Hanukkah is a very special time in the Jewish community. When everything seems to be centered around red and green and a big dude with a beard, it is important to recognize celebrations from others. Since learning comes from fun, this list of activities can help to teach elements of Hanukkah. So whether you observe Hanukkah or just want your children to be mindful of others, here are some Hanukkah activities for kids – including ways to make them baby friendly!
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Shredded Paper Sensory Bin
Whether you are in the classroom or at home, having a sensory bin is a great way to explore all aspects of the holiday.
For this bin, use blue and/or white shredded paper as the base. Add in gelt (or play coins), tops, oil bottles (see below), tongs, and spaghetti spoons. Toddlers and preschoolers can use the utensils to grab the gelt or tops. For babies, carefully supervise or place all the contents in a zip bag, as it contains many small pieces. The crunch of the paper will still provide a sensory experience and the add-ins peeking through will be fun surprises.
Light the Lights
This activity will require 8 tap lights or flameless candles to represent the 8 nights of Hanukkah.
Hide or place them in various places around the room or house. One by one, encourage the children to find a light and turn it on. While this activity can be done all at once, it can also be turned into a daily activity for the 8 nights of Hanukkah. Babies can reach, scoot, or crawl to the lights placed around them. Either turn them on for interest or light them when touched.
Using gross motor skills, this makes a great developmental activity. Children will spin around and fall gently after counting to 8. If they land on their bottom, they will get a hug. If they land on their hands and knees, they will give a hug. Landing any other way does nothing. Generally, children will have the autonomy to choose which position they land, giving them a choice in the reward or to participate without being touched if they decide.
In a classroom setting, there should be enough variety for turn taking. It can create a wonderful bonding opportunity if playing at home.
While babies won’t be spinning and falling themselves, they can be held while slowly turning around and counting to eight. After a complete turn, reward baby with a smooch (parents only!), playful boop on the nose, or belly tickle.
Jelly Filled Playdoughnuts
One of the traditional foods consumed during Hanukkah are jelly filled doughnuts called sufganiyah (suf-ganeeyah). Besides eating them, a fun way to incorporate them into play is to make them. Before you grab the flour, this task uses play dough!
Choose at least two colors for your sufganiyah. With what will be the jelly, make a round ball. Using the second color, flatten and carefully wrap it around the jelly ball. Provide different colors for various jelly “flavors” and tools to make and cut open the doughnut to see the surprise. This activity will be difficult for babies. However, they can still have sufganiyah fun. Simply put a few tablespoons of jelly in a zip bag and let them grab and squish away.
Gelt is the Yiddish word for money. During Hanukkah, it is traditionally given to children and teachers as a gift and used in the game of Dreidel. While originally, it was real money, now you can find gelt in chocolate coin form.
With this activity, you can choose to use real (or real play) money with preschoolers and have them sort the coins by size, color, or likeness. Toddlers can use the chocolate coin version to place in jars adorned with the faces of their teachers or parents. Encourage them to share their pile with each person labeled. Babies might enjoy shaking a bottle with a few coins inside and sealed tightly.
Candles in a Hanukkah Menorah
Fine motor skills will be built across the board with this activity. Using a log of play dough and 8 birthday candle sticks (teachers or parents can push one into the center for the customary 9th used to light the others), encourage toddlers to push them into the dough one at a time. Preschoolers can get creative and design their own Menorah from the dough to hold the candles. And give babies a “Menorah” already assembled and encourage them to pull the candles out while supervising closely. Expand the activity by counting or gluing small numbered papers to the wicks.
It wouldn’t be a holiday activity list without a few crafts. Don’t worry if you don’t have a dreidel. Anything that spins or rolls will do, but tops can be found in the party favor section of most stores.
Preschoolers can dip the end into blue paint and give it a spin onto a sheet of white paper. Keep spinning again and again until satisfied with the design. Toddlers may find spinning difficult. Instead, they can roll a ball onto paper that already has a few blobs of paint. If your baby is able grasp, they can bang a ball or other item onto the paint dotted paper. If not, just let them explore the blue paint on the paper.
Shredded Paper Latkes
Latkes are crispy potato pancakes traditionally eaten during Hanukkah. This craft can be made as simple or as complex as your children can handle it.
For young toddlers, gluing strips of yellow paper onto a paper plate to make a patty shape might be all you need. Older children can help to cut the strips. Preschoolers might have fun with a paper mache type project. Water down some white glue and place in a shallow bowl. Have the children dip their strips fully into the glue, scraping the excess off on the side of the bowl. One at a time, place them on wax paper in a criss-crossing pattern. When the strips are fully dried, peel off the wax paper and you will have a crispy latke! A fun way to play with babies is to rip the yellow paper in front of them and give them the strips. Older infants can try to stick them to a plate with glue already on it.
Hanukkah Menorah Hand Prints
If you want an art centerpiece on your fridge or wall made by your littles this Hanukkah, look no further. This is an easy craft to do with any age.
For babies and young toddlers, it will be more manageable to paint directly onto their hand. Use blue paint on the fingers (no thumb) and yellow paint on the palms. Press the hand onto paper, clean with a baby wipe or wet cloth and repeat with the other hand, placing it touching the first edge. You can add a base and a 9th candle in the center if you desire.
Have preschoolers start by folding a piece of paper in half and open it back up. Allow them to dip one hand into the yellow and blue paint and press firmly onto one side of the paper. Excess paint is okay. Clean off the hand quickly. Next, fold the other half of the paper along the crease over the paint to make a Rorschach Menorah!
Oil is of significant importance during Hanukkah. The Miracle of the Cruse Oil is said to have happened when there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one night, but instead lasted for eight. Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy assembling these oil bottles. In addition, babies will love to watch them!
You will need clear plastic pop bottles or 8oz water bottles. Pop bottles will be thicker than the larger water bottles and hold up better to the shaking. You will also need water and vegetable or canola oil.
Follow the directions below to make oil bottles for babies using the 8oz bottles.
The best way for the youngest to help with this activity is to have a funnel and pre-measured water and oil. You will need half the bottle’s size of each. Preschoolers can free pour and later compare differences among the class. After adding both the water and oil, cap tightly. Glue shut if desired. Explore shaking the water and oil mixture and watching it separate. Use small bottles to add to the sensory bin.