Learning about traditions, both those your students celebrate and ones they don’t is so important at this age. When children learn that the way they experience the world is not universal, they become more accepting of the incredible diversity around them, in their classrooms, and the world beyond our walls. I rarely invite guest writers to share on No Time For Flash Cards, but I welcomed the opportunity when Joanna contacted me to offer resources for teaching preschoolers about Hanukkah. Whether your students all celebrate Hanukkah, if they are learning about it for the first time, or somewhere in between, Joanna’s books and simple Hanukkah activities for preschool are a great fit.
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Hanukkah Books & Activities For Young Children
December is a great month to expose children to different holidays such as Hanukkah, which is also spelled Chanukah. No matter the composition of the group of children you are working with, it is important to teach kiddos about their friends and neighbors. Here are my Hanukkah favorites:
Hanukkah Books & Activities
My favorite book to use with young preschool-aged children to teach about Hanukkah is It’s Chanukah! by Ellie Gellman. While this book is from the 1980s, some books never go out of style! This book reviews recommended activities during Hanukkah. Children love spinning dreidels, as seen in the illustrations! You can purchase dreidels at stores like Party City. Another thing to highlight while reading is the menorah. Count the candles in the picture and talk about how Hanukkah is an eight-day holiday. Explain that there are nine candles because the one in the center is the helper candle, or the Shamash, which is used to light the other candles.
Extend the discussion by making a menorah out of popsicle sticks for a craft! Simply glue the popsicle sticks to a piece of construction paper. Make the flames by using balled-up pieces of tissue paper or simply drawing them with a marker!
For early elementary-aged kiddos, I recommend this book by Caryn Yacowitz. Jewish and non-Jewish students will connect to this book, which follows the classic I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. You can even compare and contrast the two books and other books from the series! This book not only educates about Hanukkah but enables children to practice skills like sequencing events. While reading, make sure to highlight words that may be unfamiliar to some children, such as gelt (which are chocolate coins).
Hanukkah Music for Preschool
Shira Kline is a great artist to incorporate into your Jewish celebrations! For Passover, I played “Lotsa, Lotsa Matza” for a Zoom lesson, and the children loved singing and dancing along! “Lots of Latkes” is sure to get everyone moving for Hanukkah.
If you are able to, share latkes (potato pancakes) with your students! You can easily find a box of Manischewitz potato pancake mix at your nearest grocery store.
About the Author
Joanna Loewenstein, M.Ed., is an educator with experience working in preschools, tutoring centers, and public libraries. Growing up in an interfaith home, she has always had an interest in different religions and cultures. Her favorite course in her college career was Cultural Pluralism in Children’s and Adolescent Literature at the Pennsylvania State University. She believes that there is nothing a good picture book can’t solve.