Just kidding, of course. In all seriousness, though, there aren't a whole lot of places I found that have rituals including children. One link led to a book store. One led to a Wiccan childbirth Ritual, (link here)and while interesting in itself, was not what I was looking for. I couldn't even read all of the stuff I found, some of it was so crazy. Like this guy who believed that abortion was part of the Wiccan Agenda because we practice a religion of child sacrifice. Granted, he got some of the information in his article correct, but mostly...well, I don't really have words. I'm not even going to link it. I'm all for free speech, but this guy was nuts. And something else about Egyptian light bulbs?! I have no idea.
Regardless, there isn't a lot to be found about including children in rituals. So following common sense, here are some ideas. Depending on the age of the child, you might want to have your ritual in a play yard. If you don't know what a play yard is, it's essentially a portable fence made out of baby gates. Especially at this age, the children aren't really aware of what is going on anyway, so it might be easier to do the ritual after they are in bed. I plan on letting Brianna ring some bells and play on some instruments during our Yule ritual. She loves to drum, even if she can't hold a beat yet! She is still too little to have her do anything more that this, but I love including her.
For children who are a little older, they could call some of the parts of the circle. Rituals involving children generally have to be a little shorter than usually, just because of the difference in attention span. Another consideration would be the use of sharp objects, like swords or athames, and using apple or grape juice instead of ale for cakes and ale.
I've been looking up a lot of Yule Rituals lately, and one I've found that I really like is this one here, on about.com. This is the one I think we are going to end up going with, because it will be easy to shorten and easy to do! I think that is truly the key to a Ritual with children, make it easy! If you try to do something elaborate, it's not going to work. If you try to make your words all formal with thees and thous all over the place, the kids aren't going to be able to understand an iota of it all. I think that is the hardest thing to get used to, because most of us who did solitary practice for so many years get stuck in our ruts. I used to have my altar in my main room, all set up and perfect. I'd put offerings in it every day. Now? All of the altar supplies are in a box in my bedroom. We don't have the room in our 900 sq foot house for everything. We have been trying to find some kind of cabinet to put our things in, where the top can serve as our altar, but so far the search goes on. One thing I am going to try with Brianna is giving her a "wand" of her own, so that she can wave it around while we are casting the circle. With toddlers and babies, the biggest thing will be keeping them occupied. So at the beginning we will give Brianna the wand, then the bell, then the wand, etc. as we get further along. So, here it is. My shortened, baby/toddler/child friendly version of the above ritual. Some of it will be taken directly from the above Ritual. Why mess with a good thing, right?
Face the candles and say:
The Wheel of the year, turned once more;
The days are longer than before.
Tonight the darkness begins to recede;
The light to shine again on hallowed seed.
As the Wheel continues to roam,
The Sun begins it's journey home.
At this point, small children will be getting bored with their "wand". This is where I would give a bell.
Light the Sun candle and say:
Even in the darkest hours,
Even on the longest night,
The spark of life was burning bright.
Laying dormant, waiting, ready to return
Taking it's place on this Wheel's pattern.
The darkness will leave until next year,
As the sun decides to reappear.
At this point I would your child's other instruments on the floor, so she/he can go to them when they wish and you don't have to be distracted from candle lighting.
You can then start to light each surrounding candle. If you are using more than 9, or have them spread out over a larger area, start with the closest one first and work out. As you light each candle, say,
As the Wheel turns, light returns.
Once all of the candles are lit say,
We are blessed by the return of light,
The shadows vanish with dark of night.
Take some time to think about what the return of the sun means to you and your family. You can now turn the lights in the house on again. The original Ritual has a great suggestion, if you have kids make a game out of it! Go around turning on lights, the kids can yell, "Welcome back, light!" Now is the time for Cakes and Ale, or cookies and Wassail! When done, extinguish the candles in the opposite order they were lit.
I would suggest not using an altar cloth, simply because it would be too easy for a child to pull it - and the candles - off the table.
I hope this was informative, and clear. Some of it (a lot of it) was written with a squirming, whiny, not wanting to sleep Brianna on my lap. If you find an error, please let me know!
Hope everyone enjoys!