I have very fond childhood memories of Ramadan. It was like the whole atmosphere in our house became richer for that one month. Waking up for sehri (suhour) as a family, listening to the Quran on the TV, praying together, trying to maximise good deeds, having relatives over for iftari (iftaar), and then of course, the Eid shopping, the mehndi on Chaand Raat and finally, the magic that is Eid-ul-Fitr. When I think back to Ramadan spent at my parents’ house as a child, I’m instantly filled with this calming, festive warmth and an intense feeling of nostalgia. I know that I can’t go back to the doodh-jalebi, pheeni filled sehris again (also because I now know how unhealthy they are), but I do want my daughter to grow up with the same spiritual, joyous Ramadan warmth that I remember from my childhood.
A major reason for all the festivity around Ramadan in our house was my grandfather – an incredible man about whom I will write about later at some point. While Baby A is very fortunate to be loved and pampered by all her grandparents, she is not lucky enough to live with any of them. It’s months like Ramadan when I really miss having a parent (grandparent for Baby A) in the house, but it is what it is at the moment, so I must make do with what I have. With Baby A nearing the two-and-a-half-year mark, I’ve made an extra effort to teach her about Ramadan this year. I’ve also been trying to make the atmosphere around the house as well as our activities a bit more festive and spiritual to make her Ramadan as special as mine when growing up. I thought I’d share some of these ideas in case any of you are also looking for some inspiration. Here’s what I’ve been trying out:
I started Ramadan off with a little bit of décor around the house just to create a more festive feel. It’s very basic – just a string of fairy lights on the door and a crescent and some stars painted by Baby A, but it adds a little bit of cheer to the house. Baby A and I turn on the lights every evening, and ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aah’ at them. I have also been pointing out all the Ramadan decorations to Baby A when we go out. Our apartment complex (Bay Avenue in Dubai) has done a beautiful job and we admire that almost every day. There are some amazing decorations at malls across Dubai and Baby A’s nursery has put up small crescents and lanterns (that the children painted of course).
The Ramadan decor at our house.
The most prominent change in our household (as I imagine is the case with many other households), is the change in routine. While Baby A doesn’t wake up for sehri (thankfully), her dinner time has been pushed forward by half an hour to coincide with Iftar. I make it a point to emphasize the time for breaking the fast, and offer her a date. We then let her have a go at whatever is on the table for Iftar (which is usually not a lot because we prefer going straight to dinner), and then immediately serve her dinner. Baby A loads up on fruit chaat and has been making the most of being able to have dessert before her main meal. The highlight for her, though, is having Daddy A home before dinner. For the rest of the year, he usually comes home right before bedtime, so every day for the last two weeks, Baby A has welcomed him for Iftar with a look of excited disbelief.
Another change in routine, is the regularity of my Namaz. I’m not proud of the irregularity of my prayers outside of Ramadan, but I find that this changes in the holy month and I know that Baby A has picked up on that. Most of the time she’s keen to join in, so I lay out a small prayer mat for her next to mine, and if she’s really feeling it, she insists that I put on a scarf over her head as well (it stays on for all of 30 seconds). Her favourite part is saying her Dua at the end. She comes and sits in my lap, cups her tiny hands inside mine and we thank Allah (swt) for all our blessings.
Preparations for namaz.
Books on Ramadan and Eid
I’ve always found reading very helpful when it comes to discovering and learning about something new. Since Baby A enjoys reading as well, one of the first things we did at the start of Ramadan was to buy a book about it. Baby A and I have been reading ‘Welcome Ramadan’ by Lila Assif-Tarabin nearly every day since, and Bilal and Maysa from the book now feature in our daily conversations. There is also a Curious George Ramadan book, and ‘My Eid Mubarak storybook’ by Omer Naqi, both of which have been recommended to me by friends, but I’ve unable to find them in Dubai.
Baby A enjoying her Ramadan book.
There are actually a lot of Ramadan and Eid books out there, and you can refer to the following article for more recommendations: http://coloursofus.com/childrens-books-ramadan/
Ramadan/ Eid Arts and Crafts
Aside from reading, Baby A enjoys getting her hands dirty painting, colouring, and decorating, so we’ve been focusing on Ramadan themed arts and crafts this month. We decorated a small ‘Ramadan Kareem’ sign the day before Ramadan started, and have since painted a crescent and some stars to put up in the house (pictured above on the door with the fairy lights). Baby A also did a lovely lantern decorating activity at nursery. I found quite a few Ramadan craft ideas on Pinterest, and I strongly recommend taking a look, especially if your children are a few years older than Baby A. Some of the ideas about lantern making, putting together prayer books, and decorating prayer mats are amazing!
Ramadan arts and craft.
We’re planning to get started on our Eid cards for the grandparents soon (shhh!). Every single Eid as children, my brother and I used to make handmade Eid Mubarak cards for our parents, grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles, and we would be so excited to hand them out on Eid day! My only hope is that Baby A has inherited her artistic talents from her aunt and not me!
Sharing our Blessings
I doubt that there exists a parent on this planet that has not once in their life (or thousands of times), told their child that ‘sharing is caring’. Baby A is usually good with sharing, but as she has grown older and discovered the concept of ownership, we’ve often found ourselves in situations where she needs a bit of a nudge to share. What better opportunity than the month of Ramadan to reinforce the concept? Baby A has donated clothes several times this month already, she’s shared food with the security guard in the building, and tea with the lady who cleans our house.
Baby A donating clothes.
I spend some time each day telling Baby A that we must be thankful for all that we have – not just for a house to live in, food to eat and clothes to wear, but for a loving family to call our own and for having eyes to see with and ears to hear with. Sharing our blessings doesn’t have to be limited to items we own. Even small deeds of kindness where we’re sharing our time or our gratitude with someone are a good opportunity to teach children about the spirit of Ramadan. In our house, we’re saying ‘I love you’ a lot more and giving out more hugs and kisses.
I hope that when Baby A is older, we will spend some time in Ramadan volunteering. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in Ramadan – from packing care boxes for those in need to serving Iftars to people on the street.
Eid shopping / Eid gifts
How can we forget one of the most exciting activities for children during Ramadan – shopping for Eid clothes! From our experience shopping for Baby A’s birthday clothes, I know that she’s really going to enjoy picking out her Eid clothes and shoes. I have very fond childhood memories of going shopping for Eid with my parents (I’m not sure if the sentiment is shared by them). I was a very selective child, especially when it came to buying shoes, and I remember this one time when my father had to take me to 20 shops before I chose a pair. Given Baby A’s love for shoes already, perhaps I should let my father take her Eid shopping.
I’ve also decided that I’m going to buy Baby A a small Eid gift – perhaps a book or a small toy, nothing fancy. We’ve never exchanged Eid gifts in our family, but when my father and brother would come back from Eid prayer, they would bring back a giant balloon (and by giant I mean giant because it was half my size) for each of us. These balloons were phenomenal – they would have three more balloons inside of them! How do they even do that? My brother and I would spend a large part of Eid day running, diving and jumping in an attempt to keep those giant balloons afloat – and that is my fondest childhood memory of Eid.
I’m feeling incredibly nostalgic at this point, so that’s all from me for now. If there’s something in particular that you’re doing to teach your child about Ramadan, or to make Ramadan a little bit more special for them, please let me know! I’m sure that Baby A would love to try it out!
Ramadan Kareem xxx