Holy Week is an amazing time. It is liturgically full, and can sometimes be hard for children to grasp. A few years ago, I decided to put together a small collection of tangible things that my children could see and play with. We call it the Holy Week activity bag. My hope was that in using the items, while I explained the meanings, would help them learn the Gospel so that when we were in church, they were listening with expectation, and recognizing the hymnography and readings.
The second thing to remember about Holy Week is that it is long, particularly for kids. I rarely let my kids bring toys to church (with the exception of my toddler), and this is one time that I make an exception. At least then, their quiet play is centered somewhat around what we are doing. (Note: if you have multiple children, it may be a good idea to make a bag for each of them. I learned this the hard way after breaking up repeated squabbles over a toy donkey on Palm Sunday.)
These are a few of the things I included:
Peg doll: This faceless doll is great, and can double as Lazarus and Jesus. For Lazarus Saturday and Holy Saturday, I also include a piece of white fabric (or even a Kleenex if I’m pressed for time) that can be used as a winding-sheet.
Donkey and Palm Branches: For Palm Sunday, of course! This branch (actually a fern, but nobody will ever notice) is rather large for my needs, so I cut off individual leaves. That made it much more workable. I cut small coats out of a piece of felt, as well.
Silver: Of course, this is actually a quarter, but it fits the bill. At home, I count out thirty with my children when we discuss Judas’s betrayal. If taking them to church, I highly recommend only bringing one. Thirty plastic coins makes a mess and is noisy when dumped out on the floor (ask me how I know this).
Dice: For Holy Friday, to remember the guards casting lots of Christ’s clothing.
Another good thing is have the icons for each day available for your children to color. Every year, I print off nine or ten copies (one for each of my kids, a few Godchildren, and to share with children sitting around us) and staple them together. In some years (when I’m feeling particularly crafty), I shrink them down to make them more manageable, and include a construction paper cover. The OCA has a great resource of printable icons available online here.
For those of you who like things all in one place (like me!) here is a PDF version of the Holy Week Icons that you can download.
Last but not least, if you need a cool container to hold all these goodies, here’s a simple drawstring bag that won’t break the bank. (It’s definitely cooler than the gallon Ziplock bag where our Holy Week Activity Bag toys currently live…)
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