Ramadan 2024: Should I Let My 6-Year-Old Fast?

Children generally want to imitate their parents, especially when such a huge emphasis is placed on the month of Ramadan.
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Ramadan is just days away and families across the world are getting ready for the Holy month. For parents of young kids, the month can be slightly more challenging as they need to balance teaching their children about Ramadan, as well as focus on their own spiritual journeys.

With all the build-up towards the Blessed month, many kids might be feeling left out if they’re too young to fast. Some may even be keen enough to want to join their parents in fasting, even if they’re not obliged to!

But what do you do if your 6-year-old wants to fast? Do you allow them to do a full day? Do you suggest they fast for half the day? Or do you say no completely as they’re too young?

Speaking to HuffPost UK, dad Kamran Ali says though his daughter began to fast properly at the age of 13, he allowed her to fast when she showed interest at the age of 9.

“Al-Hamdulillāh for us it hasn’t been challenging at all as our daughter relishes the prospects of fasting during this blessed month. Last year she fasted for 18-20 days. This year she plans to do entire Ramadan Insha’Allah.

“She was 9 when she started to fast. I think in the first year, it was only 2-3 days she fasted. Then onwards, it was always an upward curve. She has always been a willing child when it comes to fasting.

“She is more interested this year too, primarily because she is a bit more mature, but more importantly, she feels the pain of hunger children are going through in Palestine.”

When asked what he thought about younger kids fasting, he said: “It depends upon certain factors. If Ramadan is falling during long fasting days especially in the British summer, it is better to let younger kids have a choice.

“We can still encourage them as parents to ask them if they wish to fast. In addition, give them that confidence that they may break their fast half way through in case of not feeling well or too down on energy. This is of course more applicable to younger kids.”

Another parent, Fahima Mahomed, who has two sons, said that children generally want to imitate their parents especially when such a huge emphasis is placed on the month of Ramadan.

She explained that her sons would wake up early to eat with her with the intention to fast but she didn’t let them keep an entire day of fasting until they were above the age of ten, even if the fasting days were short.

“It’s important to start a habit but children’s development is more important and fasting — especially not having water when they are active in school was a concern for me. I understand that many may allow young children to fast but a time for them (to fast) is set at an appropriate age for a reason.

“I think teaching them the spiritual aspect and understanding with meaning is more important at a young age than just abstaining from food, as Ramadan is much more than that and this education is vital first.”

What to do if your young child wants to fast

Dad Ali Malik, PT and Founder of Fit Labs Kensington who has two young children advised parents on what to do if your child wants to fast.

As a wellness professional and practicing Muslim, he was more than happy to share his thoughts for other parents.

He said: “Fasting during Ramadan is a deeply personal and spiritual practice for Muslims, and while children are not obligated to fast until they reach puberty, some may express a keen interest in participating.”

Ali advises to respecting your children’s choices. He explains that it’s essential for parents to approach the issue with sensitivity and understanding. If a child expresses a genuine desire to fast, it’s crucial to listen to their feelings and acknowledge their curiosity about participating in this sacred tradition.

On his personal experience, he said: “If my 10-year-old daughter expressed a sincere desire to fast, I would approach the situation with a mixture of pride and caution. Firstly, I would engage in a heartfelt conversation with her, ensuring she understands the significance of Ramadan, the challenges of fasting, and the importance of maintaining her health and well-being. I would assess her level of maturity, emotional readiness, and physical health to determine if she’s truly prepared for fasting.”

Before allowing a child to fast, Ali says that parents should educate them about the significance of Ramadan, the physical and mental challenges of fasting, and the importance of listening to their bodies.

“Understanding the reasons behind fasting can help children make informed decisions about their participation,” he adds.

Parents can also assess their child’s physical and emotional readiness to fast as fasting can be demanding in a lot of ways, especially for young kids.

If you feel your child is not yet ready to fast, you can encourage alternative ways to participate in Ramadan.

He added: “As for my 4-year-old son, I would gently explain that fasting is not required at his age and I would encourage him to participate in age-appropriate activities that cultivate a love and appreciation for Ramadan, such as joining family prayers, reading children’s books about Ramadan, and engaging in acts of kindness and charity.”

At the end of it, if a child is determined to fast, Ali says it’s vital for parents to provide ample support and supervision throughout the process. This includes ensuring they eat nutritious meals during non-fasting hours, staying hydrated, and monitoring their well-being closely.

He concludes: “Ultimately, the decision to allow a child to fast during Ramadan should be made collaboratively between parents and the child, taking into account their individual circumstances and readiness. Open communication, education, and parental support are key factors in ensuring a positive and meaningful fasting experience for children.”