Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hanukkah Menorah Craft and Activity for 2-year-olds

There is so much talk about Christmas at the daycare, lately. We are playing Christmas music, reading Christmas books, and decorating the Christmas Tree. Since Noah will also be celebrating Hanukkah this year, I figured, why not talk about this celebration at the daycare as well? It really is never too early to teach diversity.

This is a craft, followed by an activity that I think will at least familiarize the children with the words "Hanukkah" and "menorah". I hope that the children will at least be able to point to our menorah when I question where it is. It would be even better if they could correctly label the item when shown the menorah. In addition to familiarizing the children with Hanukkah, it also serves as a counting activity and helps to teach ordinal numbers.

I will begin with the instructions for the craft: making the menorah. As with many other crafts undertaken for children this age, half of it is done by the adult. The idea for the craft is not my own. It can be found in the book DECEMBER DECORATIONS, by Peggy Parish. However, I have modified it slightly, by having the children paint the parts of the menorah rather than covering them with construction paper.

Materials: paper plate, toilet paper roll, paper towel roll, paintbrushes, paint (green or other darker colours would be best), construction paper, clear tape, straws, scissors

  1. Have children paint the paper plate, toilet paper roll and paper towel roll
  2. Using a pencil or pen, poke 9 holes along the top of the paper towel roll. Try to space them as evenly apart as possible.
  3. Place the plate on a flat surface. Stand the toilet paper roll on one end and tape it to the middle of the plate. 
  4. Place the paper towel roll across the toilet paper roll. The Middle of the paper towel roll should be resting on the toilet paper roll, so that it balances, and the 9 holes should be facing directly up. Tape the paper towel roll to the toilet paper roll. (The amount of tape needed to make this menorah is excessive, and may be reminiscent of those informal crafts you did at home as a child - not well!)
  5. Cut 9 straws about 4 inches long (which will be the candles). 
  6. Using yellow or orange construction paper, cut out 9 'flames'. Stick one to the top of each straw, using clear tape.  

Start this activity on the first day of Hanukkah and continue it for the 8 days of Hanukkah. (Before beginning this activity it would be helpful to show them a real menorah, or at least read a couple of very simple childrens' books about Hanukkah.) Show them the menorah without any straws inserted.  

Normally, there would be two candles in the menorah on the first day of Hanukkah; the Shimash, which is the candle used to light the eight other candles, and the first candle which signifies the first day of Hanukkah. Leave out the Shimash until the end of the activity. It will just confuse the children and hinder their understanding of numbers. (You would be telling them that it was the first day of Hanukkah, but they would see two candles.) In fact, in retrospect, it would probably be better to make only 8 holes in the paper towel roll and leave the Shimash out altogether. 

    • Using a real menorah (if you have one) and/or other pictures of a menorah (e.g. in books), ask the children, "What is this?" Give them time to answer, but regardless of whether they know or not, be sure you label each one clearly and slowly. Bring out the homemade menorah (without any straws in it) and label that one aloud too.
    • Have the children take turns putting in one straw per day, starting on one end of the menorah. 
    • Explain to them that it is the first, second, third, etc. day of Hanukkah. You might say, "This is the third day of Hanukkah, so there are three candles. Count with me: one...two...three."
    • Then, sing a song that will help them understand ordinal numbers better by making them more memorable. We are using the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas", but changing the lyrics to:
    On the first day of Hanukkah, I put in my menorah
    Just one candle
    On the second day of Hanukkah, I put in my menorah
    One! two! candles

    And on and on...Point to each candle when counting. The song won't go quite the same as the actual tune, but it serves the purpose of gaining their attention and hopefully giving them a better understanding of ordinal numbers. Each day, when it's time to sing the song, pull out all the candles that are in the menorah and start with one. Stop at the number corresponding to the correct day of Hanukkah, and build upon that each day. 

    On the last day of Hanukkah, add the ninth candle, calling it an extra. 

    At the daycare, we are doing this activity each day at the start of morning snack. Besides taking turns putting the straws in, the kids don't get to play with the menorah yet. At the end of Hanukkah, I will let them play with it. I bet it won't take long for it to fall apart though!

    As an aside, we have been singing Adam Sandler's Hanukkah song, but ONLY the words "Happy Happy Hanukkah" (okay, sometimes we throw in a "play your harmonica", but that's it!). It's catchy and the kids seem to like it. It serves my purpose of familiarizing them with the word "Hanukkah".


    1. Nice project! I bet the kids enjoyed it and do remember what a Menorah is. :)

    2. Thanks! Noah knows the word menorah, since he also celebrates for real every night with Daddy. With the other's coming!