Do Children Observe the Fasting Month of Ramadan?

Emirati family portrait
Xavier Arnau / Getty Images

Muslim children are not required to fast for Ramadan until they reach the age of maturity (puberty). At that time they are responsible for their decisions​ and are considered adults in terms of meeting religious obligations. Schools and other programs that support children may find that some children choose to fast, while others do not. It is advised to follow the child's lead and not force an action one way or the other.

Younger Children

For even younger children, though, Ramadan is an event that involves all members of the community. All Muslims worldwide fast at the same time each year. Family schedules and meal times are adjusted during the month, and more time is spent in community gatherings, family visits, and at the mosque.

In many families, younger children enjoy participating in the fast and are encouraged to practice their fasting in a way that is appropriate for their age. It is common for a younger child to fast for part of a day, for example, or for one day on the weekend. This way, they enjoy the "grown-up" feeling that they are participating in the special events of the family and community. It is unusual for young children to fast for more than a couple of hours (for example, until noon), but some older children may push themselves to try longer hours. 

At School

Many younger Muslim children (under the age of 10 or so) will not fast during the school day, but some children may express a preference to try.

 There is no expectation of elaborate accommodation for students who are fasting in non-Muslim countries. On the contrary, it is understood that one may face temptations during fasting, and one is only responsible for his/her actions. A fasting student may appreciate the offer of a quiet space during lunchtime (at the library or in a classroom, for example) to be away from those who are eating or special consideration during P.E.

lessons.

Other Activities

It is also common for children to participate in Ramadan in other ways, aside from the daily fast. They may collect coins or money to donate to the needy, help cook meals for breaking the day's fast, or read Quran with the family in the evening. Families are often up late in the evenings for meals and special prayers, so children may go to bed at a later bedtime than usual during the month.

At the end of Ramadan, children are often indulged with gifts of sweets and money on the day of Eid al-Fitr. This holiday is held at the end of Ramadan, and there may be visits and activities during all three days of the festival. If the holiday falls during the school week, children will likely be absent at least on the first day.