Now that Chanukah is upon us, families might be struggling to come up with some fresh ideas to keep each night exciting. Here, Laura Puzio, an early childhood Jewish educator, gives us some activities for each night! Be sure to check out our Vitamin J class beginning this Fall taught by Laura. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
May your Chanukah candles shine bright!
Aaron Goldschmidt, founder & director
Chanukah is such a special time of year for families to come together and celebrate! It is not just about celebrating the miracle of the oil lasting for eight nights, but also about a great victory of the Jewish people, persevering and surviving against all odds. We light the Chanukiah, or Menorah (8 branched candelabra), each night of Chanukah to help us remember the incredible faith and strength of the Jewish people. There are so many fun things to do during Chanukah in New York and many learning opportunities for your children as well!
- Go to a Judaica store and explore all different types of “Chanukiot”, or Menorahs. The “Shamash”, or helper candle, is sometimes in the middle, and sometimes on the end of the Menorah. See how many different types you can count with your child! (In Manhattan: West Side Judaica, 2412 Broadway, or J. Levine Co., 5 W30th St, In Brooklyn: Eichlers, 1401 Coney Island Ave- N.B. These stores are closed on Saturdays).
- Learn all about oil! The miracle of Chanukah was that the oil in the holy temple lasted for eight nights; Explore oil with your child! Do a “Science Experiment”: mix oil with water (put a little food coloring into the water to see it better), and ask your child what happens. Let them play with, touch, smell, and even taste olive oil!
- Act out the Chanukah story with your children! Assign roles and do a play together! Mean Syrian king Antiochus tries to tell the Jewish people what to do: How to pray, how to eat, even how to sing! But the Jewish people stood up to him and said “NO NO NO! We will not do what you say!” The story and other interactive Chanukah activities online can be found on the Torah Tots website or the Chabad website.
- Discuss bravery with your child. Judah Maccabee was the leader of the Jewish people, and even though he was up against a big and scary army, he was so brave that he led the tiny Jewish army to victory against the Greek-Syrian army. Ask your child about a time they were brave like Judah Maccabee, and have them draw a picture of their experience.
- Make latkes with your family! Latkes are a delicious treat we eat on Chanukah, which remind us of the miracle of Chanukah because they are fried in oil! There are so many latke recipes out there, but really all you need is some potatoes, flour, eggs, salt and pepper, and oil to fry them in! Show your child how the oil can cook things when it gets really hot! Here is an example of a recipe.
- Make your own Chanukiah or Menorah with your child: Glue 8 small popsicle sticks and one large one (for the Shamash) onto construction paper. Your child can glue them in any order he or she wants, and can decorate the sticks however they want (Markers, crayons, collage materials etc.)
- Visit the world’s largest Menorah! New York City boasts the largest Chanukiah, or Menorah in the whole world! Take your child to Central Park for a visit, and check it out! Each night of Chanukah this week, the Chanukiah will be lit publicly at 8:30. This is a special and meaningful activity to do together as a family. The Menorah stands at 59th street and 5th Avenue.
- Play S’vivon together as a family! (That means dreidel in Hebrew!) S’vivon is such a fun game for children. Each letter of the dreidel is a different move in the game to follow, and also stands for a word from the sentence: “Nes Gadol Haya Sham”, or “A Great Miracle Happened There”. Tell your child that in Israel, the S’vivon (dreidel) says “Nes Gadol Haya Po”, or “A Great Miracle Happened Here!” The rules for S’vivon can be found here.
By Laura Rosen Puzio, Early Childhood Jewish Educator