If you have a family altar, that's great! It's a nice thing to have, whether you keep it up all year round or just bring it out seasonally. However, if you're a Pagan or Wiccan parent, you may want to go ahead and let your kids have their very own altar. After all, an altar is a place where we keep things that are sacred to us -- but what is sacred to children and what is sacred to adults can be two very different things.
This is why it's a great idea to encourage your kids to have an altar of their own in their bedrooms -- it becomes a place they can put all the things that are special to them. If you don't have room for a dedicated piece of furniture to use as an altar, you can use a windowsill or a small shelf specifically for that purpose. Be sure you put the altar someplace that doesn't get a lot of traffic -- between the bed and the closet door is a busy place, while a quiet corner would be a far better one.
Reader Claudia L. suggests, "Have a big wooden box where they can put their stuff in, and when it needs to become an altar, just put the tools/objects on top of the lid."
Here are some things that your child may want to include on his or her altar:
- Personal guardians: Kids need to feel safe, so if your child wants to add three different Batman figures or a giant Hello Kitty to the altar, let them. They can serve as protective talismans in the room.
- Natural items: Go for a nature walk and collect interesting leaves, rocks, shells, etc. Try to get out of doors regularly, so that your child can find new things as the Wheel of the Year turns.
- Magical tools: Children like to emulate what they see others doing. If your child sees you using a wand to cast a circle, or cards to do divination, she will probably follow suit. Allow your child to have her own tools - a wand, Tarot cards, a broom, etc. You can even substitute a toy or plastic knife for the athame.
- Journal or Book of Shadows: Young children are perfectly capable of journaling, and an older child may wish to create his own Book of Shadows. Help your child select a notebook to use, and then offer ideas and prompts for them to write about. Some suggestions might be "My favorite time of year is ____" or "If I could change anything with magic it would be ______."
- Plants: Help your child pick fresh flowers, or grow a pot of herbs on her altar. This helps increase her connection to the natural world, and in the case of a potted plant, allows her to care for a living thing.
- Family photos: If your path is one in which you dedicate time and energy to honoring family and ancestors, have your child include this on her altar. It can include family photos, heirlooms or keepsakes, or even a framed print of your family tree.
A few safety tips to keep in mind when setting up your child's altar:
- This should be a no-brainer, but don't let very young children have candles or incense on their altar.
- If you have plants on the altar, make sure they're not toxic to people or pets.