The green table is moving! I'll begin posting again after we're all set up in our new home!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

Ash Wednesday is THIS Wednesday already, and so the Season of Lent begins.  I'll be posting a lot more about Lent, but for today I'll share my hands down very favorite project of the year, making Ash Crosses with the children. 

Here I'll show you what we did last year with the hope it will inspire you with a meaningful way to talk with your children about Ash Wednesday.

You'll need:
aprons or smocks
6"x6'"squares of purple or gray paper
scrap paper
vegetable oil

Begin by introducing Ash Wednesday as the beginning of Lent, the time when we prepare for Jesus' death and resurrection on Easter Sunday.  Part of Lent is remembering that we sin.  We are born wanting to do bad things. Often we fall into temptation and do many bad things.  We sin. 

Ask the children to think of some of their sins, or bad things they have done.  Help them to think of recent incidents that have been issues in the family and write them down.  Don't forget to share and write down a few of your own favorite sins - it's good for your children to know that we all sin and need forgiveness.  Last year, at age 3, Adelae considered wetting her pants the worst possible offence! 

Talk to the children about forgiveness.  Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  We are forgiven!  In our Baptism we were washed clean of all sin.  We are forgiven!  Keep the children at a safe distance, but where they can still see. Place the list of sins in a glass dish and light them on fire.  Burn them until the list is nothing but ash.  The sins are gone!

Here is how our sin and forgiveness conversation flowed this year at age 4. First, Adelae named some of Pete's annoying habits, that just so happen to be some of her own bad habits, such throwing unwanted food on the floor and leaving toys scattered around the house.  We worked through the 10 Commandments and came up with a list of sins, and even touched on Adam and Eve's Original Sin.  Then she asked, "Mommy, Jesus is God?"
   "Yes honey, and He's man too."
   "But what's His name?"
   "Because God picked the name."
   "Jesus means Savior. His name tells us what He does. Jesus saves us from our sin."
   "So where is He?"
   "He is with us wherever we go."
   "But how does He talk to us?  I don't see Him?"
   "No, we can't see Him now like they could see Him in the Bible."
   "Sort of like my friend, Brielle.  I can't see her now."
   "Yes, sort of."
   "How does He talk to us?"
   "At church, at Sunday School, when you read the Bible.  God talks to us through His Word."
   "But He's not with us."
   "Yes, He is.  He is with us in the Sacraments.  When Mommy and Daddy go to communion, He is there.  When you touch the "baby bathtub" (aka the baptismal font), He is there.  He reminds us that we have forgiveness, life and heaven because of Him."
   "Mommy, that fire you burned makes me sad."
   "Yes, our sins make us feel terrible."
   "Lent is a sad time.  Our sins made Jesus have to die.  But we are happy too, because His death saved us."
   "Mommy, I like these crosses."
I could go on and on.  It was a sweet little exchange.  Later she gave her cross necklace to Pete to wear "so He would believe".
Pete's Ash Cross
Speaking of Pete, He was a sport about trying to make a cross.  He really enjoys getting dirty!  I guided his little finger over the paper. 
I'm getting ahead of myself.  Back to the project.  Show the children the black ash.  Stir a few drops of oil into the pan to form a black paste.  Have the children use their fingers to paint a cross on the purple and gray papers. 
Simple and stark, these little paintings help the children begin to understand the seriousness of their sin, thereby making Jesus' work on the cross and Easter resurrection far sweeter than a marshmallow peep  - or even a chocolate bunny! 
Ash Crosses in our kitchen window - 2011


  1. WARNING do not do this in a church classroom, I thought this was such a great lesson, until the fire alarm went off, the church had to be evacuated, and the fire truck came!Talk about embarrassed, I wanted to crawl in a hole!

  2. we don't use open flame either, we use electric candles to "mime" the burning and present the ashes (done at home) to complete the lesson.
    btw - i evacuated a school with an ill placed popcorn machine!