This Makes Sense
Teaching children about Judaism by
using their senses.
find ways to enjoy it. Here are some
ideas to get you started:
• Look for a Jewish food you've never
tried before and give it a taste.
• Ask family members for favorite
recipes. Place all in the box and allow
your children to select one to prepare.
They will love cooking with you.
• Buy a small bottle of every kind of
kosher grape juice you can find. Ask:
Which do you like the best and why?
verything matters. Even the
Especially the notebook.
Perhaps you, the parent,
have forgotten how important getting
ready for a new school year can be.
It isn't that you need just any three-
ringed notebook. You need the light
notebook. Your 10-year-old daughter
simply can't show up at school with
something bearing the
image of, say, Barney and
Baby Bop on its cover. She
would be laughed out of
school — all because of
Later in life, everyone
would still be talking about
that stupid notebook with
the purple dinosaur and so
she wouldn't be able to
find a husband, not to
mention a job. Consequently, her entire
life would be ruined simply because you
were dumb enough to get that Barney
Younger children, those not headed to
school just yet, are a little more flexible.
Here, the issue is not who appears on
their notebook but are they going to get
one of their own? ("How come you're
getting her all that stuff for school and I
don't get anything?" likely will pour
forth, in the form of a shrill whine, from
the lips of every 4-year-old with an older
• Tell your child: Imagine your favorite
gentile cartoon character, or figure from
history, is coming for dinner and would
like to try some Jewish fare. Have your
child create an entire menu he might
prepare; then, pretend he is the guest
eating the food. What might Mickey
Mouse have to say about gefilte fish?
How might Caesar have enjoyed a
• Have an old-fashioned lunch, such as
you might have found in the home of
an Eastern European Jewish family.
Some ideas: challah, lokshen (noodles)
with cream cheese and onions or fruit,
pickled beets, babka cake and tea. A
great cookbook for this is called Yiddish
Cuisine (Aronson Publishing) by Robert
• Challenge your child to make the best
bagel sandwich ever.
As you're out shopping for school sup-
plies for the older crowd, here's an idea
for putting together a great educational
packet for younger children, as well.
Buy the children some markers, paper
and glue and you'll be able to do most
of these projects, satisfying that desire to
"buy school stuff" Not only is this pack-
et affordable, boys and girls will enjoy it
all year long — and they'll learn a lot
Jewishly. It's called the "This Makes
Begin with a medium-sized box, such
as a shoebox. Then start collecting
Jewish treasures that directly involve a
child's senses. Every day, place one new
item in the "This Makes Sense" box and
• Place a number of spice samples in
small baggies, along with an empty jar,
in your box. Allow children to mix and
create their own spices for Havdalah.
• Put a spoonful of several traditional
Jewish foods in small containers. See if
your child can identify each just from
• Gather all ingredients necessary for a
familiar Jewish dish, such as challah or
cholent (don't announce what you've
decided on). Now, let your child smell
each item individually and try to guess
what they make when all are combined.
• Buy unscented play dough (or make
your own) and add ingredients to make
it smell like a Jewish food. You can also
shape the dough into the appropriate
food and create a yummy Shabbat din-
ner for some hungry dolls or stuffed ani-
• Put a coupon in the Sense Box that
promises your child a visit to your
favorite Jewish bakery. But before you
buy any treats there, stand for a full two
minutes and enjoy the aromas.
• Gather a few small items, such as a
dreidel, Shabbat candle or coin from
Israel. Ask your child to close her eyes
and see if she can identify each object,
just by touching.
• Spread whipped cream on a large bak-
ing pan, such as a cookie sheet. Ask your
child to write Hebrew words into the
whipped cream, letting her lick her fin-
gers when she's done.
• From cardboard or fabric scraps, cut
out letters of the aleph-bet (or, you can
buy these at most Jewish bookstores).
Ask your son to close his eyes and feel to
identify each letter.
• Place a familiar
Jewish object in the
box, but instead of
simply looking at it,
concentrate on what
it's like to touch this.
(Some things to try: a
mezuzah, tallit or
tzedakah box). Ask
your child to write
down adjectives that
describe the way the
• Have your child
make a picture of the Shabbat table,
with every item having some kind of
texture. For example, you could sprinkle
real poppy seeds atop her picture of
challah, and use purple plastic-wrap or a
piece of purple fabric for the grape juice.
• Ask a grandparent to sing a lullaby she
heard growing up. Record it on tape for
your child to enjoy.
• Write down all the sounds that happen
in your home before Shabbat begins.
Some ideas: the hot-water pot warming
up, hurrying voices, coins clinking in the
tzedakah box, bubbling chicken soup,
Jewish music playing, someone taking a
shower, a match striking to light the
Shabbat candles, water running in the
sink to fill a vase with flowers.
• Try a new tape of Jewish children's
music from your favorite bookstore.
• Buy an inexpensive instrument, like a
recorder or harmonica, and ask your
child to make up a Jewish song or try to
play one he already knows.
• Write a Jewish song together.
• Ask your child to name a single sound
that characterizes each of the holidays.
Of course there's the shofar (ram's horn)
on Rosh Hashanah, but what sound
makes him think of Pesach (Passover)
(perhaps crunching matzah)? For
Sukkot, what about the sound of the
lulav shaking, or the wind blowing
through the trees as you enjoy a meal in
• Add Jewish touches while reading your
child a favorite secular story. Imagine,
for example, the Three Bears dining on
cholent instead of porridge, or having
ducks that wade in chicken soup and
matzah balls rather than water.
• Photocopy a picture of a famous figure
in Jewish history; then, learn about that
• Have a Jewish treasure hunt. Write
down clues, directing your child to
Jewish objects around the house. Have a
treat at the end.
• Make "bare" Jewish items into beau-
ties. Using a pencil, draw
a stark Shabbat candle-
sticks (two lines will
work fine; in this case,
the plainer the better)
and an empty rectangle
for a mezuzah case. Now
ask your child to use
markers, glitter, stickers
and anything else that
will make these look
• Ask your child to make
an illustration for one of
your favorite Jewish quotes. When
you've collected enough of these, you
can put them together in a book. Here
are a few you might want to consider:
• God could not be everywhere, so he
• Though parents have a dozen chil-
dren, each is the only one.
• A mails father is his king.
• The warmest bed of all is your moth-
• One mother achieves more than 100
• Look through family photo albums
and remember wonderful stories about
• Make paper dolls of your family
members and have fun creating Shabbat
and holiday clothes for each person.
These also make great table decorations
on appropriate days. ❑