Hanukkah is an eight-night holiday celebrated by people of Jewish faith and heritage. This year, the first night of Hanukkah is December 7th! Because of the holiday’s proximity to Christmas and its common theme of gift-giving, it is a holiday that many non-Jewish people are familiar with; however, it is not a major religious holiday.
Hanukkah activities are an excellent way to teach children about another culture because it is a familiar holiday. Additionally, because Hanukkah is not deeply religious, it’s a great story to teach children about community and culture without diving too far into religious elements.
I spent four years teaching at a Jewish preschool outside Chicago, and I loved my time there because I learned so much about the culture and various Jewish holidays. My young children attended preschool, exposing them to a culture outside their own. Much like many non-Christians celebrate the secular side of Christmas, we can use holidays from other cultures to expand children’s knowledge of their world community!
No matter your religion or lack of religious beliefs, we have fun Hanukkah activities with children this holiday season!
1. Sensory Menorah
Sensory experiences are wonderful opportunities for toddlers and preschoolers to engage in a culture. This adorable interactive felt menorah from Aviva Brown on Instagram is fun and educational! You can easily make a felt menorah and candles by cutting up felt pieces. Or check out Amazon’s wide selection of toy menorahs for kids.
Playing with a menorah reinforces number concepts of counting from 1 to 8, one-on-one correspondence with objects, and if you use different colored candles, you can create patterns. To learn more about why and how a menorah is used during Hanukka, visit Chabad.org
2. Dreidel Game
Teach your child how to play the dreidel game! Driedel’s are available at almost every major retailer during the Hanukkah season and are fun to spin! Spinning a dreidel develops fine motor control. And playing a game helps your child work on patience, turn-taking, and the disappointment of losing sometimes.
To play, you’ll need at least one dreidel and pennies or gelt. Gelt is Yiddish for Hanukkah money. Kids will probably enjoy playing with chocolate gelt, which is also easy to find in stores this time of year!
3. Hanukkah Songs
Christmas music may have the corner market on December songs, but there are some fun and new Hanukkah songs artists have released over the last decade or two. And like all cultures and religions, music is central to many Jewish traditions and holidays.
Here are some recommended Hanukkah songs to play for your kids that are fun to dance to!
- Candlelight by Maccabeats
- Chanukah (Shake It Off) by Six13
- The Dreidel Song – Traditional
- Applesauce vs. Sourcream by the LeeVees
- Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah – Traditional performed by the Glee Cast
- Bohemian Chanukah by Six13
4. Edible Menorah
Cooking projects are always a hit with kids, especially when they use sweets! There are many ways to make edible menorahs; my favorite uses marshmallows and pretzel sticks, like the example below from Blog Appetit. But you can use cupcakes, candy, donuts, fruits, and veggies.
As long as you can create the shape of the menorah and have something long and thin to represent the candles, you can make a fun, edible craft with your child!
5. Hanukkah Playdough
Playdough is always a great idea for kids! To make your playdough Hanukkah-themed, use your favorite homemade recipe and divide it in half. Make one-half yellow and one-half blue. Give them cake candles, dreidels, plastic gelt, and other Hanukkah-themed toys to use with the playdough.
The photo above is a Hanukkah-themed sensory tray for toddlers and preschoolers found on Etsy, but unfortunately, it is no longer available. However, sensory trays are simple to put together and usually only require a trip to the craft or dollar store!
6. Bake Jelly Donuts
Most people are familiar with latkes, the traditional potato pancake fried in oil; fried foods are big at Hanuakkh because of the oil theme. Another tasty treat is a jelly donut called sufganiyot. Why not try your hand at making homemade donuts this Hanukkah season?
My Jewish Learning has an easy and delicious recipe to try with your kids! They even recommend multiple fillings like Nutella and vanilla pudding – yum! This delicious Hanukka activity is sure to make everyone happy!
7. Give to Those in Need
Giving to those in need isn’t specifically a Hanukkah activity. Still, it is a popular theme around the winter holidays, and it’s always a good idea to teach your kids about sharing and giving. You can donate toys and clothing or find Jewish organizations online to donate to.
Helping someone in need doesn’t need to be Hanukkah or Jewish-themed, but donating to a Jewish or Israeli cause is an excellent way to teach your child about another culture.
8. Make Hanukkah Candles
This DIY Beeswax Candle kit from Rite Lite is a fun and unique Hanukkah activity. If you don’t celebrate Hanukkah, you can save the candles for birthdays or other celebrations.
This beeswax candle craft develops fine motor skills and color recognition and is an excellent sensory experience!
All eight of these Hanukkah activities are engaging and will teach your children about Hanukkah or help them celebrate this festive Jewish holiday! Looking for more ways to teach your child about Hanukkah? Check out these recommended books:
- The Night Before Hanukkah
- Hanukkah Bear
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s 8 Nights of Chanukah
- Meet the Latkes
- Eight Nights of Lights: A Celebration of Hanukkah
December 1, 2023, by L. Elizabeth Forry