Whereas most of us are pretty comfortable with our family traditions for celebrating Easter, Holy Week for kids is WAY more intimidating. After all, so much happens in the week leading up to the resurrection of Christ.
How do we know what’s age-appropriate for them to understand? How can we pack more meaning and deeper understanding into that special week? Here are some tips, and also a step-by-step guide to planning out a Holy Week for kids.
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Take a break from the busyness during Holy Week.
We keep Easter weekend blocked off, prepare to attend church, spend time with extended family, and we plan Easter baskets and egg hunts. Most of us Christian families already have the whole weekend penciled into our calendars.
Make a plan for Holy Week in advance. Decide which days you’d like to teach, and then block off your calendar accordingly.
You might need to let coach know you won’t be able to attend a couple of practices, your grocery list might be a little longer than normal on Palm Sunday, and tutoring or lessons might need to be put on hold.
If you decide this week will be an important one for your family, just make the adjustments in advance, so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute!
Looking for more faith-filled holidays? Check out Ideas for a Spring Break Staycation with Kids.
Collect your kids Bible stories for Holy Week in advance.
Wherever possible, I like to use The Jesus Storybook Bible. I just love the way every single story points back to Jesus, even in the Old Testament.
Double check your child’s storybook Bible in advance to confirm it has all the stories you want to teach that week.
The Jesus Storybook Bible has the following Holy Week stories:
The Last Supper/Foot Washing (Thursday)
The Crucifixion (Friday)
The Resurrection (Sunday)
You will not find waving of the palms or Jesus’ anger at the temple.
If you need help screening children’s Bibles, I have a post about that!
You’d be surprised how many children’s Bibles your library probably has available, too. You can always supplement whatever children’s Bible you have at home with more from the library to put together the perfect Holy Week for kids curriculum.
A two-page spread in our favorite Jesus Storybook Bible
Create a Holy Week for kids playlist.
A Journey Through Holy Week for Kids and Families
One way to help kids really understand what happened in Jesus’ final days – and also to understand why it’s so important to our faith – is to really connect the dots between one event and the next.
It’s important to tell it as one big narrative, rather than a bunch of isolated stories.
The Easter Story Egg
I really love this book that we received from my mom. It comes with a big Easter nesting egg. Read one passage each day of Holy Week, and at the conclusion of the reading, open one egg.
My kids absolutely treasure this book and getting to open a new egg each day. I believe it really helps kids internalize the Holy Week story, too. They begin to see Easter as a series of events rather than just two stories: Jesus died and Jesus rose again.
Palm Sunday is the day we recognize Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a humble donkey. As he arrived, his followers laid out palm branches on his pathway as a show of adoration.
Why We Celebrate Palm Sunday with Kids
Palm Sunday sort of “kicks off” Holy Week.
They may not always be old enough to really understand the significance of what’s happening in the church building on Palm Sunday, but they do realize the spirit of celebration. As they get older, they begin to realize that Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem was a really exciting event.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that much of Holy Week is solemn and sad. It’s bookended by two happy Sundays. Even though we know the hard part is coming, we also know how the story ends.
How to Celebrate Palm Sunday with Kids
In many mainline churches, you can find a family-friendly service where kids will enter the sanctuary during the processional, waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!” They learn that Hosanna was a word for celebration and adoration. The senior adults in the church usually find this to be a very special time, as everyone finds joy in the sight of little kids hollering in the church.
In our old church, kids would proceed all the way to a cross at the front of the church wrapped in chicken wire. They would put their palm branch on the cross. The cross would be present for all Holy Week activities, and get adorned with flowers from the congregation on Easter Sunday.
Palm Sunday palms get burned, and the ashes are used at next year’s Ash Wednesday service.
If you’d like to create a Palm Sunday celebration in your home for kids, that can be accomplished, too! Local florists carry palm branches and they can be bought days in advance. Here is a great 3 minute video for kids to learn about Palm Sunday.
Here is the 2 page spread about Palm Sunday from the book The Easter Story Egg.
What happened historically in the early part of Holy Week?
I like to teach the cleansing of the temple sometime during this part of the week.
Here is a kid-friendly video about the cleansing of the temple.
The Temple in Jerusalem required temple taxes to be paid, and the moneychangers there worked to convert the many currencies into the acceptable one for paying taxes. Animals were also sold at the temple so people could sacrifice them at the temple.
John 2:13-16 says that Jesus yelled at the merchants for turning his Father’s house into a house of trade. He made a whip or cords and drove everyone out of the temple, turning over tables and scattering the money everywhere.
One common interpretation is that Jesus was furious at the people for exploiting the poor.
Biblical scholars argue about whether the cleansing of the temple occurred during Holy Week, and they also debate whether Jesus did this on more than one occasion.
But Matthew, Mark and Luke all agree that this was the event that sort of expedited or triggered the crucifixion. Within one week of the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus was dead.
How can we teach kids about this part of Holy Week?
First, the Story Egg mentioned previously in this post has some great ideas for lessons to teach on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week.
Here are more ideas.
Here is the 2 page spread about the cleansing of the temple from the book The Easter Story Egg.
Teach children about righteous anger and social justice when discussing the Cleansing of the Temple.
This is a great opportunity to talk to kids about the concept of righteous anger.
I’ve always been very uncomfortable with anger, and deemed it an emotion that was destructive, scary, and dangerous. But this illustration of Jesus shows us that not all anger is bad. After all, if Jesus never sinned, and he TOTALLY lost it that day, we can assume that some anger – and even the expression of it – has a role in this world.
Jesus wasn’t angry for his own sake, though. It wasn’t rooted in selfishness. He was angry on someone else’s behalf – his Father’s, and also perhaps the poor people who were being mistreated at the temple for the advancement of the temple.
Therefore, this can be a great time to teach kids about how Jesus calls us to act on the behalf of those who can’t speak up for themselves.
You can pair this story with a local serving opportunity at a food bank, food pantry, or any other organization that aims to help the poor.
Children learn best by doing and by exposure to new experiences.
Since the end of the week will be much busier, you might use these first few weekdays to decorate Easter eggs for Sunday’s egg hunt!
Maundy Thursday is the night we remember the Last Supper and Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.
Why We Observe Maundy Thursday
Catholics participate in communion every single week at Mass. Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and many other mainline denominations have communication once per month. Baptists often have communion quarterly.
Maundy Thursday remembers the Last Supper found in all three synoptic gospels, which is where our communion tradition originates.
It’s a chance to teach kids about why we have communion, which is obviously important to all Christian traditions.
Why Is It Called Maundy Thursday?
“Maundy” comes from the Latin word for “command.” Jesus commanded his disciples to “love one another.” So when we think of Maundy Thursday, we should be reminded to love each other.
How to Observe Maundy Thursday with Kids?
Maundy Thursday is one of my favorite nights of Holy Week. You have two good options for really making a meaningful impact on your kid’s faith development on Maundy Thursday. Both of these are easily adaptable to youth groups, and I’ve done both of these activities successfully with teenagers.
A sedar meal is basically a remake of the meal Jesus likely had with his disciples at the Last Supper. Each food item has a special meaning.
Don’t be scared off by the heavy presence of wine at the meal. You can substitute grape juice and get the same idea.
I like this sedar meal because it’s a super simple version planned for a Sunday School class. There’s no reason you can’t do this at home.
Remember not to get too caught up in trying to make everything perfectly historically accurate. There are wonderful lessons to be learned here, and it’s not helpful to let perfect be the enemy of good.
At the Last Supper, Jesus washed his disciples’ dusty, sandaled feet. Of course, they protested that they didn’t deserve all that fussing, but Jesus did it anyway.
It was an example of humility, love, and servant leadership. It’s an important lesson for all of us to learn.
It can also feel extremely vulnerable. When we did a foot washing ceremony with our youth group, a few students were genuinely uncomfortable. They started to set out the experience, but after a while, they decided to join in. They could tell something really meaningful was happening, and they didn’t want to be left out.
We sat in small circles, each with a single bowl of soapy water and a rag. Students took turns quietly washing each other’s feet. In our group, I think we didn’t bother making sure groups were same-sex, but I think with younger, less mature kids, that might be wise to preserve the solemnity of the experience.
Of course, they didn’t begin until everyone understood WHY we were doing this, and what they were supposed to learn. Our group was already very comfortable with one another, much like a family.
Dim the lights, read the Bible passage about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and then take turns with a bowl of soapy water and rag. Afterward, debrief the experience and talk about how we can serve people in our communities today.
Good Friday is the most confusing thing to teach at Holy Week. Why is it called Good Friday? Can’t we just teach the crucifixion at the same time we teach the resurrection? Here’s why I think the day deserves its own observance with kids.
Why We Observe Good Friday
Good Friday is the day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross.
Why Is It Called Good Friday?
It’s called Good Friday because it led to something really wonderful. While it’s certainly sad that Christ died, He did so to offer us salvation and love, and He was resurrected and victorious over sin and death. That makes it good!
How to Navigate Good Friday with Kids?
I have found that it’s really hard to find a good children’s ministry video of the crucifixion that doesn’t also include the resurrection. And I certainly understand why! It’s a terribly sad event, and to be fair, we know how the story ends. You can always show a really great Easter video, and simply pause the video as He’s being placed in the tomb.
Resurrection eggs are one of my favorite traditions at Easter time. If you’ve never put together resurrection eggs, this can be a wonderful activity with kids. If you’re trying to focus less on the horrible events of the day, this can be a lovely way to spend your time.
Passion for Savings did a beautiful job explaining how to assemble resurrection eggs to pack even more meaning into your Easter week. Printables are included on her post! Check it out!
Good Friday Service
I believe children who are old enough to sit quietly in church and follow thoughtful instructions can really benefit from attending a Good Friday service.
There is always a very solemn mood in the room. Frequently, attenders are asked to enter and depart in silence, and there is no music playing.
It’s usually a very short service, focused on a few simple hymns and Bible passages telling the story of the crucifixion.
Children will immediately notice the different atmosphere, and it can be a great conversation starter for the car ride home.
Holy Saturday/Black Saturday/Easter Eve
Saturday is most often just the day we spend preparing for the Easter celebrations that are sure to follow with family. But there are other ways to celebrate if you’ve got some downtime!
What is happening on Holy Saturday?
Holy Saturday is a day when technically, Jesus is remembered as being still in the tomb. After all, he was crucified on Friday and rose again on Sunday.
How to celebrate Holy Saturday with Kids
“You’ve Been Egged” Event
Every Saturday before Easter, I would take my youth group to an event we called “Easter Egg Vandalism Evangelism.” Catchy title, huh? I learned about it from another blogger: Living a Redeemed Life. She posts the original idea here. She does hers with her own small kids, whereas I modified mine for a youth group of about 20 teenagers.
Each student was responsible for bringing a dozen plastic Easter eggs – 11 with candy and 1 empty. I then borrowed a printable from Fab N Free. The printable is an Easter Egg sign that says, “You’ve been egged. There are a dozen eggs hidden in your yard for an egg hunt. Don’t be sad about the empty egg; it’s to remind you of the empty tomb. Happy Easter!”
Another printable you might like for this event is over at Tips from a Typical Mom.
Note: it’s best to either do this to someone you know would appreciate it, or if you’re with a church group, include the name of your organization. I’m surprised by this, but apparently some people think it’s weird.
We brought along a bunch of signs to post on doors, some tape, and all the eggs.
Driving around our neighborhood in the church vans, we looked for homes with evidence of small children: a plastic slide in the front yard, bicycles on the front porch, or driveways with mini vans.
Then, we would “egg” their homes!
To do this on a smaller scale for just your own family, simply select one or two houses. Focus on families you know of that need encouragement or a blessing. We all hear stories about families who are going through something difficult. Use that information to bless them with a fun activity for the kids.
Attend a celebration picnic and egg hunt with your church family.
I recall a disagreement held by a former associate pastor at my church and the senior pastor. I was on staff as a youth minister. I thought it was the silliest argument.
The associate pastor was new to our church, and did not approve of our congregation having our annual church-wide egg hunt on Saturday. We chose to have it then because we knew families would go straight to Easter lunch after church the next day, and then have their own egg hunts.
If we were planning a big picnic and church-wide egg hunt (or the Easter Egg Olympics), it needed to be the day before Easter on church grounds or a local park. Incidentally, that’s when every other church in town celebrated, too.
The associate pastor did not approve. She felt like because Jesus had not yet been resurrected, we should still be “grieving.”
His response? “We know how this story ends.” I think he’s right.
You probably already have wonderful family traditions for Easter if you’re reading this post. But if you’re looking to add something special, keep reading.
The Big Egg Hunt
Growing a Jeweled Rose has a master list of fun things to put inside an Easter egg if you’re trying to limit sugar or just spice it up a bit!
Hip 2 Save has a great idea for older kids – why not have a glow in the dark egg hunt Sunday night? Here’s how to do it.
Play Party Plan has a super collection of Easter games and activities.
Discussing Our New Easter Clothes
Growing up, I always thought getting a new dress for Easter was nothing more than an extension of the idea that we try to dress our best for Jesus.
To be honest, I don’t find that reasoning very compelling. Jesus doesn’t care what. we look like, and I don’t like the idea of perpetuating the myth that you can’t come to church unless you have the “right” clothes.
However, while researching for this post, I learned that we get new Easter clothes to symbolize newness in Christ. That made more sense to me. Because of the resurrection, we are made into new creatures. So new clothes makes sense!
This year, I plan to treat my kiddos to beautiful new Easter outfits and explain to my oldest WHY we are treating ourselves to something fancy.
Experiencing a Sunrise Service
Churches are used to lots of guests on Easter, so don’t worry about feeling out of place if you decide to visit a different church on Easter. If you want to go unnoticed, it’s often fairly easy.
Look online for a church in your area that’s having a sunrise service on Easter. Our church used to have a sunrise service at a campsite overlooking the lake. It’s often a really special way to start the day. I loved attending sunrise service on Easter Sunday, even as a teenager. It’s tough to roll out of bed that early, but it’s absolutely worth it. Plus, Sunday nap becomes even sweeter!
I hope you enjoy these fresh ideas for making Holy Week meaningful for kids! Please share if you found something helpful.