Try this hands-on “circle of the Church year” to help your children learn about the liturgical cycle.
by Heidi Indahl
Just as a new calendar cycle begins every January, so too our Church calendar begins a new cycle every Advent. Teaching your kids the general order of the circle of the church year can help them understand the concept of feasts and seasons that is so important in our Catholic tradition. It is also a great way to teach the meaning of each season and the liturgical colors that go along with them. Try this hands-on circle of the church year to help your children learn these concepts.
What You Will Need
- An embroidery hoop or basket/bowl with a relatively vertical edge, approximately 12 inches in diameter
- 7 clothespins
- Construction paper in the liturgical colors of white, purple, red, & green
- 2 Sets of Labels for Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time (2 needed), Lent, Easter, & Pentecost
- Extra paper for creating your own control chart
You can make your own labels by simply writing the seasons on a piece of paper or quickly printing them on your computer. You can include symbolic pictures for younger children by using clip art or simple sketches. Or you can purchase a premade set of labels on Teachers Pay Teachers.
- Assemble labels by mounting words and/or pictures on small squares of construction paper in the appropriate liturgical colors. (Advent and Lent: purple; Christmas and Easter: white; Ordinary Time: green; Pentecost: red.)
- Glue each label on a clothes pin. I did pictures and words, so I put the picture on one side and the matching word on the other side of the clothes pin.
- Make a control chart. If you purchase the pre-made set of labels, the file also includes a picture showing the order of the Church year. Print this and add some color; laminate and/or mount on construction paper for durability. This is a way for your child to check their own work when they have completed the circle. Alternatively, create your own circle using a second set of labels and extra paper.
Presenting the Circle
If possible, sit next to your child while observing the circle. I like to have my children watch quietly while I set the material up the first time, starting at what would be the top of the clock and assembling from Advent on clockwise.
When the circle is complete, I ask my children what they see. Depending on what they observe, we discuss the different colors, the circle shape, the liturgical symbols, and names. Another way to go would be to have children offer observations after each piece is added instead of once at the end.
Once they have seen me assemble the circle, we look at the control chart to show how my circle matches the one on the page. Then I invite them to assemble the clips on their own. I always sit with them the first time, inviting them to check the chart to see if it matches rather than providing the correction myself if they get stuck.
Once they have had a chance to complete the circle with me close by, I show them where to put the material when they are finished and allow them to practice on their own. Sometimes our circle sits unused for long periods of time, but often is taken back out as we move through the major seasons. I might initiate this in preparation for a new season, or it might be initiated by a child who notices there is a new color on the altar or priest’s vestments.
Don’t get caught up in presenting the circle in the “correct” way! Explore your material with your child, model how to look up information you don’t know, and enjoy your time learning together!
- If you use a basket or bowl for your circle, store the clips right inside to save space. You can also use a basket or tray to hold the embroidery hoop and clothespins separately.
- If you have older children, consider adding additional days to your circle for a greater challenge. You can add Holy Days of Obligation, saint feasts, Triduum, and more. You can also look up the full circle of the Church year as published by the Vatican that shows each of the Sundays of the year.
- For a really detailed look at the Church year (appropriate for older kids and teens), check out the USCCB Liturgical Year page.
- You can also add a clothes pin with a person on it that can be moved around the circle depending on what season is currently being observed.
- Using the pre-made template for the control chart, my kids enjoyed coloring and creating their own circles of the Church year pictures. The templates can also be made into a small booklet to enjoy as a quiet activity during Mass.
We would love to see your finished projects and hear how it goes! Tag Peanut Butter & Grace on Facebook and show off your stuff!