Lent is almost here & for us it offers 40 days to prepare for Easter. To help us explore our journey through Lent we created a desert area in our hallway that all the family could interact with.
Now, of course, we're not talking large desert plains with palm trees, more just a small area to remind us of the days Jesus spent in the desert, & space where we could pause, pray, or play.
To make our desert sand tray we used a clean seed tray & some play sand. We placed our sand tray on a small table against a wall in our hallway which meant we would pass it every day as we left or entered the house. As purple is the liturgical colour of Lent we covered the table with a square of purple cloth before placing the sand tray on top. (I should point out that our hallway has a wooden floor so any stray sand could be swept up easily. Alternatively, you could place the small table in a large storage box which would catch any escaping sand.)
We explored our sand tray at the beginning of Lent last year, & talked about how Jesus entered the desert by himself. We wondered how lonely Jesus must have felt with nobody for company, & wondered if he was scared. Then we talked about how Jesus would've prayed to God in the desert & how God was always with him.
Over the next few days as we passed the desert sand tray we:
Scooped up handfuls of the sand & let in run through our fingers
Buried our hands in it & felt the coolness of the sand below
Rubbed our hands over the surface to flatten
Left our own handprints in the sand
Wrote messages in the sand for others to discover
Over the 6 weeks of Lent we added different items to the sand. We used the following items, but obviously, items need to be age-appropriate.
Week 1 we left the sand plain
Week 2 we added different sized pebbles & stones which had different textures.
Week 3 we added small sticks, dried items & dry grass.
Week 4 we added a selection of small desert animal play figures.
Week 5 we added green dry plants.
Week 6 we turned our desert sand tray into a space for Holy Week
Over the 40 days of Lent this desert sand tray became an interactive prayer area in our home. It became a calm space where we could pause, pray, focus our thoughts, & explore the wilderness. We soon realised that each of us connected with it & individually gained something from it being there.