Tag Archives: Hebrew

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

Target seder plate for 2012: with friendly tweak

Target seder plate 2012

Target + Passover + Hebrew = an unlikely triangulation.  Of course I bought Target’s five dollar seder plate last year, and of course I bought this year’s version the instant it appeared.

As if I need more seder plates. I have so many each guest could have their own. Which reminds me of something I get asked every year: “it’s a plate, but we don’t eat or serve from it?”  Very confusing.  Seder plates just hold the symbolic foods so we can direct attention to each one when the haggadah tells us to.  Continue reading

Edible Hebrew: Alef-Bet Playdough

Edible playdo ingredients

Buying corn syrup just feels wrong.  I usually go out of my way to avoid corn syrup in foods, so buying a full, glistening bottle of Karo on purpose is just weird.  Yesterday, I felt so conspicuous slipping it into my grocery cart, I might as well have been buying sex toys or country ham or People magazine.

It was worth it.  The nervous guilt at the cash register has faded, and the recipe for edible playdough—featuring corn syrup—worked just fine. Continue reading

Blessings Placemat for Rosh Hashanah: cut and glue (no-paint version)

(See the Apple-Print version at the previous post.)

Blessings Placemat for Rosh Hashanah: the cheat sheet as Honey Pot

The all out, get messy Apple-Print version of the Blessings Placemat is dandy (see above), but sometimes kids (and neat-freak parents) hate paint and its attendant goopiness.

This rather old-school version smacks of die-cuts and Parent-Teacher Store stickers, but it’s reasonably cute and it gets the job done.  What job is that?  We are turning a quickie-apples-and-honey-side-dish into a meaningful minhag (custom), and scoring some Jewish-y parent-kid time, too.

How-To:   Print the template (see below) onto thick yellow paper (like index stock or card stock) and then lightly pencil in a honeypot shape. Think Winnie the Pooh. Preschoolers can Continue reading

Apple-Print Blessings Placemat for Rosh Hashanah (with printable cheat sheet)

A shorter version of this post is published at Kveller.com.

Choose any color for paint and papers

There are BLESSINGS for the apples and honey?

I hear this question every year.  The answer is yes.  And saying the blessings can turn a simple side dish into a meaningful minhag (custom) your kids will remember.   To remember the blessings, however, can be a challenge even for us grownups.   Thus, I have devised a DIY blessings cheat sheet.

The cheat sheet can help us:

  • Spend Jewish time with our kid
  • Teach the idea that blessings add meaning and gratitude
  • Create an object d’art we get to pull out every year
  • Exercise all those skills used in cutting, painting, printing, gluing and so forth

And you don’t have to be uber-spiritual or religious to do blessings, y’all.  If you read them in English, you can choose transliterations to reflect your comfort level with gender and Divinity, okay?  Or, you can paraphrase in the Continue reading

Shavuot: Edible Mt. Sinai

This article supplements my Kveller.com piece about making Shavuot Mt. Sinai Muffins with kids.

And hey, the Jerusalem Post picked it up on JPost Weekly Schmooze!

Mt. Sinai Muffin, Jordan almond Tablets, coconut grass, Twizzler slice flowers and a few Lego Israelites

Edible Crafts are one of my favorite ways to prepare for and celebrate a holiday with kids. Shavuot has built-in festive foods like cheesecake and blintzes and all things dairy—great things to make with children. But, they take time. Of course, traditional baking and mixing and whatnot with kids are core identity-building components. No argument here. But what if you are short on time, yet want to make something Jewish, thematic, edible, fun and fast?

Below are edible options both fast and slow, plus a Suggested Reading List for Shavout-y picture books.

FAST: The sweetest thing about Mt. Sinai Muffins is how versatile they can be: homemade or storebought, regular or miniature, cupcakes or muffins.

And you can decorate them as plain or fancy as you wish.  See the Kveller article for tips about making your mountains grassy or rocky or snowy, and for repurposing tiny edibles as stone Tablets. Keep the relative sizes of the mountain and the Tablets in mind.

edible Ten Commandment Tablets for cupcake toppers

Suggestions for edible Ten Commandment Tablets

Suggestions for edible Ten Commandment Tablets

My favorites are the Jordan almonds with the first ten letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each of which represents one of the Ten Commandments. Continue reading

Shavuot Origami for Kids: Ten Commandments (printable)

Easy Ten Commandments Origami for Shavuot

This simple paper-folding craft is a fun way to prepare for and celebrate Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments, and by extension the whole Torah.

jewisheveryday

With your help, even a young child can fold and decorate the “Tablets.”  The finished product can stand up on a table or lie flat as a card.

The PDF template below has a “granite”  background and two rows of Hebrew letters that will end up in the right place when folded. What’s with the letters? A common visual representation of the Ten Commandments uses the first ten letters of the Hebrew alphabet to symbolize the mitzvot (commandments). There’s a vertical row of five letters on each tablet, each one serving its ancient double-time as a number: aleph for one, bet for two, gimmel for three, and so on.

What exactly are the Ten Commandments? Well, here in the Bible Belt Continue reading

Make Your Own Lego Mezuzah

Lego Mezuzah. A Simple Version

Lego Mezuzah. A Simple Version

DIY Lego Mezuzah with Kids

(Update: a revised version is now here under my Jewish LEGO page)

I’m a big fan of making mezuzah cases with kids, and especially out of found materials. In my house, Lego qualify as found material, as they are found under every large piece of furniture.

Making a ritual object out of repurposed materials with your kid is fun and Jewish (two words we like to link as often as possible), useful and meaningful. In the case of a mezuzah (pun intended), we can touch the container every time we enter a room, which gives us a physical connection to the Sh’ma prayer inside and the parent-child crafted case outside. Of course, we make sure the case is mounted low enough for kids to reach, too. (And the observant among us would have a kosher mezuzah higher up on the doorframe already. For mezuzah rules, see here.)

Other materials great for making mezuzah cases are: dental floss containers, toothbrush tubes, fat straws (from bubble tea), half a walnut shell, toothpaste boxes, plastic tubing and pretty much anything longer than it is wide and that will still fit on a doorpost. Laurie Bellet, author of The Reluctant Artist, posted a great idea at the Torah Aura blog about making cases from dried-out markers.

Do see  my Kveller.com article about making training scrolls (as in “not kosher” scrolls) with kids and about making mezuzah cases from used glue stick containers and empty matchboxes.

But why Lego?  Why not?  Lego are fantastically fun building materials. And if you love Lego, you and your kid can happily fiddle with a pile of assorted bricks and come up with all sorts of designs.

The basic requirements are that the case is: big enough to hold a scroll, has a way to open and close to insert the scroll, and has a flat back for mounting to doorpost with tape.

The flat plate base, upside down

The rest is left up to the imagination. My dream is to create a big letter Shin(the traditional decoration for any case) on the front using the tiny, single-knob round pieces, but I have so far been unable to meet this challenge.

A stylized Lego Shin

To make a three-legged Shin requires five horizontal rows of knobs, and my flat plate is only four rows wide. I made a sample Shin (at left) which could easily attach it to the front of my mezuzah, but the thick profile (I don’t have the right kind of flat plates) would protrude too far into the doorway. Continue reading

Seder Plates by Target

Seder plate at Target: cheap and cute

At Target yesterday I found an endcap full of seder dishes. This discrepant event was so discrepant I almost didn’t believe it. Five bucks for a large, melamine seder plate with shallow depressions for each symbol, and with the English and Hebrew name for each.

Hebrew at Target?

And for $1.99 you can get a coordinating square matzah plate with just the three little Hebrew letters that spell matzah.

So very surprised and happy.  Maybe melamine isn’t the earth’s friendliest material, but I am overlooking this fact in favor of the bigger fact that Target is selling dishes for my holiday.

Maybe this is a yearly occurrence where you come from, but not around here.

Todah rabah, Target.

Glue Stick Mezuzah: or, Make a Green Mezuzah for Free

A Glue Stick Mezuzah

Here’s a new use for an empty glue stick tube: a mezuzah case. If you collect a bunch, you have a cost-free craft for a whole class.

Glue Sticks don’t last very long. Manufacturers seem to keep shrinking the volume of glue without shrinking the actual container, and the glue has a fairly short shelf life (about two years).  Thus, empty glue stick containers multiply, especially at a school.

A mezuzah is really the scroll inside of a mezuzah case: a klaf, or piece of kosher parchment upon which a sofer—scribe—has written (special ink, special quill) the first two passages of the Shema, Judaism’s central prayer.* The Shema is comprised of key verses from Deuteronomy (6:9 and 11:13-21), and begins, “Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”

Mezuzah literally means “doorpost,” and it is on our doorposts that Jews are obliged to mount a mezuzah. Doing so is a mitzvah—a commandment—and, what a coincidence, it is a biblical commandment found in the Shema itself: “you shall inscribe them [these words] on the doorposts of your home.”

So, every Jewish home, or to be more inclusive, every home in which someone identifies as Jewish, needs a mezuzah on the doorposts. Home in Hebew is bayit, and the home of a mezuzah—the case—is called a beit mezuzah, or mezuzah home.  A beit mezuzah can be made out of just about any material that protects the scroll, and in every price range. This one comes in sticky plastic and is free.

Making a mezuzah case as pretty as you are able can actually Continue reading

Origami Dreidels

Origami Dreidel station at the Chanukah Carnival

This is a classic design, and fairly easy to teach to little kids. It comes from Florence Temko’s book Jewish Origami (still in print).

You’ll need a square of any size paper. To teach kids, it will be easier to have a pretty large square: at least 9 by 9 if you are cutting down from a regular sheet of construction paper. Even better if you have big origami paper that is white on one side.

I used large rubber stamps for the Nun, Gimmel, Hey and Shin, and let the kids choose which letter they wanted on the body of the dreidel.  You can use stickers, foam stickers, stamps made from other materials (potatoes, which would be appropriate during latke season), stencils, foam aleph-bet puzzle pieces or just free-hand it.

No matter what method, please include a visual guide showing each letter and the name of the letter. I also included what each letter stands for.

We loved making these so much we tried it with napkins and even one square of toilet paper.

The dreidels make great Hanukkah cards (unless created from toilet paper), either on their own or glued to a folded piece of paper, or you can string them as a garland as suggested on the cover of Temko’s book. We’ve also used them as placecards at dinner and as gift tags.

Temko’s design is also available online from the Origami Swami, who claims permission to present.

Hebrew blocks rock

 

No, I don't get a commission.  I'm kvelling, not selling.

No, I don't get a commission. I'm kvelling, not selling.

Consider the Omer counted.  Shavuot is over.  And now, stretching before us is a couple of calendar pages of sun, humidity, chiggers, and porch-sitting.  

    I’ve just cleaned my screened porch for summer, and we’ve transfered some rug toys out to the concrete: Thomas and Friends and their endless track, Duplos, and wooden blocks.  We are lucky to have Teenager’s old blocks: the thick, heavy kind we can really build with.  

    And, we are lucky to have some Alef Bet blocks, too.  We have two sorts: the small, cheap kind and the big, expensive kind.  I love both.  The small, cheap kind (around 5 bucks) are the same size as our aged alphabet blocks—about an inch and a quarter—good for teetery towers and for crafty projects like, say, a Hanukkah menorah using blocks that spell out your kid’s Hebrew name.  

    The big, expensive ones (around 30 bucks) are the type of toy I kvell about to every new Jewish parent at synagogue.  Why?  They are big and fat and heavy; a pleasure to hold.  They depict not just the Hebrew letters but pictures of animals as well, with the names in Hebrew.  All artwork is not merely printed on, but carved out.  Made by the Uncle Goose company, who make other fantastic specialty blocks like Braille, Russian, Chinese, and Hieroglyph.  

    We can’t get enough Hebrew stuff at our house.  It doesn’t matter that Toddler can’t read, yet.  He can sing the Aleph-Bet Song, which is a great start.  And he knows a shin when he sees one on a mezuzah.  I’m all for painless, natural learning, and it feels right to have blocks and posters and puzzles and books and placemats here and there: a sea of aleph-bet and alpha-bet ready for learning by osmosis.  

 

Sources:

 

The small ones are from JET (Jewish Educational Toys).  They have little pictures of holiday symbols and Jewish whatnots, too.  

 

The big ones from Uncle Goose.  At Amazon, OyToys, and the manufacturer. Made in USA out of basswood and child-safe inks. 

 

This third kind I don’t like, somehow, but they are 1.75 inches and come with vowels, too.  Something about the design bothers me.  I think because they are printed on flat wood: no variation in texture.

Jewish family site: Behrman House

Found new stuff at an old site: Behrman House publishers.  They have a Family Education page which, once you register, lets you or your kid access these pages: Learn Hebrew (listen and repeat), Family Resources, Play Games, Celebrate Holidays.  These are for older kids, but I thought I’d pass the info along.  Some of us adults don’t know all this stuff anyway.

 

    My favorite game is Bubbie’s Bubble Adventure, a cute app. from BabagaNewz.  (If you don’t know from BabagaNewz, do make a visit.  It is a clever site, content-rich, and attractive to middle grade kids.)  In Bubbie’s Bubble, players must steer Bubbie on an underwater obstacle course, collect matzah balls and avoid hitting the gefilte fish.  When Teenager was in 5th grade, she thought this was hilarious.

 

    Behrman House also has an e-card page, where kids can send Mighty Manga Midrash ecards.  I despise the whole Anime style, but I am all in favor of doing anything to make Midrash more appealing to kids.   Actually, I wish I’d thought of Manga Midrash first.

 

   Behrman House’s new holiday gaming site for families is called Elijah Rocks.  Be patient: it may take awhile to load the page, but you will be rewarded with a selection of holiday buttons.  Each holiday has as online game, plus a pdf dictionary of terms, blessings, and word puzzle.  

 

    Go to their Catalog link, and click on Early Childhood to see some resources suitable for little kids.  The “Look at Me,” “Jewish and Me,” and “Let’s Discover” are all good series.  Bible, holidays, Jewish life.  Although designed for religious school distribution, parents can order anything, too.

 

http://www.babaganewz.com/

http://www.behrmanhouse.com

Jewish bath toys, part 1

 

 

Dreaded foam yes, but I own three sets.

Dreaded foam yes, but I own three sets.

     Toddler broke out the foam Hebrew puzzles this morning.  Actually, I broke out the foam Hebrew puzzles because the wooden ones were too noisy.  I woke with a migraine, which makes me super-sensitive to just about everything except staying in bed (not an option), and which makes the sound of a wooden puzzle turned upside down and emptied onto an oak floor unbearable.

     I love Hebrew puzzles. I hate foam. But I love foam Hebrew puzzles. I know the manufacture of foam is bad for the environment, bad for the poor workers who mold it, and bad for the environment again when it hits the landfill. I limit all my foam consumption to my [perceived] minimum of three identical Hebrew puzzles. I brook no foam craft sheets, toys, notebooks, tools, embellishments, costumes. I cringe and complain when I see kids creating crappy crafts at school and shul, using toxic, never-to-biodegrade foam sheets when paper or cardboard would be perfectly fine. Don’t forget the special, extra-brain-death-chemical adhesive all foam requires: Elmer’s glue just won’t stick. Any craft project that destroys brain cells and continues to off-gas throughout eternity seems a bit. . . unnecessary.

     I don’t just love any foam Hebrew puzzle. While I covet those over-sized floor tile/mat puzzles, I know perfectly well that they will smell like a factory when I open the package, and they will make me fall on the floor and die. Or at least make me feel woozy and ill. And I know that even if I am the canary in a coal mine–the first indicator of bad air and thus a warning to all–everyone around me must be getting poisoned, too, even though they are not falling immediately to the floor.

     But these small puzzles, the ones I like, do not stink. And, they are fun and squishy. Each row of letters is color-coded, which makes matching a letter to a hole a bit easier (process of elimination). Also, only one side is textured, which makes it easier to keep the right side up.

We use them to sing the Alef-Bet song. We use them to spell easy words and our Hebrew names. We use them in the bath (they stick to the sides of a wet tub) and even as rubber stamps (turn them over first, or you’ll spell backwards). We use the letters and the negative letter space for tracing.

     I mention this product, as I mentioned my silly Star of David pasta, because I am still starved for Jewish Stuff out here in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and I am thrilled when anyone tips me off to a new, neat thing. Or to a new way to use an old, neat thing.

Benny’s Educational Toys: Alef-bet puzzle, $2.95