The Symbols of Baptism Children may witness baptisms at most times of the year, but particularly during Easter time. Baptism is a wondrous gift from God. While children baptized as infants have no memory of the celebration, you can help them understand the significance of this sacrament on their lives. Preschoolers cannot comprehend sacraments, but they are open to symbolism and the sensory aspects of a sacramental celebration-- a wonderful beginning for young Catholics!
Here are explanations for children. Consider setting up a table containing the symbols. (Where the word ‘baby’ is used, substitute ‘child’ or ‘adult’ if necessary.)
Why do we have baptism? We have baptism because God loves us and wants us to be His children. At baptism, a baby becomes part of Jesus’ family.
The symbols Water: At a baptism, water is poured over the top of the baby’s head, or the baby is placed into the water. You then hear the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” God created water. We need it to grow and cook our food, to drink, and to clean. At baptism, we think about water cleaning us, so we are fresh and good, because we are children of God.
White Garment: Sometimes babies wear white clothes for their baptisms or are given a pretty piece of white cloth to put on. This helps people know the baby is a good person and will try to live like Jesus.
Holy Chrism: A bit of nice smelling oil is put on the baby’s forehead. This means the baby is strong, and special, like a king.
Candle: Jesus is so wonderful he is like a light in the dark! Each baby gets a candle to remember that he or she can also be a light like Jesus. All these signs show the baby is loved by Jesus, and can be strong and good like him. And, the baby is now a member of Jesus’ family, just like you!
Celebrating Fifty Days of Easter Somewhere in my teen years, I was amazed to learn that Easter lasted for fifty days. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by Catholic ritual and customs, I had never caught on that we were still celebrating. I wondered if anyone could keep being joyful for that long. In the years since, I can’t say I have met anyone who has!
However, we are an Easter people. There is nothing more joyous for Christians than Christ’s Resurrection. Preschoolers, with their wonderful capacity to live in the moment, can learn that Easter lasts fifty days, and that they are part of the Easter people! Just celebrate with them in small ways, many times in fifty days. Below are suggestions of celebrations. There are not fifty, but some can be repeated, and, well, you might not be able to keep up that much joy for fifty days!
The activities have a common theme of new life. You are giving children a symbolic language to understand the mystical experience of Resurrection. Talk a little about Jesus’ new life after Easter Sunday, and the new life we see in springtime flowers and baby animals. Tell children they will be doing a fun activity because it is Easter. But mostly let the symbols speak to the children’s subconscious, which is where the joy is bubbling too!
Dye eggs. If you did not want to bring in an Easter symbol before Easter, so did not dye hard-boiled eggs with children, now is the time!
Tell children the story of two of Jesus’ disciples encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus (see Luke 24: 13)
Bring in a bulb garden. Observe its changes each day.
Take walks once or twice a week and note the changes in trees, grass, etc.
Make placemats to be used for the fifty days of Easter. Have children create one with Easter stickers, pastel colors, etc. on placemat-sized paper. Cover each one with clear contact paper on both sides.
Bring in a branch from a flowering bush and place it in water, so it will bloom.
Sing alleluia! Familiarize yourself with three or four melodies sung in church for the ‘alleluia’. Teach them to children and together sing them regularly.
Create an ‘alleluia!’ banner. (You can ‘bury’ it next Ash Wednesday.)
Hang the banner with great ceremony. Sing and process to where you will hang it. Sing one of your alleluia songs after it is hung.
Feast on strawberries or other foods that symbolizes spring to you.
Make yeast bread and note how it rises.
Visit a petting zoo.
Plant bean seeds in pots. They germinate and grow quickly.
Bring in some annuals, such as pansies, and have children plant them into small, individual peat pots, which they can later plant in the ground.
Fly a kite.
Plant lettuce in a window box (indoors or outside as lettuce is a cool weather crop)
Sing all the happy songs about Jesus that you know
Tell children the story of Jesus’ breakfast with his apostles after the Resurrection (from John 21) and eat fished-shaped crackers
Make cuddly caterpillars. Have an assortment of colorful socks and a supply of cotton or poly fiberfill for stuffing. Children stuff the socks and an adult securely ties the end shut with yarn. Offer a variety of felt pieces to create eyes and mouths, which can be glued onto the rounded end of the caterpillar.
Cut paper into the shape of a butterfly. Put spring colors on the easel to paint the butterfly. Hang the finished paintings around the room.
Visit a plant nursery. Look for flowers that are mostly blue, or another color a child chooses, smell different herbs, see what tomato plants look like, as compared to pumpkin plants, peppers, onions, etc.
Make an Easter mural. Provide a very large piece of paper and lots of paint and brushes. You paint a sunrise and create a simple horizon while children paint flowers, bugs, grass, etc.
Take balloons for a walk. Tie them to children’s wrists so the balloons come back from the walk too.