This may not seem like the most conventional motto for making a meaningful Lenten journey, but it is a reality in our home. For while I appreciate the more traditional, reflective and reverent aspects of the season, my children’s hearts respond best to joy and celebration. Thus, I tend to punctuate our observance of Lent with – don’t judge me, please – partying!
Now, I am not referring to out-and-out irreverent festivities. Nor am I suggesting that we forgo “waiting” altogether during this season in order to indulge in Easter joy before it is time. Rather, I am talking about recognizing feast days with such things as a St. Patrick’s Day Play Date or games and activities related to Joseph, which can be enjoyed both during Lent and, again, on St Joseph the Worker’s Day. I am also all for the idea of a Pretzel Play Date.
A Pretzel Play Date?
Just what is a Pretzel Play Date, you might ask?
In adult-speak, it is an effective and enjoyable way for children to learn about Lent alongside their friends, while also reinforcing the concepts of prayer, fasting and giving. In kiddo-talk, it’s a great way to have fun with faith.
Hosting a Pretzel Play Date
Like any successful themed play date, a Pretzel Play Date is as simple as one, two, three:
- Select an array of themed activities.
- Invite friends over.
The only twist (pun intended) is that a Pretzel Play Date centers on the traditional Lenten practice of praying, fasting and giving. So, whether you choose to do arts and crafts, play games, enjoy music, gather for read alouds or snack on treats, all planned activities should connect – even if only loosely – to these Lenten practices.
- Pretzel Prayers:First and foremost, at the beginning of a Pretzel Play Date, it is a good idea to hold a pretzel up the opposite way as might be intuitive – with the two bumps facing down, like elbows and the one larger bump at the top – and to ask the children what it looks . Then, paraphrase the history of the pretzel (which can be found succinctly explained by Fr. William Saunders at the Catholic Education Resource Center.) After sharing this history, have children cross their arms and say a private prayer. Or, teach them a Pretzel Prayer, such as the one at Catholic Culture
Arts and Crafts
- Pretzel Constructions: Offer children a variety of stick and twisted pretzels, along with some mini-marshmallows or bits of playdough or clay. Challenge them to make free form constructions with these to give to someone else as a centerpiece to remind them to say extra prayers throughout Lent. With older children, suggest that the constructions connect to Lent – such as crosses, people praying, figures bringing alms, etc.
- Pretzel Smiles: As a gift to give for an elderly friend or someone else whose spirits might be lifted with a smile, have everyone bring a smiley snapshot to the play date. Then, at the beginning of the play date, lay a circle of twisted pretzels out onto a sheet of wax paper in the shape of a wreath. Pour glue over the edges and let it dry while you do other activities. Then, layers a second ring of pretzels atop this, alternating the pretzels so they sit over the joints of the first ones. Pour more glue on and let it dry. Finally, peel the wreath off the wax paper and weave ribbon in and out of the pretzels, tying a bow at the top, before gluing the whole thing to a snapshot, with edges trimmed.
- Pretzel Prayer Cards: Using chenille strips, create colorful pretzel shapes. Tuck these onto the edges of pre-made cards that contain a Pretzel Prayer or the history of a pretzel. Give these to others as a reminder to pray during Lent.
Games and Activities
- Pretzel Pass: To reinforce the idea of waiting (and fasting, to a degree), before any pretzels get eaten at the play date, have children sit in a circle. Give each child a stick pretzel, but tell them they must wait before eating it. For now, they may simply put one end of into their mouths. Then, give one child a twisted pretzel to balance on the end of his or her stick pretzel. This child must pass the twisted pretzel to the next child, who will, in turn, pass it on, until the pretzel makes it all the way around the circle. No one may eat a pretzel until a twisted pretzel has made it all the way around the circle.
- Pretzel Playdough: Ask young children how their hands, heads and bodies are when they pray. Give them playdough and let them make their own pretzel formations.
- Pretzel Twists: Print our some body part cards, such as the ones at this round-up. Divide them into two piles – one for upper body parts (such as hand, face, shoulder, nose, elbow, finger, etc.) and one for lower body parts (such as leg, knee, toe, hip, foot, etc.) Have a child choose one card from each pile and show them to the group. Ask volunteers to say a prayer of thanks related to the parts, such as, “Thank you, God, for giving me a nose to smell delicious treats baking and feet to walk over to my neighbor’s house to share them.” Then, have everyone turn their bodies into creative pretzel shapes by trying to touch the two pictured body parts together. (This can also be played as a dance freeze game, where when the music goes off, children must twist their bodies into pretzels with the two parts touching. )
- Walter the Baker by Eric Carle has no obvious faith connection besides a brief note at its close. However, it is a delightful themed picture book in which a baker is challenged to make a roll through which the rising sun can shine three times. The roll he makes is a pretzel. And, with the idea from the book of the sun shining three times, the concept of Jesus rising on the third day can be discussed. Plus, the three parts of the pretzel can be likened to the three person of God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
- Pretzels By the Dozen by Angela Elwell Hunt (who also wrote The Tale of Three Trees, a classic Lenten folktale), shares the history of the pretzel, including the compelling story of its Christian symbolism. With both rhyme and counting, plus a tasty pretzel recipe, it is chock full of connections for a Pretzel Play Date.
- Pretzels: Of course, snacks will be pretzels – hard, soft, big, small, homemade, GFCF – whatever suits your play date crowd. To reinforce Lenten traditions before eating snack, pray a special grace, such as the one that follows. Then, to encourage children to lift each pretzel up in the air before eating it, at the same time lifting a special intention up in prayer. And, to promote giving, have children serve one another before serving themselves.
Dear God, please bless these pretzels which we are about to eat. Every time we eat pretzels, may we be reminded of Lent and how it offers us a special time to pray. Let us also to remember to pray all year round for those who need our prayers each day. Keep all of us in your loving arms, O God. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Whatever activities you choose for your Pretzel Play Date, may they honor your child’s heart and our collective Lenten journey.
In the spirit of giving, I encourage you to share comments and links to your favorite pretzel crafts, activities and ideas so all can benefit from them!
Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons (oskay)
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