February 09, 2007

Observing Lent with Children: Lenten Grass

This is a photo essay that accompanies a 2007 Kitchen Parade column.

For adult observers, the Christian season of Lent is often a time of quiet contemplation. For kids, however, Lent seems little more than preamble to Easter’s bonnets and bunnies and baskets.

To help children observe Lent, consider adopting the old Finnish custom of planting grass seed in small dishes on Ash Wednesday. (In 2007, Ash Wednesday falls on February 21.)

For children, it is fun to plant and carefully tend the seeds. Soon delicate blades burst forth from the earth, stretching toward the light. With good care, the grass will grow thick and strong and lush, symbolizing the resurrection and the certainty of spring.

Here's how to mark the Lenten Season with Lenten Grass. It's easy, it's fun! Consider starting several trays and giving them to family and friends.

Start with a pretty bowl or tray about three inches high. For drainage, first lay down an even layer of small rocks – aquarium rocks are perfect.

Then stir together potting soil and grass seed and arrange it loosely on top of the stones.

For visual interest, especially before germination, arrange a few rocks or perhaps pieces of broken china. Be creative!

Place the container in a sunny spot, someplace where it's easy to see, often. I put mine right in the middle of the kitchen table.

Moisten the soil every day. Use something with a small spout to control the flow. If you're doing this with kids, a spray mister may prevent over-watering. The soil shouldn't be soaked but it should be moist. And because the soil is shallow, it'll dry out quickly.

And then, about Day 6 ...

... start looking for itsy signs of grass!

After that, the growth will be fascinating to watch. On sunny days, you'll be positive you can see new growth every couple of hours.

Soon there will be a thick tray of lush grass, green and bright and fresh-smelling ~ for everyone to enjoy. (See the clump of dirt? It's fascinating to watch the sheer power of the thrusting grass!)

When the grass gets unruly, ‘mow’ it with scissors. From now til Easter, you'll need to 'mow' every week or so.

That's all there is to it! An invitation: e-mail a photo of your own Lenten Grass and I'll add it here for all to share.

Planning Ahead: Here's a great Christmas idea, a special way to celebrate Jesus' birthday with children, from a 2006 Kitchen Parade column.

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(c) Copyright 2007 Kitchen Parade

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