I’m so delighted to introduce a lovely woman to you today. “Miss Sarah” is adored by children and parents alike around these parts, me and my boys included. We still have precious artwork creations from when my oldest was blessed enough to have Miss Sarah as his art teacher in preschool. With her love for children, her sold-out passion to share Jesus with the world, and her amazing creativity, she is an absolute treasure! Sarah, thank you for sharing with us at RaisingDeepRoots!
The Easter Garden Tradition is my favorite. Why? Because it grows with the child. [No pun intended.] I’m not a mom, but I’ve taught preschool and I’ve lived-in nannied for twin boys who, when I met them, were still in diapers. Now they can successfully put on and tie their own “basketball shoes” and say “please” and “thank you” without me looking at them like that. They’re beautiful. And their parents have let me and my Christian faith into their family: I’m grateful.
The Easter Garden is an awesome teaching tool for Holy Week. Seeing as I’m not the parent and don’t get to do all the faith teaching that I would if they were my own children, I’ve found the Easter Garden to be the one Bible lesson that engages the whole family, that they’ve totally bought into, and that is welcomed in our home. The best part is that we’ve all developed a sense of ownership by having to care for the Easter garden physically [“NO! That’s too much water!! You’re supposed to feel the soil first!”], and also by planning its design [“I think they need some stones to walk on to get to the funeral place.”] and carefully following the story in the Bible [“But Sarah, I don’t have any girl Lego guys to be the lots of Marys…”]. They actively seek out God’s Word to “get the facts right” and that, be still my heart, is the most beautiful part for me.
Some people think it’s silly, but I’ve found it to be the best teaching tool for the Easter Story because it brings it all to life for child and adult alike. As they get older their questions change and evolve and I’m able to teach them more truths. Even I’ve had to search for some answers to the questions that these sweet, little hearts have, and have myself learned more about the Easter story in these last years.
We start the Saturday before Palm Sunday by gathering our materials and building our garden.
- Large plastic base for pot
- Grass, moss, ground covering plants from the garden store
- Small, terracotta pot
- Stone that fits perfectly over the small pot
- Rocks and pebbles from our yard/hike
- Sticks & hot glue gun for the crosses
- Lego guys
(Note: The garden will rot out if you just lay the soil into the base. To prevent this, put a layer of charcoal (like that used for fish tanks or otherwise) and then layer pebbles and then soil. This will create a natural irrigation system to prevent the roots from rotting in the base tray. Add these to the list if you want the garden to last more than two weeks.)
I turn the terracotta pot over on its side to create the tomb and then build up our garden all around that. The kids are the master designers and meticulously plan it out and create the stage. Here’s our finished project last year:
I feel like there are two tracks you can take with this, depending on your child’s age and familiarity with the story, and also your energy level. Low level or first time doing this: Plant it on the Saturday before and act out Good Friday – Easter Sunday. If this is a repeat activity, your kids are older, or you’re just way into making this happen this year: Do Palm Sunday-Easter Sunday. Here’s a tentative schedule for you and your family:
Palm Sunday: Read the Triumphal Entry passage [Matthew 21.1-11] and act it out with Lego people on the table beside your Golgotha. [Or you can just talk about it, but the Lego people are way more fun.]
Monday – Wednesday: Care for your garden [don’t over water it] and follow Jesus’ travels in and out of Jerusalem and Bethany.
Thursday: Set Jesus and His disciples up to have the Last Supper. [It’s cool.] Again, depending on their age and understanding, you can talk about communion and all that it means, what the cup and bread represent and why we still celebrate and observe the Lord’s Supper. [I like Luke’s account for this.]
Friday: We put the crosses up into our hillside that we made the previous weekend out of sticks and hot glue. [Side note: Last year, Luke wanted to actually nail Jesus to the cross, his idea, not mine, so I obliged with tape… So we had Jesus taped to the cross and extra Lego people and whomever else we could find on the hillside to watch Him die. (It’d be great if you did it Friday morning and then came back after school and put Him in the tomb, but that all depends on your kids and your family and if you really want Him on the cross, etc. but ya know… no one wants to be “that crazy family.” Maybe when they’re older to get a sense of how long it took?)]
Either way, you put the crosses up and then… Jesus dies. Read and talk about it! [I love using John 19 because it’s so descriptive and easy to talk about. Come to think of it: This year we’re going to put a “King of the Jews” sign up on Jesus’ cross…] Then we wrap Him up in paper towels [His shroud], spray Him with perfume and roll the stone in front of the small pot that’s been laid on its side and buried under grass and moss as the tomb. Even though Matthew specifically says the guards come the next day, we still put out 4-6 tough looking Lego dudes to guard His tomb with shields, guns and rods. It’s awesome.
[The first year we allowed guns and we didn’t tape Him to the cross, but the second year the kids were like, “Sarah, they didn’t have guns then so we shouldn’t have them in our Easter Garden.” And they wanted to hang Him on the cross, so we taped Him on. I felt awkward doing that, but hey, it kinda really happened that way and I didn’t get kicked out of the house. I’d also like to have some kind of fabric torn in two somewhere in there to discuss the beauty and significance of Jesus making a way for us—it’s so beautiful—but you can only do so much until you’re just overboard on the teaching elements.]
Saturday: Check on Him [nothing should have happened] and move the guards around in a very militaristic formation patterned way. We talk about why there were guards posted at His tomb and a stone rolled in front of it again [Matthew 27.62-66. Later you can revisit the additional conspiracy and corruption in Matthew 28.11-15.]
Sunday: Before they wake up, roll the stone aside, take Jesus out, leave His paper towels there, knock all the guards down and place two Lego “angels” on the scene. They’re holding up signs that say, “He is not here!” and “He is Risen!” [Mark 16.6]
Thank you Sarah for taking the Easter garden idea and introducing us to the awesome Lego man (or any action figure) twist! I know my boys will love this added feature. Stay tuned readers for more great Easter resources coming your way over the next few weeks! I LOVE EASTER!
When Sarah isn’t schoolin’ cute blond boys about the importance of loving our friends and washing our hands, you can find her charming IT professionals from her big girl office in downtown San Francisco. She leads worship at First Baptist Church of San Francisco on Sundays, avidly and wholeheartedly cheers for the Green Bay Packers [everyday], signs up for 10k races that she doesn’t necessarily plan on running [usually Saturdays], and is currently working on making her blog, The Yellow Dress: and other things we do for Love (http://yellowdressforlove.blogspot.com), into a book. (Sometimes, she writes here: http://cornerboothplease.blogspot.com.)