocolate is that younger children are too impressionable to be exposed to the horrors of crucifixion. Since they do not really understand the concept of death, how can they be expected to understand the concept of resurrection?
One of the biggest mistakes we can make, however, is to underestimate what children are capable of understanding.
You may think, “I’m not creative enough to teach these things. Besides, isn’t this the job of Sunday School teachers?” But being creative doesn’t require a particular job title. Teachable moments occur in the course of daily activities with your child, which then become the basis for learning truth.
One truth (that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins, for example) can be reinforced through Bible passages, stories, music, finger-plays, and other activities.
Lessons about life and death can be found in illustrations as simple as the life cycle of a plant. Allow your child to plant seeds and watch them grow. Then let them observe a dead plant or flower. Conversations about the death of a pet may also open doors for discussion.
Explaining the crucifixion to a child doesn’t need to include harsh details. It may be enough to say something like, “Jesus loves us so much that He died on the cross to take our punishment for the things we do wrong. Then He did what no one else could do. He didn’t stay dead, and because He is alive we can be friends with God forever.”
Storytelling is another terrific way to communicate the truth of the Resurrection. Even the youngest child has felt sad when separated from those he loves. We can tell the story of Jesus’ death and describe how sad Jesus’ friends were because they thought they would never see Him again. Then we can describe their joy when they discovered He didn’t remain in the tomb. Instead of being overwhelmed by the sadness that accompanies death, the child learns about the joy we have because Jesus is alive.
For two- and three-year-olds, visual aids are helpful. Older preschoolers can hold up props to participate in the story time. Adults can act out a scene for the very young. Elementary children can read the scene or act it out. Adolescents can act it out, role-play, or write their own scenes.
Children will enjoy acting out the disciples’ amazement and joy in learning that Jesus is alive and that He made the way for us to live forever with Him.
Or illustrate the resurrection in the kitchen with this fun recipe for Resurrection Rolls. Allow your children to help you by inserting the marshmallow in the center of crescent roll dough. After baking, the marshmallow disappears!
While there are many excellent Bible story books and children’s resource materials, don’t underestimate the importance of using the Bible itself. Schedule a daily time with to read together, but limit the time based on your child’s age and attention span.
Depending on the age of your children, they may not fully understand the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But as they learn, they can share your joy as you celebrate Easter together. It’s never too soon to begin!