One of our favorite activities leading up to Resurrection Sunday is a Playdough Mountain. I read about it years ago in Noel Piper’s book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, which you can download for free here. I use several of her ideas for every holiday because as you’ve probably noticed, I love being intentional about Christ-centered holidays.
A playdough mountain is super simple. We make the mountain and pipe cleaner people prior to Holy Week (recipe below!). Then all week long, leading up to Easter Sunday, we’ll reenact the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior. On Palm Sunday, we have our white pipe cleaner Jesus come into Jerusalem on a donkey. My kids sprinkle grass on the mountain to act as the palm fronds and shout “Hosanna in the Highest! Save us now!” (Hosanna means “save now”). We usually act this out too as a family, spreading out our jackets for Jesus/Daddy to walk on as he enters the room.
During the rest of the week, we have Jesus and his pipe cleaner disciples act out other activities on the playdough mountain, such as the Last Supper/Passover Dinner (on Thursday).
Pipecleaner Jesus, teaching the multitudes.
The Bible is not extremely clear as to which activities happen on which days of the week, so we simply read various teachings of Jesus that would have likely happened that week to give the kids an idea of how it all went down. If you’re having a hard time piecing it together, Justin Taylor put together a good chronology of it, using scripture, and Bible Gateway used it to create a great timeline of the events.
The bottom line is that I want my children to love Jesus even more this week, so that when our pipe cleaner Jesus is flogged and crucified on Friday, they are especially sad. He hangs on a cross atop the playdough mountain.
Then we put our pipe cleaner Jesus in a tomb as part of the same playdough mountain. A stone is rolled over the entrance. Jesus stays there all weekend long. And we talk about it. How would the disciples have felt during these days? Grieved? Heartbroken? They left families and jobs to follow Him and now He is gone. Their cause is over.
Or so they thought.
On Easter Sunday, my children wake up and we run into the living room to see pipe cleaner Jesus standing triumphant on top of the playdough mountain. His pipe cleaner disciples are leaping for joy.
And so are my kids. They excitedly wake up the whole house to tell them “Jesus is alive! The tomb is empty!”
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:55
There is no other activity we do that prepares my children’s hearts more for Easter than the playdough mountain.
Recipe for Playdough Mountain
slightly modified from is Noel Piper’s recipe.
4 cups of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups of salt
1 1/2 cups of water
1 tbsp of oil
Mix and knead the ingredients, slowly adding enough water until it’s a good texture.
A dough hook ended up working better. Trust me on this one.
Form the playdough into a mountain. You need one side to be open for the tomb, so use a small can or glass to form the cave/tomb. Press a large rock onto the opening of the tomb to make sure it will cover it properly after Jesus’ burial. Then put the rock aside.
Use small twigs and twine to form a small cross. Then use the cross to poke a hole into the top of the mountain. My children feel very strongly that there should be three crosses on top the mountain, so for the sake of their longing for accuracy, we have started putting all three crosses up.
This hole will shrink as the mountain bakes, so make the hole a little larger. Put the cross aside.
Use a fork or toothpicks to make small footholds or holes in the side of the mountain so that the pipe cleaner figures can have places to stand on the mountain.
I find that my fondue skewers are perfect for this job.
Bake at 250 for about 4 or 5 hours.
By using whole wheat flour, the mountain will be a nice, natural, sandy color. If you use white flour, you’ll probably want to paint it or color it with markers once it has baked.
If you play your cards right, your mountain will last a couple of Easters. Last year, we combined our mountain with the idea of a resurrection garden. We placed our mountain in the center of a shallow terra-cotta pot and surrounded it with dirt. Then we grew grass in the dirt, which gave us a much prettier setting for our playdough mountain.
If you’re looking for more activities for an intentional Easter season, you can find out what we do by visiting this page.
What are some of your favorite Christ-centered Easter activities?