Bringing Children to the Heart of Easter
by Linda W. Rooks
When my grandson Ryan was five years old, I read him an Easter story, and afterward he asked me about miracles. We talked about God and Jesus and the miracle of Jesus rising from the dead and what it meant. The next night he asked Jesus into his heart.
Like my grandson Ryan, I was also a child when I asked Jesus to be my Savior, and it was very real to me. From the time I was eight years old, kneeling beside my grandmother’s bed to ask Jesus into my heart, the foundation of my life became rooted in Jesus. When I now go back and look at memorabilia of my childhood and youth, I find the thread of that decision weaving through everything. I may have followed imperfectly at times, but God was my anchor and always kept my foot from slipping too far off the path He chose for me.
As a result of my own experience, I believe children’s hearts and minds are soft and ready to learn about God’s love and grace, even from an early age. Barna research confirms this through studies which show that individuals are far more likely to come to Christ between the ages of 5 and 12, and far less inclined to do so after their mid-teens. For these reasons, Christian parents, grandparents and teachers are wise to take advantage of these tender years of a child’s life to bring them to Christ.
And what better time to do this than at Easter when opportunities and resources abound to tell about Jesus and what He did on the cross?
To lay the groundwork for a child’s coming to Jesus, a children’s Bible should be part of every family’s library. Reading the Bible together with your child adds context to who Jesus is and how He came to love us. To make it special and personal, presenting each child with their own Bible at Easter can highlight for them the true significance of the day.
A number of good children’s Easter books tell the resurrection story in simple language as well, many with charming illustrations and extra features that enhance a child’s understanding.
An array of clever children’s crafts and activities add further enjoyment in learning by creating visuals and hands-on experiences that make Easter more understandable for children. Resurrection rolls use a disappearing marshmallow tucked inside a crescent roll to symbolize the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection when the marshmallow melts during baking.
Resurrection eggs teach the Easter story by sending children on an Easter egg hunt to look for eggs filled with symbols that represent important parts of Jesus’ journey to the cross and His resurrection afterward. Items like coins representing Judas’ betrayal, bread for the last supper, a thorn for the crown of thorns, a nail for the crucifixion, and a rock representing the stone that was rolled away become teaching tools to make Easter more relatable.
One of my favorite ways to introduce children to Jesus is by using cultural icons they already enjoy. This piggybacks on an approach common among educators who often recommend beginning a lesson about something new by starting with something the child already understands and appreciates. After first capturing their attention, you can transition more easily to your main point. For instance, the sacrificial love Anna shows to her sister Elsa in the movie Frozen makes a perfect starting point for a conversation about the sacrificial love of Jesus when He chose to die on the cross so we could live forever. Stories that capture a child’s heart with traces of analogy are effective tools for introducing children to the story of Easter and the concept of what Jesus did on the cross. Becoming familiar with your own child’s favorite stories and heroes will help you choose an appropriate beginning.
And that takes us to heroes.
Children love heroes. For little boys, nothing surpasses the thrill of Spider Man, Iron Man, Thor and an array of new monster and dinosaur heroes that populate our culture.
Girls enjoy heroes too, and for them the action is only half the delight. Even better, the joy of seeing the rescue of a damsel in distress warms her heart and reassures her that life can be safe and secure when heroes are around.
But who is actually the greatest hero of all? Who sacrificed His life for us so we could live forever? Who loved us so much that even when we ourselves were a sinful mess and oblivious to our fate of destruction, He chose to rescue us and die for us? And beyond that, this hero didn’t just die the death of a martyr. He showed His power by coming back to life.
That’s Jesus! The biggest hero of all.
So when talking to your children about the significance of Easter this year, try to present the gospel story so that it connects to their hearts as well as their minds. Tell them a story—maybe even your own about when you began your walk with Jesus. Or read a new children’s Easter book to them. Bedtime is a natural time for stories, and children love to prolong the minutes before turning out the lights. Or do an Easter craft that explains the miracle of Jesus. Let them know that Jesus is our BIGGEST hero. He is not only strong and powerful, but He came to save YOU, by dying and rising from the dead because He loves you so much.
One more thing: remember that Easter story I read to my grandson Ryan when he asked Jesus into his heart? It’s now a book called The Bunny Side of Easter, an allegorical adventure of a little rabbit’s heroism that points children to the biggest hero of all at Easter.
Award winning author Linda W. Rooks takes her life-long love of children’s books and uses it to tell a winsome, but exciting adventure that points children to the real meaning of Easter in her picture book The Bunny Side of Easter. Linda is best known for her ministry to those in troubled marriages and for her books Fighting for Your Marriage while Separated and Broken Heart on Hold. Her writing has appeared in Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, HomeLife, and Chicken Soup. She has appeared as guest on TV and radio talk shows across the North American continent. Visit Linda at lindarooks.com.
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