Lent begins today, or, in the case of the Eastern Catholic churches, it has already begun on Monday. Here are a couple of simple practices that have in past years helped our children get into the spirit of Lent and prepare for the joy and new life of Easter.
The "crown of thorns" has been a big hit at our house. I've seen directions for making salt-dough crowns, but ours is simpler. I simply purchased at the craft store an 8" wreath made of woven twigs. On Ash Wednesday, we stick toothpicks into it to represent thorns, and place the wreath in the center of our dining table. The children get to remove one thorn for each sacrifice or act of kindness (you can make it as specific or general as you like) and their goal is to remove them all before Easter. Some years, we have cleared them all in plenty of time. In this case, we add little flowers to the wreath instead of removing thorns. The flowery wreath makes a good Easter centerpiece.
We also have done a "lenten cross" for the last several years; concpetually it resembles a Jesse Tree or Advent calendar. The original idea for this came from this article by Catherine Fournier on the Domestic Church website. I cut out two strips of brown paper and lay the short one across the long one to form a cross on the wall. Then, using the information in Fournier's article, you can do this project a couple of different ways. If your children are older, you may wish to have them take turns making an illustration for each day in Lent, while another child reads aloud the Scripture reading for the day. If you have younger children, you may prefer to draw or trace a set of illustrations ahead of time. The children then color one each day and add it to the brown-paper cross, while you read the Scripture. Save the master to use again next year. We were blessed to be given a set of illustrations by a friend when our children were young. (Thank you, Paula!)
A simple set of Stations of the Cross can go up the side of your main stairway (consider how many children will need to fit, though!), or down a hall. We made ours using 3x5 index cards with pictures cut from an illustrated book of the stations, with plastic crosses added.
I'll try to find pictures of these.
For myself, I am pondering a Personal Program for Lent.
A blessed Lenten season to you all!