Easter is hands down one of my most favorite holidays! It has great significance in my own life, and I feel that as a parent, it is one of the most invaluable Bible stories that my children need to hear.
In the midst of this event, it is littered with betrayal, torture, hatred, murder, suicide, and other elements that I don’t desire to dangle out in front of little ones. When considering how to present the Easter story to young children, you may wonder what to really focus on and what to leave for later, more mature ears and hearts. There are certainly aspects of Jesus’ death and resurrection that are incredibly important, but that does not always mean that young children are quite ready to hear about all the gore and heinous details.
Year after year, I have taught the Easter story to preschoolers, and through time, I have come up with what I have found to be the concepts that little ones can most relate to. I even use a super fun and inviting little game to incorporate these elements. There’s more on that below. Here are four topics that I feel make Easter meaningful for young children:
When I teach about Easter, love is our foundational concept. Jesus loved the world so much that He laid down His life for us. He would not have come to Earth unless he loved us so much. While we may do things that make His heart sad, there is nothing we can do to lose His love. His love is greater than any other love we know, and He even loves us more than anyone else.
While Jesus could have come to Earth to live as a king, he took on a simple life. He came as a baby, and He didn’t even have clothes. The entire reason that Jesus came here is for us. He came to die on the cross for us because He loved us so much.
Jesus was the ultimate friend. He loved his own friends even when they were horribly mean to Him. When they lied about Him and hurt Him, He still loved them. Jesus also spent lots of time with them. Before Jesus died on the cross, one of the most important things He did was eat with His special group of friends called the disciples.
The purpose of Jesus coming to die on the cross for us is so that we could live with Him in heaven. He didn’t have to come. He didn’t have to die. He did it because He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us.
One of my favorite ways to help children understand the story of Easter is through hands on learning. A tool that I use to do this is called Resurrection Eggs. Family Life Today makes these, and I will show you how I modify them to make them more appropriate for young children. These are easy enough to make on your own, so it’s not even something that you would need to go out and buy. We actually only use four of the original items in the eggs.
To make your own meaningful Easter eggs, you will need an egg carton, plastic Easter eggs, and items to put inside of them to symbolize the Easter story.
Here are my 12 items:
1) Sponge sprayed with perfume- I love to start here and talk about the woman who came and cleaned Jesus’ feet. I like to introduce to children that it was a very special act of love. We discuss how the woman poured perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them clean with her hair and tears. A cloth could also be used instead.
2) Donkey (original piece)-
Jesus came in to town during the Triumphal Entry, and I retell about how He was riding in his super cool mustang. Just kidding! It was a very special donkey with a very important job. If you do not have a small donkey, you could print a picture and cut it out.
3) Block with leaf-
This represents the palm branches that the people waved when they saw Jesus during the Triumphal Entry. They waved them and shouted “Hallelujah.” At times we have been known to reenact this part too. If you have real leaves around, those would be great as well.
4) Cup (original piece)-
This signifies the Last Supper. I explain how Jesus wanted to be with all his close friends and have a special meal with them before He died. A picture of a meal would work, or a crouton could represent bread.
5) Praying Hands (original piece)-
We talk about when Jesus was in the garden praying before he was taken away. I tell them how Jesus was incredibly upset during this time, so He spent it talking with God. Feel free to put in something that would represent a garden such as a flower or some greenery.
I explain how this was a time where Jesus had a friend who was very scared. He said that he didn’t know Jesus because he thought people may want to hurt him. When he did this three times, the rooster crowed. I found this rooster in a Melissa and Doug magnetic set. As suggested previously, it would be easy to print out a picture of a rooster.
Since I feel that love is the most important part of the story, I put hearts in this egg. Heart stickers or foam pieces are perfect, and these small red shapes always amaze me with their incredible impact.
We talk about how Jesus died on a cross for our sins. I explain that people put Him up there, even though He didn’t deserve it. He died for us. I got this particular cross from a necklace kit, or a cross could easily be made with a piece of cardboard.
9) Block with the number 3-
The number three is significant because Jesus was in the tomb for three days. I think it’s fun to lead into the next event by counting to three together and discovering the surprise in the next egg. A magnetic number would also work perfectly or even a puzzle piece.
10) Stone (original piece)-
I love telling this part of the story! I say, “After three days…(then in a whisper voice) something amazing happened. The giant stone that covered the grave had been moved!!!” Any round stone would be easy to find for this.
11) Empty (original idea)-
We then talk about how they went inside of the tomb and found that it was empty! I explain how Jesus was no longer there, and that is called a miracle. Everyone should easily be able to find an empty tomb for this one :).
12) Golden strip-
This represents Heaven. I conclude by explaining that Jesus did all of this, so that we could go to Heaven with Him. I just took a strip from a golden paper crown for this. Any golden object such as a bead or even a piece of paper with gold glitter glue would work as well.
A black object could represent sin, which is why we needed Jesus to die on the cross.
You could use a small white cloth or piece of paper to signify that our sin was made clean when Jesus died for us.
A small pillow or cotton ball could represent when the disciples fell asleep at the garden.
I encourage you to put anything in that your child finds to be of deep significance in the story of Easter. I especially love when my children retell the story to me. The entire time I am sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what they found to be important. It is my hope that you find inspiration through this and a great way to connect with young children about Easter.
Katie has been an Early Childhood Teacher for 12 years, and she is the mother to two delightful children who are three and five years old. Her passion is teaching, which she currently does in a small, private preschool inside of her home in Colorado. You can find ideas and inspiration on her blog at Preschool Inspirations. You can also follow her on the Preschool Inspirations’ facebook page or find preschool resources on her pinterest page.