Hanukkah will look different this year, just as all our holidays have so far. The pandemic has been challenging for everyone, but young children have been particularly isolated. They are missing the social and emotional growth they would usually experience while gathering and interacting with friends and family.
When children don’t have as much opportunity to practice their play skills, parents need to be their child’s playmate. To some, playing comes naturally, while other parents look for different ways to connect and engage with their children. Open-ended art activities that allow you to explore, mess about, and create something together can be rewarding for both parents and children. Mixing things up by providing unusual tools poses a fun challenge, and helps kids employ critical thinking skills to accomplish a goal, such as making paint marks on a paper.
Fortunately, intentional play can still expand your child’s social and emotional experiences, all while staying safe at home. You can always sit and play dreidel, but how about bundling up and heading outdoors to gather sticks and use them to build giant dreidels and menorahs in your living room? With such out-of-the-box activities, you are creating memorable experiences for your child.
Here are some ideas that will hopefully help get you and your little ones through this time, and actually create moments to reflect, create, and explore the themes of Hanukkah.
1. Make a handprint Hanukkiyah (menorah). Paint both of your child’s hands and place them down a piece of paper with the thumbs together to form one large middle candle (the shamash).
2. Paint with dreidels. Place a piece of paper in a box or shallow tin pan. Put a spoonful of paint on the paper and then spin the dreidel in the paint. Watch the spinning patterns developing on your paper!
3. Paint with candles. This is a great use for old candles, namely using candles as the paintbrushes. Anything can happen as you use the wicks to draw paint on paper. Fun alternative: roll the candles across the paper!
4. Go on a “light hunt.” Walk around your house or your neighborhood and see how many different sources of light your child can find. After all, this is the season to celebrate light!
5. Explore with flashlights. What do the trees look like at night? What happens when you turn off the lights and shine all of the flashlights on the ceiling?
6. Have a flashlight freeze-dance party. Put on your favorite holiday music and dance with your flashlights. When someone pauses the music, freeze and shine the light on different spots: the ceiling, the floor, your feet, the doors, the windows…
7. Have a Zoom playdate with family or friends and write a story together about light. Everyone says one line of the story and then you can all draw illustrations for the story and share them.
8. Create giant dreidel and menorah shapes on the floor with different building materials. Can you make a dreidel out of Lincoln logs? What about chopsticks, yarn pieces and markers? See how many different dreidels you can make! Try the same thing with menorahs. You can even do this on Zoom with a friend or family member.
9. Experiment with oil. What happens when you mix oil with water in a clear container? What happens when you add in food coloring?
10. Make your own Hanukkah wrapping paper. Take a large piece of paper or newsprint or tissue paper. Put a small amount of paint on a paper plate. Dip Hanukkah-themed cookie cutters lightly in the paint and then press them on your paper. This works really well with a scant amount of paint and pressing the cookie cutters down many times.
Header image by Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School