Category Archives: Activity

Purim Carnival Stations

ninja at the Wheel of Purim

ninja at the Wheel of Purim

It’s the day after Purim, which means no one will need this info till eleven months from now, but I need to process and vent and share asap.  If you are in charge of all or part of a Purim Carnival AND you are obsessively detail-oriented, this post is for you. Continue reading

Purim Carnival Alternative, Miztvah-centric

Purim "scrip" that converts to real money after we calculate donations. Like non-digital bitcoin, but not really...

Purim “scrip” tickets become real money after tzedakah donations are calculated.

A Purim carnival without cheap, plastic prizes?  What if instead of winning crappy, non-recyclable tchotchkes, a kid at a Purim carnival wins tzedakah tickets—Mitzvah Money—from each game, and then stuffs them into a pushke for his or her favorite charity?  At least two synagogues are doing this already, and this year, mine will, too.
It’s just like Chuck E. Cheese, only instead of redeeming tickets for disposable clutter, kids donate tickets to help people less fortunate.
If the tzedakah-centric model sounds like carnival buzz-kill, read on.

(UPDATE: see pics and after-the-event update at next post, here) Continue reading

Gyotaku Fish-Printing in Adar (for Purim)

who can forget?

a blue Bluegill

Fish is a symbol of the Jewish month of Adar, the month in which we 1) celebrate Purim and 2) freak out that Passover is so close.  Why fish?  From the astrological sign, Pisces.  I’ve always thought it seemed a bit fishy that astrology gives us a kosher Jewish symbol, but Pisces is right there on the calendar.  It’s legit.   Continue reading

Havdalah Besamim Activities

Havdalah spices Smell Test prepared by 2nd graders

Havdalah spice Smell Test prepared by 2nd graders

This post focuses on the spicy part of Havdalah.  Besamim work is a rich, smelly, hands-on opportunity to create memorable links to Shabbat (and to being Jewish).  You choose: make a garden, a pot, a sachet, an herb buffet, an etrog pomander, a “Smell Test,” or besamim containers simple and fancy.   Continue reading

Making Rolled Beeswax Candles for Havdalah

rolled beeswax sheets, twisted or braided by students

rolled beeswax sheets, twisted or braided by students

My Making Havdalah Candles with Kids Intro has the general whats and whys.  I’ve also got posts about how to dip beeswax Havdalah candles and how to repurpose cruddy Hanukkah candles for Havdalah.

To roll Havdalah candles out of beeswax sheets is a zillion times easier than to dip tapers.  Especially if you’ve procured soft sheets of wax: sheets that are pliable, supple, biddable.  The good wax. Continue reading

Mini Havdalah candle (twisted Hanukkah candles)

quick, cheap DIY

quick, cheap DIY

What if you want kids to make Havdalah candles and you don’t have the time and materials (or inclination) for nice, beeswax versions?  I’m the first to admit that candles from scratch can be a big to-do—even just the simple, rolled sheets.
Rejoice: all you really need are leftover Hanukkah candles, a bowl and a teakettle.
Just twist two warmed Hanukkah candles to create one mini Havdalah candle.  It’s an easy, cheap DIY that can make any Havdalah lesson hands-on and memorable. Continue reading

Making Dipped Beeswax Tapers for Havdalah

First, please read my Intro post for making Havdalah candles with kids.  I’ve also got one coming for Rolled Beeswax Havdalah candles and one for the E-Z version using repurposed Hannukah candles.  This one is just about dipped beeswax… 

worth the work, I swear

worth the work, I swear (click pic to enlarge)

To make candles with kids could be a straightforward project.  But then again, to make candles with kids could also be my biggest teaching challenge heretofore, and in fact could be a Kafkaesque labyrinth in which I stagger from one surreal complication to the next.  Who knew that to melt a bit of beeswax and dip a string could be so dramatic? Continue reading

Making Havdalah Candles with kids

more than one wick = fire / eish = kosher

more than one wick = fire / eish = kosher

This will be my short Havdalah candle post.  I shall simply tell the whys and whats.  The hows, I’ll save for three additional posts: one for rolled beeswax sheets, one for dipped beeswax tapers, and one for a repurposed Hanukkah candle version.  Four posts just might be enough room to wax lyrical about the ups and downs and sideways of a seemingly simple process.  I feel compelled to record my experiences so that others may skip the labyrinthine bits and get right to the part where everything turns out well. Continue reading

Tu B’Shevat Almond Tree art: eat, glue, learn

to see and eat during art

“every almond used to be a pink blossom”

I wouldn’t ordinarily write about a holiday project that’s been done (and done, and done), but I’m posting this to prove a point: that with just a smidge of “extra”—just a few props to provide context—even a quick, conventional activity can be more meaningful and memorable. Continue reading

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat Collage

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat Collage1

11 x 17 mounted on large construction paper

Simms Taback’s marvelous Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is easily one of PJ Library’s smartest picks.  It’s a Caldecott and Sidney Taylor Book Award-winner and an all-around delight.  I’ll assume you know about Joseph if you’ve found this post, and that you are looking for a related activity for young children.  There are plenty (see links below), and you could spend days exploring this book and the oodles of enrichment ideas.  Joseph is cover to cover Yiddishkeit, for sure.  But, what if you need a 25 minute lesson plan for Sunday School art class?  Just a quick collage project?  That’s what I needed  but couldn’t find.   Continue reading

Hands-on Menorah Quiz (for School, Carnival)

QuizTable

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

The Spin on Gendered dreidels

"Girl color" or "boy color." Adult role model included.

“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

“Oil Crush” synagogue program: Make Oil like a Maccabee

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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

Kid-decorated dreidels DIY

My Earnest Sunday School Teacher hat is on:

Kindergarten dreidels

Kindergarten dreidels

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

Printable Dreidel rules, letter names and meanings

print this JPEC or click on the pdf link below

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

Dollar Store Menurkey hack (and Talmudic quandary)

a

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

Altoids tin Menorah

1/4" hex nuts all in row

Mint-orah

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

Torah Scroll flannel board

TorahBoardFull

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

Edible Menorah in a Window

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

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

Havdalah Garden in a tub

fresh, Fall planting

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