As Ramadan is quickly approaching, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the lessons I want to impart to my children this month, especially Pippin who’s getting old enough to really start comprehending higher level concepts like fasting and sacrifice.
There are several articles floating around the internet on activities for kids during Ramadan, but to be honest none of them really apply to what I envision for my family. This Ramadan I really want to teach Pippin what Ramadan actually is, and that’s the main reason I’m avoiding the majority of the activities I’ve come across.
Ramadan is a time of work: we push ourselves – emotionally, physically, and spiritually – to our limits this month. We strive our hardest, discover our strengths and weaknesses, and achieve things in Ramadan that we could never have done outside of this month. And when the month is over, we continue with our lives slightly better than we were pre-Ramadan, because of all that training. We spend all year playing around level 5, then ramp it up to level 11 during Ramadan, and we find that when the month’s over, hey, level 7 is actually pretty easy now. Ramadan is about self-improvement and recognizing just how much we can accomplish with Allah’s help. It’s a training ground.
And it’s also about recognizing that we are all truly blessed, regardless of what our individual life situation is, and that there are people in this world who don’t have the same blessings. Whether we are able to fast or not, able to pray or not, living in the first world or not, we all have countless blessings to be grateful for. And Ramadan forces us to ask ourselves: what are we doing with all that’s been given to us? If we have the blessing of abundant food, are we sharing it with those who don’t? If we have the blessing of wealth, are we spending it in the best way? If we have the blessing of spare time, how are we using it? If we have children, are we raising them to be the best of generations, who will take a broken world and make it better?
And finally Ramadan is the month of Qur’an, in which we strive to read, understand, and implement as much of the Qur’an as possible, and to seek out Laylat ul-Qadr, the night which is better than one thousand months simply because the Qur’an was revealed during it.
This is what I want to impart to my kids. The younger they are, the clearer and less diluted I want this message to be: Ramadan is a month of hard work, counting our blessings, and truly appreciating the Qur’an.
(Side note: Eid, however, is a different story. Eid is all-day partying. I’m also planning to write about Eid and hope to really go all out in celebration of that special day.)
I should be clear that I have absolutely nothing against the various ideas floating around on how to make Ramadan fun, how to make it something that kids look forward to each year, but I just wouldn’t start out with them right away. For a child Pippin’s age, I want to get the true meaning of Ramadan across. I’m not concerned about making it fun, because at Pippin’s age, I don’t expect her to actually take part in any of the “hard work” — I just want her to know that the older people in her life are striving their utmost. If she does anything extra during Ramadan this year, it will be completely her choice.
As she gets older, around age 6 or 7, I would start to expect her to join in with some of the striving her parents are doing. In that case, of course, I plan to add in a few “fun” activities, just to lighten her burden so that she’s not overwhelmed. Ramadan is tough! The older kids need a break once in awhile, and they already have a good idea of the meaning behind Ramadan. They already know that the fun activities are just a way to cope and get through all that spiritual training.
But at three? She’s not doing any work so I feel having “fun” activities at this age is counter-intuitive. She’s still trying to make sense of what Ramadan is about. You can’t say “Ramadan is about work,” and then turn around and play Ramadan games. So at this age, I want the message to be crystal clear about what Ramadan is and is not about.
So, I’m coming up with my own list of Ramadan lessons this year. I have a list of concepts that I want Pippin to focus on this month. I’ll be focusing on one concept per post over the next week. A lot of my ideas will probably be better for the 2-4 age group, but the concepts themselves are ageless and you could easily come up with modifications or new activities more suited to older kids. Younger sponges like Merry just absorb the amazing Ramadan atmosphere – no activities needed.
Make your own Ramadan du’a list and pocket du’a cards (printable)
One thing I do every year that I’m sharing with Pippin this time around is making a du’a list for the month. I know many people make long lists and spend all night in prayer, but I tend to focus more on quality than quantity — the longer my list is, the less likely I am to actually use it! With a short list of 8-10 du’as, I can easily memorize it and make those du’as throughout the day and night, every iftaar, after every prayer, and even more often than that.
A friend of mine shared a very effective method for coming up with a basic du’a list that I’ve been using for years now. I’ve adapted it into a printable format for you since it’s been so beneficial to me. It’s not going to give you a perfect du’a list, but it will come close! It’s easy to make slight modifications afterwards to make it exactly right.
Print out the “Make your own Ramadan du’a list” printable to create your short list of du’as, then print the index card format as many times as you like: one copy for your prayer area at home, one for your handbag, one at work or in the car, one to tuck into your mushaf for taraaweeh prayers… Keep a copy handy wherever you are so that you never forget to make du’a! Use it yourself and then give one to everyone in your family. Share the khayr!
Stay tuned for more toddler-appropriate Ramadan lessons! And if you have any specific requests or feedback, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.