Whether you personally celebrate Hanukkah or not, it is important to introduce children to all holidays celebrated around the world. Hanukkah is one of those holidays that has so much rich history and significance that it would be a missed opportunity to not learn more about it. Here are just a few activities that I’ve found to be fun and enlightening on the Jewish culture and 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. It would be great for children to hear some of these stories by reading children’s books written specifically about the culture and traditions.
Once the children gain an understanding of the game and its significance, have the students 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!
Students 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 water colors, they can paint their dreidels and reveal their hidden designs and messages! Once dried, display these dreidels in the window as a nice decoration!
Many educators miss the opportunity to really learn some neat facts about the dreidel and other traditions in the Jewish culture. Instead of just playing the game or singing the song, learning about some deeper facts will help students to know more and help shape their worldview. It’s also helpful for fine motor skills to draw the secret designs and to paint.
Any chance to learn more about a cultural tradition always gets me excited! I think kids 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! This is a fun twist on an otherwise “normal” craft, so I think kids really respond well to that.
Tip: Since each student 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 like “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 to the Jewish people and why the star of David is such an important symbol. Then, using painters 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 the students 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 students 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 student paint 9 toilet paper rolls or if they will do it in groups. Have students 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 8 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 with painting different patterns on the tubes to make it their own. This project should be done over the course of two days so that students 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 (or house) and use battery operated mini tealights inside of each tube. (you can buy a pack of 100 really cheap!) Each day, the students can “light” the battery operated tealight and it will look as if it is illuminated!
It is so important to enlighten our students on what other cultures celebrate and why. Sometimes our culture is so saturated in holidays like Christmas, that other holidays around this time like Hanukkah can get overshadowed. Take time at home or in your classroom to honor Hannukah. For more books to read aloud to your kids, try Amazon or this website that gives lists of great titles!
For even more educational activities, check out HiMama’s full list of daycare activities!