Gelt just for playing, Prize Draw for big winner later
The word “quiz” is instant Carnival buzzkill, ain’t it? Hardly the sort of catchy title to entice kids to a Chanukah Carnival station. But really, it is a quiz, my activity, not a game. And if it’s facilitated in the right spirit, it will be fun. And educational. And memorable. I promise.
The goal is not to be the Kosher Police, nor to shame a child who last week crafted an exquisite chanukiyah that, according to this quiz, is not “kosher,” nor to cast aspersions upon Bubbe’s electric menorah Continue reading
“Girl color” or “boy color.” Adult role model included.
In which I modify store-bought dreidel kits, and lament the gendering of an otherwise gender-neutral toy. Continue reading
Olive Crushing Installation
This year, instead of a Chanukah carnival, I envisioned something new, or rather, something very, very old. Our synagogue Religious School held a Chanukah “Oil Crush” program. In a nutshell, we made olive oil—shemen zayit—just like the Maccabees, with a commissioned replica of a Hellenistic-era olive crushing installation: crushing wheel, pivot pole (power shaft) and crushing basin. Students from Pre-K to 7th grade took turns pushing the pole to rotate the crushing wheel over fresh olives straight from the tree (ordered from California). Continue reading
My Earnest Sunday School Teacher hat is on:
Dreidels are great teaching tools. To paint and decorate a dreidel means a kid learns the 4 Hebrew letters and how to form them, and the Hebrew acronym that points to the reason for the season: Nes Gadol Haya Sham (A great miracle happened there.) And, there’s the dreidel game, of course, which Continue reading
print this JPEG or click on the pdf link below
Need a quick visual to remind players of dreidel game rules? Or to show kids the shapes of nun, gimmel, hey and shin for dreidel crafts? Or what the letters on a dreidel stand for? Click this link to print the pdf: Dreidel Letter Cheat Sheet Continue reading
Some folks are still looking for a cheap turkey to repurpose as a Hanukkah menorah, so here’s one for a buck. If your once-in-a-lifetime Hanukkah/Thanksgiving needs will be satisfied with a cheap plastic Menurkey, get thee to a Dollar Tree before all the $1 solar-powered turkeys are gone. Then, pimp that bird with a jumbo craft stick and super-glued birthday candleholders. I added glow-in-the-dark bday candles and Continue reading
Nine hexnuts glued inside an empty Altoids tin = Travel Menorah. Or, a Curiously Tiny Menorah. You can’t get much easier. Or smaller for that matter. Mine is the classic Altoids size, and it holds—just barely—a row of birthday candles with the Shammash nearby.
I might have to name this a Mint-orah, although my gag reflex is already on the alert. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve made a Menorah-saur Continue reading
Here’s yet another post only a Sunday School Teacher could love. I made a portable Torah Scroll for a preschool Simchat Torah family program a while back, to demonstrate “What’s in the Torah.” The idea was to let kids fill the Torah Scroll with objects that represent some of what is—you guessed it— in the Torah. The activity can be tweaked to fit many age groups, and the more irresistible the objects, the better. Continue reading
The ol’ Pretzel Stick Menorah is a quick and easy activity for a class or party. It’s educational, it’s fun, and you can eat it.
Lighting the menorah in a window
I did this last year with K through 3rd grade, and everyone loved it, which is a boast I wish I could make about all my lesson plans. First, we turned off the lights and lit a real oil menorah, with blessings. This put everyone in a receptive mood and gave a heads-up that there are such things as menorah blessings. It also provided a real, working model of an object we were about to recreate with food, WHICH IS Continue reading
fresh, Fall planting
Havdalah is a lovely, quick, slightly spooky service that marks the distinction between the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the work week. Each Saturday night morphs from Sacred Time to Ordinary Time whether we mark it or not. But to mark it with Havdalah can be fun, memorable and oh-so-kid-friendly (especially in the winter when sundown happens earlier in relation to bedtimes).
The traditional ceremony requires just a few Continue reading
10 year-old etrog pomander and a fresh one, awaiting puncture
Sukkot’s over. Did you buy an etrog? Or did your school or synagogue buy one? If so, don’t pitch it on the compost pile. You and your kid can repurpose it into a nifty spice pomander for Havdalah. It’s a nice way to extend Sukkot (and the harvest’s bounty) to a Jewish service/ceremony that happens every single week. The spices of Havdalah—called besamim—are supposed to be natural materials that smell lovely enough to console us for the loss of Shabbat and to kickstart a good week ahead. A clove-studded etrog can Continue reading
Menorasaur, Menorahsaur, Menorah-saur, Menorah-saurus? Where is the Library of Congress standardized spelling?
I made this little menorah for a friend.
WHY: “Menorah-saurus” was the punchline during a post-prandial chat at Carnegie Deli last month. Someone—his wits dulled by a surfeit of latkes—remarked that this was the first time “in thousands of years” that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincided. And then my husband snarked an even more egregious anachronism, “Yeah, in the age of the dinosaurs, they used to light a menorah-saurus.”
My latke friend’s gaffe was funny because he happens to be one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but even so, it wasn’t enough to compel me to unpack the power drill and actually make a menorah-saurus. What was enough was the fact that he and his wife recently lost their real menorah—along with the rest of the house—in a Colorado wildfire. Latke Man needed a menorah-saurus pronto, well in time for this year’s untimely Hanukkah.
Speaking of fire, it may not be terribly wise to add lit candles to a plastic toy, so Continue reading
the Sea of Reeds withThumbprint people
Just in time for Shavuot, here’s another Mt. Sinai project. It’s really a three-holiday diorama, but your kid can make just the Shavuot portion in about half an hour, once you’ve raced around the house collecting supplies. Continue reading
Mitzvah Project—The Tza’ar ba’aley Chayim Birdbath—a quick or slow nature project for home or school.
So subtle, I had to add an arrow
Until yesterday, my synagogue didn’t have a bird bath or any other water source for animals. I haven’t seen one in the 20 years I’ve been a member. Our courtyard is a perfect place for informal birdwatching: surrounded by classroom windows on two sides, and the Internet Cafe and school entrance on the third. I’m a Volunteer Tennessee Naturalist. I think about this sort of thing alot. It would have been so easy to buy and install a birdbath by myself in less than an hour, and bingo: water for wildlife. Or, I could make it a Mitzvah Project in a slow way, a participatory way, a way that makes for several active lesson plans, and that can foster a student’s sense of investment, stewardship, community and empowerment. Continue reading
Lag B’Omer! Here’s a quick glimpse at what we did…
I wanted my K – 3 classes to “embody” the connection between Passover and Shavuot via the Counting of the Omer, to use their bodies to travel from Passover—where the Israelites became a Free Nation, to Shavuot—where the Israelites became a Holy Nation.
view from the Sea of Reeds toward Lag b’Omer and Shavuot
First, we crossed the Sea of Reeds and became a Free Nation. On the floor were 49 steps toward Mt. Sinai on the opposite side of the room. See Mt. Sinai up there, far away? Continue reading
setting the Seder Plate
several years of old placecards
Have an index card? You have a frog. And a placecard, an afikomen clue, a keep-hands-busy-activity, a plague, and a jumping frog game. Continue reading
LEGO Seder Plate
The LEGO minifigs are jealous. This time, we’ve made a seder plate sized for the big people. Continue reading
DIY kit for the search for leaven
Bedikat Chametz, or Search for Leaven is a quick, hands-on, kid-friendly and extremely memorable activity right before Passover starts. Basically, we hide bits of bread/leaven/chametz, let the kids find them at nightfall, and then destroy the bits the next day (the morning before the first seder). In short: hide + seek + darkness + flames = awesome. Continue reading
Just in time for the plague of frogs, another PEZuzah. My husband came home bearing a Kermit the Frog PEZ dispenser, and it begged to be converted into a holiday mezuzah case. Pull Kermit’s keppie to reveal a cavity perfectly sized for a real scroll. This little trick makes it far more convenient to inspect the klaf twice every seven years, as per tradition. A PEZ mezuzah is not per tradition, but it works. Continue reading