Teaching Preschoolers about Hanukkah
What is Hanukkah?
In 165 B.C.E., the Jewish Maccabees managed to drive the Syrian army out of Jerusalem and reclaimed their temple.
In order to rededicate the Temple, the Jews decided to relight the “eternal flame” but because of the war, they had just enough oil to burn for 1 day.
Miraculously, the flame lasted for 8 days. That is why today, Jewish families light candles or burn oil in a Menorah for the 8 days of Hanukkah, lighting 1 candle a day with the 9th candle in the center.
The Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month of Kislev.
The Jewish calendar is a “Lunar Calendar” which follows the cycles of moon.
Most of the time, this day falls in December but not always on the same date. Depending on the calendar cycle, Hanukkah may start in late November and into December or late December into the beginning of the New Year.
During the Hanukkah holiday, children play a game of chance with a dreidel and tokens, which is a spinning toy.
The dreidel has 4 sides with each side marked with a Hebrew letter, “shin”, “hay”, “gimel” and “nun”. These letters represent the first 4 letters of the Hebrew words: A Great Miracle Happened Hear.
As oil is such an important part of this holiday, Jewish families eat foods that are fried in oil. One of these foods is “potato latkes”.
In the past, Jewish families would give gold coins as gifts to children. Today, often the coins are made of chocolate! A gift is given on each of the 8 days of the Hanukkah.
Make your own dreidel
To make your own dreidel, you will need a dreidel pattern, lightweight cardboard, scissors, glue and a sharpened pencil about three inches long and playing chips.
The chips can be anything small, like nuts, raisins, or pennies. Or chocolate coins! First, find the dreidel pattern and print out.
Glue the pattern to lightweight cardboard and cut it out. Carefully cut out a hole at the top and bottom of the dreidel. Fold the pattern into a box shape and glue the flaps in place on the inside of the dreidel.
Let the glue dry. Push the pencil through the holes so that the point comes through the bottom, and secure it with glue, if necessary. Now you’re ready to play the dreidel game throughout the holiday season with your group.
Make your own Dreidel
The Hanukkah Dreidel Game
Here below you will find easy instruction on how to play the Dreidel game. Things you’ll need:
Tokens (You can use the chocolate gold coins known as "gelt", or poker chips or small candies like M&Ms or raisins.)
How to play:
Give each child the same amount of tokens.
Have each child place 1 token in the center of the floor. This is the pot.
Have one of the children start be spinning the dreidel.
If the dreidel lands on "Gimel" the player takes all the tokens from the pot.
If the dreidel lands on "Hay" the player takes half the tokens from the pot.
If the dreidel lands on "Nun" the player gets nothing.
If the dreidel lands on "Shin" the player puts one token in the pot.
Now everyone puts one token in the pot again and the next player takes a turn spinning the dreidel.
Play continues for a set number of rounds or until one player is out of tokens. The one with the most tokens at the end of the game wins!
Dreidel Hebrew Letters and their Meaning
Have the children sing the Dreidel song!
It's such a so catchy song, kids will have this song playing in their heads all day long!
The Dreidel Song
I have a little dreidel
I made it out of clay
And when it’s dry and ready
Dreidel I will play
Oh Dreidel dreidel dreidel
I made it out of clay
When it’s dry and ready
Dreidel I will play.
Happy Hanukkah to all!
Hanukka Coloring Pages
Build your own Dreidal
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