This year, Ramadhan in South Africa falls smack in the middle of a winter that promises to be icy. Alhamdulillah, the fasting hours are short but the bitterly cold kitchen during suhoor will sure be a test! Whilst preparing suhoor, my habit is to switch on the Channel Islam International radio station to break the silence of the night. There is one programme that never fails to brighten my mood: the radio presenter makes phone calls to homes where there are young children awake at that hour. He chats to these innocents about their Ramadhan, their fasting progress, their suhoor menu and their favourite iftar.
And as I drink my tea and smile at the little ones’ comments, I say a silent prayer for those parents that got it right and instilled in their mini-Muslims the will to fast and the love of doing it.
For those of us with babies and toddlers, it is best to begin preparing our children from an early age so that when the time comes, our kiddos are ready to fast with gusto.
Celebrate Ramadhan and be happy
• Do all that you can to make Ramadhan a special and memorable time for your family; make it the time of year that everyone looks forward to.
• Involve your children from the word go. Give them responsibilities for the month that play a part in ensuring the smooth functioning of the home.
• Have a family meeting before Ramadhan and explain the significance of this month. Tell them the story of the Battle of Badr and impress upon them the absolute faith those 300 warriors had.
• Teach them about the goodness of this month and how much mercy Allah (SWT) has for us during these days.
• Go out and look for the moon together. Whoever sights it first and remembers to read the du’a wins a prize.
• Invite their friends over for iftar or suhoor and cook all the junk food “meals” that would make any sane adult shudder.
• Just do everything in your power to create a lasting love affair between your child and this beautiful month of fasting.
Teach your children the purpose of fasting
Children are innately curious and their minds need to question every answer until all the answers can link up, create a pattern and make sense. So help them make sense out of Ramadhan:
• Make up stories that will explain the beautiful logic that exists behind fasting
• Read books to them that will bring the purpose of Ramadhan alive
• Sing nasheeds that are centred around the sighting of the moon, good deeds and Ramadhan
Ramadhan, by Suhaib Hamid Ghazi
My First Ramadhan, by Karen Katz
Celebrating Ramadhan, by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith
Ramadhan Song with Zaky
Welcome Oh Ramadhan – Zain Bikha
So We’ve Scanned the Sky – Dawud Wharnsby
Be wise and improvise
Once a Muslim removes food from the equation, we realise just how much of our day is eaten up (pun intended!) by meal times.
Fasting children will realise this too and, as any mother will tell you, children with too much idle time on their hands are a sure fire recipe for disaster.
Be prepared to battle boredom by ensuring that your cupboards are well-stocked with board games, colouring pencils, colouring books, paints, play dough and whatever else will attract your child’s interest. If the weather is accommodating, send them outside to count the bugs or to collect butterflies.
Remember that a bored child can almost surely drive a parent to distraction but a bored AND hungry child may very well drive you nuts.
Kiddy Krafts for Ramadhan:
• Create beautiful ‘Eid cards for friends and family.
• Print out black and whites images of masajid around the world and let your children colour them in.
• Have an “international iftar” where the family cooks a cosmopolitan meal together.
• Make a Ramadhan scrapbook filled with photos and pictures of what this year’s Ramadhan represents.
Praise and applaud
Let your little ones know that every effort they make is noticed. Gradually encourage your children to begin fasting in whatever way works best for them: some parents allow their young children to fast for half a day whilst others allow their child to break the fast at lunch, refuel and fast again until iftar. Other parents fear these methods as they feel it teaches the child to take fasting lightly and so decide that the child should either fast or not fast so as to emphasise the importance of the act.
Whichever method works for your little ones, stick to it and reward them for every fast kept. Acknowledge all of their accomplishments during this month and encourage good behaviour by explaining that Allah (SWT) Himself rewards us tenfold for regular good behaviour while we are fasting!
Keep track of your child’s fast by creating a day by day calendar that can be stuck up on the wall or on the fridge. Make it eye catching and exciting. For every fast kept, let your child stick the date pit with which he or she broke his or her fast onto the relevant day.
What would this month be without helping others? With the help of your children, begin a soup kitchen or tin food drive for those who are in need. Try to take them to places that serve children so that they can see that there are young people out there who are not as fortunate as they are.
Inculcate a love for society and for community by encouraging them to think of ways to be of service to people in their neighbourhood. Help them to develop and implement these ideas and let them know that Allah (SWT) loves those who help others.
Get it right
Teaching our children to fast from childhood establishes the routine in their lives and prepares them for the annual fasting month. So when fasting becomes obligatory upon them, their bodies, minds and spirits are no stranger to the concept of abstinence.
As I read the du’a for fasting, the voices over the radio – some bright and chirpy and others sleepy and slurred – inspire me to be the best fasting Muslim I can be for that day. Because if our tiny ones can do it, then so can we.
Raeesa Patel is a mummy, teacher and writer whose life is filled with sunshine and rainbows because of the first, hope and exhilarating challenges because of the second and a dream come true because of the third.