While young children are not obligated to fast, it does not mean that we should exclude them from observing Ramadhan. In fact, it is a great idea to use this time to teach them about the importance of faith and instil within them a sense of gratitude and community. Getting the kids involved in the celebrations will help spark their enthusiasm for Ramadhan, so that when they are eventually able to fast, they will look forward to the month with eagerness and joy.
Make it a family tradition to welcome Ramadhan into your home by creating and putting up special decorations. Put up colourful Ramadhan banners, design your own pretty lanterns and fill the house with twinkling lights. Let the children decorate their own rooms too so that it allows them to feel the festivities and excitement around Ramadhan. One of the more fun things about Ramadhan is that it brings together family and friends over meals. Invite children to help in the cooking and preparation process. Cooking as a family not only creates the perfect backdrop for discussing all things Ramadhan, it also helps the kids learn how to prepare traditional dishes. A great way to make children feel important and involved in the kitchen would be to make them the official ‘food taster’ since they may not fasting. Encourage younger kids to help set up the table and praise them for their efforts. The happy memories that they will create will stay with them year after year.
Once Ramadhan starts, a question often asked by kids is, “when is Eid?” Help kids mark off the days of Ramadhan with a special Ramadhan calendar. Similar to the advent calendar, the Ramadhan calendar has little pockets, where parents can put a note with either a sweet or a date for the kids to enjoy. The notes can be customised depending on the age of the children. For young kids, small snippets of information on Ramadhan can be interesting. As they grow older, the notes can carry verses from the Quran. Do remember to put in enough sweets or dates in the pocket for every child who visits. An interesting way to introduce the concept of fasting is to allow the children to take the note or sweet only at Maghrib time. This creates a sense of anticipation for this time of day, and helps them learn self-control.
To help children get the most out of Ramadhan, discuss with them some of the things that can be done during the month, and ask them about goals that they would like to achieve. Letting children choose their own goals usually ensures that they are more likely to achieve them. It will also help them feel a greater sense of accomplishment when the goal is reached. Encourage children by challenging them to achieve a particular goal. For younger children it could be simple tasks such as helping at home or being kind to others. Older children could be challenged into learning a new surah or dua along with its meaning and then sharing with the rest of the family.
Another way of helping children imbibe the spirit of Ramadhan is to encourage them to act out daily acts of kindness. Inculcate the habit of giving and sharing by helping them keep aside toys and clothes that they may not need anymore and donate these to those in need. Introduce them to the concept of sadaqah (charity) by encouraging them to donate money at the local masjid. Alternatively, they can help as you prepare food items to give away to the less privileged. This will help them understand that a big part of Ramadhan is to be charitable to those who are less fortunate.
Ramadhan is one of those times that we should be thankful for all that we have. A fun way of doing this is to create the ‘blessing tree’. Use chart paper to create a tree trunk and cut out many different coloured leaves. Then gather as a family and have each member write or draw on the leaves blessings that they feel they have received. Paste them onto the tree each daily and watch the tree grow with each passing day. This becomes a visual and constant reminder of just how blessed our lives are and teaches us to appreciate our blessings in a more mindful way.
Parents, grand-parents and family members play a large part in creating excitement about the holy month. A great way to draw children into the celebrations is to hold a storytelling session. After Maghrib, when meals have been eaten, family and friends can gather around to describe what Ramadhan was like when they were growing up. Ask them to be descriptive about how Iftar was observed during their time. Talk about the drummers and other traditions. Share details about the kind of food they ate and the games they played during Ramadhan. It is through this kind of fellowship that children learn about devotion, generosity, goodwill, and self-control.
Children usually imitate what they see and hear, so if you are able to convey a deep feeling of reverence and joy for the month of Ramadhan children will pick up on it. Spending time with them and getting them to participate in observing the holy month, albeit in a small way will sow the seeds of faith. It will be the lessons learnt and memories created that the children will carry with them into their adult lives and hopefully to future generations.