My big thing is doing stuff with kids. Not for them, but with them. The process is the valuable part, but the product, no matter what it looks like—can be useful, too.
Making Jewish things with kids is:
- Time spent together
- Educational: all sorts of developing skills get a workout, no matter the materials or project
- Educational, Jewishly: kids get a hands-on, personal reference point to a holiday, ritual object, tradition or food custom. As do you, the parent, who may be learning this stuff along with your kid
- A way to help craft a Jewish identity, whatever that means to you
The “narcissism of small differences” demands I out myself. I am not a “crafter.” I do not keep a glue gun on the kitchen counter at all times, and even if I did, I’d never be able to find it amongst the piles of books, dirty dishes and drifting eddies of dog hair. I am a Jewish educator who quotes Freud in the first sentence of her mission statement.
You’ll get some crafts here, yes, but they are going to be generated by your favorite kid. The value is in the doing, not the being done, and in the conversations and questions that happen along the way. Every project comes with helpful and (hopefully) pleasant chatter, because my native compulsiveness and enthusiasm means that I’ve given the meaning, function, and possible permutations a lot of thought. You won’t need to do much planning, because I’ll have done it for you.
The goal here is to help grownups and kids spend FUN time together making Jewish things: things that are not, as a rule, crap.
Let’s lower the threshold with these FAQ :
“What if I’m not crafty / artistic?”
I object to the word “crafty.” And don’t say that you are not “artistic” because your kid is listening. Who says you have to be good at art to make art? And who decides what is good? It’s all about FUN. Just pick materials you enjoy, be they candy, paper, clay, wood, LEGO, crayons, window markers, dirt, seeds, fabric, beads, metal washers, PVC pipe, alphabet blocks or WHATEVER. If you have fun, kids will have fun. Cook, create, build, play: it’s all good.
“What if I’m not Jewish?”
“Or I haven’t been Jewish very long, or I don’t have a solid Jewish educational background?”
So? Learn with your kid. Look up the answers to questions that pop up, together. There will be no test. The conversations that happen during a project can lead to all sorts of interesting places. I started out knowing zilch, and now I’m telling other people what to do.
“What if I am a control freak and want to wrest the project out of my child’s clumsy hands?”
Get your own materials and work next to her.