10 ways to celebrate Hanukkah with kids
Eight nights of family-friendly fun
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Hanukkah may be a relatively minor holiday in the grand scheme of Judaism, but it's also one of the most widely known. A celebration of the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem—and the miracle of one day's worth of oil lasting for eight—Hanukkah falls in late November or December, depending on the year. This year, Hanukkah starts right after Thanksgiving (on Nov. 28), so if you want to celebrate the festival of lights in style, it's a good idea to plan ahead.
Whether you're a new parent who is just embarking on celebrating with your little one, or you're a seasoned one who needs some fresh ideas, we've come up with a variety of ways to light up your festival of lights. Here are 10 ways to celebrate Hanukkah with kids.
1. Read a Hanukkah book
There's nothing like a good, age-appropriate book to get kids excited about a holiday. Jewish families can sign their children up for a free monthly Jewish-themed book subscription through PJ Library. Over the years we've received a number of books that have become family favorites, including Hanukkah is Coming!, Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas, and The Ninth Night of Hanukkah.
- Get Hanukkah is Coming! at Amazon for $5.99
- Get Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas at Amazon for $16.48
- Get The Ninth Night of Hanukkah at Amazon for $12.39
2. Get a flame-free menorah
You can't celebrate Hanukkah without a menorah, but actual fire combined with small kids is a recipe for injury. Get little ones their own wooden menorah that they can safely "light" every night, and keep the adult menorah out of the reach of small fingers. My kids loved putting the wooden candles in the candle holders, and would help sing the prayers when they lit the wooden flames.
3. Make some latkes and sufganiyot
One of the best parts of Hanukkah is getting to enjoy eight nights of fried foods (pro tip: invest in a good deep fryer to minimize mess). The most traditional Hanukkah food is latkes, or potato pancakes, and we like to top ours with sour cream and a dollop of caviar for the adults. Sufganiyot are the jelly donuts that are traditional in Israel. While it's certainly not wise to have young kids help with frying these delicious seasonal treats, they're certainly capable of helping prepare them.
If your kids are old enough to read independently and know their way around a kitchen—like mine are—they'll love the The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen cookbook. It has a plethora of easy and delicious recipes, plus stories from the author's childhood as well as step-by-step illustrations.
4. Get Hanukkah in a box
If you're looking to simplify your life and order a box full of everything your kids need to celebrate Hanukkah, Days United has you covered. Order their Hanukkah box—or opt for a Jewish holidays subscription instead—and your kid will receive a box full of hands-on activities to celebrate the festival of lights. This year's box includes a paintable menorah and a make-your-own dreidel craft, among other goodies. My kids always enjoy the activities that come in the boxes, and I like that they change them up every year so you don't end up with duplicates.
5. Make your own Hanukkah candles
This is an easy craft that kids of all ages will enjoy making—plus you'll use the candles for the eight nights! We've been making these beeswax candles for the last five years, and it's a quick activity that yields plenty of (slightly wonky) candles.
6. Play a Hanukkah game
We're big fans of playing dreidel at our house because it's family-friendly gambling and a Hebrew lesson in one. Traditionally, chocolate coins, or gelt, are used as capital, but you can use pennies or poker chips instead. In our house, we have a rule that whoever takes the pot has to put a portion of their winnings into the Tzedakah box to give to charity.
If your kids are too young to play dreidel, opt for Hanukkah bingo instead. It's cute, colorful, and lots of fun for pre-readers and grandparents alike.
7. Invest in matching pajamas
Until recently, Jewish families who wanted to participate in the matching holiday pajama trend didn't have a lot of options. Thankfully, there are now a lot more Hanukkah-themed options available. We are obsessed with our Little Sleepies matching Hanukkah pajamas. Not only are they incredibly soft and comfy, but the "dancing dreidels" design is adorable, too.
8. Mensch on a Bench
Don't want to miss out on all of the Elf on the Shelf fun, but you don't celebrate Christmas? Get Mensch on a Bench! This little felt Mensch watches over the menorah during the eight nights of Hanukkah and makes sure that everyone in the family does a seasonal good deed. Just like the Elf, he gets moved around each night and loves to make kids laugh, so you'll have to come up with some creative ways to bring the holiday joy.
9. Give gifts
While Hanukkah is not "Jewish Christmas," it's still fun to give gifts—especially if you have little kids. Since we also celebrate Christmas (and my kids have too much stuff already), we give one small gift on the first night. If you have older kids who want to get in on the gift giving trend, they can select presents for parents and siblings all on their own with Camp's Present Shop. Parents can pre-load their child's account with a dollar amount and then kids can (safely) shop a curated selection of gifts, which will then be delivered to the recipient. It's easy, fun, and doesn't require a parent having to take their kids to the mall during the holiday rush—a win in my book!
10. Do some good
While it's nice to receive, it's even better to give, and a significant part of Hanukkah is charitable giving. If you've been wanting to participate in volunteer projects, but weren't sure how to find one that's kid friendly, Alltruists is an excellent option. The innovative company enables families to participate in volunteer opportunities right from the comfort of their own home, thanks to their subscription boxes. Centered around a specific theme, each different box partners with an established charity and includes activities to help kids learn, connect, act, and give.
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