For kids, summer is about fun and adventure. For parents though, as the weeks seem to go on and on, summer is the time to wrack our brains for ways to engage our kids in creative and meaningful ways. Below are 20 everyday ways to have fun with your kids while exploring Jewish traditions and values.
1 Bake challah together, adding kid-friendly elements like chocolate chips, sprinkles or cinnamon sugar.
2 Draw an Israeli Chutes & Ladders game board: start with a map of Israel, add chutes and ladders and explore Israel.
3 Finger-paint Israeli flags with handprints. Use a piece of construction paper and dip children’s hands in blue and white paint.
4 Make a word search using traditional Jewish words: for instance, mitzvah, falafel, Jerusalem, soldiers, simcha, candles, challah, shofar, tikkun olam and so many more!
5 Take a virtual trip to Israel. Find an Israeli map and select seven cities. Visit one a night for a week. Look up each city, searching for photos and information about its history, traditions and industry. What are the cities known for? Which famous people come from each city?
6 Celebrate animals while doing a mitzvah project. “Bake“ dog biscuits and share with a local humane society. Mix together 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon beef or chicken bouillon granules and a half cup of hot water. Shape into biscuits and allow to dry.
7 Take your grocery list and check out which foods are kosher and not. Use the symbols as a game.
8 Create a Havdalah kit by collecting a spice bag, candles for braiding and a wine goblet. For the spice bag, fill a piece of fabric with cloves and other spices, and tie it up with ribbon. Crafts stores regularly carry beeswax to braid candles and you can pick up plastic goblets to decorate at the same store.
9 Celebrate Havdalah at the beach with a picnic dinner and your Havdalah kit.
10 Have a scavenger hunt looking for 613 leaves, rocks and shells. Over the course of several weeks at the beach, one family collected 613 pieces of trash. Jewish tradition understands there are 613 mitzvot (plural of mitzvah) in the Torah.
11 Work with your kids on learning and using one Hebrew word a week; for instance beach is “chof,“ food is “ochel“ and “ma nishma“ means “What’s up?“
12 Have your child(ren) be part of a centuries-old tradition of writing letters or wishes to G-d to place in the Western Wall or Kotel. Drop off the wishes and letters at the JCC, and they’ll be taken to the wall on the next JCC Israeli trip.
13 Create a scavenger hunt at the local “shuk,“ which is a market. Have your children look for foods from Israel or foods that are part of your family’s Jewish traditions.
14 Talk about kosher laws at the grocery store. Have your kids identify the various kosher symbols on the packaging.
15 Re-enact your favorite Jewish traditions from your childhood.
16 For another mitzvah project, collect books and share them with Think Together, a local nonprofit that provides books to kids throughout Orange County.
17 Interview your Bubbe or Zayde, asking them their favorite Jewish memory.
18 Do a science experiment with salt and water and then talk about the Dead Sea and how salt affects its environments. For example, experiment how salt affects freezing. Fill two identical containers halfway with warm water. To one container, slowly add salt while stirring. Keep adding salt until no more dissolves. You may have to use as much as one-third cup of salt. Put both containers into the freezer and check them every two or three hours. Any differences between the two must be caused by the salt.
19 Read them a vintage Superman Comic… did you know the author is Jewish?
20 Enjoy your children, the greatest of all Jewish traditions. ✿
Audra Martin is the Director of Children
and Camp Director at the Merage JCC.