In the LDS church's Friend magazine, they had a two-page pullout with "Names of Jesus." Each day on the week before Easter, Evan and I would read a scripture and find the name of Jesus mentioned in it. Then we talked about how Jesus was the "Mediator," or "Creator," or "Messiah." I even integrated a little phonics and had him tell me the letters that went with the sounds as I wrote out the word on the paper. One day he chose to write the word himself. We hung up our poster and talked about it frequently.
For Family Home Evening, I made Easter scripture eggs. I remember having these eggs growing up so it was a nostalgic activity for me. I didn't have to buy anything to put these together--just used stuff I already had. Evan and I read through the scriptures a couple times during the week (when Seth was napping so he wouldn't destroy all the items inside). Having tangibles--particularly different textures and smells--bring the story more to life.
On Friday, Evan and I made "resurrection rolls." We talked about how Jesus went in the tomb, and I told him the marshmallow was like Jesus' body. We wrapped it up in the crescent roll and baked it. When we took them out of the oven, I broke open one of the rolls and Evan was shocked that "Jesus' body" wasn't there anymore! He was risen!
"He is risen" is the best phrase. Teaching kids about how Christ was nailed on the cross and how he died is tough. It makes them sad. But the whole point of Easter is that things didn't STAY sad. Jesus rose from the tomb. He is risen! We can be happy because of Jesus Christ, our Savior. He saved us from death! (And sin, but that one is still kinda hard to explain to a 4-year old.)
Last year I found this video that I adore that shares the Easter story in a way Evan can understand well. He and I watched the video several times during the week.
On Saturday we went to the Elk Grove Egg-stravaganza. They have vendors, food trucks, face painting, pony rides, corn pit, pictures with the Easter Bunny, crafts, and an Easter egg hunt. We did the egg hunt and then my boys spent an hour just playing in the corn pit. We're simple. And cheap.
Later in the day we dyed hard-boiled eggs. In case you were curious about the Volcano Explosion egg-dying kit, don't buy it. It requires shaving crayons with a teeny sharpener and putting the shavings onto hot, fresh-out-of-boiling-water eggs. It's a cool look, but not worth the effort for me.
As far as Evan was concerned, Easter could have been done after Saturday. But Saturday night we put out our Sunday shoes by the fireplace for the Easter Bunny to fill (not sure who started this tradition, but I grew up doing it, so we keep doing it). And Sunday morning there were candy-filled plastic eggs hidden around the house for the boys to find. If we hadn't told Evan, he probably wouldn't have noticed them. He's such a bad finder. After he found a couple eggs, we had him leave the rest for Seth (no way I'd wake him up early on a Sunday to hunt for candy) and we had french toast, made with homemade bread, and orange juice for breakfast. The boys put on their matching purple ties and we made it through our church meetings with only small amounts of crying, intentional banging heads on the door, splashing in the drinking fountain, and roaming the halls.
After church Evan helped Seth find the remaining eggs. Seth napped while I finished cooking dinner. We hosted a classic ham and funeral potato dinner with Isaiah's family--at least those who got the memo that there would be a family Easter dinner at our house. Carrot cake for dessert. A second egg hunt with cousin Maya. Apples to apples with the whole family. It doesn't get much better than that.
Easter is the best.