Jesus died on the cross, for our sins. He gave His life for ours and now we all have the gift of eternal life with God. The Easter story is the fulfillment of God’s promise to man, a selfless and unimaginable sacrifice of love and core to our Christian beliefs. That’s why we celebrate Easter, but explaining the crucifixion to toddlers isn’t easy…
Where do we start when a large part of the story is so cruel? And how do we compete with the Easter bunny?
A few tips to keep in mind…
Keep things age-appropriate.
Younger kids won’t understand every detail and could rightfully become upset. For now, rather focus on the outcome of Jesus’s crucifixion (the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life through Him). There will be plenty of time to give more attention to the rest of the story as your children mature.
Watch Your Words.
Using language that your kids understand. Highlight moment they can easily relate to and remember. Stay true to the heart of the crucifixion; Jesus’s act of love and sacrifice.
If we don’t understand sin, we are not able to fully appreciate what Jesus did for us. Explain to your kids that although Jesus was perfect and without any sin, He still loved us so much that He was willing to take upon the punishment for our wrong doings. The big and small things we do wrong… He has taken our place by washing away our sin.
If your little one is particularly interested in only one part of the crucifixion – explore it with them. Answers all their questions and look for answers together when you’re unable to.
We tend to make Christmas memorable with special traditions and decor yet Easter can be left bare. Plan and prepare activities or a specific family Bible study for Holy Week. When children experience Easter, they will start remembering the importance of the crucifixion while growing closer to God and loving Him more.
Now it’s time to put these words into practice!
Explaining the crucifixion to toddlers using the life cycle of a butterfly
Yes, you read that correctly… We use the life cycle of a butterfly as our first point of reference for the crucifixion of Jesus.
- Much like the butterfly, Jesus was born from humble beginnings, bringing the promise of new life for all. (The egg stage)
- As Jesus grew older, He grew “bigger” becoming a teacher to many as He fed them the will of God. (The caterpillar stage)
- Then came the fulfillment of His purpose; to die on the cross. Washing away our sins, overcoming death and bringing new life. (The pupa stage – researchers have found the pupa stage to be excruciating painful as the caterpillar’s body hardens forming a chrysalis. The old body is broken down into imaginal cells which grow and form a new body.)
- For a period of time, the disciples were alone, scared, waiting. (Just like we wait for the caterpillar to become a butterfly.)
- On the 3rd day, Jesus rose triumphant over death and sin. (The metamorphosis is complete, the chrysalis is empty. The caterpillar has become a butterfly. A new life has been granted and the butterfly can fly freely spreading sweet nectar – the gospel of Jesus.)
Now for some Easter fun!
We can’t hide our girls from the world, so instead of banning anything we rather embrace all of Easter, trying to find God in every detail. This year we have a week’s worth of crafts, baking, scripture reading and other activities planned around the butterfly’s life cycle, also including the Easter Bunny.
Celebrating Palm Sunday by decorating our home
Palm leaves straight out of our garden always excite the girls but you can also make a pretty paper palm leave garland using this template I found on the DLTK Growing Together website.
Using Monday to make a “Tree of life” a.k.a an Easter tree
(The egg stage of our butterfly’s life)
A tree of life symbolises of a fresh start, new beginnings, good health and a bright future. The branch represents the immortality, growth and strength of trees and the eggs, new life. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus gives us all? What a beautiful reminder to look upon daily.
I have included 3 ways to colour hard-boiled or blown-out eggs using natural homemade dyes, food colouring and also a cool Volcano Egg experiment the kids are sure to enjoy.
Use a glue gun and twine to make your coloured eggs into an ornament and hang from a branch found in the garden or leave them as is in a pretty basket or bowl.
Tuesday and Wednesday – Feeding our souls and our tummies
(The caterpillar stage of our butterfly’s life)
Much like a hungry caterpillar, we want our girls to thirst for God’s word. We will be making a simple paper chain caterpillar, “feeding” our caterpillars with Jesus’s teaching. Adding pieces of scripture as we link each chain of its body.
I’ve also included a blank page for more scripture you love. Remember to as the kids which story of Jesus (or throughout the Bible) they enjoy the most. Have fun seeing you can make the longest caterpillar.
And for our tummies…
We can’t forget about the Easter bunny!
So, how about some delicious Easter Bunny Meringues?
These are so cute, I just know the girls are going to go wild for them.
Maundy Thursday -Illustrating Jesus’s teachings and presence in a tangible way
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. It is a day set aside to commemorate The Last Supper. The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word “command,” and refers to Jesus’s teaching to the disciples – “To love one another as I have loved you.”
Use John 13:1-17 as reference. Jesus was celebrating Passover with his disciples. They were getting ready to share a Seder meal as a reminder of what God had done for his people when he rescued them from slavery in Egypt. But before the meal began, Jesus took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of his disciples.
This was a dirty job… degrading even. Only servants ever washed feet. But when Jesus said:
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:12-17, NIV
Jesus gave His last teaching, setting the example of how his people were to treat others. He stripped away all hierarchy showing us how to humbly serve and love each other. Bringing trust and healing in relationships.
Take turns washing each other’s feet. You can make it as “fancy” or as simple as you prefer.
(The pupa stage of our butterfly’s life)
For now, we simply tell our girls Jesus died on a cross. We leave out all graphic details answering only what they ask. As they start longing for more specific, we will share. For now, we focus on the brief sorrow the disciples felt but how Jesus wasn’t gone forever, he was simply “inside a chrysalis” – just like our caterpillar. Dying to become alive again.
There are so many ways to make a cross and you can really use whatever is available. This year we are weaving paper plates.
- Use a utility knife to cut out a cross in the middle of your paper plate.
- Take a large knitting needle and punch holes around the edge of your cross.
- Use any twine or thin rope to thread your cross following the holes punched.
Saturday – Learning to be silent
We may have never seen Jesus in the flesh but He is never far. We can speak to Him at any given moment and should do so regularly through prayer.
Knowing how to pray (even though there isn’t a wrong way), figuring out what to pray for and feeling comfortable to pray isn’t always easy for little ones. That’s why we can teach our children to pray. Making it fun, using what they know and can see. It’s fun talking to God so, this year we are teaching our girl’s the “Jelly Bean prayer”.
Finally Easter SUNDAY
(The chrysalis is empty, our butterfly has “risen”)
Time to celebrate! Dress up in your Sunday bests, put on those bunny ears or superman suits… Jesus has risen. Our sins are forgiven. We all have the promise of new life through Christ. WE SHOULD CELEBRATE!
Let the kids look for eggs, jelly beans. pieces of scripture. Rejoice and be thankful together!