Hanukkah Feast

Hanukkah is one of the most significant periods in the Jewish calendar, celebrated by millions worldwide. Also known as the Festival of Lights, it is observed by lighting one candle on the menorah candelabrum each day.

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Hanukkah is celebrated in November or December in the western calendar. The holiday begins on ninth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar, and is celebrated for eight days.

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Observing the Jewish peoples’ struggle for religious freedom, the word Hanukkah means “rededication”. The festival marks the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century BC, when the Israelites, led by the Maccabees, gained victory over the Greek-Syrian oppressors. Hanukkah is celebrated in a number of ways, from the traditional lighting of the menorah to special foods and games.

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As Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as sufganiyot – jam-filled doughnuts. Traditional foods include potato pancakes, known as latkes in Yiddish, particularly among Ashkenazi families. According to rabbinic literature, there is also a tradition of eating dairy products, such as cheese, during Hanukkah.

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For this activity, we talked about these different fried foods. We then created a number of them out of play dough, and pretended to cook and serve them to our friends!

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Cooking and dramatic play activities are not only a fun, engaging activity for children, but one that can be used as an important teaching and development tool.

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For instance, the act of following a recipe or creating a dish can encourage self-direction and independence, while also teaching children to follow directions and use thinking skills to problem solve.

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Also, when children come together in a dramatic play experience, they are learning many things! They not only negotiate roles, but cooperate and listen to one another to bring their ideas to life. And by recreating some of the experiences they actually face, they learn how to integrate new material with previous learned information.

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Fine Motor Menorahs

Fine motor skills encompass a variety of tasks that color all aspects of our lives. For little ones, these skills enable them to thrive in their daily environments.
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These skills are not only the precursors to writing, but include a variety of tasks, including manipulating objects, operating scissors, opening and closing lids, turning pages, and completing puzzles.
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Because we have been talking about the menorah, your little one participated in an activity that honed in on these skills. Using tweezers and pom poms, students created their very own menorahs!
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Play Dough Menorahs

Using play dough (or in fact any type of dough) with young children is beneficial in so many ways.

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The malleable properties of play dough make it fun for investigation and exploration as well as building up strength in all the tiny hand muscles and tendons,  making young writers ready for pencil and scissor control later on.

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For this activity, we used play dough and menorah play dough mats to teach your little ones about the menorah.

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Using their hands, they practiced rolling their play dough into candles to put onto their menorahs! When finished, students counted how many candles they had.

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Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel!

The dreidel, known in Hebrew as a sevivon, dates back to the time of the Greek-Syrian rule over the Holy Land—which set off the Maccabean revolt that culminated in the Hanukkah miracle.

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Learning Torah was outlawed by the enemy, a “crime” punishable by death. The Jewish children resorted to hiding in caves in order to study.

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If a Greek patrol would approach, the children would pull out their tops and pretend to be playing a game. By playing dreidel during Chanukah we are reminded of the courage of those brave children.

Tracing the Dreidel

The tactile experience (touching the letter with your finger) is important for building a memory trace. This enables students to acquaint the name of each letter with a visual representation for the letter sound.  For a child who is struggling with their letters, the sooner they can integrate the sound of the letter with what it looks like, the sooner their writing contains more meaning for them.

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For this activity, we talked about the letter D. We discussed words that begin with this letter; words like dinosaur, dirt, dreidel, and dog that we pronounced and then broke up into their component parts. Using our fingers, we moved to the ground, where we carved (with some help from Miss Carrie) letter Ds into the dirt, and then traced them with our pointer fingers.

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Tactile Letter Puzzles

Tactile letter activities are an amazing way to help kids explore the alphabet. Tactile means connecting with the sense of touch, so these activities are designed for kids to explore the alphabet using their fingers. When they trace the letters, they are learning the strokes and shape of the letter to prepare them for writing in the future.

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For this activity, we used pieces of foam to construct the letter D. All of the alphabet letters include either straight lines, diagonal lines, and/or big and little curves and this experience helped students perceive how these components fused together to create a larger picture. Before preschoolers begin to read or spell, they must learn the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they represent. Learning to pair letters and sounds helps prepare preschool children for later reading.

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The Festival of Lights – The Visual Perceptual Menorah

Research has shown that young children learn best through active, hands-on experiences.

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In other words, children learn by doing. Play provides the foundation for academic learning.

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To incorporate the menorah into our Hanukkah theme, we placed candles into real menorahs!

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This activity accessed several developmental areas.

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Each candle was color-coded to match a corresponding cavity on the menorah.

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By discerning between an array of different colors, students exercised their matching and visual perceptual skills.

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This experience also encouraged your little ones to investigate, discover, and learn new ideas related to a culture different from their own. By collaborating with their classmates, they also fostered their decision-making skills, supporting their emerging social-emotional development, as they best problem-solved how to share supplies to meet a common goal.