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.*
A simple name change really can convert a toy for Jewish storytelling and play. A quick and cheap example is a plastic frog. Buy a bag of flying frog party favors and you’ve got a Passover seder activity for a crowd: Tzfardaya, Plague #2. Just as quick, but not as cheap is a Playmobil man and the hollow Playmobil sperm whale: an instant Jonah and the Whale. My biggest and most satisfying haul for conversion was the now-discontinued Playmobil Nativity Scene, which yielded many characters and accoutrement for Torah tableaux.
Look for Biblical, Egyptian, Roman, Persian themed toys to supplement your own holiday toy supply. For Purim, nearly any theme goes, what with the costume component. All those pirates and soldiers, cops and robbers, princesses and dinosaurs can come out and frolic together around the Megillah.
TIPS FOR THE THRIFTY:
If you’ve got patience and time, you can find second-hand Playmobil and LEGO. Large school or church yard sales seem to be better sources than small yard sales, in my experience. Craigslist is good, but you’ve got to stay on top of it or rabid Collectors will beat you to the punch. Ebay, of course. For LEGO bargains, try BrickLink.com, but I warn you, it isn’t the easiest site for a newbie to navigate. Me, I’m lucky to have a toy store here in town that puts all Playmobil on sale several times a year. And, it doesn’t hurt when your kids have very generous Grandmas.
TEACHERS: If you need Playmobil or LEGO in bulk for your student projects, put a request on your school Facebook page. My post yielded massive bins of fabulous hand-me-down LEGO. Now, our art students are well-equipped for future architectural builds (Shushan? Temple? Egypt?) and holiday tableaux for years to come.
*In the picture, the polymer clay hamantaschen are mine, but everything else is straight-from-the-box Playmobil. So far, Neither Playmobil nor LEGO makes tri-cornered pastries by any name at all, so until they do, my Kindergartener and I make our own.