Sin is a difficult concept to understand for little children, whose worlds revolve around themselves and their wants and needs. For little children, everything they want comprises of good, and everything that they dislike is bad. It’s as simple as black and white for them.
There are many different words used in the Quran for sin, each having different connotations. However, for children sin can be categorized broadly in two ways:
- Firstly, there are the sins that are done intentionally, and the sins that are done unintentionally (that is shortcomings in fulfilling Allah’s (swt) commands).
- Secondly, there are the big sins (such as lying, backbiting, slander) and the minor sins.
Children, of course, are not accountable for sins till they are Baligh (the age of maturity which sets in at the time of puberty or when the child reaches the age of fifteen years). However, it is important to inculcate a sense of good and bad from the very beginning and to help them become conscious of their choices. This will make them aware of their mistakes early on and help them to guard their deeds, when their accountability begins.
Here are some easy ideas for introducing the concept of sin to children:
Activity: What is Sin?
If lying can save someone from punishment, it doesn’t seem very wrong in the eyes of a child. We must realize that to a child sin doesn’t always look bad. For helping children understand it, try this out:
Offer your kids a cup of juice but make it with salt instead of sugar. Allow them to drink and express their disgust. Ask them:
- What’s wrong with the juice?
- It looks just like normal juice; are you sure it’s not okay?
- How can it be bad, if it looks okay?
- Talk to them that Shaytan tricks us in the same way with sin. It looks great on the outside but it’s actually something that is really bad!
Activity: Big and Little Sin
Cover the floor with newspaper and have your child stand on a chair to drop two oranges or apples from the same height at the same time. Observe what happens. Now have your child drop an orange and a grape from the same height at the same time. Observe that they hit the floor at the same time, as gravity pulls things at the same rate, even if they are not the same size. Explain that sins are sins, whether they are big or small! We need to not do anything that displeases Allah (swt) regardless if it is big or small!
Activity: Happy Face/Sad Face
Draw a happy face and a sad face on two paper plates. Tape them together with a pencil or ice-cream stick in the middle. Call out examples of good deeds and bad deeds. Tell your child(ren) to show the sad face if it is a bad deed, and the happy face when it is a good deed. This will help in teaching children to identify sins that are not so obvious to them, such as not listening to parents, lying, hiding, taking things without asking, and so on. Ideas for good deeds include obeying parents, picking up toys, sharing, helping others, and smiling.
Activity: The Domino Effect
Set up dominoes with your children and then let them tap one and watch all of them fall over! Talk with the children about the fact that one sin leads to others, and pretty soon, it is hard to stop.
Activity: Swat Away Sin
Brainstorm some sins with your children that are pertinent to them. Take bits of paper and write them down. Hand your children fly swatters and ask them to swat these sins away! This activity is fun for smaller children. You can make it more interesting by blowing up balloons and writing the sins on them and swatting them until they burst!
Craft: Sorry Card
Teach children the concept that Allah (swt) will forgive us no matter the magnitude of the sin, as long as we say sorry to Him and that we say sorry to the person we hurt. Help children identify anyone they may have hurt and help them make a sorry card for them. Teach children that saying sorry does not make us inferior, but it elevates us in the eyes of Allah (swt). Teaching children to curb their egos and apologize is the greatest lesson you can give them early on.
Craft: Pure Heart
Take a card sheet, draw a heart on it, and stick white cotton all over it. Put a black dot on it and show children that every time we sin, our heart gets a black dot. But when we say “Astaghfirullah”, the dot is removed (pinch out that part of the cotton to show how the heart becomes white again).
The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Verily, when the servant commits a sin, a black spot appears upon his heart. If he abandons the sin, seeks forgiveness and repents, then his heart will be polished. If he returns to the sin, the blackness will be increased, until it overcomes his heart. It is the covering that Allah (swt) has mentioned: Nay! But on their hearts is the Ran (covering of sins and evil deeds) which they used to earn (83:14).” (Tirmidhi)
Teach the children how to do Astaghfar and tell them the Prophet (sa) made Astaghfar seventy times a day!
This is a small Ayah you can share with your children and even help them memorize:
“…those who repent and believe (in Islamic Monotheism), and do righteous deeds, for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-Furqan 25:70)