Once you’ve covered the basic rules of kosher menorah structure, practiced the sequences of adding candles and lighting them, and have worked on the blessings, it’s time for free build. The setup can’t be easier, but the rewards are big.
This is a Make, not a Make and Take. The kids don’t keep the menorahs because the materials stay in the classroom for future builds. Announce this at the start or there will be sadness.
We did this last Sunday and no one wanted to go home.
I brought out bins of DUPLO and boxes of real candles. (Kids don’t usually have a chance to practice with Hanukkah candles, so this is a treat.)
I also brought out my PVC menorah kit, which I designed for kids to put together and take apart, over and over. I keep a printout of the exploded view in case they want a visual guide, but they are free to modify as they wish. It can be a 7 branched Temple menorah or a hanukkiyah.
LEGO could have worked (see my article), but I didn’t want kids to get bogged down in the details of all those fabulous, random, tiny shapes. And minifigs would have been a total distraction. Granted, a collection of only bricks would have worked (no plates or any other shape), but I don’t have a dedicated brick collection.
The DUPLO was ideal because all our pieces are bricks. The bricks do vary in height and in number of studs, but are uniform. DUPLO uniformity helps to “isolate the difficulty” and keep things moving along. Don’t assume kids are too old for DUPLO. No one is too old for DUPLO when there is a design challenge.
The “aha” moment came when they noticed the tubes underneath a DUPLO brick are the right size to accept a real Hanukkah candle.
I’m sure you can make something STEM and STEAMy out of this if you need to justify the activity as curriculum. The rest of us can just play, knowing that all sorts of learning happens whenever we build.
Safety: PLEASE DO NOT LIGHT A CANDLE INSIDE DUPLO OR LEGO. The plastic will melt, and might well catch surrounding things on fire. (Which is another good reason kids don’t get to take a DUPLO menorah home: someone there is bound to light it.)
BUILD THE TEMPLE:
Another riff on DUPLO free build is to challenge kids to build “the Temple in the Hanukkah story.” It’s a good enrichment activity after hearing the story. Kids can create their own version of the dramatic events. I’ve used this at Hanukkah carnivals, and learned that several things are needed to ensure maximum irresistibility:
• A train table (because it is elevated but kids can work standing up or kneeling, the raised sides keep pieces on the table, and it presents a defined work area)
• A picture of the Temple (I used a double spread from a Hanukkah picture book)
• A ton of DUPLO (parents love to donate outgrown DUPLO)
• A to-scale Temple menorah (7 branches): a toy, made of clay, something you printed off the internet and glued to cardstock and cut out, etc.) See one printable idea here.
• Figurines (optional, to people the story) (Fisher Price, DUPLO, etc.)