Whether you personally celebrate Hanukkah or not, it is important to introduce children to all holidays celebrated around the world. Hanukkah is a holiday that has so much rich history and significance that it would be a missed opportunity not to learn about it. Here are just a few activities that I’ve found to be fun and enlightening on the celebration of Hanukkah.
Start by showing children examples of different dreidels and how they have deep meaning in Hebrew culture. The Hebrew letters represent the phrase “a great miracle happened there,” and it refers to the Hanukkah miracles.
Once the children gain an understanding of the game and its significance, have them cut out the dreidels from glossy paper. Explain that some scholars believed the dreidel to be part of a “secret school” to hide from Greek soldiers. So in this activity, we will write secret messages on our dreidels!
Children can use a white crayon to draw designs, messages, anything really! They won’t be able to see the design until later, so encourage them to just try their best. Then using watercolors, they can paint their dreidels and reveal their hidden designs and messages! Once dried, display these dreidels in the window as a nice decoration!
Any chance to learn more about a cultural tradition always gets me excited! I think children can get so caught up in their own traditions that they miss out on what others practice. This little craft can show so much meaning when they are making their secret messages since it correlates so well with what some scholars believe the dreidel was used for!
Tip: Since each child has three dreidels, have them make three different messages for other classmates and then have them all exchange dreidels BEFORE painting so that classmates will get to discover the hidden messages.
Show the class the flag of Israel with this fun craft. Ask open questions such as “what shapes do you see,” “why do you think it’s called the star of David,” and “who do you think David was?”. Take a few minutes to explain the significance of who David was and why the star of David is such an important symbol. Then, using painter’s tape, have the children make two triangles on their paper, one right side up and one upside down. They will most likely need help with this step. Then using whatever color they want to use, traditionally blue, paint the entire paper. Once dry, have them peel the tape to reveal the star of David!
Learning about this symbol helps with their knowledge of social studies in the Jewish culture. Creating the shapes with tape helps with motor skills. You can extend this activity by having children think of a symbol they would choose for a flag that has meaning to them.
Tip: See how many triangles they can count within the Star Of David! It’s more than just two!
This is a fun project that will last a few days while children are learning about the Festival of Lights. Teach the difference between a menorah (7 lights) and a hannukiah (9 lights) and discuss why it is tradition to light a candle on each of the nights of Hanukkah. Decide if you will have each children paint 9 toilet paper rolls or if they will do it in groups. Have them work one day on painting each tube and sprinkling glitter on each flame. Then on the second day, work together to assemble the 9 candles, one being two tubes together to form one tall candle.
Learning about traditions is a great way to expand our knowledge in cultural studies. Allowing the children to keep track of the days will help with counting, and painting always helps with hand-eye coordination as well as dexterity.
This can really allow children to blossom in creativity by painting different patterns on the tubes to make them their own. This project should be done over the course of two days so that children do not get tired, but I love it because while they are making it, you can play some Jewish music, chat with each other about family traditions, and work on social skills while painting.
Tip: Display these hanukiahs around the classroom and use battery-operated mini tealights inside of each tube. Each day, the children can “light” the battery-operated tealight and it will look as if it is illuminated!
It is so important to enlighten children on what other cultures celebrate and why. Sometimes our culture is so saturated in holidays like Christmas, that other holidays around this time such as Hanukkah can get overshadowed. Take time at home or in your classroom to honor Hannukah. For more books to read aloud, try this website that gives lists of great titles!
For even more educational activities, check out HiMama’s full list of daycare activities!