Thursday, September 28, 2017

Alphabetzel Pretzels & More (Pre)-Writing Fun!

As a fully-recovered reluctant reader with a mother who was a reading specialist, I am ever grateful for my early (albeit sneaky) introduction to reading's brother from another mother, writing! One of the very best gifts my mother ever gave me was a blank journal. Back in the 1980s, before blogs and social networking, this was the quickest way to become a permanently published author. Now, I just blog like it's still cool! But back then, I grew from the doodle stage to the dictate and draw stage into the "how do you spell it?" stage (with some creative responses from my older, wiser sister--think correct spelling plus a few dozen extra letters at the end, probably just to encourage practice, no?)...and eventually into the independently writing stage. All the while, unbeknownst to me--a little girl who did not like to read--reading was indeed happening on and in between the lines.
Now that I teach an early literacy preschool enrichment class of my own, I have a strong passion for observing the beautiful metamorphosis of scribblers into wribblers into writers! There's a whole process that for each individual child happens in its own time in which "stories" go from being something they hear and see in a picture book being read aloud to the awareness that those stories are coming from somewhere. Bit by bit, piece by piece, letters go from symbols to components of words to being able to build words, spell words, create sentences and, eventually, authoring stories of their own!
I am confronted by preschoolers each year who claim they do not yet know how to read or write. I love to prove them wrong! Even at a very young age, we are already readers and writers in many ways. Whether it's reading a picture in a book or a letter on a page, recognizing your own name or the word "stop" on a sign--whether you know one letter or 26 letters, you're reading! And that incredible transition when scribbles on a page begin to take shape (and lines), when a slightly crooked circle now represents an object or a person, that's writing! When it comes to introducing young children to their own inherent skills and building upon them, I like to meet them where they are at. I am not a fan of pushing and I strongly believe that these early years are best spent learning through hands on experience and play. In my classrooms and in my own home, I sneak it in by following their lead!
There are a few things I always do in my home/parenting life:

  • Read! Read aloud, read alone, read together. Studies show incredible results when it comes to the reading and writing performance of school aged children who had early access to books in the home. On the other end of that spectrum, children in lower income communities who lacked access to books in the home and in classrooms were at a significant disadvantage. More and more, book banks in cities and communities are aiming to fill this gap and are a great resource for gently loved books from your own collection if/when it's time to downsize. When parents ask kindergarten teachers what is the most important thing they must do to prepare their preschool aged children for kindergarten, the answer is almost unequivocally unanimous: read. When it comes to deciding what to read, I take a few things into account. Follow your children's interest levels--if they have a favorite book, it's OK to read it again and again (and again). It's also great to expand on that. Kids who love Pete the Cat might love some great youth non-fiction books about real cats. If you've got a little rhymer on your hands, grab some Shel Silverstein or E.E. Cummings and read poems together. Listening comprehension in the early years is usually one to two grade levels above a child's age--if you've got an avid listener, go for a chapter book to read aloud. And if you're looking for some great suggestions on what to read aloud, I highly recommend The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease as a resource.
  • Make books and materials accessible to little people with little hands. As young children become more independent, we parents get schooled in the popular verse "I want to do it by myself." We grow to love and loathe the phrase and yet, it is essentially our jobs to help our children do it by themselves! It's one reason I am a bit Montessori-inspired in my home and it is an investment of time that pays off more quickly and exponentially than one would think. I have posted specifically on how I set up my home through this lens to encourage pre-writing and writing. The main idea that I like to adhere to is making writing materials and utensils available and accessible at child level. Books are also available and accessible. I do not keep all of our writing materials and books available and accessible at the same time. I do try to keep something reading/writing related available and accessible in each room of the house (even the bathroom!).
  • Don't leave home without it! Reading and writing need not be stationary activities. You can take it with you wherever you go and you don't necessarily even need to pack anything extra. Sure, it's great to have some audio books in the car or a notepad and pen in your purse. It's also awesome to play some rhyming games on a long drive or talk about construction trucks in depth as you pass a construction site. One of our current favorite games to play while we're waiting on line or for an appointment to begin is to find S's "special letters" (the letters that spell his name) in signs. (Yup, that's my pre-reader finding the letter S in the National Enquirer while waiting on the express lane at Walmart; don't judge me!) 
  • Go to the library! It's free. It's fun. It's got something for everyone in the family. Need I say more?
We read and write in every room--even the bathroom. Whether it's a strategically placed basket of books for a kid who is potty training or a fun bathtub game of alphabet soup, the days of sneaking away to The Throne with a newspaper in tow begin early in life. I have a set of bathtub letters I found for a few bucks at Walmart that tossed in with some dollar store bowls and a ladle make for loads of tub time fun. You don't need to invest in bathtub letters specifically. I've seen foam alphabet puzzles at our Dollar Tree consistently and those letters will work just fine in the tub! (Plus they come in lowercase as well! We often introduce young children only to uppercase letters when the majority of printed text is lowercase!)
S is now in preschool for half a day. He is exposed to plenty of early reading and pre-writing activities there. Some kids come home and want to do more of what they did in school. I lovingly recall a student whose mother thanked me for sending her daughter home with "homework" each day. I scratched my head in confusion until I realized that every day her little girl sneakily placed a few coloring sheets or alphabet activities into her school folder to take home for homework! Then I jumped on board and intentionally sent her home with activities she could enjoy! My own son does not come home necessarily itching to draw or write. He does love to be read to in the afternoons and evenings and he loves to play. He also loves some "less obvious" writing materials in our home.

Working with the letters he is being introduced to in school and letter stamps (which he loves), S can stamp away in the appropriate section for each letter. As a more introductory level activity, you might just provide a single letter at a time (perhaps a large block letter and corresponding stamp). You can also substitute in stickers, or pictures with the beginning sound to this sorting activity. More advanced writers may be ready to trace the letter or to write their own!

Tactile manipulation of letters is a big part of learning how to write them. I dream of owning a set of those pricey Montessori sand letters. I currently own this more budget friendly DIY version in which I placed a large felt sticker on a piece of cardstock. Little fingers can touch and trace and that leads to those same little fingers being able to trace in a sand tray or shaving cream or finger paint or on your back...and eventually writing!
S loves our felt wall with its basket stocked with things he is also learning in school. I've caught him over there a few times pretending about Calendar Time in his classroom! Felt boards are a great vertical surface and this is living proof that you don't need to invest in fancy materials. It's literally just a swatch of secondhand felt tacked to a small chunk of wall and some printed and laminated letters,and pictures affixed with a dot of Velcro.
Although S is not yet writing letters, he has entered the phase of knowing that they are needed to spell words and names and he is ever curious about that. He wants me to write his family's names and his teachers names and his favorite words to dictate his illustrated stories. I love introducing him to a print rich environment so he can appreciate words all around him until the day he is ready to write them independently. When he enters the "how do you spell it?" phase, we will be ready! And rather than having to run over and help with writing and spelling each time he needs access to a word, collecting important vocabulary and site words of interest in a notebook or on sentence strips or on index cards is a great way to make them easily accessible for your writer at any time.

And one thing we always love doing here is working in the kitchen together. Cooking and baking are great ways to bring together family and developmental skills in one fell swoop. Science and math and reading and social skills converge over a recipe followed, prepared and shared at the table. S loves soft pretzels. My mommy confession of the day is that his favorite breakfast food lately is a soft pretzel (those frozen store-bought ones) with melted cheese. It's practically a bagel, no? C'mon, don't judge me here! I'd heard they are super easy to make from scratch and decided we'd try our hands at it yesterday and make our own Alphabetzel Pretzels!

I prepared a visual recipe chart with pictures and text so readers
and pre-readers could unite in the kitchen to "read" the
recipe together. Using magnetic clips, I was able to affix it to the side
of our refrigerator while we worked at the kitchen counter beside
it and then transfer it to the front of our deep freezer that is next
to our little work table where we later shaped the dough.
You can find and choose your favorite soft pretzel recipe. I can't eat regular wheat flour but can eat spelt, so I (selfishly) chose this spelt recipe. It was so easy and so much fun! And all three pretzel eaters in my house enjoyed the results. Y enjoyed some mashed banana...

S helped check that our egg was kosher and
beat the egg with a fork. We set that aside for

He also prepared some cinnamon sugar and another dish with kosher salt for sprinkling and set those aside for later.

First we sprinkled the yeast over warm water and mixed it until it was soft...

We added and mixed our dry ingredients....

...until it was time to mix and knead with our hands! That was a fun way to mix it! And guess what? All that muscle power it takes to knead dough is going a long way toward helping those same muscles grasp and use a pencil later on...

Shaping the dough was fun! I did some "special letter" shapes with the first letter of each family member's name. S practiced rolling the dough into a long "worm" shape (the first stage in making pretzel or letter shapes) and then made his own shapes from there. He loved sprinkling salt or cinnamon sugar on top of the egg wash coated pretzels as we got ready to pop them in the oven together! He also may or may not have consumed an undisclosed amount of cinnamon sugar...

Into the oven they go!

And just about 20 minutes later, we were enjoying the fruits of our labor!

And Y was enjoying actual fruits. Yummy banana!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Peek Inside Our Playroom: Sukkot Inspired Invitation to Build

I know, I know, it's not even Yom Kippur yet and I'm posting about Sukkot--but in my defense, Sukkot is my favorite holiday, and that sukkah isn't going to build itself!  In our house, we have one little boy who loves to help, loves to use tools and loves to build. It's an ideal combination this time of year. He is pretty set on helping his Tatty build our actual sukkah, so he's going to need some practice. And what better way to practice than through play? With a little creativity and things we had already on hand, we revamped our main toy/activity shelf into a Sukkah Building Invitation Station. Combining materials for building, manipulating, planning, drawing/writing, dramatic play and more, you can easily set up a play area to inspire architects of all ages and sizes. And just in case you need to keep the younger and shorter architects busy inside while the older and taller ones are busy out back, this is sure to keep them busy and occupied!

Every young architect needs a little inspiration. I searched the internet for photographs of interesting sukkahs and printed/laminated them and attached them to a metal ring to hang from our shelf. When the feeling strikes, S can pull the ring off the shelf and search through the photos for ideas. You can select photos from your own album of Sukkots past or pick favorites from over the internet. These will surely inspire great stories, dramatic play and certainly some building!

Before you begin to build, it's important to have a plan! I set out a simple blueprint station with blank graph paper and colored pencils. Alternatively you can print off some blank blueprints templates for a more "realistic" approach. Young architects can draw up their plans, dictate/write relevant notes and labels or capture a particularly great structure on paper before clean-up time.

I like blank graph paper for its open ended nature, but if a blank canvas is a bit too overwhelming, your young architect might like to glean inspiration from a template or some basic sukkah building plans printed off from the internet. If you search "sukkah building plans," you will likely come up with a plethora of unique images to work from.
I like this black and white plan that I found here

You can introduce your budding builder to the components that make up a kosher sukkah and incorporate sentence strips with important vocabulary words like "wall," "door," "schach," "beam," etc.
Next, it's time to build! You might want to add in some toy tools and construction vehicles, or perhaps some hard hats and vests for dressing up. You'll also need a selection of building materials. You can use your children's favorite blocks or manipulatives. Building toys can be pricey, but I have often found great wooden blocks, Legos, Duplos and Mega Blocks, Lincoln Logs and other such items at secondhand stores. Some building toys are worth investing in, in my opinion. Our favorites here are Magnetiles and Tinker Toys. Keep your eyes peeled for online sales when it comes to those. You also don't need to use toys at all! Plenty of amazing structures can be made from recycled materials like cardboard boxes, empty tissue boxes, cardboard tubes and so on. Recycled tissue boxes wrapped in a layer of duct tape can make fun and durable blocks for larger structures.

I like including unique natural materials and small loose parts as well. This combination of wooden tree disks and artificial leaves really brings out the feeling of Autumn. Artificial leaves and greenery or garlands can make for some great schach! Perhaps you might collect some fallen branches, sticks/twigs and greenery from outside. A great rock collection can also be used for building a unique sukkah.

Wooden craft sticks and small pieces of wood are great for permanent crafts but also great for temporary buildings and loose parts play. You may use them on their own or combine them with some playdough for an invitation to build a smaller sukkah--just the perfect size to sit outside of a dollhouse or entertain some Fisher Price sized guests.

It can be tempting to stock your play shelves with every building material and accessory known to man (especially if you have a lot in your collection as we do), but I encourage you to resist the urge. Less is definitely more in these set-ups. You may even want to introduce one material or a couple in combination at a time. Right now we have the shelves stocked with Legos, wooden blocks, and the small, loose parts pictured to the left and above. If any of those materials seem to get a bit stale, I will swap out for something else. On the other hand, if they really draw in my little architects in training, I'll leave them as is and maybe introduce new combinations or accessories.

Every sukkah needs some guests. Toy people or animals can make a great accompaniment. If you have dollhouse furniture, you may want to add that in as well, or perhaps you craft up some of your own chairs and a table. I have high hopes of introducing S to some basic (and supervised) woodworking this season, so we may end up with some handcrafted versions. Your little ones may want to add in some toy food for a festive meal, make their own mini lulav and esrog, craft some decorations or make up a miniature bed for those who have the custom to sleep in the sukkah. The opportunities are as infinite as the human imagination and great sukkahs come in as many shapes and sizes as those who take on the mitzvah of building them!

On a slightly larger scale, our play sukkah was a huge hit last year. Created with a combination of this fort building set we found at a discount store, blankets for walls, fall garlands from the dollar store for schach and a few clothespins to hold it all together. As Sukkot gets closer, we will surely be putting up another version for this year, but until then we will need all the space we can get in our living room for some creative sukkah building.  Wishing all who are celebrating an easy time getting that sukkah up and some happy playing in between it all!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Yom Kippur Play & Learning Activities for the Young (and Very Young)

We've dipped our apples in honey (maybe even double dipped, but shh, don't tell!) and that means Yom Kippur is just around the corner. This seemingly somber occasion does not immediately give way to images of playfulness as we imagine a day of feeding and entertaining little ones while simultaneously trying to fast and atone for a year's worth of bad behavior when we were hangry. Yom Kippur is, nonetheless, an important and even joyful holiday. It is a beautiful opportunity to connect with Hashem on a very deep level as we prepare for the year ahead. As with all holidays, I like to teach about Yom Kippur through play and introduce children to the important symbols and customs of the holiday. Here's a peek at some of my favorite play and learning activities for Yom Kippur for the young (and very young):

 For starters, with young children, we focus the teaching of Yom Kippur on acting with chesed, being a good friend and, when we make a mistake, saying we are sorry. Since I am not a parent (or teacher) who forces apologies "in the moment," but rather teaches empathy through modeling and assisted problem solving, I like that Yom Kippur introduces a time to talk about apologies in a general sense. I love books like Sammy the Spider's First Yom Kippur by Sylvia Rouss and The Hardest Word: A Yom Kippur Story byJacqueline Jules for preschool aged children. Additionally, books that teach about managing strong emotions are another good choice for this time of year. I particularly like When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry and When Sophie's Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang. Incorporating discussions about friendships and kindness are appropriate at this time of year.

Giving extra tzedakah (charity) is also a common practice before Yom Kippur. For the very young, this DIY toy tzedakah box is a fun activity to introduce fine motor skills to teeny tiny hands:
A recycled cocoa powder container and plastic coins make a fun toy tzedakah box. Be mindful of small pieces with very young children. Older children can also decorate a tzedakah box to actually use and fill with money.

 Speaking of the very young, I love using discovery baskets with infants and young toddlers for play. In corresponding to a Yom Kippur theme, I might fill a discovery basket with household objects and toys that are white to introduce the idea that we wear white on Yom Kippur. Older babies and children might like to use a sensory bin with white filling (such as cotton balls, shredded paper, plain rice or shaving cream).

I also introduce the story of Jonah and the Big Fish during the Yom Kippur season as it is read during the holiday services each year. I water down the story for young children (pun intended) and I particularly like the free printable version and activity pack available at A Jewish Homeschool Blog.
We had a lot of fun last year with this balloon big fish/whale craft. S colored a paper plate blue and I blew up a balloon with a Lego man Jonah inside! I drew on a face and cut/attached the fins for a playful version of the big fish with Jonah in its belly! Do supervise young children with balloons as they can be a choking hazard if they pop.

The very young can also enjoy a balloon big fish! Y loved kicking and swatting the balloon from his back and later on his tummy. I made a new set of balloon big fish this year just for that purpose!

Our sensory bin is set up with a simple invitation to play about Jonah and the big fish, complete with a ship, a toy "Jonah" and a whale (big fish). Just add water and you're ready to play! 

This paper plate fish craft is a fun one for toddlers. Little ones can color two paper plates (we chose blue) and an adult can help with cutting/assembly and any additional details (like eyes and a mouth). Cut a circle out of the "body" plate and cover with clear contact paper or packing tape, sticky side up. Little hands can scrunch and stick on tissue paper to the center.

The story of Jonah and the Big Fish also lends itself to some great science experiments and explorations. You may wish to take the opportunity to study whales like we did in this post. You might also explore the mechanics of boats as we did in this post. Sink and float experiments are a great addition to your play and learning this time of year. You might even have your own boat building/testing contest!

A blast from the past!

And while we're on the topic of water, if you haven't had a chance yet to do tashlich and teach/play about it, it's best to do so before Yom Kippur. I love this paper plate craft, done in a similar fashion to the whale craft above. Hollow the center of a white paper plate and cover with clear contact paper or packing tape, sticky side up. The outer plate can be decorated to look like the outside of a pond and the inside can be filled with blue tissue paper "water" and fish cut from paper in the colors of your choice. This helps teach the concept that we do tashlich in an area with water and fish.
If you're feeling particularly ambitious, you might even take a trip to your pet shop and buy a goldfish of your very own. S loved that part last year. It's a great way to teach young children about the responsibilities of caring for a pet (that luckily doesn't cost more than 33 cents since in spite of the price, they are rather challenging to take care of sometimes!).

With preschool aged children, there are a variety of sorting games and activities that can help teach some of the practices and customs of Yom Kippur. I like to use pictures or photos of Yom Kippur symbols to play:

On Yom Kippur We Do and We Do Not:
Using pictures or photos (with or without written text), and a large piece of chart paper or a large space on the floor, have your child(ren) help you sort things we do on Yom Kippur from things we do not do on Yom Kippur. You can tailor your selection to meet the customs Byour own family. You might include:
We Do:
  • daven to Hashem
  • go to synagogue
  • wear white/wear a kittel
  • give extra tzedakah
  • act with kindness/ahavat yisrael
  • say we are sorry
We Do Not:
  • eat or drink (adults only)
  • wear leather
  • wash our hands or bodies
  • drive cars, use electronics, etc.
I also like to introduce the concepts of "before," "during" and "after" to older preschoolers in this activity:

Before, During and After Yom Kippur:
Using pictures or photos and a large sheet of chart paper or space on the floor, have children help sort activities that are done before, during and after the holiday. You might include:
Before Yom Kippur, we:
  • give extra tzedakah
  • do kapparos
  • light Yom Tov candles
  • eat a seudah (special meal)
During Yom Kippur, we:
  • fast (adults only)
  • wear white
  • wear non-leather shoes
  • go to synagogue
  • daven to Hashem
After Yom Kippur, we:
  • hear the shofar one last time
  • make havdalah
  • celebrate the new year ahead and break our fast with a festive meal
  • begin to build our sukkah for Sukkot
Younger children can also get in on the sorting fun. Just grab your families selection of non-leather shoes (if you're like us, you have crocs in all colors and sizes!) and play a game of shoe/slipper match-it!

Lastly, teaching young children about kapparos can be a great opportunity for a cute little craft, like this chicken stick puppet S and I made last year. We do not happen to use actual chickens where we live for kapparos, but S had a great time swinging this feathered friend around his head last year! I prepped a cut the shape of a chicken and S got to glue on the feathers. Attach a craft stick handle and you're in business!

Yom Kippur is one of the most special and sacred holidays of the year. It is not always an easy one for adults, but through the lens of our children's wonder and curiosity, we can learn again how to approach this time of year with joy, and, as always, through play!

Happy Playing!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rosh Hashanah Invitation Stations

Ah, Rosh Hashanah is so close I can almost taste the apples dipped in sweet, sticky honey! It's the perfect time! Yes, play! There's a lot to be done, and whether you're the cook ahead and freeze it till Wednesday night type or the start it all Wednesday morning type, you're going to need your kids to be busy. Really busy. This post has just about everything you'll need for that. Some of the activities and games are ones that your children can do independently. Some, they may want help from an older sibling with. Most can be adapted to a variety of age groups. And maybe, just maybe, you'll need a little break and get to play along. The added bonus is that while they are playing, the children will be developing fine motor skills, pre-writing/writing skills, using their imagination and creativity to make some great artwork, learning math concepts, engaging in sensory play, engineering and, of course, learning about the upcoming holiday.

You can choose one, a few, or all of the activities to try. Some will require an element of prep-work. Use what you have on hand and don't drive yourself crazy trying to set up games and activities while preparing for a three day yom tov. Feel free to adapt activities to work for you and your kids. And have fun!

To start, you'll want to visit A Jewish Homeschool Blog to gather your free Rosh Hashanah printables. I've adapted several of them as you will see below to use in our Rosh Hashanah Invitation Stations. You will see that I've laminated many of the items or used dry-erase sleeves for more-than-one-time use, but you do not need to do that. You can easily just print the activity packs or selections of materials you like and use them as is. You can also engage your children who are independent with scissors in preparing activities and games--that's an activity in and of itself! You may also want to print out this free Counting Apples Book from Fun a Day.

Some additional materials you may want to use if you have on hand include:

  • markers, crayons, colored pencils, pencils
  • glue, scissors
  • apple stickers, bee stickers
  • solid white gift bags or brown paper bags
  • blank note cards & envelopes
  • clip art or cut outs of apples (even made from recycled doodles and paintings)
  • playdough (check out this recipe for cinnamon scented playdough!) or store bought
  • artificial leaves, apples, stems, dried black beans (for parts of an apple)
  • dried oats, shredded paper, scoops, tongs, recycled containers for sensory bins
  • toy bees, toy apples
  • wooden craft sticks, clothes pins
Invitation to Play with Playdough:

This is a favorite of ours, worth repeating! This invitation to create an apple with play dough is so much fun. Here I used cinnamon playdough, artificial leaves, dried beans, cinnamon sticks and some toy apples for reference (along with a library book that shows the life cycle of an apple tree). 

Invitation to Play: Sensory Bins
We've had two favorite sensory bins this season:

Parts of an Apple Sensory Bin: we used dried oats, cinnamon sticks, artificial leaves, toy apples, scoops and containers

Busy as a Bee Sensory Bin: we used shredded paper in yellow and black (from the party supply section of Dollar Tree), artificial flowers, a magnifying glass, tons and containers for filling, some toy bees (you might need that magnifying glass to actually spot them!) and I also set out some bee themed artwork/graphics and a set of bumble bee wings (also from Dollar Tree) to inspire play!
Invitation to Create: Rosh Hashanah Cards and Gift Bags
This is a great one if you have greetings to send out or packages to deliver to friends, family and teachers this time of year:

I set out a variety of art materials, stickers, some sentence strips to inspire even pre-writers (who still are gathering the concept that letters make words and words can make messages!)...this is an activity that is sure to keep little hands busy!
Invitation to Play Games:

Here are a variety of Rosh Hashanah games prepared from the free printables linked above. Younger ones may need an older child or adult play partner.
Rosh Hashanah Parts of a Whole

Rosh Hashanah Hebrew Word Match-it

Clothes Pin Counting Cards

They come in Hebrew Letter Cards, too! If you don't have clothes pins at home, you can use a paper clip, a penny, a mini eraser or small loose part or even use these un-laminated and have the children use bingo dabbers or circle the correct answer for one-time use.

Counting apples game: Little ones won't even notice they're doing math as they use tongs to pick the correct number of apples from the basket to correspond to the number on these apple cards (printable also from the link above)
Speaking of Counting...Invitation to Create a Counting Book:
This one is great to create a fun keepsake your early reader will love to read again and again after decorating!

We used red circle stickers for our "apples" but you can use red ink and fingerprints, stickers, bingo dabbers or even provide loose parts (like pom poms) to use with the book (printable linked above)
Invitation to Decorate a Tzedakah Box

Here's another printable from the activity pack linked above. I subbed in yellow circle stickers for the yellow circles that came with the coloring sheet. Your little artist can have fun decorating the tzedakah box and adding in the sticker "coins" as we recall that this is an auspicious time of year to be extra charitable.
 Invitation to Play: DIY Toy Tzedakah Box
This is one of the first toys I made when S was about Y's age! For smaller babies you can use baby food jar lids as your coins. I like using plastic coins from the Dollar Tree in ours. All you need to make it is a recycled plastic container with a lid (I like the ones from Hershey's brand cocoa powder) and an exacto knife to cut the slot at the top. With the Hershey's container, the "Hershey's" insignia is just the right size for your opening! Very little ones will love putting the coins inside, shaking it and as they get older, emptying it out and doing it again! S actually still loves to play with this.
Do keep an eye on little ones with small pieces that could present a choking hazard and make sure your "tzedakah" is not too small for tiny mouths!
To add an element of challenge for older toddlers, use two different colored containers and corresponding colors of bottle caps or poker chips for a tzedakah sorting game. (For example, cut a slot in the top of a couple of those take and toss plastic storage containers in red and blue and save your milk caps or applesauce pouch caps for the coins!)

And for more baby/young toddler friendly Rosh Hashanah play activities, check out this post!

For more fine motor fun, here's a lovely holiday themed lacing activity also available from the link above:

Alternatively, you can cut individual Rosh Hashanah themed shapes from cardboard or cardstock and hole punch the perimeter for a set of holiday lacing shapes.

 Music and Movement:
I love using props with songs and action rhymes. With this playful counting rhyme, your little one will also be learning mathematical concepts like counting, division, and, with the addition of props, one-to-one correspondence!

Ten Red Apples

Ten red apples grew up in a tree
Five for you and five for me!
Let us shake the tree just so
And then red apples will fall below!
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10!
This was another creation from S's baby days. We upcycled (and laminated) some of his paintings into apples for counting along with this playful rhyme. It's also a great activity to go along with the book Ten Apples Up on Top by Dr. Seuss.

Invitation to Build: Rosh Hashanah Themed STEM activities

Invite your little engineer to build apple trees using recycled cardboard tubes, green craft sticks (you can paint/color plain ones green or purchase colored craft sticks) and apple colored pom poms. How many craft sticks and pom poms can you balance on top before it topples? Add an element of sorting by designating one tree for each apple color if you wish!

Help this busy bee build his hive using craft sticks to trace the hexagon.

I hope this inspires some fun and play in your household as holiday preparations take off. May we all be blessed with a sweet, healthy, happy and playful new year!

From our family to you and yours, shanah tova u'mesukah!