High Holilday Hobbies
Find new ways to engage your children this Rosh Hashanah
Elisheva Givre has three children, two of them under the age of 6. As the High Holidays approach each year, Givre asks herself how she can keep her children in the spirit of the holiday without relying solely on paper shofrot and baby-food-jar honey pots.
A former preschool teacher, Givre said she prefers learning to be visual, hands-on and full of involvement. “Telling them,” about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, she says, does not work.
So Givre involves the children in all of the holiday preparations. Dovie, 5, and Rozie, 3, help set the yom tov table, sprinkle seasoning on the chicken and shape the round challot. They also help pick the foods that go into the meal — literally.
“We go to farms and pick out honey,” said Givre, who blogs about her parenting ideas at myshtub.blogspot.com.
This year, the family went to the Howard County State Fair, where there was a beehive and the children could witness firsthand how honey is made. They learned about the different flowers and the flavors of honey they produce. They tasted it to see what they liked best. Then, they purchased three or four kinds to take home for Rosh Hashanah.
“We are Lubavitch,” says Givre, “and we like the idea that Judaism should be a part of everything you say and do. You can learn about bees and honey and that can lead into a discussion about yom tov. … By bringing the secular and Jewish worlds together, we show it’s all one world — God’s world.”
The family also goes apple picking, usually at Larriland Farm Inc.
“That really brings it home. They say, ‘I picked these apples and now I am putting them on the yom tov table,’” Givre explains.
Shoshana Shamberg offered her now-grown children a similar experience. Her husband, Aaron, is an organic landscaper. The couple has always had a large garden and planted much of their own food. The children, therefore, had exposure to gardening and preparing foods from ground to table, which made eating all the more meaningful — especially on the holidays.
“All my kids love to cook and everyone participated in the cooking. Some of the children really like healthier dishes and some really like traditional Jewish foods, so they all had the ability to put into the menu what they loved,” she says.
Another important learning component for her children came not from something she provided, but from what visitors brought. She says her family regularly welcome guests on the holidays.
“We always had guests,” she said. “I liked my kids learning how different people manifest their observance and connection to their observance, the Jewish people and Israel.”
But Shamberg does not discount the idea of using crafts. She said for her family, the craft projects were good conversation starters. She often pulled out her “Fine Motor Game Kit,” something she created with a colleague; Shamberg is a licensed occupational therapist. The kit, still available through her website, aotss.com, offers simple activities that can be adaptive, repetitive and support developmental skills while having fun and teaching about the holidays.
Shamberg also recommended keeping a notebook of the best holiday crafts ideas and adding to it each year, as the children make projects in school or you find something online. This saves time, she said, and now, as a grandmother, she is using it with the grandchildren.
Givre, too, says her children still crave some of the basic holiday crafts. A favorite in her house is apple printing. Of course, Givre takes the process an extra step — and prints not only on paper, but on T-shirts and other fabrics. This year, the children are making an apple table runner and apple cloth napkins.
“The children will wear the shirts to school to keep them in the spirit while they are learning about Rosh Hashanah,” said Givre.
“I think everything can be tied together. The main thing is not to dwell on the negative. This does not have to be what Rosh Hashanah is about,” she said. “The kids can be very involved and it can be a very hands-on time for children. Judaism, in general, is very hands-on.”
How to make your own apple prints:
Apples, cut in half
1. Mix the acrylic and textile paints together, as per package directions
2. Using a paint brush, paint the open-faced side of the apple with paint, ensuring you covering the entire surface
3. Press the apple onto a cotton or other fabric that can absorb moisture; press firmly
Apple-printed clothing and other accessories should be washed separately and inside out so as not to bleed or fade.