Joyful Jewish

Last year my daughter was four, old enough to stay awake for our Passover Seder, but not quite old enough to sing the four questions, the role traditionally assigned to the youngest child.  Instead, she was delighted to score what seemed to her to be the best job in the world: Chief Frog Wrangler.  However, frogs alone do not constitute ten plagues, so I set about trying to concoct something visual for the other nine.  And once we had the plagues, we needed someone to inflict them on.  I have recently discovered that you can obtain actual figurines of Moses and Pharaoh, but not from anywhere near where we live.  Thus it came to pass that Moses and Pharaoh were created from cardboard tubes and pipecleaners, and they made our Seder so much fun that we have booked them to appear again this year.

Initially this was going to be a Passover craft for my Shabbat Tot group and I found instructions for making a cardboard Moses on the internet.  My first effort was decorated by my daughter, who may have been subconsciously channelling Joseph and his Technicolour Dream Coat.

So I decided to dress Moses up more elegantly, by glueing some fabric scraps to the outside of the cardboard tube rather than using paper.  At this point I realised that the paper arms would not really match the new look, so I ditched them in favour of threading through a pipecleaner.  I also decided I wanted a less cartoon-like face, so I used google images to search for a more realistic (?) version of Moses.  This returned way too many photos of Charlton Heston, but eventually I found one of the very talented Ben Kingsley.

Let my people go!

For Pharaoh I also wrapped fabric around a cardboard tube and inserted pipecleaner arms.  For his head I attached a picture of King Tut.  (I know this is actually his death mask, but seriously, how much more Pharaoh-y could you get?) The finishing touch was bending his arms so that he is “walking like an Egyptian”. Personally I think he looks awesome!

Bwa-ha-ha, I think NOT, Moses!

So, last Seder Moses and Pharaoh battled it out, and my daughter had a great time showering down plagues of hail/locusts/frogs etc.  Then a few days later I discovered she had fed him to a lego crocodile for good measure.  That’ll teach him to be mean to us!

I am convinced there are more ways to spell gregger/grogger/gragger than there are ways to spell Hanukkah/Chanukah!  But it doesn’t matter how you spell it or what it looks like, as long as it makes enough noise to drown out the name of Haman, right?

This is a cheap yet durable Purim noisemaker which is easy to make using a variety of things you can find at home.

You will need:
1. An empty plastic bottle (with lid). Small ones are easiest to hold and shake.  This year we used ice tea bottles.
2. Things to put in that will make a noise. Anything goes – rice, dry lentils, uncooked pasta, buttons, craft bells… the list is endless.  You don’t need very much – if you look at the picture above, the amount of “rattly stuff” does not even reach the bottom of the decorative label. Rice by itself makes a soft noise which is quite pleasant, but add anything else and it sounds quite cacophonic when shaken energetically (which is the only way most 4 year olds know how to shake!)  To make it fun to look at, I dyed some rice with food colouring.

(Tip from someone who has been there: don’t knock over a bottle of food colouring unless you really want to do a lot of cleaning up.)  Two or three drops in a small zip-lock bag of rice is plenty.  If colouring pasta it helps to add a little white vinegar and to let the finished product dry on a tray, but rice will just soak up the excess moisture along with the colour.
3. Strong tape to hold the lid on the finished noisemaker (not shown on photo above), unless you want to be sweeping the contents off your floor or extracting them from the mouth of some curious toddler.
4. (Optional) Materials to decorate the outside of your noisemaker.  In past years we’ve tied curling ribbon streamers around the neck of our plastic bottle.  This year the kids decorated a strip of cardboard (preprinted with Happy Purim) and sticky-taped it to the outside of the bottle.

Then we read out our child-friendly version of the Megillat Ester, added some visuals with our Purim spoon puppets, and shook those greggers/graggers/groggers for all they were worth!  It was great fun!


Here are some little designs we made up with our fuse beads (perler beads, hama beads) and the small square pegboard: two shabbat candles, a kiddush cup and challah, and the words Shabat Shalom.  (I normally spell shabbat with two “b”s but that would not fit on my little pegboard.)

You can download my Shabbat patterns for fuse beads as a pdf file.

My bucket of beads came in most colours – but sadly not brown.  Hence the slightly unappetising looking challah which is pink and orange as a result!  I made my kiddush cup grey to resemble silver, but if I was doing this again I’d use white or yellow because the grey is quite dark.  (Either that or the background needs to be a lighter colour.)

We contemplated using the fused bead squares as drinks coasters for Shabbat, but decided in the end to link them together with beading wire to make a decorative piece to hang up on a hook, or over a doorknob.

Last year we made trees with flaps for Tu B’Shevat.  This year we are going even more three dimensional! This is such an easy craft activity but it looks great.

All you will need is:
- a cardboard tube (I used a toilet roll) for the trunk of your tree
- small amount of thickish cardboard for the base (I cut up the last box which came through the post)
- thin card for the crown of the tree
- decorating materials

Cut four evenly spaced slits at one end of the cardboard tube and flatten the resulting tabs outwards.  Staple them to the thicker piece of cardboard.

At the other end of the tube, cut two slits on opposite sides – this is where you will slot in the crown of your tree.  You can either leave the top of the tube level, or cut away a section as shown above, remembering to  leave the slots intact.

Draw and cut out the crown (leafy part) of your tree – I just drew a cloud/thought bubble shape freehand from a piece of card half A4 size.

Decorate it to your heart’s content – on both sides if you’re keen!  I used a leaf-shaped ink pad then added some cut out pieces of paper and some flower shaped sequins.  My daughter started with a pack of stickers which included leaves, flowers and birds.
Some more ideas:  paint or draw on details… print out and stick on pictures of fruit, birds etc…collect leaves from your garden and make a natural collage… scrunch up pieces of tissue paper and glue them on… just make sure you’re having fun!

Slot Tree Crown A into Tree Trunk B and display proudly!

I bought a big container of fuse beads for the whole family to play with over the holidays.  I think these are also marketed as Perler beads or Hama beads, although mine are the ever popular “no name” variety.  They are colourful plastic beads which you arrange into patterns on specially designed boards and then fuse together with the heat of an iron.

Here is our first foray into Jewish fuse bead design: fuse bead dreidels for Chanukah.

Our beads came with small boards, for example the square is only 14 beads wide x 14 beads tall.   But this is enough to make some cute little decorations which we can either leave on tables or blu-tac to the windows next Chanukah.

Here is one prior to being ironed together.

And here is our Dreidel pattern for fuse beads.

Weeks before Chanukah I planned to make a chanukiah out of toilet roll tubes. Then I saw one made by Creative Jewish Mom which was so elegant I nearly gave my plans away!  But my daughter and I both enjoy getting the paints out, and so this colourful and very easy to make cardboard chanukiah came into being.

Actually although I originally intended to link the tubes together, it is currently a loose collection of “candles” which can be arranged however the mood takes you.

How to make them:
1. Collect your cardboard tubes, and paint or otherwise decorate them.

2. Cut out flames from gold paper and stick them together over the top of popsticks.  My popsticks were a little too short so I broke some in half and glued them on as extenders.

3. Invent a way to make your wicks stand up inside your candle tubes.  In the end I decided to cut cross-sections of another tube and stick them inside in order to provide a bit of support (so the wick stays in the centre of the candle and doesn’t lean against the edge.)

4. Assemble and “light” during Chanukah.  Don’t forget to place the shamash a little higher than your other candles.

Last Chanukah I had a go at inventing my own mixed vegetable latkes, and they were not bad.  But this year I decided to try someone else’s tried and tested recipe instead, and I’m glad I did.  Kveller’s contemporary latkes include the extremely delicious Sweet Potato Latkes (with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) and the equally more-ish Gingered Sweet Potato Latkes with fresh ginger, soy sauce, spring onions and cloves.  So good that my daughter did me the honour of saying, at an oneg featuring many different latkes, “Mum, your latkes are the best!” (And she’s not even old enough to be saying that in the hope of getting more gelt!)


Fun crafts and activities for Jewish families with young children

A resource site for anyone who wants to share the joy of being Jewish with the children in their life.



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