A wide variety of fun, family-bonding activities are central to Jewish celebrations, especially Hanukkah.
“Judaism is a fully experiential religion: We eat matzah, hear the shofar, smell spices at havdalah, light candles for Shabbat and holidays,” says Ruchi Koval, the co-founder and director of the Jewish Family Experience, the creator of Out of the Ortho Box and a certified parenting coach. “Crafts and other experiential activities, besides for being fun, imprint unforgettable memories in young children that are likely to remain positive associations long after and into adulthood.”
Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, following the Maccabean Revolt. According to the Talmud, Maccabees found only enough oil to keep the Temple’s eternal light (a lamp that burns perpetually in Jewish synagogues) burning for a single day, but the flame miraculously burned for eight nights.
That’s why the holiday lasts for eight nights, says lifestyle blogger Tori Avey.
“Throughout the years, we’ve found new and creative ways to keep the holiday spirit flowing all through those eight days and nights,” she says.
Interested in enjoying a variety of Hanukkah games, recipes and crafts? Here are 101 cool, cute and creative Hanukkah activities for kids of all ages.
Hanukkah activities for preschoolers and toddlers
2. Make recycled dreidel paper dolls.
3. Practice writing the Hebrew letters that appear on the dreidel: nun, gimmel, hei, and shin.
4. Use play dough to craft the four letters that appear on a dreidel. Marti Kerner, of Everyday Jewish Mom says, “The dreidel has four Hebrew letters on it. Rolling out play dough to make the letters of these shapes is a great way to play and talk about the letters.”
5. Play a color-matching game using different menorah candles.
6. Make an eight-night countdown calendar.
7. Play with a toy cash register using Hanukkah gelt, says Melissa Kahn Wilkenfeld of Little Kosher Lunch.
8. Make a Hanukkah playdate kit, like one Wilkenfeld has used with her children.
9. Allow your little one to use real candles or a child’s wooden menorah for Hanukkah candle play and to work on fine motor skills, says Wilkenfeld.
10. Play a number recognition game. “Hanukkah gives us so many great opportunities to count to eight,” says Kerner. “For this activity, we have a numbered menorah with coordinating numbered popsicle sticks for matching. You can also put the correct number of small items climbing up each candle.”
11. Create a children’s menorah out of cardboard tubes.
12. Explore a DIY Hanukkah sensory bin, like this one shown on 3Dinosaurs.com.
13. Let your child make their own menorah out of play dough, says Wilkenfeld.
14. Wilkenfeld loves allowing her little ones to get imaginative and create menorahs and dreidels out of felt.
15. Build a Lego menorah.
Where to buy: Multicolor Lego Menorah Junior ($36, ModernTribe)
16. The most classic Hanukkah game is, of course, spinning the dreidel. “It is great practice for taking turns, counting, trying out the math concept of one half when you spin a ‘hey,’ developing fine motor skills for spinning the dreidel and dealing with the disappointment of not always spinning a ‘gimel,’” says Kerner.
17. Create your own dreidel board game.
18. Play pin the candle on the menorah, says Brown.
19. Play a Hanukkah memory game.
Where to buy: Hanukkah Memory Game ($10, ModernTribe)
20. Play Hanukkah tic-tac-toe.
Where to buy: Hanukkah Tic-Tac-Toe Board ($12, ModernTribe)
Hanukkah crafts for preschool-aged kids and beyond
21. Make your own Hanukkah wrapping paper, says Avey.
24. Organize a plate of fruit into the shape of a menorah.
25. Print out and fold a paper dreidel.
26. Make a dreidel out of a takeout box and cardboard tube.
27. Make a cupcake menorah, like this adorable white and blue one from Avey.
29. Make Star of David sculptures out of popsicle sticks.
30. Turn baby food jars into an upcycled menorah, as suggested by Moms and Crafters.
31. Design a dreidel mobile.
32. Make Hanukkah snow globes.
33. Build a dreidel out of blocks.
Where to buy: Binyan Blocks Dreidel Set ($6, The Judaica Place)
34. Use materials like junk mail to make recycled Hanukkah crafts, like those shown by Wilkenfeld on her YouTube channel.
35. Mix your own blue play dough following this recipe from Tinker Lab.
36. Use Hanukkah-themed cookie cutters to mold your play dough into festive shapes.
37. Hang those Star of David sculptures on a string to make a decorative garland.
38. Make a banner out of those felt dreidels.
39. Create a colorful hardware store menorah out of a block of wood, like this one created by blogger Sheri Silver.
40. Create Hanukkah cards using an array of art supplies.
41. Make a menorah out of blocks and use tiny toys as “candles.”
42. Use an old container to make a tzedakah box to remember those in need during the holiday season.
44. Make a sparkling menorah garland.
45. Kerner says making a washi tape menorah and allowing kids’ creativity to run wild.
46. Avey says making a homemade cookies and hot cocoa gift bag.
47. Turn a used egg carton into an upcycled children’s menorah.
48. Let your kids paint a free-form menorah or dreidels on a canvas.
49. Use pipe cleaners to make a Star of David.
50. Make your own Hanukkah candles.
Where to buy: Make Your Own Beeswax Hanukkah Candle Kit ($17, ModernTribe)
51. Tape up paper chains in the shape of a menorah, like this one at Bible Belt Balabusta.
52. Cut felt into dreidel shapes.
53. Make festive finger puppets.
54. Make a dreidel using cardboard and a pencil.
55. Decorate a Hanukkah bandana for your family pet using fabric pens.
Hanukkah recipes and cooking
56. Kerner loves following the tradition of making jelly doughnuts, or Sufganiyot. Her easy-to-follow recipe features store-bought pizza dough or refrigerator biscuit dough.
57. Make edible dreidels like these ones from Bible Belt Balabusta that use marshmallows.
58. Dip-dye marshmallows blue, add to graham crackers and top with white chocolate to make Hanukkah s’mores.
59. Make cookies with Hanukkah-themed expressions letter-stamped on them, like these adorable ones done by Brown.
60. Add the candle-shaped cookies to a menorah-shaped cake.
61. Cook up a batch of delectable latkes, says Wilkenfeld. Along with other fried foods, latkes are traditionally served on Hanukkah, as we celebrate the miracle of the Temple’s lamp oil lasting eight nights.
62. Bake candle-shaped cookies.
63. Whip up a batch of blue velvet cupcakes.
64. Bake sugar cookies in Hanukkah shapes, like the ones shown on Avey’s site.
65. Make Hanukkah lollipops, like the ones shown on Design Megillah.
67. Bake blue and white crinkle cookies.
68. Bake dreidel goodies with a sweet surprise (shhh, it’s gelt!) inside.
69. Push pretzel sticks through marshmallows to make another type of edible dreidels, demonstrated by Avey.
70. Make latke waffles (yes, waffles), like those shown on Smitten Kitchen.
72. Make homemade dried apricot gelt.
73. Try Living Sweet Moments’ stained glass cookies recipe.
74. Give Sufganiyot a New Orleans twist by baking Hanukkah beignets.
75. Bake menorah-shaped bread — perhaps using Avey’s challah bread recipe.
76. Make your own homemade gelt.
Hanukkah activities for kids and the whole family
77. Create a hopscotch court featuring different Hanukkah symbols.
78. Spend the fifth night of Hanukkah making a difference by donating a night of gifts to a chosen children’s charity, as suggested by the organization Fifth Night. The organization’s goal is to help the little ones better understand and appreciate the importance of their donations by learning about the charity and the families who will be benefiting from their gifts.
79. Write Hanukkah poems.
80. Put on a play about the story of Hanukkah.
81. Work your way through a boxed Hanukkah kit.
Where to buy: Hanukkah in a Box Kit ($50, ModernTribe)
82. Put on a holiday puppet show.
83. Sing traditional songs, like “O Chanukah” and “The Dreidel Song.”
84. Pass out gelt and other Hanukkah goodies to neighbors.
85. Play Hanukkah-themed charades.
86. Spend time as a family creating a Hanukkah memory book.
87. Play Hanukkah Bingo.
Where to buy: Hanukkah Bingo ($10, ModernTribe)
88. Have a treasure hunt for gelt.
89. Go to a menorah lighting ceremony.
90 Have a Hanukkah pajama party.
91. Each family member can find a treat in this Hanukkah Punch Box for that particular night of the holiday.
92. Draw cartoons of the Hanukkah story.
Hanukkah stories for kids plus books and movies
93. Write your own Hanukkah book.
94. Have the oldest person at the table — maybe bubbe or zayde — tell their first Hanukkah memory. Then, the second eldest, until the youngest shares theirs.
95. Read a multicultural indie children’s book “Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas,” by Pamela Ehrenberg and Anjan Sarkar.
96. Read “Dreidel Day,” written and illustrated by Amalia Hoffman, in which a sweet and playful cat encourages the reader to count to eight to celebrate Hanukkah.
97. Explore Hanukkah rituals with the help of whimsical bunnies in the charming, rhyming board book “Hanukkah Delight!,” written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Amy Husband.
98. Read this kid-friendly version of the Hanukkah story.
99. Watch Adam Sandler’s animated holiday movie “Eight Crazy Nights.”
100. Check out “Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor,” written by Ann Koffsky and illustrated by Talitha Shipman.
101. Read “The Mensch on the Bench,” by Neal Hoffman and Rob Foster, which tells the story of Moshe the Mensch, who was in the temple when Judah and the Maccabees won the war against the Greeks. x