Group of children showing the ash mark on their hands, representing how they are doing lent for kids


How to Do Lent for Kids (Without Losing Your Mind)

Caleb Mathis

10 mins

Lent is coming. And I’m not talking about the fuzzy stuff you haven’t cleared out of your dryer for the past month (you animal!).

On the surface, Lent might feel like the last thing you would willingly jump into (especially doing Lent for kids), but I’ve found it to be an incredible opportunity for connection, conversation, and spiritual growth. Believe it or not, you can do Lent for kids without losing your mind–or faith–in the process.

Celebrated for millennia, Lent is the name given to the 40 days preceding Easter. Starting on Ash Wednesday, Christians have historically used this time to prepare themselves for Easter by sharing (in some small way, because we all know giving up chocolate ain’t the same as public execution) in Christ’s suffering and crucifixion. How? By choosing to fast (or willingly give up) something.

Lent for Kids

Fasting ain’t the most popular spiritual discipline because, well, it kinda sucks. Nobody likes giving up something they enjoy. But it is something that Jesus himself practiced. And while forgoing your daily Snickers habit might seem like small potatoes, scripture promises that no suffering is wasted—it all produces endurance, character, and hope. I don’t know about you, but everyone in my family, kids included, could use a little more of all three.

Hear me clearly: it’s not just about giving up something. At least in our family, we focus even more on adding something positive to our lives, like a habit, focus area, or choice that can grow our faith. I’ll be honest: I don’t look forward to it—in the same way that I don’t look forward to my morning workout, eating brussels sprouts, or going to the dentist. But, as much as I hate to admit it, I feel so much better afterward.

I got introduced to Lent by my wife, who loves the traditions of the Church calendar, and helped pave the way for our family to make it a cornerstone of our year. I’m no expert, but I do try to pay attention and learn from others. So I asked some friends how they’ve learned to do Lent for kids (so I could steal their ideas). There just might be some good ideas in here for you.

How My Friends Do Lent For Kids

  • Mandy starts her family’s celebration with Mardi Gras, doing it up right with gumbo, crayfish, and jambalaya. The night ends with a family discussion about their goals for Lent. Everyone names something they will give up, and the whole family forgoes meat on Fridays. To make it fun, Friday becomes cheese pizza party night and an opportunity to check in on how the fasts are going.

  • Joel grew up in a home where Lent was practiced but not enjoyed. In his words, he “suffered through it as an obligation.” He had difficulty connecting the dots between why giving up something was necessary, especially desserts. He really didn’t understand fasting until he came across this video, which was meant for kids. While he doesn’t have kids yet, he hopes to make Lent a different experience for them by focusing on the joy of the season.

  • Ellen, whose kids are younger, uses Lent to focus on intentional prayer time before bed. This year, she is teaching her little ones the Lord’s prayer with the overarching goal of showing her kids that they, too, have access to God.

  • Chris grew up in a faith-filled home but did not practice Lent until high school. He adopted it himself, without any family support, as he was getting more serious about his faith. For him, it was a natural opportunity to improve areas of his life that felt out of control (like Twitter). He doesn’t have kids either, but, alongside his wife, has plans to celebrate Lent as a time for reflection and spiritual curiosity.

Lent for Kids

  • In our house, we focus on good tries. Everyone picks something new to add to their lives—and, if applicable, something to give up. We encourage progress, not perfection, and end each day with a family devotional. We make Sundays fun—no screens, intentional time together outside, and we finish dinner with a dessert (out of the ordinary for us).

In the past few years of doing Lent as a family, I’ve learned four things that have helped make these 40 days feel more like joy and less like a chore. I’m betting they might help you as well. (And, because I’m a 40-year-old man with an 8-year-old boy’s sense of humor, it’s an acronym and a misspelled one at that. L-I-N-T. Also, let this be a reminder to check your lint trap. It’s the source of 27% of house fires; Now you know.)

You Can Do Lent For Kids (Without Losing Your Mind) When You:


It’s hard enough for me to commit to something for 40 days, let alone a kid. So when you introduce the idea of Lent to your children, be sure to bring your best tool for connection: listening.

Admittedly, I kind of suck at this. I want to bring an idea, have it be universally accepted, and then run after it. But the best leaders are the ones who make their followers feel seen, known and heard. So, make space for your kids’ questions, pushbacks, and confusion.

When my kids were little, we introduced Lent as an opportunity to try something new to help us know God better. As they age, we’ve shifted the language to “accepting a spiritual challenge.” I’m sure we will iterate it again when they enter the preteen years.

Lent for kids

The language is less important than the opportunity for your kids to see you leading the charge, especially on matters of spirituality. Put aside the worries of “not getting it right” or “failing” and move forward. Your kids seeing you invested in spiritual growth might be the most important outcome of the 40 days.

Helicopter parents don’t let their kids grow, and Snowplow parents remove all obstacles in the way. Faithful parents, though, walk through challenges alongside their kids. Lent is an opportunity to do that.

Just be sure to lead by listening first.


Nobody wants to be drafted, especially when it comes to spiritual matters.

I’ve learned to invite my kids into the ancient practice of Lent. That means giving them space to choose something to fast from, a good habit to grow or to do nothing at all. Even at a young age, chosen spiritual growth takes root much deeper than forced spiritual growth.

That being said, there are some non-negotiables. Everyone will partake in family dinner and the devotional afterward. We will have family time together on Sundays, and (believe it or not) I don’t have to force anyone to eat dessert. But giving kids the freedom to choose their own path through Lent creates buy-in you just don’t get when you make it a demand.

We do our best to make Lent a team sport, and as of yet, we haven’t had a Lent when a kid chose not to give up or add something for the 40 days.

In the long run, by giving them the freedom to make choices around Lent, we hope to create kids who are invested in their own spiritual growth, not robots who just repeat their parents’ successes (or losses).


Growing anything takes time, resources, and repetition. At the risk of sounding painfully obvious, there’s a spiritual truth buried here: the things you repeat are the things you’ll do most often. If something is important, you must be intentional about it—schedule it, bend around it, resource it.

Last year, during Lent, my family completed a 40-day devotional. It didn’t happen by accident. We set a rhythm of family dinner, devotional, and bedtime. After a week, our kids just fell into the pattern. It became just something we did.

Lent for Kids

Some nights, that meant we got to bed later than we wanted. On other nights, it meant we sped through our bedtime routine afterward. It meant picking up a pizza on the way home from work a few times. We did our best to make choices that valued our family devotional time and then slotted everything else around it.

However your family chooses to observe Lent, intentionality is your friend. Set a phone reminder if you need to—but if you keep hitting the same nail, you’ll eventually drive it home.


My wife says that failure is part of the point of Lent. You set your sights high, shoot for the stars, and if (when) you fall off the horse, you’re reminded that you can’t do it alone. We all need Jesus, and Lent is a (nearly daily) reminder.

I said we completed a 40-day devotional last Lent—we did, but that doesn’t mean we never missed a night. A handful of times, we ran late, were too tired, or emotional to pick up the book. So we licked our wounds, went to bed, and got up the next day more motivated to move forward together.

That goes for our individual challenges, too. Last year, my wife chose to focus on starting her day in prayer before opening the phone. I decided to stop scrolling so much and spend face-to-face time with my kids. My daughter wanted to read her kids’ Bible every night. My boys wanted to be kinder and more helpful.

Lent for Kids

We all failed at some point, but that didn’t mean Lent was a failure. Instead, it was an opportunity to encourage each other, experience God’s grace, and push on together.


After 40 days of intentionality, it feels like a party when Easter finally rolls around. While Lent starts in the doldrums of winter, it ends with spring sunshine, pastel-colored clothing, and a celebration of life conquering death.

On Easter, Jesus is alive. And after conquering Lent, we all feel just as alive.

For many families, Christmas is a reminder to be generous, Thanksgiving is a reminder to be grateful, and birthdays are a reminder to celebrate each other. Lent is an ancient tradition ready to join the club. For us, it’s become a yearly reminder that nothing grows by accident. It takes time, intention, and a team.

Good thing: that’s exactly what a family is for.

Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.

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Caleb Mathis
Meet the author

Caleb Mathis

Dad of three, husband of one, pastor at Crossroads, and at the moment would rather be reading Tolkien, watching British TV, or in a pub with a pint of Guinness.

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