Lent is here, and for a cradle Catholic girl like me, it is an extraordinary and important season to reflect on my faith. If you are Catholic, you know how popular this question becomes around this time: ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’.
For me, it was straightforward to decide: I am giving up sweets this year. For my son, though, it is not so easy. It’s hard for a kid to give up one thing (something significant for him/her) for 40 days! That’s when I decided to make a list of 40 things kids can give up or take on for Lent.
I would love to welcome you if you are new to Lent and the whole ‘giving something up’ idea, whether you have never practiced Lent or because you’re a recent Catholic convert. Welcome to a beautiful season where you can develop amazing self-discipline that comes from the heart and is offered up to our Lord.
But First, What is Lent?
Lent is a solemn, religious observance in Christianity that lasts 40 days. It starts on Ash Wednesday, and it ends on Holy Thursday. The purpose of it is to prepare the hearts of the believers for Easter.
On Easter, we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.
Lent is described as lasting 40 days to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert in preparation to begin his ministry later on in Galilee. So, we Catholics replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the desert by giving up ‘luxuries’.
The Three Pillars of Lent
Lent is based on 3 pillars. These were not randomly picked or randomly imposed by our modern Church, but they are based on Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-18.
The 3 pillars of Lent are:
- Prayer (justice towards God): Self-explanatory. Dedicate time for prayer to connect with God.
- Fasting (justice towards self): Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with only one simple meal during the day without meat. Refrain from eating meat (bloody foods) on all Fridays in Lent.
- Almsgiving (justice towards thy neighbor): refers to giving to the needy. Not only material things but also giving your time and talent
When we work these three pillars into our spiritual life, we grow closer to God, especially when fasting. We take those little moments of hunger and offer them up to God during fasting. We join Jesus in his pain. These small sacrifices unite with Jesus’ sacrifice. We think about those that are hungry, and we unite our suffering with theirs.
What to give up for Lent?
There are no written rules on what Christians should give up for Lent. Each human heart decides what to give up for Lent. Chocolate, soda, a luxury, or a vice. Anything that giving it up means a ‘sacrifice’ for you is what you must give up for Lent.
I can tell you that I gave up eating any sweets this Lent. No dessert for me during Lent. It’s a sacrifice.
However, for a kid, deciding what to give up for Lent is much more difficult. Giving up chocolate (or any sweets for that matter) or giving up screen time for 40 days sounds more like a punishment than a sacrifice. It’s hard enough for us adults to give up luxuries and favorite things for Lent, so we can not expect our children to give up something they love for 40 consecutive days.
With that in mind, I created a list of 40 things that any school-aged kid can give up or take on for Lent in 40 days.
Giving up something refers to those favorite things they like to do, play with, or eat! Taking on something refers to almsgiving, prayer moments, and Lent activities for kids. These are all things that kids should not mind doing for a day.
What Can Kids do For Lent?
Each day during the 40 days of Lent, pick a different thing to give up or an activity to take on. It will make Lent interesting and plant the seeds of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in their little hearts.
Sacrifices & Fasting (Denying Yourself)
- Give up electronics (phones, tablets, videogames) for a day
- Let go of a toy you love, but you have outgrown it, and it’s no longer needed.
- Give up soda or any sugary drink.
- Avoid asking for toys when going to the store with mom or dad.
- Give up watching TV for an entire day.
- Do a kid-friendly chore that you don’t like to do.
- Give up recess to volunteer at school.
- Be positive and don’t complain (I am bored! I don’t like this or that! I don’t have any toys! etc.)
- Give up pepperoni (or any meat) on your pizza on Friday nights.
- Give up dessert, or give your dessert to a friend.
Almsgiving (Justice Towards Others)
- Vacuum your room and your younger sibling’s room
- Visit the nursing home and read a story to the elders
- Walk your neighbor’s dog
- Offer to clean up your neighbor’s yard or front lawn
- Send a greeting card to a veteran thanking him/her for his/her service.
- Water the plants, or plant flowers, and thank God for the beauty of nature.
- Write a letter to a relative you haven’t seen in a while
- Carry someone’s groceries to his or her car
- Handout blessing bags to the homeless
- Pack a cooler with cold drinks and snacks and leave it out for the mailman, landscaper, or sanitation workers.
- Teach a younger sibling something new and cool
- Offer to teach a skill to a peer (are you good at Math or Reading?)
- Offer to volunteer at Sunday school.
- Go to the supermarket, pick out food for the poor and bring it to your local church or food bank.
- Give old clothes to a shelter.
- Be responsible for your pet all day (feed, clean, brush, bathe, etc.)
- Set the dinner table.
- Take some money from your piggy bank and donate it to your Church.
- Help mom or dad wash his/her car.
- Send a care package (stuffed animal, chocolates, and a card) to a child at the Children’s Hospital.
- Make a package of school supplies and bring them to your teacher.
- Declutter your room and make donation bags.
Prayer (Justice Towards God)
- Take on reading a Bible verse and reflect on it.
- Learn a new prayer. Check these 12 prayers for First Communion preparation.
- Pray the Rosary. Here’s is a Child’s Guide to Pray the Rosary
- Make an Easter Prayer craft
- Make miniature chocolate Bibles to give away to your friends
- Go to mass at least one Friday during Lent
- Learn by heart a Proverb from the Bible
- Write a prayer for all the kids sick and hungry in the world. R
ea dit at night.
Let your children pick anything from this list in no particular order. They may also choose to pick just a few and practice them more than once during Lent. Pick any of these ideas and activities; what you choose and how you do practice them is up to you and your children!
Wishing you a very happy and peaceful Lent season,