When I am putting things away from one year and thinking ahead to the future, I save what I think we may use again and photograph and recycle/toss what we cannot use in the future. I admittedly have a hard time parting with artwork my little guy has created and may or may not have WAY too many paper plate turkeys to count for next year, but bit by bit I do downsize--and by moving on with the old, we can make room for the new. In order to also be more environmentally sound and financially responsible in our play and learning endeavors, I also try to make and purchase activities and materials that we can use and grow with. Here are some of our favorite Chanukah things as we set up our playroom for this season:
rainbow rice as our base. Little hands can search for and explore a variety of Chanukah themed objects inside. Little ones love "real" materials, so whenever possible I add actual artifacts to our play and learning activities rather than models or toy versions. I find that contrary to my intuition that such things would be mishandled and broken, even very young children learn through exposure to "special things" and "grown up" materials to treat such objects with gentle care. That said, play and accidents happen, so don't toss in your finest antique menorah or that special set of beeswax Chanukah candles you've been saving for this year. Here's what I did toss in for exploration:
- Chanukah "gelt" (plastic coins that can be inexpensively purchased at a party supply store or Dollar Tree)
- latkes (cut from yellow craft foam)
- toy donuts from our play kitchen
- toy frying pans and spatulas
- 9 Chanukah candles (enough to fill a Chanukah menorah)
- a tin Chanukah menorah
For older children, you can provide a key with objects to search for and hide them ahead of playtime beneath the rice. Add an element of math to the fun by also making this a counting game and hide a certain number of each object.
|For some more fun with math and numbers, here's our 5 Little Latkes set!|
We love counting games and action rhymes. Here's a favorite action rhyme of ours. You can use one hand as a "frying pan" and with your other hand use your fingers for the "latkes." Alternatively you can easily set up this play set using a toy pan and spatula (we found ours at Dollar Tree a few years ago) and handmade latkes. I used yellow craft foam and a brown permanent marker to draw a corresponding number of dots on one side and the appropriate numeral on the back [not pictured].
Five Little Latkes
Five little latkes sizzling in the pan [hold one hand open and place five fingers from your other hand over top]
The pan got hot and one went "BAM!" [clap hands loudly]
Four little latkes... (repeat down to zero)
No more latkes sizzling in the pan
The pan got hot and it went "BAM" [clap hands loudly]
Dreidel games are an integral and traditional part of celebrating Chanukah. Played by the standard rules, the game teaches a variety of skills--counting, recognition of "half," subtraction and addition, as well as the social skills of taking turns and accepting wins and losses. Spinning a dreidel involves a whole skill set in and of itself and many little hands still have a hard time with this one. I always provide a variety of dreidels in different sizes and materials to explore and manipulate. Until fine motor skills are more developed, actually spinning a dreidel can be quite challenging and for some, frustrating. Rather than overly focus on it, I provide plenty of play opportunities to use them in less traditional ways and also join in with little ones to spin and play together.
There are beautiful sets for purchase like the one pictured to the left. You can also make your own game set using a dreidel and toy gelt (like what I used for our sensory bin) or actual coins. The gelt also need not be actual coins--you could play for marbles, pompoms, popsicle sticks or other small items. (Just make sure they do not pose a choking hazard to younger players.)
Revisiting those "real" materials and mathematical concepts, you can set up this fun pattern recognition activity using Chanukah candles to teach about A-B patterns. More advanced children can determine their A-color and B-color and set up their pattern accordingly. You can also create your own color coded prompt cards to assist those newer to pattern recognition or throw in a third element (like a C-color or an A-A-B pattern) to those who are further along with this skill. When I was growing up, half the fun of lighting our menorahs each night of Chanukah was selecting candle colors and patterns each night. (The other half of the fun was scraping off the dried up wax the next day!)
Thanks for peeking into our playroom! Join us tomorrow for a blast from the past post on setting up a Chanukah themed play-space for infants and younger toddlers...
Until then, happy playing!