8 nights of family-friendly Hanukkah activities
Make your festival of lights fun for everyone
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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 on December 18 and ends on December 25 (Christmas).
Whether you're a new parent who is just embarking on celebrating with your baby, or you're a seasoned parent who needs some fresh ideas, we've come up with a variety of ways to light up your festival of lights. Here are 11 ways to celebrate Hanukkah with kids.
1. Read children's books about Hanukkah
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 Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas and The Ninth Night of Hanukkah.
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2. Get a flame-free children's 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 Hanukkah cookies and food
It wouldn't be a Jewish holiday without a selection of delicious food, and Hanukkah is no exception. In addition to the traditional latkes, or potato pancakes, we enjoy making Hanukkah cookies. A set of Hanukkah cookie cutters is a great addition to your baking cabinet, and kids will have fun rolling out and decorating the festive menorah, dreidel, and Star of David shapes.
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 plaster cast 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 Hanukkah games
One of my favorite things to do during Hanukkah is play dreidel. We're big fans of this Hanukkah game because it's family-friendly gambling and a Hebrew lesson all 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 Hanukkah 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, because they're soft and comfy, as well as festive.
8. Get yourself a 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. For kids who love to build, you can't go wrong with a classic set of LEGOs, which may even inspire them to create one of these Hanukkah-themed builds.
Got a doll lover instead? Gift them with Rebecca Rubin, the American Girl Doll who is Jewish. Your kiddo will love having a doll who celebrates the same holidays they do, especially if you add on a doll-sized menorah and dreidel set.
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.
11. Share your Hanukkah traditions with friends
Get into the spirit of the holiday season by sharing your family's Hanukkah traditions with friends and neighbors. Whether you host a Hanukkah dinner and let your kids teach their friends how to play dreidel, or deliver boxes of Hanukkah cookies to the local fire station, Hanukkah is about spreading joy and celebrating a miracle, and who doesn't need more of that?
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