9 Jewish Activities to Try When You’re at Home with Kids

March 16, 2020Kate Bigam Kaput

Spending more time than usual at home these days? Even as you try to talk to your children about bad things happening in the world, it’s important to find ways to pass the time in ways that keep kids entertained, engaged, and educated.

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite Jewishly inspired crafts, recipes, activities, videos, and other ideas to keep you and your family occupied during days spent at home – all while learning about and embracing Judaism together. (Psst: Home for Shabbat? Check out "How to Create a Meaningful Shabbat Experience at Home."

1. Make items for your Shabbat table.

Why not take on a Shabbat-related craft or two? Kids will be so proud to see their own creations – like these challah covers – occupy a place of honor on next week’s Shabbat table!

Create a festive ambiance with decorative glass candleholders, or create “illuminating” Shabbat candleholders, which come with prompts for discussing gratitude, reflection, and ritual. If you have or can order the necessary materials, you can even create beeswax candles to go in them.

2. Have an at-home dance party to Jewish music.

In Reform Jewish tradition, music is not only an element of worship and holiday observance, but also a way to bring Jewish values and concepts to life in a visceral way We sing songs after a good meal, in services at synagogue, with friends at Jewish summer camp, and in classrooms at religious school.

Check out “Songs for an Enjoyable Shabbat with Your Family,” a playlist of some of the Shabbat songs popular at camps, schools, and early childhood centers – but it doesn’t have to be Shabbat for you to give it a listen! Check out all of our “Family Favorites” playlists on our Spotify channel.

3. Bring home a bit of Jewish summer camp.

Thinking fondly about time spent outdoors with friends while you are practicing ‘social distancing’? Pay homage to Jewish summer camp with activities that come directly from Reform Jewish summer camps!

Use this time to make your favorite camp food or, with close adult supervision, try three fun science experiments from URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. If you’re willing to get a little messy, you can even learn how to master the art of tie-dye with this how-to from URJ Crane Lake Camp.

4. Learn about (and celebrate!) Israel.

There’s no time like the present to start teaching kids about Israel, from its rich culture to its diverse communities to its strong ties to Jewish traditions and holidays.

Watch videos from Shalom Sesame to learn about Israel’s past and present, then extend the videos’ lessons with discussion ideas and activities from Jewish educators. Need some extra help guidance? Read up on these four principles for teaching kids about Israel from Rabbi Eric Yoffie.  

After the lesson, celebrate your love of the Jewish State by making simple paper flags to display in your windows at home.

5. Go on a field trip without ever leaving home.

Many popular museums, historical sites, and other typical tourist hotspots offer virtual experiences that you can access online. You can “visit” the San Diego Zoo, the Louvre, and Yellowstone National Park right from your couch!

The Facebook group “Virtual Israel” offers remote experiences with accredited Israeli tour guides who can guide take you to an Israeli national park, walk you through the streets of Israel, or do a learning session on Israel – all from afar.

6. Establish everyday Jewish rituals.

Ritual turns the everyday into the sacred. Why not use this time together to create rituals that will make each day more spiritually fulfilling, more meaningful, and more Jewishly connected – for both you and your children?

Check out these suggestions for establishing morning rituals with kids, or focus on Jewishly inspired bedtime routines, like saying the Sh’maSh'maשֵׁמַע Jewish affirmation of belief in one God. Lit. "Hear/Listen/Understand." The affirmation of God's unity is found in Deuteronomy 6:4.  and Modeh Ani, by creating "prayer tents" to serve as a simple visual reminder next to your child’s bed.

6. Get cookin’.

Jewish cooking expert Tina Wasserman writes, “Cooking with a young child creates lasting memories for both of you, and opens the door to conversations that will reverberate for years.” (Read more in “Connecting Kids with Their Jewish Culinary History.”)

Choose a favorite family recipe to make together, or browse our many Jewish recipes to find something new; you may want to start with "21 Jewish Recipes That Use Ingredients You Have at Home."  You can also try your hand at baking challah together. Kids will love braiding the strands!

7. Talk about Jewish values… with the help of cute cartoons.

Turn to adorably animated videos from the web series Shaboom! to teach little ones about Jewish values in a kid-friendly age-appropriate way – using magic, comedy, and silly songs! Each video comes with discussion guides to help you extend the lesson.

For example, teach kids about shalom bayit, or peace in the home (especially after a few days spent inside together!) or about hakarat hatov, being grateful for what they have, even (and perhaps especially) when things feel difficult.

8. Connect with people you love.

Social distancing shouldn’t lead to isolation.

Connect with loved ones by scheduling a FaceTime call or a Google Hangout. Grandparents can even favorite books to their grandchildren from afar (especially those PJ Library books they might have received) if both they and your child have the same book on hand.

Make a card or an art project and drop it in the mail. Use sidewalk chalk to create a beautiful message for your neighbors or friends. Do something new together – and maybe say a special prayer of gratitude.

9. Crafts, crafts, and more crafts.

Look, we get it: While spending a lot of time together at home, it’s understandable for families to get a bit of cabin fever. If you’re just looking for ways to entertain your kids, check out crafts designed for far-off Jewish holidays. They’re fun any time of year!

For example, Tu BiShvat has passed, but you can still make recycled paper, and it doesn’t have to be Rosh HaShanah to have fun with apple printing. Engage your children in building a Jewish scene with Lego. This pressed flower platter for Shavuot is pretty all year long, and these decorative paper lanterns can hang in your kids’ bedrooms instead of in your sukkahsukkahסֻכָּה"Booth" or "hut;" temporary structure associated with the agricultural festival of Sukkot; plural: sukkot. .

For more suggestions for staying busy and having fun, check out these resources from our friends at PJ Library

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