Dec 28, 2011

Kids Home from School? Need Entertainment? Look in a Book

With kids home from school, the onus is sometimes on adults to keep them entertained. Books can provide multiple ways to keep kids entertained:
  • head to the library
  • take a favorite and turn it into a play
  • make paper bag puppets inspired by a book
  • sort and arrange books, selecting some to donate
  • set up the video camera or web cam and have older kids record their readings
  • transform an old board book into a chalkboard slate
  • create a scavenger hunt based on a favorite book
  • create your own books, in a simple (crayons and paper) or elaborate (computer and copy shop) way!
How do books keep you entertained?

Dec 16, 2011

“Iron Chef”? Try “Iron” Latkes!

A family I know hosts one of the most fun Hanukkah parties, and everyone looks forward to it each year: the "Iron" Latke Party. Each family brings their own latke creation and a taste test is done by all. Secret ballots are made and a family is declared a winner and actually given a trophy to keep at their house all year long. Plus, the bragging rights are pretty sweet.

Try these different recipes:

Dec 14, 2011

Hannukah: Free to Be Who You Are

There is an interesting piece today over at Raising Kvell by Jordana Horn. The gist of the piece is that a family cannot celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in deeply meaningful ways simultaneously. Horn prefaces the piece with a disclaimer that she knows that the piece might elicit strong feelings in readers. She underscores a really interesting point: "The Maccabees would rather die than observe any religion other than their own – they recognized that they would and could not be anything other than who they were, Jews. And it is that determination to be who we are and no one else that is what we are celebrating when we celebrate Hanukkah."

In the Kar-Ben book All About Hanukkah, there is a section called Free to Be that gives questions and ideas for families to think about and discuss while the Hanukkah candles are burning:
  • Trace you family's geography. Were there times when they emigrated in search of freedom?
  • Hanukkah was a struggle for spiritual freedom; Purim was a struggle for physical survival. How are they different?
  • Some families light an extra menorah to recall Jews living in poverty, and hunger who cannot celebrate Hanukkah.
by Judyth Groner and Madeline Wikler
illustrated by Kinny Kreiswirth

The story of Hanukkah complete with candle blessings, rules for playing dreidel and other games, recipes, songs, and thoughts on miracles, giving, and more.
“…recommended not only for students beginning to learn about the holidays, but also for teachers and parents to use as guidelines for teaching children who have not yet been exposed to the holidays in depth. Any synagogue or day-school will benefit from adding these titles to their collections.” –Association of Jewish Libraries  Buy your copy today

Dec 2, 2011

Chag haBanot, Festival of the Daughters

Story excerpted from Hanukkah Around the World by Tami Lehman-Wilzig

It’s cold and wet on the streets of Paris, but Jacqueline, Geannette, Danielle, and Margot are enjoying the toasty warmth of their Grand-mere’s home. The cousins have already lit the candles for the seventh night of Hanukkah. Grand-mere explains that this night is for girls only, the way it was in Nabeul, Tunisia, where she grew up.
“Hanukkah is the only holiday that starts in one Hebrew month, Kislev, and ends in another, Tevet," Grand-mere explains. “Tonight is Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new month. When I grew up, the Rosh Chodesh that fell during Hanukkah was a holiday within a holiday. It was called Chag haBanot, Festival of the Daughters.
“And you slept over at your Grand-mere’s house?” asks Jacqueline.
“We did more than that. While the candles burned, we relaxed. No one went into the kitchen. The next day we had a feast for women and girls only.”
“No annoying boys?” asks a wide-eyed Geannette.
“We did serve them a snack after candlelighting—an artichoke, olive spread, or a hard-boiled egg. But the really delicious food was saved for the women’s feast, where young and old gathered to honor Judith, the Hanukkah heroine.”
“I don’t remember a Maccabee named Judith,” insists Margot.
“Aha! I knew one of you would say that. Legend has it that the Maccabees were inspired by Judith’s bravery. Who knows her story?”
“I do,” says Danielle. “Judith fed a Syrian Greek general salty cheese that made him thirsty, so she gave him wine to drink. He got drunk and then she…”
“Stop,” insists Grand-mere. I’ll tell you the whole story tomorrow at the celebration. And I want each one of you to tell a story, too—about a different Jewish heroine.”
“Is that what you did?” asks Jacqueline.
“Oui,” answers Grand-mere. “We had heard enough stories about heroes. On the seventh day of Hanukkah we honored only our heroines: Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, Miriam, Judith, Hannah, and…”
“And that’s it?” interrupts Geannette rudely. Danielle frowns at her. Geannette frowns back.
“That reminds me of another thing we did,” adds Grand-mere. “We settled all fights and apologized to one another.”
“Sorry,” says a half-hearted Danielle.
“Anything else?” continues Geannette.
“At the end of the meal we at special Debla cookies. We’ll bake some tomorrow.”
“No entertainment?” asks Margot.
“Of course,” smiles Grand-mere. “We danced and listened to all the popular songs.”
“Sung by women?”
Grand-mere pauses, gets up from her seat, and goes over to a table with drawers. “One last thing. One year my Grand-mere gave me four pieces of her favorite jewelry. Guess who’s going to get them tonight?”
Buy Hanukkah Around the World by Tami Lehman-Wilzig

Dreidel Variation for Little Ones

Have little ones who don't have the patience to sit and play dreidel but still want to be involved?

Try this variation called Dreidel Hunt from the book All About Hanukkah ($7.95, paperback) by Judyth Groner and Madeline Wikler:

One player (the little one) leave the room while the others hide a dreidel. When the player returns to hunto for the hidden dreidel, the rest of the players sing a Hanukkah song. As the searcher comes closer, the singing should get louder. See how long it takes each player to find the dreidel. As an alternative, use a CD of Hanukkah music and turn up the volume to note when the player is closer. Have prizes like gelt and trinkets for everyone!