A Jewish home can look like a lot of different things, but one common denominator is often found on the door. A mezuzah, which literally means doorpost in Hebrew, is a small scroll traditonally mounted to every doorpost in a house to mark a family's commitment to creating a Jewish household.

Some people touch the mezuzah and kiss their fingers (or vice versa) every time they go in or out of a room as a sign of respect. It's a little hard for toddlers to participate, though, when they can't reach the mezuzah (even with the help of tippy toes). Here's a fun mezuzah project that your kids can help create and mount, so the tradition can come down to their level. 

Below are two quick and easy versions any child can make with a little help: a Matchbox Mezuzah and a Glue Stick Mezuzah.

Inside every mezuzah case is a parchment scroll (klaf) of the Shema--Judaism's central prayer--written by a scribe (sofer). A kosher scroll is an exquisite work of art in miniature, and can be purchased at Judaica shops. However, for a child's homemade mezuzah case, a homemade scroll can be much more meaningful for the maker.

Take the time to show real mezuzot to your child (and a klaf too, if possible) or at least a variety online. Most have the Hebrew letter shin on the front: the first letter of Shaddai (spelled shin, dalet, yud), which is one of the names of God and an acronym for Shomer daltot Yisrael: Guardian of the doors of Israel.

Matchbox Mezuzah

The touch-me appeal of a matchbox (who doesn't love to slide one open and shut?) makes this an irresistible mezuzah craft.

You will need:
-    Matchbox (empty, obviously)
-    Masking tape
-    Craft (aka popsicle) stick (plain or color)
-    Tissue paper (more than one color) cut into 10-15 one-inch squares
-    White glue in a small bowl or jar lid
-    Small paintbrush
-    Choose one: pen, rubber stamp, glitter glue or sticker to make the letter shin
-    Optional decorations: adhesive gems, beads, ribbon, etc.
-    Masking tape to mount to doorframe

Instructions:
1. Tape the stick to the back of the matchbox lengthwise. Don't tape the box shut.

2. Brush thin layer of glue on matchbox—including over the tape.

3. Press individual layers of the tissue squares on box (except the open ends). Keep brushing starch and pressing layers until it looks gorgeous.

4. Add the letter shin (see above) to the front. You may use a sticker or glitter glue while damp, but wait until dry to use rubber stamp or pen.

5. If you accidentally glue the matchbox shut, run a sharp knife through the seams when dry.

6. Insert scroll and mount (see below).

Glue Stick Mezuzah

Here's a novel (and eco-friendly) use for an empty glue stick tube.

You will need:glue stick mezuzah
-    Empty or dried glue stick
-    Paper cut to fit around tube, and another piece to fit around the lid.
-    Glue
-    Crayons, markers, stickers, etc.
-    Choose one: pen, rubber stamp, glitter glue or sticker to make the letter shin
-    Optional decorations: adhesive gems, beads, ribbon, etc.
-    Masking tape to mount to doorframe.

Instructions:
1. Twist glue stick until bottom of the inner tube is fully extended, then pull straight out. You should see the inner spindle, around which you will put the scroll later.

2. Mark paper with crayons, markers, paints, rubber stamps or stickers, or just use pretty paper.

3. Glue paper around tube and around cap, making sure cap will still work.

4. Choose a front side of the tube and add the letter shin (see above).

5. Add any solid decorations, but keep the back of tub smooth.

6. Insert scroll and mount (see below).

Making a Scroll

Choose which method fits your child's ability and interest. Here are five options:

1. Photocopy or scan a copyright-free Shema prayer (reduce to fit height of case) or just find the first phrase: Shema Yisrael: Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad: Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

2. Write the word Shema in block Hebrew (shin, mem, ayin). Remember, Hebrew is written and read from right to left.

3. Create the word Shema with aleph-bet rubber stamps. (You can buy them here.)

shema outline

4. Spell Shema with aleph-bet stickers and photocopy it. Using another set of the same stickers, your child can match and cover the letters. (You can buy them here.)

5. Create the word Shema in a word processing program in "outline" font. Print and let child color inside the letters. Or, print the image to the right.

Note: the traditional way to roll a mezuzah scroll is left to right, so when the scroll is opened, the first thing visible is the shin of Shema.

Mounting:

Mount case on the right side of doorframe at the height your child can reach. Let the top lean a bit toward the room it leads to. See here for traditional rules about positioning a mezuzah and to read the blessing in Hebrew and English.

More About Mezuzot:

And if you find your kids are hankering to learn more about a mezuzah, listen to the song Mezuzah by The Maccaroons, or read A Mezuzah on the Door. Before you know it, you'll all be mezuzah pros.

Joanna Brichetto

Joanna Brichetto holds an MA in Jewish Studies from Vanderbilt University. She is a Jewish educator, mother of two, and blogs at Bible Belt Balabusta.