My Kids' First Fasts: 6 Moms Share Their Ramadan Experiences
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce one another.”
Lately, I’ve been playing with the idea of whether I should let my five year old try fasting. He turns 6 soon, and he’s expressed interest in it. But can my sweet little guy really make it all the way through a full day from sunrise until sunset not consuming a thing?
Then I got to thinking, I started fasting at 6, but the circumstances were pretty different. I am the 5th of 6 children. Growing up, I was surrounded by my fasting siblings, and I wanted to be just like them. And I was able to do it because back then, Maghreb came in a lot sooner than it does now.
To figure out my game plan, I reached out to my community of moms. I asked around to see what they did or are planning to do this Ramadan with their own kids when it came to fasting. Here are some insights I’ve collected for any moms like me who would benefit from each others experiences.
1."It makes a huge difference when kids see how excited their parents are about fasting."
“Both my kids started fasting at around 2nd and 3rd grade. My oldest Samih (18) started fasting 1/2 days in 2nd then moved to full days in 3rd. Maghreb started much earlier when he was younger so it was a bit easier for him to go full blown in 3rd. Lillian is 11 and did 1/2 days in 2nd and 3rd because the day was so long and Magrib came in at 8:00. She moved to full days last year when she was in 4th and is excited for full days of fasting this year.
It’s sometimes hard for kids to get excited about fasting if they don’t fully understand it or feel that Ramadan spirit in their home. So first and foremost parents should definitely talk to their kids about fasting and explain exactly why we will be doing it. Also decorate your home and make it festive for your kids. It makes a huge difference when kids see how excited their parents are about fasting.
So one tip that I would recommend is to have your children involved in the Sahur and Iftar preparation. Kids in general love to help cook so doing it together during this special month makes it even more exciting and memorable for them. Both my kids help me prepare iftar on the regular. They even volunteer to take on dessert alone. Last year, my son learned how to make so many different cookie and brownie recipes all from scratch. He has gotten so good at baking because of Ramadan (no joke)!
Another tip is to have a special tray/bowl/dish designated just for them to use during Sahur. Sahur can be hard since it’s so early. This not only gets them excited but creates routine for them. They get used to waking up and eating from their special tableware.
So now this year I am working on praying and giving charity with my youngest. We have a chart going on, and everyday that she prays all her prayers she will be rewarded with money. The catch is that at the end of the week she got to decide which percentage of her earnings she would like to donate to the poor. She is really looking forward to this new activity this year.”
—Aminah, mom of 2
2. "I made Ramadan huge in our household."
“All my kids started at 5. I was never a fan of half day fasting. I did full days one day on and one day off for the first week then moved to everyday, and all my kids were very receptive to that. With all that said, I made Ramadan huge in our household: bought some books and decorations and handed out treats everyday they fasted, always cooked traditional things in Ramadan so they get even more excited, woke them up for suhoor and let them eat whatever they wanted. And at the end, I always bought them a gift they have been wanting.”
—Abeer, mom of 4
3. "We are spending the 2 weeks prior to Ramadan getting mentally prepared."
“When I was a kindergartner, I looked up to my older siblings and wanted to fast like them. In order to encourage my 5 yr old, I mention how older kids that he looks up to, such as neighbors and cousins, do a really good job fasting every year.
We are spending the 2 weeks prior to Ramadan getting mentally prepared and excited about Ramadan and fasting. Whether it’s reading books, having discussions, decorating the house, the main topic in our home is Ramadan. The kids are already very excited and keep asking when Ramadan will start.
We plan on having my 5 yr old try to fast half days after school until iftar time and try to extend the fasting time on the weekends depending on how he does on weekdays. This is his first year trying, so I want him to have positive associations with Ramadan. Even if he can fast for only short periods of time, the goal is to get him involved and introduce him to fasting in order for him to practice self-control and gain love and understanding of Ramadan.”
—Manal, mom of 3
4. "This year we dedicated a room of the house for prayer."
“My children are still too young to fast, but I am preparing them for the future by talking to them about why Muslims fast during Ramadan and of course leading by example. This year we dedicated a room of the house for prayer and I let my eldest participate by helping me to decorate the room for Ramadan. This really helped him get into the Ramadan spirit.”
—Nimeh, mom of 2
4. "Everything a mother does to take care of her children is considered Ibadah."
“One thing that worked for me last year was preparing a nutritious suhoor ahead of time, such as overnight oats, and keeping a mini fridge by my bed (I borrowed one from a family member). And I know this is not a tip but every Ramadan since becoming a mother, I have this immense guilt about not being able to do as much Ibadah (reading Quran, praying taraweeh at the masjid). Then someone helped me realize that everything a mother does to take care of her children is considered Ibadah and is rewarded subhanallah.”
—Aya, mom of 2
5. "Let them feel like they are grown up, but also allow them to be kids."
“I think making sure the kids keep busy and balance play with activities that don’t require too much energy (my kids loved playing taboo and hangman). I also encouraged them to find stillness in their day by joining them in a quiet activity. We all sat down and either read, worked on a puzzle, colored, or watched a doc etc.
Last Covid Ramadan was a bit challenging because the kids weren’t in school and the day seemed longer for them. I took advantage of them learning remotely and allowed them to stay up late with their cousins and then sleep in the next morning.
Fetthi fasted full days and Iliya felt discouraged because she needed to drink some water/eat a little snack during fasting hours. I reassured her that she was still getting loads of ajir and that she was training her spirit for fasting in the future. Kids are excited to grow up and be like their parents, so they look forward to joining the fasting club and I think it’s important to make it a pleasant experience for them by always being patient & joyful while fasting.
Just have fun with them. Include them in various acts of worship and let them feel like they are grown up, but also allow them to be kids. For example, during quiet time, my kids read graphic novels while I read Quran. My son is an EATER msA, and I’m always amazed at how he can fast full days. Allah makes fasting much easier for us during Ramadan, and that includes kids, subhanAllah.”
—Alaa, mom of 2
Overall, I feel pretty reassured after reading about how moms are approaching Ramadan with their kids and comforted knowing that it’s okay that it’s different for each family and child. The fact that we are thinking about these things and hopefully creating the love of our religion in our homes will more than likely benefit our children’s ability to upkeep our Islamic virtues.
May Allah SWT allow us all to experience the benefits of this Ramadan and the next. And may He bring light, joy, and righteousness into the hearts of our children, always. Ameen.