As Ramadan progresses this year, I have been tackling all the to-do lists in my head for things that need to be cleaned, purchased, decorated, and prepared. Additionally, my son is finally “old” enough to understand the concept of Ramadan, so I wanted to create a memorable introduction to this blessed time of year for him. Thankfully, I had a lot of inspiration to work from through friends and social media.
Instead of becoming overwhelmed with how much was out there, I pulled myself together and reminded myself of the goal behind this: to introduce my children to Ramadan, to make memories and traditions, and to instill in them the spirit of the month: selflessness, kindness, and charity. One popular idea is the “advent calendar”—a Christmas-time tradition of counting down until Christmas Eve using a decorative calendar display with pockets for each day. Each “pocket” would be filled with candies, small toys, a photo, story, etc which children can look forward to revealing every day in anticipation of the end. My fellow Muslim mamas were getting very creative, and it was heartwarming to see this tradition adapted to get our children excited for Ramadan and Eid. A simple search on Pinterest or Instagram of “Ramadan Calendar” would yield hundreds of colorful designs, while some companies offered ready-made calendars for parents to fill. There was a sense of healthy “competition” that reminded me of the Quranic verse that describes the believers:
(“It is these who hasten in every good work, and these who are foremost in them.” 23:61).
In my version of an “advent-calendar”, I thought of stringing 30 balloons filled with goodies for children to enjoy each day. I figured my four year old son would appreciate the balloons—who doesn’t love popping them? Instead of filling each balloon with candy or a small toy, I decided to put a small activity/task in each one for him to take on for every day of Ramadan. They could be as simple (see below for examples), but the point was to get him to do something, to connect that act to the holy month, and (in all honesty) to give me 5-10 minutes of quiet time (if at all possible!). I started with 10 balloons so I wouldn’t be out of breath late on Friday night and filled each one with a small paper with the task. It’s not too late for you to start this, dig up those balloons and here are some ideas for what task to fill each one with (suitable for 3-6 year olds):
- Watch a Ramadan video.
- Make a masjid craft (I had no idea what this was going to entail, it could be as simple or complicated as you like. I decided to delegate to my husband this task on the second day as I prepared iftar and their combined creativity was a nice surprise that my son was extremely proud of!)
- Make your bed.
- Donate a toy to someone in need.
- Help set the table/clear the table for iftar.
- Give some of your iftar/dessert to a neighbor.
- Call your aunt/uncle/cousin to check on them.
- Color a Ramadan coloring page.
- Review a surah from the Quran that you have memorized.
- Memorize a new duaa (for eating, breaking fast, leaving/entering home, sleeping, etc).
- Sing a Ramadan song.
- Put money in sadaqah jar.
- Draw/write a card for a friend.
- Read a book to your sibling.
- Make some Ramadan cookies.
Adjust these tasks to accommodate older children. Occasionally, I “reward” my son with a piece of candy for doing an exceptionally good job at one of the tasks, but for the most part I stress the reward that Allah has in place for him, how proud we are of him, and how some of these acts will bring a smile to someone’s face. Some blogs and shops have made this task easier for us, with free printable lists of activities to use.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during this time of year, and social media doesn’t always help. Use what you see online as inspiration, and remember that your kids will only see your effort and they will no doubt gain something from whatever you put your heart into. Renew your intention, and go blow some balloons.
Tuqa Nusairat is the mother of a volunteer firefighter and zookeeper, ages 4 and 1.5, respectively, who keeps her time on Pinterest at a healthy 3.5 minutes per day. She’s also an international affairs professional by day, helping to shed light on international crises and democratic transitions.