Use these awe-inspiring experiences to help kids discover that Easter — and all of Holy Week — is wholly about Jesus.
Whether you’re looking for exciting new ideas to add to your traditions, scouting out ways to start new traditions, or searching for a whole new plan for Holy Week, this comprehensive look at Jesus’ last days will bring meaning and excitement to kids’ understanding of Jesus’ life—and his sacrifice for kids.
10 Holy Week Experiences: Palm Sunday
1. Don’t Touch the Ground
Use this game to get kids talking about living lives of praise for Jesus.
Supplies: Bible, green construction paper
Form groups of four. Give each group five pieces of construction paper. Say: When Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey, the people laid some of their clothes in the road to make a path for Jesus. They also took palm branches from nearby trees and laid them on the road.
Establish start and finish lines. Say: In our game, your team’s goal is to get to the finish line without anyone touching the ground. We’ll pretend the paper is the clothes and the palm branches.
Use one team to demonstrate these rules: Only one child can be on a piece of paper at a time. The whole team will start the game with each person standing in line on a piece of paper. The kids will put the extra piece of paper on the floor in front of the line so each of the kids can move forward. Once they’ve all moved forward, the last person picks up the extra piece of paper at the end of the line and passes it to the front again. Although this isn’t a race, they’ll repeat this process as quickly as possible so they can reach the finish line without anyone touching the ground.
After the game, ask: What was difficult about this game? What’s difficult about following Jesus sometimes? Read aloud Matthew 21:6-11. Ask: What can you lay down in your life so you can focus on Jesus? Why does Jesus deserve our attention and praise? Close in prayer.
2. Praise Palms
Use these symbolic palm branches to help kids remember the details of what happened when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and the people praised him as God. Have kids assemble and wave the palm branches while they sing to Jesus.
Palm Branch Stem (small dowel rod)
Garments in the Road
People Praised Jesus
10 Holy Week Experiences: Maundy Thursday
3. Eat Jesus?
When kids read in the Bible (Matthew 26:26-28) about eating Jesus’ body (bread) and drinking his blood (wine), it can seem a little strange to them. It likely sounded strange to the disciples, too. Present kids with this “communion snack” and get them discussing what might’ve sounded strange about it to the disciples. This is also a good opportunity to discuss your church’s theology of Holy Communion or talk about what communion means to you.
4. Don’t Wink at Me
Use this game of strategy to get kids talking about how Jesus willingly gave himself up for us.
Supplies: Bible, index cards, pen, tasty snack
Ahead of time, prepare your game cards. You’ll need enough index cards for each child to have one. For every 5 children, draw an eye on one index card. Draw a stick figure on the rest of the cards.
Read aloud Matthew 26:17-20.
Say: Let’s pretend to sit around a table like the disciples did for the Last Supper. Have the kids sit in a circle on the floor.
Say: During the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples that he knew one of them would betray him. Let’s play a game to help us think about betrayal.
Give each child an index card. Have kids privately look at the pictures on their cards, and tell them to keep the pictures on their cards a secret.
Say: In our game, you’re either a betrayer or you’re one of the other disciples. Either way, remember to keep who you are a secret. If you have an eye on your index card, then you’re a betrayer and you’ll try to get other players out of the game by winking at them. You’ll want to be sneaky about winking at others in the group so you don’t get caught. If you have a stick figure on your index card, then you’re one of the other disciples and you’ll try to figure out who the betrayer is by looking for a player who is winking at others. If someone winks at you, you’ll silently count to 10 before you lay down your card. Remember not to reveal to the others who the betrayer is.
Check for understanding.
Serve a snack to kids, and start the game. (The snack gives kids something to do while they play and serves as a distracter to help the betrayers get going with winking.) Play until all the betrayers are found out or all of the non-betrayers are “winked” out of the game. If time allows, play several times, each time switching who the betrayers are.
Ask: Explain whether you felt betrayed by someone in this game. Explain what you feel and think about when you feel like someone has betrayed you.
Read aloud Matthew 26:21-25. Then ask: Why do you think Jesus let himself be betrayed? How does what Jesus did show his love for us?
10 Holy Week Experiences: Good Friday
5. A Walk Through Jesus’ Good Friday
Use this interactive prayer walk to help kids reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice.
Supplies: Bible, paper towel tubes, packing paper, string, soil, seeds, “Coin” handout, pens, scissors, glue sticks, red fabric, fabric pens
Set up the following destinations ahead of time, and dim the lights before kids arrive.
Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. Read aloud Matthew 26:36-39, 42-44. Have kids cut two-inch sections from the paper towel tubes and then wrap packing paper around them using string so they’re open on one side and closed on the other. Have them stuff soil into the tubes and plant one seed for each fear or worry they currently have. They’ll offer these things up in prayer to Jesus as they learn to trust and wait on Jesus, knowing Jesus understands them.
Jesus is betrayed and arrested, and then denied by Peter. Read aloud Matthew 26:47-50. Have kids write or draw regrets on the back of paper coins after they’ve cut them out. Say: Even Jesus’ good friend did something he regretted. Read aloud Matthew 26:69-75. Have kids write “forgiven” on an equal number of coins. Have them confess to Jesus as they glue the “forgiven” coins over the other coins, covering up the regrets. Invite them to commit to follow Jesus as they hold the “forgiven” coins in their hands.
Jesus is tried, mocked, crucified, and buried. Paraphrase what happened to Jesus after he was arrested and until he was buried (from Matthew 26:57-67; 27:11-61). Have kids cut out red fabric hearts as they think of ways they’ve received grace from Jesus. Ask kids to think of specific people they can show grace and love to and pass it along. Have them write the names on the hearts with fabric pens and keep the hearts with them throughout the upcoming week. Encourage kids to take out the hearts when they’re struggling to show grace or love to those people and pray, asking Jesus for help.
6. 5 “Wow” Cross Crafts
With the popularity of Pinterest and other social media websites, there are more cross craft ideas out there than any children’s ministry could ever conquer with their kids. The good news (other than the gospel message) is that we’ve done the searching for you and found some really WOW cross craft ideas. Here are our top five favorites:
Yarn Silhouette, katiescrochet goodies.com
Rolled Magazine Paper, fromliketolove.blogspot.com/2011/11/another-project.html
Window Cling, freekidscrafts.com/ make-window-cling-cross
10 Holy Week Experiences: Holy Saturday
7. Look at the Light
Use this experience to show kids that hope remains even in the shadows.
Say: Jesus’ followers surely felt that they were in a shadow on the day after Jesus’ death, but hope remained.
Have kids each choose a word that can remind them of the hope they have in Jesus, such as love, hope, or forgiven. Instruct them draw the word in bubble letters on the poster board and cut it out (see the photo below).
Have each child stand in front of a bright light holding the poster as shown to create a shadow. Take a photo of each child’s shadow. Print or email the photos to kids, and encourage them to hang the photos in their rooms as a reminder that hope always remains in Jesus.
8. Kids’ Quiet Time
Use this experience to encourage kids to develop their personal time with Jesus.
Supplies: card stock, paper, hole punch, ribbon, colored pencils
Say: The day after Jesus’ death was the Sabbath—a day when God’s people were supposed to rest and spend time with God. And while Jesus’ followers did rest, they didn’t know Jesus would rise again and be with them always. Jesus is with you always, too, and he wants to spend time with you. Let’s think about some ways we can spend time with Jesus.
Set out the supplies for kids to make prayer journals. Help them use the card stock to make journal covers. Hole-punch the covers and the paper, and use the ribbon to fasten the pages and cover together to form journals. Encourage kids to personalize their prayer journals by decorating them. As kids work, lead them in discussing ways they can spend personal time with God, such as saying or writing prayers, reading a children’s Bible themselves or reading it with an adult, or listening to worship music.
Say: You don’t need an adult with you to spend time with Jesus. You can talk to him in your own words. This week, spend a few minutes with Jesus on your own.
10 Holy Week Experiences: Easter Sunday
9. Living Experiment
Use this amazing experience to help kids rejoice over Jesus’ resurrection.
Supplies: 8-ounce clear cups, measuring cup and spoon, baking soda, distilled white vinegar, gummy worms, sharp knife, cutting board, fork, music player and worship music
Ahead of time, cut each gummy worm into four lengthwise pieces.
Say: When Jesus died, his followers shed many tears. Put one cup of warm water into a clear cup to represent the tears.
Say: They wrapped him in white burial cloth. Stir three tablespoons of baking soda into the water to represent the white burial cloth.
Say: They put Jesus’ body in a tomb. Place four gummy worm pieces into the baking soda mixture. Say: Jesus’ followers didn’t know it, but Jesus would come back to life three days later. These candies are going to come to life, too, but we have to wait like Jesus’ followers did. Place the cup aside for 15 minutes while the gummy worm pieces soak in the mixture. Lead the children in singing several worship songs while they wait.
Say: On Sunday, the women went to Jesus’ tomb with the spices and ointment they’d prepared to anoint Jesus’ body. The pour vinegar into another cup. Say: But when they arrived, he wasn’t there. Use a fork to fish the gummy worms out of the baking soda mixture, and drop them into the cup of vinegar along with ¼ teaspoon of the baking soda from the water/baking soda mixture.
Then say: Jesus had risen! Have kids wait and watch as the worms begin to rise and dance in the vinegar. When the worms stop dancing, you can get them to dance again by adding another pinch of baking soda.
Ask: What did you think about what happened to the worms? What do you think about what happened to Jesus on Easter Sunday? How can you live in a way that shows that you’re alive in Jesus, too?
10. From Death to Life
You’ll need three cups. Fill the first cup with blue water.
When Jesus died, his followers were blue with sadness. (Blue symbolizes Jesus’ death.) Fill the third cup with yellow water. Fold two absorbent paper towels into fourths, and connect the cups with paper towels as shown below.
But on Sunday morning, they found he was alive! (Yellow symbolizes Jesus’ resurrection.) = The colored water travels through the paper towels, filling the center cup with green water.
Jesus’ death and resurrection gives us life! (Green symbolizes life for us.)