For most of us living in places where Muslims are a minority, Ramadan always comes with many questions and queries from well-meaning friends and acquaintances. As adults we’re better equipped to deal with questions but for children, it’s not always easy to explain or answer questions about Ramadan.
Questions like, WHY do you fast? Not even water? Won’t you get sick? How do you manage? What do eat after? And many more…
If your child is going to be fasting this year, it’s a good idea to let their school teacher and friends know in advance so that they can be more equipped to deal with any changes. But even if they’re not yet fasting, it’s a good time to share a part of our religion and culture with those closest to us. By explaining what Ramadan is, to their teachers and friends, children will feel better understood,
Books to share
There is a great book by Reem Faruqi, called Lailah’s Lunchbox in which Lailah is not sure how to tell her teacher and classmates that she’s fasting, and she’s worried that they won’t understand. She is encouraged by her librarian to write a letter for her teacher and she eventually shares more about Ramadan and fasting with her class.
Another book to share with your child’s class is one by Emma Apple, Owl & Cat: Ramadan Is… follows Owl & Cat, and their family and friends as they celebrate the 30 days of the Islamic month of fasting. They learn that Ramadan is about patience, prayer, kindness and many wonderful traditions!
And of course, there’s the newly released It’s Ramadan, Curious George, which most children will be able to relate to.
Facts about Ramadan
Here are some basic facts about Ramadan to share with your child’s class –
- Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar – since we follow a lunar calendar, Ramadan is about 10-11 days earlier each year.
- We fast because Allah has told us to in the Qur’an – we are obeying Him, trying to get closer to Him spiritually, and we try to do good deeds so that He is pleased with us. We also learn self-restraint, generosity and self-discipline while fasting, and it reminds us about those who are poorer than us, and don’t have much to eat.
- Fasting is one of the 5 Pillars of Islam.
- The Qur’an was revealed in this month.
- If you are too young, sick, old or travelling you do not have to fast.
- Suhoor is the early morning meal, before sunrise, that we eat before we start fasting, and Iftaar is at sunset, when we can eat again.
- At the end of 29 or 30 days (again based on the moon) we have a huge celebration called Eid al Fitr
Eid is our celebration
To help children understand more about Eid al Fitr and how it’s a fantastic celebration for Muslims just like Christians celebrate Xmas, and Jews celebrate Hannukah, you can’t go past Ilyas and Duck and The Fantastic Festival of Eid al Fitr.
Health facts about fasting
Some people worry that fasting can be harmful, but actually, humans have been fasting for ages, and fasting is a part of many other religions too. Here’s a quick summary of some of the benefits of fasting. And here’s another one about the spiritual and health benefits too. There are lots of people who carry on their normal routines while fasting, even those involved in sports. There are also concessions for travellers etc, and this article shows how some professional athletes cope with fasting while training or taking part in competitions.
Make it fun
As parents, we’re always trying to put a bit of fun into the things we have to do. Countless parents across the world are gearing up for Ramadan by making crafts, treats and special surprises for their kids. It would be great to involve your child’s classroom in some of the fun too. You could ask the teacher if you can bring in some decorations or crafts for all the children to take part. Hello Holy Days has some very creative craft ideas, and Modest Munchies has a handy post with lots of activities for kids.
Share a part of our food culture
Muslims come from such diverse backgrounds and all Muslims have different foods and treats that they associate with Ramadan. It would be fun to share some of your culture or traditions with your child’s friends before Ramadan. You could take some yummy treats in for the classroom to share, or you could even ask some friends to come over and give them a little demo on how to make some of your special Ramadan foods.
One thing that most Muslims will do, however, is up their date intake in Ramadan, as breaking the fast with dates is a part of the Sunnah. Sharing some dates is an easy (and yummy) thing to do. To give you some ideas on how to package the dates take a look at Modern Muslim Home – and it’s easy enough for your children to help you package them. Modest Munchies has a little printable for your neighbours (which you can totally do while you’re packing dates for your child’s friends) or My Halal Kitchen had some ideas with Ramadan and Eid inserts for goodie bags. You can easily adapt the message for children, or give it to parents as is.
If you have some time and want to get a bit more creative, you could send cookies to your children’s friends. This post includes a cookie recipe and free printable labels too.
Get them to try to fast a few hours
This might not be suitable for everyone or every classroom, but it might be fun to ask some friends to join your child in fasting for a couple of hours, just to get everyone into the spirit of things. You could set up a mock Suhoor, and then set a time limit which is reasonable for all those participating. At the end you could have an Iftaar with dates and food. If your child will be fasting in Ramadan, maybe you can do this before or after Ramadan.
The most important thing is for your child to feel supported if they’re fasting, and that others around them understand that it’s an important part of our religion and life. Making it fun and inclusive is an added bonus.