Saturday, March 31, 2012

Easter At Our House (and Some Ideas for Yours)

Our Little One's Easter Basket this year -
Complete with Easter Storybook, The Parable of the Lily,
Veggie Tales DVD, Stuffed Lamb with the words "He Lives"
and Lindt's chocolate lambs

Let me start out by saying that the Easter Bunny doesn't visit our house. Yes, you heard that right. Santa doesn't come here either. Now, I know that's an extremely unpopular thing to say, so before you label me the "Worst Mother In America," let me clarify a few things...

1.) Yes, my daughter does get an Easter basket - and Christmas presents. In fact, Christmas and Easter are both HUGE holidays at our house - filled with gifts, candy, decorations, crafts, special music, etc.
2.) My mom and dad never told me the Easter Bunny and Santa were real and I don't feel cheated. Actually, it's quite the opposite. I never had that "You mean my parents have been lying to me all these years?" moment.
Before I go any further, please let me say that I am not condemning anyone who does the Easter Bunny and Santa at their house. And I'm definitely not trying to say that you are scarring your children for life. After all, your parents probably did those traditions with you and you turned out OK. - I'm assuming. ;)
So why have my husband and I decided against those traditions with our daughter? Well, it's pretty simple. We want "the main thing to remain the main thing." We want her very earliest associations with those holidays to be Jesus. We want her to understand that the reason we celebrate Christmas and Easter is because Jesus, God's Son, came to earth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, and rose again - all to rescue us from our sins. We don't want to muddy the waters.
Here's another reason we have decided not to tell our daughter that the Easter Bunny and Santa are real: She can't see the Easter Bunny or Santa. Her only basis to believe that they are real is because we tell her so. She also cannot see Jesus. Right now, her main reason for believing that He is real is because we tell her so. We don't want her innocent young mind to ever become confused. "Mama and Daddy said the Easter Bunny was real - even though I can't see him - but now I find out he's not. Mama and Daddy also said Jesus is real - even though I can't see Him. Is that a lie too?" I know that may sound simplistic, but remember, we are dealing with little children. Things can become confused in their minds very easily. That's just not a chance my husband and I are willing to take.

So what do we do at Easter then? I'm SO glad you asked! (Or, at least, I'm SO glad you are still reading!) ;)
1.) The first thing we do is read her stories about Jesus instead of stories about bunnies. Now, don't get me wrong. Bunnies are adorable! I love bunnies! But when it comes to Easter, we like to fill our little girl's young heart with stories of Jesus - His life, His miracles, and yes, even His death. You may say, she's too young to hear about death. I disagree. She is NEVER to young to hear about what Jesus has done! And Jesus rose from the grave to live again! What wonderful news! I want her heart to know that right from the start!!!
So here are some books that we have that tell all about Jesus:
A.) The Jesus Storybook Bible - The Subtitle of this book is "Every Story Whispers His Name" and that explains this book perfectly! This is THE MOST INCREDIBLE storybook Bible that I have ever seen. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law gave this to our daughter for her first Christmas and I will be eternally grateful! Here's what the intro to the book says, "The Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne--everything--to rescue the one he loves. It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life. You see, the best thing about this story is - its true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The story of how God loves His children and comes to resuce them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this story. And at the center of this story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers His name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle - the missing piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture. And this is no ordinary baby. This is the child upon whom everything would depend. This is the child who would one day - but wait. Our story starts where all good stories start. Right at the very beginning..."
B.) Really Woolly Bible Stories - this is an adorable Bible story book - perfect for very young children. Its a large board book, so no worries about baby tearing up pages. Every Bible story is one page and its done in rhyme, so its perfect for that little one who doesn't yet have a long enough attention span to listen to a long story.
C.) The Very First Easter by Zonderkidz - This is the Easter story for children. Its a thin, paperback book that only costs $1.99 - perfect for the Easter Basket! :)
D.) Little Colt's Palm Sunday - A great book to introduce little ones to the story of Palm Sunday. This book is written from the perspective of the colt that carried Jesus on that day.
E.) Journey, Easter Journey - This adorable Easter book talks all about Jesus' journey - begininning with His journey to earth on that first Christmas and ending with His ascension into heaven after Easter.
F.) The Parable of the Lily - A wonderful little parable for children - complete with Bible verses about Jesus to explain the meaning of the parable.
G.) The Easter Story: Read and Share - A book about the last week of Jesus' life on earth - beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with His ascension into heaven.
H.) Madame Blue's Easter Hullabaloo - for all those Veggie Tales fans - a book about not getting caught up in all the unimportant things at Easter, but focusing on the celebrating Jesus' resurrection. Press the button and hear a children's choir sing "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna."

2.) Another thing that my husband and I do with our daughter is give her Easter lambs instead of Easter bunnies. This is a tradition that my Mama started with me. Giving an Easter lamb is another way to point your child toward Christ - the LAMB of God.
- Check out Amazon's collection of stuffed lambs. They have some really cute ones to choose from, including this lamb with a ribbon that says "Jesus Loves Me." Another good idea would be this adorable lamb bank.

3.) We also LOVE Veggie Tales Easter gifts! Here are a couple we have gotten for our daughter:
A.) Veggie Tales An Easter Carol dvd - "When Ebenezer Nezzer sets out to revolutionize Easter with mechanical chickens and plastic eggs, it's up to valiant veggies Larry and Bob and a music box angel named Hope (voiced by singer Rebecca St. James) to teach him the true meaning of the holiday."
B.) A Very Veggie Easter music cd - "Heartwarming stories and fantastic songs teach us all what brings real and lasting joy. This CD is a blend of hilarious Veggie songs and classic Easter celebration hymns. Song titles include Hosanna Loud Hosanna, All Around the World, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today and many more!"

4.) Speaking of Easter music, I think its HUGELY important. After all, we love to listen to music that celebrate Christ's birth. Why not listen to music that celebrates Christ's resurrection! And, as far as that's concerned, you can't do any better than Risen by Sovereign Grace Music. This cd is INCREDIBLE! Buy it! You won't be sorry!

5.) Lastly, just as with Christmas, I love to find little crafts, activities and recipes that teach a lesson to my daughter. Last year she was only a few months old, so we didn't really do any, but this year I have begun really searching for ideas. I'd like to share some of them with you.
A.) This first idea is a different take on the Easter basket and I LOVE it! - Basically, you take your kids outside and collect rocks. (You could do this on Good Friday. You could also go to a Walmart and buy a bag of those small, smooth stones that you use to decorate a garden, etc) Then, you bring all of the rocks inside and read Ezekial 36:26 to the kids and talk about how their sins are like rocks that weigh their hearts down and make their hearts like stone. Then, discuss their sins and have them write them on their rocks (things like whining, complaining, not sharing, etc). They each put their rocks in their Easter baskets. Then give them each a piece of red cloth and talk about how Jesus shed His blood on the cross to take away our "stoney, rocky sins" and have them each lay their red cloth over their baskets (covering up the rocks). Put the baskets out of sight until Easter morning. Then, on Easter morning before the kids get up, take a new Basket and put a sign on it that says "Jesus." Put all of their rocks into Jesus' basket and put their Easter gifts into their baskets. Then cover their baskets back up with the red cloth. When they get up they will see that all of their "sins" are now in Jesus' basket. Talk to them again about how Jesus died and rose again to take away our sins. What a WONDERFUL idea!!!
B.) Here's a great craft idea for Good Friday - Empty Tomb Craft. Just click the link to see instructions on making your own empty tomb and stone out of homemade salt dough. You could actually do this on Thursday so that it has plenty of time to dry. On Friday, print out a coloring picture of Jesus (or copy one from one of your child's storybooks) and let them color it. Then put Jesus in the tomb and place the stone in front of the door. On Sunday morning (before your kids get up) move the stone and remove Jesus from the tomb. As soon as your children wake up, take them to the tomb and let them discover that the stone has been moved and Jesus is no longer there.

C.) Plant an Easter Garden - click the link to see instructions.

D.) Here's a Passion Week craft that is a great way to teach your kids about how Jesus took our sins upon him. Click the link above to see how to do this simple craft with only a white carnation, a bottle of red food coloring, and a vase.

E.) Try making these Empty Tomb Cookies the night before Easter. The link includes Bible verses connceting each of the ingredients with a part of the story of Jesus' crucifixion. Put the cookies in the oven the night before Easter and on Easter morning when the kids bite into the cookies they will be hollow - empty just like Jesus' tomb! :)

F.) If you're not big on making your own cookies, or if you think that process may still be a little too lengthy for your little one, try these simple Resurrection Rolls. Basically, these are giant marshmallows, rolled in butter and cinnamon sugar and then wrapped tightly in crescent rolls. When they bake, the marshmallows melt into the crescent roll so that when you tear them open the marshmallow appears to be gone! (Symbolizing Christ being gone from the tomb on Easter morning.)

G.) Here's a great snack for Good Friday - Crown f Thorns Cookies. Made from sugar cookies or Ritz crackers, peanut butter, and crushed pretzels, this snack is a great visual to start a conversation with your little one about what happened on Good Friday.

H.) This Empty Tomb Snack is a great idea for Easter Sunday! - Made of a chocolate donut, an oreo cookie, a graham cracker, and coconut dyed green, it looks like the tomb with the stone rolled to the side! How cute and easy!

I.) Resurrection Eggs are another great way to teach your child with a fun activity. The eggs are filled with items that symbolize Christ's death and resurrection. Check out the link above or check out this link for some ideas on making your own Resurrection Eggs.

J.) Lastly, if you just can't resist getting your child an Easter Bunny - which I completely understand; bunnies are stinkin' cute - then here's a little sheet you can print out to go with your bunny called Real Easter Bunnies. It explains things like, "Real Easter Bunnies are quick to listen - James 1:19..." What a cute idea! :)

I hope these ideas will help you as you seek to teach your children the true meaning of Easter.


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