If you get crabby when dreidels fall off the table or roll under the sofa, a dreidel arena is key to a happy Hanukkah. An arena corrals the dreidels and (says the Montessori in me) defines the play space. And, if your dreidel play includes battles, an arena is a must: the sides keep dreidels in action longer and coax them back toward each other.
A purposely-marketed dreidel arena is hard to find—with one notable exception below—but you can convert something from junk at home. For example, a laminate-topped breakfast tray with legs is ideal: mine has seen about 18 years of dreidel action at home and at Hanukkah Parent school visits. My all-time favorite is a clean train table: it’s big enough for a crowd and it stands at a comfortable height for tots and crouching adults.
A Beyblade stadium cries out for conversion to a dreidel stadium, but such things are usually only found in homes with a particular demographic. Beyblades are marketed to the gender/age group most likely to spend every discretionary dollar on Manga-inspired, zip-launched battle tops. I don’t own any Beyblades (yet), but I just bought a stadium to use with ordinary dreidels. The gently concave bottom and curved sides keep dreidels in motion longer than do a flat bottom and 90 degree tray sides.
If you don’t fancy spending ten bucks on a flimsy BeyBlade stadium, just open up one of the many, many plastic storage bins somewhere in your house, take off the lid and turn it upside down. The cheap Sterlite (at Target) 18 quart or bigger—the kind with the rotating handles at each end—works very well. Gently concave and everything.
Other stuff ready to convert into a dreidel arena: the underside of a Frisbee, those un-recyclable plastic party platters (round, black, hideous and convenient); your grandmother’s pressed glass platter; and so on.
My new favorite Giant Party Arena was inadvertently invented by our babysitter, Shelby. We came home to find the entire living room floor encircled with orange Hot Wheels track: the straight, flat type that comes in inexpensive bags of five 12″ sections with connectors. Shelby was using it for an elaborate game involving cars, marbles and Bananagram tiles, but the next day it became a fantastic testing arena for our LEGO dreidel models.
Don’t have an excess of Hot Wheels track lying about? Use a hula-hoop. Or, make a dreidel arena by connecting all those old, dead, plastic glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets your kid brings home from parties. I hate the one-shot, disposable nature of those light-up, environmental nightmares, but at least we can delay their arrival at the landfill with some creative re-purposing. Just take the connectors off and re-connect into a big, ol’ circle. If you have new glowies, connect them after you light the Hanukkah candles to create an illuminated arena for candlelit play. Magic.
(see my later post about making glow-in-the-dark dreidels…)
And here’s the notable exception to commercially-available, dedicated dreidel arenas: the Spinogogue. If you are thrifty enough to prefer bin lids over a Beyblade stadium, then you certainly aren’t likely to spring for the Spinogogue set, made by Major League Dreidel. Modern Tribe sells it, and man, do I want one. Watch the video: the animated dreidels are quite compelling. The one thing a Spinogogue stadium and an upside-down bin lid have in common is that they both prevent you from getting on hands and knees to sweep a yardstick under the sofa for the 57th time.
The Spinogogue set also brings up an important point: playing with dreidels need not be limited to playing the Dreidel Game. You are missing half the fun if you aren’t trying to spin dreidels upside down, spin dreidels at a throw, do battle, see who can spin the longest, see who can keep the most dreidels spinning at one time, etc.
Happy spinning, wherever it may be.