Ramadan is coming, and in many homes across the world families are busy preparing for this special time. Last year as part of our world cultures curriculum, I put together this Ramadan lesson plan, appropriate for early elementary school children. (Many of the activities could be simplified for preschoolers). Because I like to integrate our subject matter as much as possible, it includes science, math, and literature, as well as religion. Since it was primarily designed for children with no prior knowledge, it includes a very basic introduction to Islam.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Zachariah’s Perfect Day for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.
Ramadan Lesson Plan for Kids
The Life of Muhammad
We began by talking about the Prophet Muhammad and His life. For this I used Muhammad by Demi, one of our favorite authors. It is a beautifully done and very respectful account of the life and significance of Muhammad. It is a wonderful overview geared towards younger readers. (You can also play some vocabulary games by picking out words that your students might not know, defining them together, then asking them to either act them out or draw pictures).
I pointed out how the illustrator was careful not to paint pictures of Muhammad, following a hadith, or tradition, that forbids creating images of Muhammad. We looked at photos of the beautiful mosaics and calligraphy as examples of other types of Islamic art that have grown up over the centuries instead. We then tried our hand at this Arabic calligraphy lesson for kids.
The Islamic Calendar
We discussed the Muslim calendar and how it is a lunar calendar (that is, based on the position of the moon relative to the Earth), instead of the more familiar solar calendar we use (based on the orbit of the Earth around the sun). The Muslim calendar has 12 months, just like ours does, but because the Muslim month is based on the phases of the moon, each month is 29-30 days long. The lunar year, therefore, is shorter than the solar year by just over 10 days, meaning that the Muslim calendar seems to rotate around the solar calendar. (You can read more about calendars of the world, including the difference between solar and lunar calendars). So sometimes Ramadan is in the summer but sometimes in the winter, spring, or fall.
This is a pretty abstract concept for kids to grasp, so we did an activity to see how the dates on the solar and lunar calendars compared. We pulled out a calendar and did a “race” between the solar and lunar calendars, with the starting line t January 1. Then we counted out 29 days for month one and marked it on the calendar, then counted another 29 days for month 2, etc. until we had completed one lunar year. Now where was the first day of the new year? How far off was it from the solar new year? Who had won the race? Depending on the interest of your students, you could continue the activity for one or two more cycles and see how far off the calendars are after only a few years.
Phases of the Moon
Next we jumped more into the science behind the Islamic calendar by looking more closely at the phases of the moon, since Ramadan begins with the first sighting of the new moon. (There is a great chart of the phases of the moon in Zachariah’s Perfect Day). They each made their own chart by cutting out pieces and gluing them on black paper. We also did this really great visual activity that makes it very clear why the moon looks different throughout the month. Kids will have fun taking turns at being the Earth!
Books about Ramadan
All of which teaches us about the mechanics of the month of Ramadan, but not about what it is like to celebrate it. For this we turned to some great books about the experience of children during Ramadan:
Zachariah’s Perfect Day is a wonderful book about a boy’s first time fasting during Ramadan. I love that it gives a very easy to understand overview about what Ramadan is, woven naturally into the story. It shows what makes it such a special time and what a typical day during Ramadan looks like for a family. It even includes the call to prayer and some recipes for Zachariah’s favorite foods (even deep-fried Oreos!) The excitement and joy of Ramadan really come through, as we experience the fast through Zachariah’s eyes.
A wonderful book for young children is Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors. Through gorgeous illustrations and simple text, it introduces major symbols and traditions of Ramadan. It is easy to read and lends itself very easily to craft projects. You could also have children talk about what are the important colors of their day.
My boys have short attention spans when it comes to crafts, so we did a very simple project of gluing torn paper onto crescent shapes. (You can find tons of wonderful craft ideas on our Ramadan Pinterest board).
You can also find wonderful traditional recipes for Ramadan to prepare together. For example, Zachariah’s Perfect Day‘s includes a recipe for parathas from India. You could also keep things simple by bringing in dates for them to try!
One of the most important parts of Ramadan is focusing on spiritual growth through good deeds and charity. A great activity for this is to make these colorful good deed jars for them to use. You could also do a simple service project together. For example, we baked cookies to share with the staff at my older son’s school.
Ramadan is such a joyous time of year. It is a wonderful way to teach children about Islam and how it is practiced by families around the world and right next door! If possible, a great final step to this lesson would be to contact a local Muslim community and see what Ramadan celebrations you can visit with your students!
Multicultural Kid Blogs is proud to be hosting its second annual Ramadan for Kids blog hop, where bloggers come together to share ideas for teaching kids about and honoring Ramadan. Don’t forget to check out our series from last year and follow our Ramadan board on Pinterest for even more ideas and link up your own posts below!
All Done Monkey
Kid World Citizen
A Crafty Arab
Creative World of Varya
Crafty Moms Share
Global Advocate Jr.
Colours of Us
La Cité des Vents
Words ‘n’ Needles