Generally speaking, children are not required to fast Ramadan until they reach the "age of maturity." However, scholars believe that parents should train them to fast a few days or so, until they become ready to fast when they reach that age. Similar to praying, the Prophet ordered parents to train their children to pray starting with the age of seven. The question remains, how does training to fast begin?
Dr. Abala Khlaiwi from the faculty of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University was posed this question. The reply was that children should be trained to fast gradually. They differ in their realization of the environment around them, especially parents avoiding eating or drinking due to the fact that they are fasting. If children begin to realize that, becoming aware of the advent of Ramadan, and start to ask questions, parents should answer their questions and tell them about the holy month. For example, they ask them to fast an hour or two, saying that Allah will reward you for one hour. The parents explain to the child that Allah will reward them more for each hour they fast. Then they should be asked to fast for a day and so on, according to Dr. Khlaiwi.
Simultaneously, youngsters should be asked to give or share their candy with orphan neighbors, because this teaches them how fortunate they are to have their parents around. It also teaches them that they live in an environment where they all should take care of each other's needs. Ultimately, it teaches them to be conscious of Allah, and the feeling of community. These values usually are imprinted in the minds and hearts of children and remain with them throughout their lives.
Dr. Khlaiwi recalls when she was 6 years old, she fasted a whole day and felt so happy, so accomplished. She was proud of herself and her religion. Another important aspect of Ramadan and other Islamic rituals is that parents should involve their children and ask for their participation. Thus, children are to take part in the rituals parents are performing. When the father goes to the mosque, he should take his children with him and not leave them to waste their time watching TV and other friutless activities. If the mother prays, she also should ask her little one to stand beside her so she gets to know the prayers.
It's also recommended that parents take their children to break the fast with handicapped children, as well as orphans. Again, it teaches them to feel how fortunate they are and to be sympathetic and understanding to the needs of others, especially handicapped members of the community.
Children should also be involved in making the Ramadan dishes so they taste the joy of Ramadan. Toward the end of the month, parents should take their children to spend Eid time with their relatives in their hometowns.