Joyful Jewish

Posts Tagged ‘Sukkot

My 5 year old daughter can’t remember where she just put her shoes 10 minutes ago, but she has an impeccable memory when it comes to food.  Despite me not having even thought about it, as soon as Sukkot arrived she promptly reminded me of the need to purchase biscuits and lollies (a.k.a. cookies and candy) to make edible sukkot!

As you will see from a quick Image search for edible sukkot on Google, the possibilities are quite varied – sweet or savoury; simple or decorated; mostly healthy or dentist’s nightmare.  Most of them are stuck together with icing (frosting) but that’s too complicated and messy for really small kids who just want to build their own.

Last year our biggest challenge was getting the walls to stay upright.  As you can see here:

This year, I figured it out.  If the walls are thicker, they will stand up by themselves.  Thick, flat-sided wafer biscuits = success!  We used some that are almost square, but if you can only get smaller ones you might be able to stack them like bricks.  No more screams of anguish as yet another wall collapses before the roof can go on!

Unfortunately due to the last minute nature of my shopping, I was not able to track down any stick-like biscuits for the roof (pretzels here only seem to come in the curly variety not straight) but last year we used Pocky sticks, which I developed a taste for when I lived in Japan.  This year we used shortbread fingers, which gave our sukkot a rather solid look.  I’ll be back to something thinner next year.

Next year I wonder if I could thread some Froot Loops onto the Pocky sticks before putting them on the roof??  Hmmm, might need to test that theory out sooner than next Sukkot!

Sukkot in Australia falls at the start of Spring, and the weather is quite unpredictable.  It rained for several days last year (the first year we built our own sukkah) and I thought it would be exceedingly optimistic to make paper chains and expect them to remain dry.  Then a few months ago I was cleaning out a drawer of stationery and found some old file dividers which are made from very thin plastic, and in one of those “a-ha!” moments I realised I could have my chains after all.

Simply cut the plastic file dividers into strips (I use an old wooden ruler which is about an inch wide to measure out even strips) and staple or sticky tape together into chains.

Here is one of our chains in the sukkah – above you can see one of our plastic bottle apples, and below are fuse bead decorations.

This past week, I designed a little Jewish card game/board game for my daughter (aged 4).  In it, you need to match 3 pictures to each of a selection of Jewish holidays.

For example, Shabbat is represented by candles, a kiddush cup and challah; Chanukah has a menorah, dreidel and latkes; Pesach has a seder plate, the plagues and matzah; and Yom Ha’atzmaut has an Israeli flag, a map of Israel and some Israeli dancers.

I found this game to be a fun way to review a lot of the festivals, identify some key symbols and talk about what we do, what we eat and so forth.  Please feel free to use it yourself.  The instructions are included on the pdf.  I suggested putting the pieces into boxes or bags during the game, but I’ve thought of another way to do it (especially for older children) – put all the pieces face down in the middle, and turn over two at a time as you would if playing Memory.  If either matches your card, move them to your card.  If not, turn face down again and let the next person take their turn.

Jewish calendar game for website

I have a terrible memory, so I decided to make a 5 year Sukkot journal/guestbook so we can remember all the fun we had each year. Do you like it? (Please ignore the manufacturing company’s watermark in the middle of the page). I have just ordered a hard copy and am really looking forward to receiving it.

For each year, I have included space to write a little bit about each of the following: where our sukkah was located; who put it together; what it was constructed from; and what the decorations included.

Then there are pages where I can write the date, the weather and highlights of the day, plus pages which are largely blank so that our visitors can also add their personal messages.

The book also includes general information about Sukkot and some photos I took this year.  Every page is completely different, and I’ve probably used waaaaay too many embellishments… (digital scrapbooking is very addictive!) but it was loads of fun, and that’s what Sukkot is all about!

We did it! We made our very own sukkah, something we had never done before, and we have been having a great time using it as much as the weather has permitted.  (This week the maximum temperature has varied from 21C with cold wind and rain to 34C with hot wind!)

It is 2.5m wide and 2m deep, and seats 6 people comfortably.  The framework is made of 40mm PVC pipe, with walls mainly of shadecloth, and the roof from reed screening.  Our local hardware store has done quite well out of the exercise!  However we hope to be able to reuse almost everything again next year, and will also make a few improvements to the framework.

Decorations include my chanukah bunting, some solar powered lanterns, our apple decorations, a few things from a $2 shop and some sukkot collages made by my daughter.  I used garden hooks to hang some things from the roof, and safety pins to attach other things to the walls.

No celebration is complete if your toys can’t enjoy it too!  This is the world’s easiest toy sukkah.

1. Cut the top panel off an empty tissue box.
2. Cut a large rectangle from one side to become the doorway.  I cut it out completely, then stuck a “beam” across the doorway made from part of the top panel.
3. Collect some small branches or parts of plants from your garden to lay across the roof.
4. Let your toys move in!

This is an easy Sukkot craft activity for young children.

-  light card for background, any colour.  I used A4 size.
- some popsticks,  to form the walls of the sukkah.
- selection of leaves or small sprigs of greenery,  to form the roof of the sukkah.  The flatter they are, the easier they stick to the page.  I used what was available in my back yard – gum leaves, ferns and lavender.
- pictures of a table & chairs (to go inside the sukkah), a lulav and etrog (it’s not Sukkot without them!), stars (to decorate or go into the sky above the sukkah), and your child (so they can put themselves into the picture).
- decorations (pictures, confetti etc) – or draw your own.

You could cut picture from magazines, use photos or draw them yourself, but I find it easiest to use Google’s image search to find something suitable, then put all the pictures into one page using Microsoft Publisher and print off as many copies as I needed. 

For my Shabbat Tot group I printed multiple photos of all of the kids’ faces, so that they could put pictures of their friends into their sukkah if they wanted to.   If they are old enough, let them cut the pictures out themselves.

Equipment I used
- scissors, glue (I find glue sticks are easy for young children to use), crayons/textas/coloured pencils.  When sticking on leaves, double sided tape is less mess and probably gives a better result.

How to make your Sukkot collage

Give your kid(s) the materials and let them go!  Depending on their age and how much parental intervention takes place, you will either get a recognisable sukkah or something that looks like a cyclone went through the back yard, but either way they will have a lot of fun.

The picture above (on green background) is my daughter’s finished product from Sukkot last year, made with some assistance from her father.  At 3 and a half, she loved sticking things and “colouring” but was not yet able to draw, so it worked out well having the pictures ready for her to assemble, a bit like a freeform jigsaw puzzle.  The picture at the top (on white background) was all her own work at 4 and a half.

We enjoyed using this craft activity as an opportunity to talk about things like “what does a sukkah look like?”, “what is a lulav made out of?” and “what do people do in a sukkah?”

Last year I saw this fabulous idea at Creative Jewish Mom: she had made apple-shaped gift boxes from the ends of plastic bottles.  For better or worse we don’t buy much in the way of soft drinks, so it was quite some time before I finished two bottles of tonic water and was able to make my own version of this great idea: a hanging decoration which we can use both for Rosh Hashanah and for our sukkah.

What I used:
- ends of two 1.25l plastic bottles (the sort where the bottom looks a bit like a flower with five petals – I used several different brands and some work better than others, so you may just need to experiment.)
- red or green cellophane (or tissue paper, or fabric.)  The beauty of cellophane is that the light shines through it.
- felt scraps for the leaves and stem
- thin ribbon or similar to hang the apple up, and a button to hold this in place.
- needle and thread

How to make this:
1. Carefully cut off the ends of two plastic bottles.  I found cutting one a centimetre or so taller than the other meant I could overlap them and they stick together even without glue.

2. Very carefully use a sharp object to punch/drill a tiny hole in the centre of one of the bottle ends.  Thread through the ribbon so that you have a loop on the outside.  Thread the ends through a button and tie it on the inside.  (The botton stops the ribbon from slipping out.  Alternatively you could make two holes and skip the button.)

3. Cut leaves and a stem from felt and stitch them together (glue might also work but thread seemed more secure to me.)  Stitch the leaves and stem to the ribbon.  If you’re more organised than me, you might even be able to do this in one step rather than in two.

4. Scrunch up some cellophane or other paper/fabric to provide the colour of the apple and put this inside.

5. Slot the plastic bottle ends together. Glue or tape them if necessary.

6. Hang and admire!

We bought the PVC tubing – it’s cheapest in 6 metre lengths (approximately twice as long as our car) and we needed five of them.  Big thanks to my Dad for coming to the rescue with his van.

My husband then cut it all to size, with only 50cm left over from the 30 metres we started with.

We have bought most of the fittings, apart from the ones needed to hold the roof to the uprights, where we are making some changes to the original plan.  (I’ll publish a final copy of our modified plan once I know the sukkah will actually go up and stay up.)

It’s all quite exciting!

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Every year at Sukkot we celebrate in the communal sukkah erected by the side of our synagogue.  In recent years, as I have read books about Sukkot to my daughter, I have been dreaming about having a little sukkah of our own, something simple that would fit in our small back yard.  Neither my husband nor I are particularly gifted with handyman skills, so it will need to be easy to build and easy to pull apart again afterwards.

I found a plan to build a sukkah from PVC piping here: and built a scale model of a 2m x 2.5m sukkah (I adjusted to metres because everything here is metric) out of straws, pipecleaners and playdough.

Ta dah!

So far so good!  I have been to Bunnings (our local hardware chain) and they have 40mm PVC pipes and fittings, so I will post an update when we reach the construction phase.

Slightly more detailed instructions for what looks like a very similar model are available here:

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Fun crafts and activities for Jewish families with young children

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