The month of Ramadan is exciting for many Muslims around the world. We reminisce about the our younger days when we first started fasting with our parents and siblings. We remember about how tough it was to wake up before dawn and break our fast during Maghrib.
I remember not wanting to wake up before Subuh prayer to eat and then getting hungry one hour later. But I enjoyed helping out my mother in the kitchen preparing for iftar, as my mother always cooked the most delicious dinners during Ramadan. It was always a memorable occasion.
As parents, we also want our children to experience Ramadan the best way possible.
But how do we encourage them to fast and to enjoy this holy month?
This can be a little tricky. But we always want to be encouraging, supportive and flexible with our children’s physical and spiritual development.
Here are 10 tips to encourage kids to fast during Ramadan:
#1 Explain about fasting and the importance of Ramadan
With kids, it’s always important to explain to them why we practice certain things in Islam such as praying and fasting. As parents, we naturally want our kids to not just practice these but also to understand the hikmah or wisdom behind it. Once they understand the importance and benefits of fasting, it might make it easier for them to eventually fast during Ramadan.
Remember that we should always explain to them in a simplified matter!
For instance, we can say that fasting during Ramadan is not just to withstand hunger but also to discipline ourselves in order to become a better Muslim. We also need to try to purify our heart from hatred, jealousy and try to instill more patience in ourselves.
During Ramadan, we also learn to understand what it’s like to be hungry from dawn to dusk so that we appreciate food and water more. Fasting also enables us to be more empathetic towards the poor and the needy, as experiencing hunger is normal for them.
# 2 Encourage doing good deeds
Kids who have not reached puberty are not required to fast but it’s always better for us to encourage them to fast since young, provided that they are able.
Aside from fasting, we should always encourage them to do good deeds especially during the Holy month of Ramadan.
As an example, we can always explain to them that in the Holy month of Ramadan, the gates of heaven are wide open for those who fast. Also, everytime a fasting person does sujud, they are given 1,700 of rewards and 17,000 angels pray to Allah for His forgiveness.
They may not understand the concept of heaven or the afterlife at such a young age but educating and reminding them since young may help them to eventually understand the importance of fasting and the concept of being rewarded in the Afterlife.
There are many good deeds that they can do such as:
Helping mom and dad in the kitchen
Helping the elderly
Sharing food with the neighbour (iftar)
Community service: helping out at an orphanage
We also need to remind ourselves that our kids might be extra tired and sensitive during this month especially if they are trying to fast. Don’t forget to be encouraging and flexible!
# 3 Invite him or her for sahur, even if they may wake up late
When I was young, I remember waking up for sahur at the age of 5. Of course, I did not fast the whole day! But I remember I wanted to be part of something bigger. I wanted to do the same things my parents and sister did.
As parents, we can also encourage our kids to wake up for sahur. They may not eat the same thing as us since they might not be in the best moods. Or they might not want to wake up at all.
But to practice, we should always encourage them to sahur and eat or drink something like bread or milk. If they can’t wake up before fajr, they can always wake up late and have a delayed sahur (for kids who aren’t required to fast) just to get them used to the practice.
# 4 Encourage to fast part of the day
The reason it’s good to encourage children to practice fasting at a young age is so that they will be accustomed to it by the time they are required to fast. It also helps them to become spiritually and physically more disciplined.
If it’s their first time fasting, maybe you can encourage them to fast for a few hours and then gradually increase the number of hours of fasting. It’s always important to remember that they should not be pressured, as we are trying to encourage them to fast.
# 5 Distract the one who wants to break fast by letting him or her sleep or play games
For adults, we need to prevent ourselves from sleeping too much.
As for kids, because they are still young and are not accustomed to fasting, we can distract them from thinking too much about their hunger and tiredness by having a nap during the day or playing permissible games so that time passes by faster.
As an example, you can create some fun games like this "ping pong baloons" that we played with Omar and Hana. You can do it too!
# 6 Make it fun: Reward him or her with fun activities
Children liked to be praised and we should praise them for doing something great so that it encourages more positive behaviour in the future.
One way to encourage them is buy printing out a Ramadan schedule and giving them a sticker for every day they fast. Even if they don’t fast fully, they can be rewarded.
You can download our free Ramadan Kid Pack here where you get colouring sheets and a Ramadan calendar for you to keep track of your fasting!
Click the links below to download the following:
# 7 Prepare their favourite food for iftar
During Ramadan, iftar is probably the time kids look forward to the most. How can they not?
After fasting, they are tired, hungry and thirsty. It is only natural for them to think about what they want to eat when they break their fast. I’m sure you can remember those days when you first started fasting.
This is a good time where you also can reward them by making their favourite meals! You can either make or buy something! But make sure it’s relatively healthy as you want to make sure they get their nutrients during this month.
# 8 Bring them to masjid for tarawikh prayers. Maybe get ice cream afterwards?
Depending on how small or big they are, you can always bring them to the mosque to perform tarawikh prayers.
When I was younger, I remember my father bringing us to perform tarawikh at the mosque. Whenever I was tired, I’d sit at the back with the rest of the children. As I grew older, I’d perform more rakaat and eventually perform the whole prayer. But going to the mosque at night with the whole family was such a joy for me.
# 9 Tell stories of the Prophet and Laylatul Qadr
What better time to tell stories of the Prophet and His companions than during Ramadan?
Fasting is more than just restraining one’s self from hunger but it is also a story about spiritual transformation.
Telling stories of the Prophet can help the children to understand Islam better because they will learn the difficulties that the Prophet had to go through. It will also teach them how to be close to the Prophet and his companions.
#10 Bring them to visit family members who are fasting too
When kids see other kids fast, they tend to be more motivated as compared to fasting among adults. When they are the only child fasting in the family, they tend to think that they can’t take it because they are still children.
Although this is mostly true for many children, it doesn’t hurt for you to visit family members who have small children who fast too. Once your kids see their friends and family also fast at a small age, it can encourage them to complete their fast.
It’s always important for parents to be encouraging towards their children spiritual and physical development. It’s easy for them to give up at first but with encouragement and praise, they can become better at fasting. It’s also good to remember that children are easily influenced by their peers, so those who live in a non-Muslim majority country may face tougher challenges.
But insyaAllah good progress takes time.