Your child is a born learner. In fact, all children come into the world looking, listening and absorbing. Did you know that a child’s brain develops as much in the first five years of life as it does in the next 90? Astounding, but true! That’s why it’s important to nurture and nourish those little heads with all the good things in life.
As Jewish parents and grandparents, we know that learning goes beyond words and numbers. Jewish parenting means instilling in children joy and love for the rich world of Jewish tradition that we share. The best way to inspire this appreciation is by creating memories together. So how can we make Jewish memories that will last a lifetime?
Babies arrive with the best learning tools ever created: their senses. Through sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, the world inspires and delights. Children who grow up in a world that is beautiful to look at, smell and hear respond naturally to that world with enthusiasm and delight.
It is well known that people have individual learning styles, and those styles favor different senses to interpret the world. Parents and teachers know that employing all of the senses is the best way to reach all children and to make memories that stick. Here are five great ways to create your own memories:
SIGHT: Light Shabbat candles with your child. The flickering beauty of candles on the table is exciting to little eyes. My 3-year-old grandson (seen cooking with me in the photo at right) covers his eyes just like Mommy (and peeks to make sure that hers are covered too!).
Easy Shabbat Candles
All you need are two ingredients, both available at the craft store: beeswax sheets and a wick. Cut the beeswax sheet into a rectangle. Cut a wick about an inch longer than the length of the sheet. Place the wick along one edge and roll the beeswax tightly around the wick and continue until you reach the other end.
SOUND: Sing with your baby. Whether it’s “Shabbat Shalom” or “Sh’ma” at bedtime, music is as stimulating as it is comforting. Songs, and those with whom we sing them, touch our souls and remain in our hearts forever. Here are several options that both kids and parents will enjoy.
TASTE: Cook, bake and prepare. Even the youngest child can add fruit filling to hamantaschen and knead challah dough. Make baking special by wearing matching aprons, and don’t forget to laugh while you cook!
Bubbie’s Favorite Hamantaschen
1/2 cup water
1 cup oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 cups flour (or slightly more)
Filling: Prune jam or fruit pie filling of your choice: cherry, apricot, lemon, poppy seed, etc.
Combine ingredients in the order listed to make soft dough. Let stand 15 minutes. Divide into four parts. Roll to ¼-inch thickness on floured board. Cut into 4-inch circles. Place spoonful of filling in center of each circle. At three points around circle, pull in toward center to form triangular pocket. Add filling. Brush at top with beaten yolk. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
SMELL: It is said that our olfactory sense (our sense of smell) is the key to our longest-held memories. Aromas of chicken soup and brisket roasting in the oven evoke the warm anticipation of family gathering for a holiday meal. Find more tasty recipes here.
TOUCH: Touch is not just about the feel of objects but also about the feeling created by snuggling with parents and a great book. Touch can communicate our love for our child beyond words. (Of course, the feeling of sticky paste and messy hands is just pure joy!)
Shabbat Kiddush Cup Coaster
You’ll need one plain drink coaster (various options are available at the craft store, including wood, cardboard and porcelain), glass beads, stickers, charms and anything else you have lying around. Invite your child to glue trinkets and paint designs on the coaster to create a new treasure for your Shabbat table.
Children will delight in the Jewish memories that you create together. Make them joyful. Make them beautiful. Make them stick!
Connie G. Krupin is the author and illustrator of “A Time to Be Born: A Jewish Baby Journal,” the new baby book for Jewish families. Inspired by a love of Jewish tradition, Connie believes every child deserves to know what he or she has inherited, and every parent deserves the tools to teach their kids.