There’s something truly magical about Hanukkah. As a Jewish educator, I look forward to my hallways being filled with song and laughter, as well as delicious smells. My pre-K classroom follows a Reggio Amelia approach to learning. This means the students act as constructivist learners and the teachers as guides, providing the students with opportunities to explore their interests. When I teach the Jewish holidays, I strive to make the experience meaningful for my class. I have found my students are much more likely to learn if they have a genuine interest in the subject. Here are some great ways to have a fun Hanukkah that’s meaningful to both you and your child.

Make it relatable

(Photo: Shaney Wacks)
(Photo: Shaney Wacks)

LEGOs and Hanukkah? You bet! Last year my classroom was absolutely obsessed with LEGO Ninjago. Rather than discourage their interest, I did some research and found some amazing connections with, you guessed it, Hanukkah. The Ninjago ninjas are a small group that is often pitted against a large army. The red ninja possesses the power of fire and they all ride dragons. My students helped create a five-foot-long dragon that hung from the ceiling, whose fire breath lit our floating menorah candles.

Experiment with light and oil

(Photo: Shaney Wacks)

Why was it that the oil burned for eight days? Explore the miracle of lights with science! There are so many experiments you can do with things found around the house. What happens if you mix oil and water? What about if you light a match—does the flame cast a shadow? Shine flashlights on old CDs or Magnatiles and watch the colors on the wall. Or go all out with black lights, white T-shirts and highlighters!

Make it a sensory experience

(Photo: Shaney Wacks)
(Photo: Shaney Wacks)

For little ones, Hanukkah can be learned through the senses. Fill a sensory bin with dreidels and sparkles, water beads and tea-light candles, or even Hanukkah candles.

Explore taste and smell through cooking. There’s no rule latkes need to be made with potatoes. Take a trip to the grocery store and see what you can fry up. This year we made delicious latkes with quinoa. Or let your child peel and chop apples for homemade applesauce.

Give back

(Photo: Shaney Wacks)

Introduce the idea of tzedakah. Work together to create a tzedakah box and fill it with spare change. Involve them in choosing a charity that’s meaningful to them. Now is a great time to go through their old toys and let them pick some to donate, or let them pick out a new toy to gift. Volunteer at your local animal shelter.

Get crafty

(Photo: Shaney Wacks)

Got a bunch of broken crayons around the house? Turn them into candles. Ask your child to peel the crayons and put them into lined muffin tins. Add a wick and melt them down into new candles.

Paint with oil and watercolors, oil pastels and watercolors, or oil pastels and baby oil.

Make hanukkiahs with recycled materials (make sure they’re not flammable). All you need are nuts, tiles and glue for a gorgeous hanukkiah, but get creative!

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