Category Archives: Jewish Toys

Menorahs and other lessons through (literally) Jewish lenses

Stars are crisper in person, I promise. I held the glasses over my camera lens.

Stars are far crisper in person. I held the glasses over my camera lens.

I don’t often tout a store-bought product, but I recently discovered that Jewish Star spectacles are back in production. The holographic lenses convert every focused light source into a Jewish star. Peep at a candle, a ceiling fixture, a lamp, and it becomes a Mogen David. Small light = small star, big light = big star. Imagine looking at a Hanukkah menorah on the 8th night.

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Schlemiel on a Wheel, Schmuck on a Truck, Schnorrer on a Menorah, etc.

Schlemiel on a Wheel (clumsy pushcart seller)

Schlemiel on a Wheel (clumsy pushcart seller)

Mensch on a Bench and Maccabee on the Mantle are riffs on Elf on a Shelf.  So, here’s my riff on the riffs: a trio of tiny Jews—Yiddish stock characters—on Things. All are cautionary tales. However, unlike the toy/book combos just mentioned, they are not surveillance tools for moral accountability. These guys don’t really care about you or your kids at all.  Continue reading

Jewish Tangrams: Shabbat candles

Tangram Shabbat candles

Tangram Shabbat candles

Here’s another printable for Jewish tangrams: Shabbat candles. Fold the sheet to hide the solution or keep it flat for beginners. Click image to print pdf. Continue reading

K’NEX spinning Dreidel, DIY kits (home or school)

easy to make, easy to spin

easy to make, easy to spin

I’m hooked.  I’m not even a K’NEX fan, but it turns out that a K’NEX dreidel is absolutely irresistible to build and to play with.  These dreidels spin like mad, are easy to assemble and don’t fling themselves to bits, even when doing battle in a dreidel arena.  Imagine students building these at a Hanukkah Carnival . . . Continue reading

Jewish Tangrams: Yom Kippur (printable Jonah and Whale)

This can be Jonah getting swallowed OR spewed

This can be Jonah getting swallowed OR spewed

I made more Jewish tangrams—this time for Yom Kippur.  You supply the story of Jonah and the Whale, and kids can mess around with tangrams to represent the Dag Gadol (big fish), Jonah’s boat, and Jonah.  Do them in order and you’ve got the whole story.
Narrative play!
I dare you to make the withered vine, too.

These patterns will get you started: puzzles and solutions.   Continue reading

Jewish Tangrams: Rosh Hashanah (printable)

click image to print

click image to print

Tangrams are “open-ended” materials, meaning they can be nearly anything a kid can imagine, just by re-arranging 7 puzzle pieces.  Oh, how I love them.

If you are new to tangrams, or to thinking about them Jewishly, see my intro Page for whys and hows, and a link to printable templates.  I also give tips about how to make the actual pieces irresistible.

In the intro I say how easy it is to “convert” traditional tangram patterns to Judaism by simply changing a name: pot to dreidel, fish to Dag Gadol, candles to nerot for Shabbat.  We convert a silhouette with our intention. Continue reading

Alef Bet Sensory Activities (and Hebrew Letter Carnival)

Lite Brite shin

Lite Brite shin

Maybe it goes without saying that teachers of Hebrew letter formation can borrow the huge bag of tricks devised by teachers of English letter formation, but I’m saying it.  A quick online search reveals oodles of brilliant alphabet ideas, and all we have to do is modify for aleph-bet.  No need to reinvent the galgal.

A sensory activity can be as simple as you wish: simple in terms of content and in terms of prep.  Is isn’t that hard to throw a bunch of wooden coffee stirrers in a basket and ask a kid to arrange them to make a letter.   Continue reading

Purim Playmobil straight from the box

All Playmobil except the clay hamantaschen....

Playmobil says “Schultute,” I say Mishloach Manot

Yes, I go to great lengths to make tiny, Jewy accessories for my Playmobil and LEGO folk.  But you don’t have to make a single thing in order to make toys Jewish. Sometimes, all it takes is a name change.

Look at this little Playmobil set ripe for conversion: #4686 Child’s First Day at School.  See the parcels? Playmobil is German, and the set represents the German tradition of Schultute (school bags): big cones of goodies and school supplies for the first day of school.  When I saw the box at a local toy store, I didn’t think Schultute, I thought Mishloach Manot.  I saw two kids exchanging Mishloach Manot bags on Purim.  For $3.29, I got a Jewish holiday scene and a mitzvah tableau, even though Playmobil doesn’t “do” Jewish.* Continue reading

Glow in the Dark Dreidel and Glow Arena

Instant DIY Glow Dreidel Arena

Instant DIY Glow Dreidel Arena

Of course a glow-in-the-dark Dreidel Arena needs a glow-in-the-dark dreidel.  Why didn’t I think of it before?  My friend Kathryn (at Joyful Jewish) put me up to it after she read about my arena idea last week.  And that’s when the stealth crafting began… Continue reading

LEGO dreidel kit: giveaway

LEGO dreidel kit giveaway

Would you like to win a LEGO dreidel kit?  Ideally, you’ve all got enough parts at home to make a whole battalion of unique, custom dreidel models, but in case you don’t, take some of mine.  The more LEGO dreidels in the world, the better. Continue reading

Giveaway: Moses and Pharaoh Action Figures for Passover

Two sets of Moses and Pharaoh Action Figures ready to ship....frogs included. Photo from ChaiKids.com.

A giveaway. My first. I make this leap in order to share something marvy for Passover.  I love Jewish toys, and if there is cuteness or kitsch involved, I love them even more.  Take this Moses and Pharaoh action figure set.  No really, take it.  I have two sets to give away.  I want to share them with two winners who will play the heck out of ‘em.  Let me explain… Continue reading

Vashti Reframed: preschool midrash in Lego

Two-faced: one side...

Yesterday, I discovered my preschooler playing Purim with the minifigs.  I had already assembled a few characters before I got distracted in the kitchen.  I came back to find him with a doll in hand.

“Who’s this?” he asks, “and why does she look so mad?”

It’s Vashti.  I remind him that she was fired as queen.  Although he finally gets that “fired” does not involve actual flame, the word still feels violent, and it worries him.

“Well, maybe she didn’t like being queen,” he said. “Maybe she’s much happier now she’s not queen.”  He took off her hair, gripped her face, and spun her head around. Continue reading

LEGO gragger for Purim

Lego gragger with canoe paddle flange

For Purim, we call it a gragger, but the generic and rather wicked-sounding term is “ratchet instrument.” Jews hardly have a monopoly on this thing.  Throughout the world it’s been a child’s toy, a police call, a poison-gas alert, a football (soccer) noisemaker, a percussion instrument, a scarecrow and a lure for corncrakes. And now, finally, it’s Lego.

World, I give you Lego graggers.  They spin, they make noise, and although Continue reading

LEGO Dreidels, DIY

LEGO dreidels

The intersection of Lego and Jewish holidays is always fun.  Especially if the constructions actually do stuff.  Like spin.

Here are a few Lego dreidels we created with oddments at home.  They all spin, some better than others. Ideally, they’d all have the proper letter on each side: nun, gimmel, hey and shin, but I only added letters to the dreidels we figured on Continue reading

Mini Lulav and Etrog for a Tabletop Sukkah

lulav lesson with Playmobil folk

lulav lesson with Playmobil folk

Our action figures now have a model sukkah well-appointed for hospitable gatherings.  Actually, we have several, because it’s hard to stop once we start. Yesterday’s post tried to outline a classic craft, a tabletop or model sukkah made from tissue boxes and shoe boxes, and also some ideas for free-builds using Legos, Lincoln Logs and other construction toys.

Lulav and etrog, polymer clay. The pitom is a broom straw

Lulav and etrog, polymer clay. The pitom is a broom straw

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Build a Tabletop or Model Sukkah

Box sukkah for Lego mini figs,with Lego kiddush cups and polymer clay challah

At Sukkot, we are commanded to dwell in a sukkah. This ideal may be out of reach for many, but it is definitely do-able for dolls.  Any action figure can be an honored guest or hospitable host/ess in a tabletop or model sukkah.

A model sukkah is an easy, fun, and classic way to explore Sukkot with kids. Using whatever materials are already at hand, you can create a sukkah in miniature, play with it all week, use it as a centerpiece, and along the way take a look at the customs of the holiday and the rules of sukkah construction.  Not sure about the details?  Brush up at MyJewishLearning’s Sukkot page.

First, show your kid a real sukkah if you can, or pictures of different sukkot (plural for sukkah, and hey, the name of the holiday, too!) in books or online.  It won’t make much sense Continue reading

Yom Kippur: Jonah and the Whale crafts

use old toys to re-enact Jewish stories

use old toys to dramatize Jonah and the Whale

Looking for crafty things to do with kids to prepare for Yom Kippur?

One theme is Jonah and the Whale.  It’s the story we’re all going to hear on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, whether we are in the big sanctuary or in the kids’ service.  Jonah’s tale is supposed to make us think about all sorts of Jewish values/middot: obedience, faith, repentance and forgiveness, to name the biggees.  Yom Kippur is one heavy-duty holiday.

For little kids, I’m keeping the holiday simple. My ideal Jonah and the Whale take-home message is: Jonah screwed up, said he was sorry, and then did what he was supposed to do in the first place.  Loosely, this is teshuvah, or repentance.  But, still, the story is tricky.  Far easier to extrapolate is the scary take-home message: if you screw up, God lets a whale eat you.  Pretty creepy.  To nip that in the bud, Continue reading

Have a SUPER Rosh Hashanah!

polymer clay yemenite kudu shofar for the Man of Steel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shana Tova

Edible shofars….straight from the bag

Edible shofars straight from the bag

Edible shofars straight from the bag

Bugles snacks from General Mills are the perfect mini-shofars.

Please see this brief article at Kveller.com, in which I list the merits and uses of Bugle shofars and lament the recent loss of kosher status.  If you don’t keep strictly kosher, you are in luck!  You get teeny, tasty shofar snacks for Rosh Hashanah!

“I Need Store-Bought, Thematic Snacky-ness, and I Need it Now!”   (Raising Kvell post)

If you like the article, please mention it on the Kveller comments immediately below it.  I would love to hear from you.

Shana Tova, and bon appetit!

 

edible shofar

Miniatures for Rosh Hashanah (Lego and Playmobil): not a how-to, but a Why

Playmobil Rosh Hashanah: clay Yemenite kudu shofar,  ram shofar, round raisin challah, apple slices

Playmobil Rosh Hashanah: clay Yemenite kudu shofar, ram shofar, round raisin challah, apple slices

This site is about kids and parents spending Jewish time together making stuff that is fun, cute (kitschy counts as cute), cheap, and most of the time, functional.  I aim for kid-centric.  I like to help even toddlers participate in holiday prep.

But making Jewish holiday accoutrements for Lego and Playmobil figures out of polymer clay, I admit, comes close to crossing a line. My preschooler can do little more than make freeform shapes and blobby ovoids, and when presented with more than one color of clay will gleefully end up with gradations of grey.  Still, because scale and verisimilitude have not really occurred to him yet, he has a great time “making useful things” for his figurines.

Relativity: Playmobil, Duplo and Lego

Scale and verisimilitude is my dealie. Whilst the child next to me has fun rolling and smashing and pinching and blending, I get to make miniature accessories to outfit three communities of toys in our home: Duplo, Lego and Playmobil. And of course, they all celebrate the Jewish holidays.

One more note in my defense: this stuff is fun for older kids, too. Even surly preteens Continue reading