Hands-On Holy Week Activities, by Gina Vetsch Robles

Each year, I find myself wanting to observe and bring Holy Week into our home. Each year, I find myself feeling I’ve come up short with what I’ve accomplished. This year, I put together my ideas before Lent started. This way we could start using them not only during Holy Week, but throughout our Lenten Journey. There are three kids under 6 in our family (our oldest has ASD tendencies) so finding simple but meaningful ways to create a hands-on Holy Week that incorporated our faith was important to my husband and I. 

Hands-on Holy Week sensory bin ideas:

You could start with filling the sensory bin with sand. We’ve used graham crackers or crushed cereal too. If there is concern for ingestion, I highly recommend using something safe to ingest. This reminds us of the sand in the desert where Jesus spent his time praying. We used crushed Corn Chex™ in this picture. I briefly put in a food processor leaving some larger pieces they could smash.  Our sensory bin at the beginning of Lent with toys: Since my son is really interested in letters and numbers, I try to be intentional with the items in our bin. I cut LENT out of purple construction paper (a great talker for why purple is worn and used throughout Lent) and we found the number 40. We also added a toy that reminds them of Jesus and a donkey (from our play Nativity). During our playtime, I read the stories of Jesus going into the desert. Matthew 4:1-2 (3-11 could be added for more depth); Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-14.

Palm Sunday:

Palm leaves (great to use last year’s palms or the new ones you have from Palm Sunday). A great way to discuss what Hosanna means. If you have a farm set, grab the donkey. Jesus comes riding in on a donkey, making a path through the sand. (Matthew 21:8-11)

Holy Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday:

A Chrism Mass generally takes place on one of these days. Have a small bowl of olive oil they can feel. You may want another smaller Tupperware or bowl to keep it out of the sand. 

Holy Thursday:

Tan colored paper or felt circles to represent the Institution of the Eucharist, coins (if mouthing is not a concern) to represent Judas’ betrayal. You could also use some leaves or greens from outside (spinach or olives could work in a pinch too!) to represent Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Good Friday:

A crown of “thorns” (brown paper or use small twigs woven together). 3 wooden crosses (could glue popsicle sticks together or use twine to put two tree branches together) to represent Jesus’ death on the cross. Empty the sand and add a few plain smooth rocks to keep things prayerfully simple. The rocks can represent the stone that is rolled over the tomb as well. There are also flat nails that are found at hardware stores (if safe!). Adding black paper to show the darkness that descends. Dice to show how the guard cast lots. 

Holy Saturday:

Preparation is usually underway for the Easter celebration on this day. You could add plastic Easter eggs, fine mist water bottles (great practice for the sprinkling rite that will likely happen during the Easter Mass), and flashlights or glow sticks to represent the light that will begin at the Easter Vigil. Taking time to read and prayerfully reflect isn’t always easy, but when there are things to manipulate and explore sometimes the experience is not quite so off putting for kids or adults. Finding items that your child(ren) can connect to, I have found is the most useful way to have a successful hands-on Holy Week. 

Other simple hands-on Holy Week activities we try to accomplish:

  • Reflection journal whether it is drawing, writing, typing, videotaping, or printing and gluing pictures. There are so many ways to be reflective, finding what model of reflection works best might be challenging, but God is there. He works in the best ways. Making unleavened bread or asking your Parish for a host that isn’t consecrated may be another means for you to bring the Institution of the Eucharist home. Talking, tasting and feeling are unique ways to learn and experience. 
  • Lenten hymns are a great way to incorporate music – especially music they may hear during the Masses.  Check out this playlist on YouTube for ideas.
  • Saying simple prayers throughout the day such as: “Lord, grow with us this Lent/Holy Week. Help us to be fruitful in the work/Mass/therapy you have put before us.” 
  • Great quotes whether written on cards or saved on a phone as a screensaver are another simple reminder. “We adore you and we bless you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches which are in the whole world, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” – Stations of the Cross; “Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may go to heaven.” – Saint Rose of Lima; Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart. – St. Therese’ of Lisieux

Wishing you a prayerful Holy Week!

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