Hajj with Children: a survival guide for families!
Is Hajj for kids? From packing and preparation to advice for navigating the challenging journey, here’s what you need to know prior to performing Hajj with the family.
Before setting off on a trip to Makkah with the family it’s important to understand what to bring, safeguards to take and ways to engage children on the sacred pilgrimage.
Find Child-Friendly Hajj Packages
Search for organizers with services that cater to kids. For example, some packages offer to have guides supervise children while you perform Hajj rituals.
Essential Items for Makkah with Kids
The desert sun can be harsh on both you and your children. Bring an ample supply of sunscreen and a hat for each member of the family. You’ll also want to travel with plenty of water bottles as dehydration will be a concern for much of the journey. Consider snacks that can withstand heat such as dried fruit, granola bars and individually wrapped hummus tortillas. A travel pillow will be indispensable when your child wants to sleep.
There are pros and cons to bringing a stroller. It’s useful to have one while shopping in Makkah and traveling from hotel to mosque. A stroller that reclines to a flat position is also great for sleeping. However, strollers are not allowed in or around the Grand Mosque during Hajj. Also, keep in mind you can hire a wheelchair to ferry children around Makkah. So it might not be necessary to lug a stroller around for the entire trip.
Clothing for Hot Days and Cool Nights
Children should dress for hot weather in Makkah. While kids are not required to wear Ihram clothing, the loose lightweight garment is still a good idea. It’s also a good opportunity to teach them that simple clothing is worn to express that all are equal before Allah. Evening temperatures drop in the desert climate so you should also have clothing for cool weather. It’s a good idea to bring blankets or sleeping bags for your night under the stars at Muzdalifah and Mina.
Document Hajj Steps in a Family Diary
Keeping an account of one’s pilgrimage is a time-honored tradition in Makkah’s heritage that’s almost as old as Hajj itself. It’s also a wonderful way to bring the family together to recount shared experiences, discuss each day’s events and record how they impacted members of the family. Let the older kids write about the activities in their own words and have a parent write for younger children. Encourage them to draw pictures depicting what they witnessed each day. The diary will be a memento that’s cherished for generations.
Educate and Entertain with Digital Devices
Your smartphone or tablet can be an invaluable tool that both educates and occupies young minds on the journey. Online stores have lots of Hajj-related apps that will come in handy on long rides. Check out Learn Hajj Games and Salah for Kids. You can also download e-books such as Tell Me About Hajj and Muslim Child to teach about the importance of Hajj in inspiring and interactive ways. If you have a reliable Internet connection, watch any number of kid-friendly YouTube videos that illustrate the significance of the pilgrimage. Feeling retro? Buy some animated Hajj DVDs from Amazon to play on your laptop.
Make a Hajj Map
Visuals are a great way to engage children. You can download and print an online map of the Hajj steps or create your own. Make the map in black and white and have the kids color each step as they’re performed. Let children draw the hill of Mount Arafat as you explain the importance of the site where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) preached his final sermon. Fill the sky over Muzdalifah with stars as you teach your children why pilgrims spend a night in the open. The map will also make a wonderful keepsake your family will treasure for years.
Consider a Safety Plan
Getting separated from a child is one of every parent’s greatest concerns. An identification bracelet for your child can give you peace of mind. You can order one online. YouTube videos can help you make a fun and fashionable wristband. Include the names of both the child and parents, your hotel and a local phone number in both English and Arabic. Keep in mind that Hajj locations can get crowded and chaotic. So it’s a good idea to always agree on a meeting point in the event of separation.
A pilgrimage during childhood doesn’t free one from the obligation of Hajj during adulthood. But the journey can be an inspiring spiritual experience that helps children gain a deeper understanding of their faith.