Ash Wednesday is next week, kicking off a season of penance, prayer and spiritual growth in preparation for Easter. But, if you find yourself staring at your calendar in disbelief, wondering how it can possibly be that Lent is upon us when surely we only just celebrated the Epiphany, you’re not alone.


If, like so many of us, you are scrambling for ideas to get your kids engaged this Lent, have a look at this list of activities, devotions and resources that can be used to imbue kids of all ages with the spirit of this solemn and blessed season.


Bake pretzels

Good for: all ages

This unassuming snack food actually dates back to at least the fifth century and was once considered by Christians to be an ideal food for Lent, not only because of the simplicity of its ingredients but because its criss-cross shape brings to mind an ancient posture of prayer. If you’re in a culinary mood, Google a recipe for homemade pretzels, block off an hour or two and head to the kitchen with your kids.


Bring your sacrifices to Jesus

Good for: all ages

Install a Crucifix at a designated, central location in your home — somewhere it will be prominent and noticeable, but where there is a little bit of space for a basket filled with rocks. Periodically, have every family member write the sacrifices they are offering to Christ on a rock and place at the foot of the cross.


Make a family sacrifice

Good for: all ages

Individual sacrifices are great, but finding something that the family can unite in offering to God is especially powerful. Does your family enjoy going out to dinner? Eat at home instead. Maybe the movies are your thing — spend the evening with a DVD and some homemade popcorn instead. Just remember, as with any Lenten sacrifice, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater — make sure that the time spent together as a family isn’t what is being given up.


Make “pray,” “fast” and “give” cards

Good for: elementary and middle schoolers

Buy purple craft paper and cut the sheets into thin strips, separating them into three piles — pray, fast and give. On the strips of paper in one group, write down intentions or people who need prayers. On another, write ideas for small sacrifices that can be made or small luxuries that can be given up — whether for a day, an afternoon or even an hour. On the third pile of paper, write ideas for acts of service, large and small. Every day, have each family member pick from one of the piles.


Drape statues and religious art

Good for: all ages

Your parish might participate in this traditional Lenten practice, and if so, you will notice the statues throughout the church are shrouded in purple fabric during the Lenten season. This is an easy activity that can be done as a family, and only requires a little bit of purple fabric. Find all the Crucifixes, statues or sacred art in your home and cover them with the fabric until Holy Week. Unveiling the statues will help to emphasize the joy of Easter.


“Bean for Jesus” jar

Good for: preschoolers

Fill one jar with beans and place it beside an empty jar. Every time someone in the family makes a sacrifice or completes an act of service for another, put a bean in the empty jar. See how many beans you can get before Holy Week!


From our moms: What have you given up for Lent in the past?


“I fasted from all TV that was negative last Lent and plan to do it again. While I still watched morning and nightly national news, I stopped watching Bravo reality shows as well as any others highlighting nasty people or behaviors. My idea behind this was that I wanted to eliminate all extraneous negativity and focus on the good in the world to improve my own mindset/behaviors.”


“I fast from socks and slippers indoors. Just barefoot.”


“I so very appreciated our priest telling us not to fast from things that enable us to do our important work — specifically, coffee. I could’ve given it up, but that would’ve been unpleasant for all involved.”