Joyful Jewish

Posts Tagged ‘Tu B’Shevat

Last Tu Bishvat, I organised a snack activity to tie in with the theme of the Seven Species, “shivat haMinim”.  These are the grains and fruits listed in the Torah as being special products of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel: “a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and (date) honey”.

Seven species biscuit

It’s not so easy to combine all these species into one child-friendly snack, so I cheated slightly by replacing olives with almonds (as almond trees blossom in Israel around the time of Tu Bishvat) and gluing the lot together with chocolate icing.  It was delicious!!   (We also offered the kids bread with olive oil for dipping, so no species was missed out.)

All you need is a packet of Malt biscuits (which contain both wheat and barley)

Malt biscuit

and some chopped up fruit (specifically: dates, dried figs, pomegranate seeds and sultanas) and slivered almonds

Date, fig, pomegranate, sultana & almonds

and a quantity of home-made chocolate icing (or something similar) to hold the fruit and nuts in place.

Spread the biscuit with chocolate icing, load up with date, fig, pomegranate, sultanas and almonds – some of the kids even made little pictures out of their toppings – and eat!  This was so quick and easy to organise, and so popular, I can guarantee we’ll be doing it again.

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!

Last year I went to my first Tu B’Shevat seder and really enjoyed it.   I thought about trying to do something similar for children, but quickly realised that it would be more fun (and age-appropriate) just to make up our own activity.  So here’s what we did.

I went to the supermarket and bought as many different types of fruit as I could find.  This included: a grapefruit, an apple, a mandarin, a banana, a peach, a plum, a pear, an apricot, an avocado, cherries, grapes, a pomegranate, a lemon, a lime…  I mostly chose tree-growing fruits, but any fruits at all will do and I’d have bought other fruits if they had only been in season.

Then I sat down with a bunch of 3-5 year olds and we talked about …. you guessed it, fruit.

First, I held up each fruit in turn and asked the children if they knew its name.  We passed them around so everyone could smell them and feel the texture of the skins.

Then, I asked them to tell me which was the largest, the smallest, the longest, what different colours they were, and which fruit looked like another fruit in our selection.

Following that, we sorted them into different groups, similar to the fruit types used in the Tu B’Shevat seder.  Our groupings were:  fruit where you can’t eat the skin, but you can eat what’s inside (like a mandarin or banana); fruit which is easy to bite into but has a hard seed inside (like a peach or apricot); and everything else – which in our case included avocado and pomegranate.

Then to finish off,  I sliced up all the fruit, and we all got to try a bit of everything, or at least see what it looked like on the inside.   For some kids, it was their first experience with a particular fruit.  For my daughter, a renowned fruit-avoider, it was a social event which encouraged her to try fruits she had previously rejected without even trying – and surprising herself at how nice they tasted!

It’s Tu B’Shevat by Edie Stoltz Zolkower, illustrated by Richard Johnson

This is a very sweet little board book, probably suitable for children over 2-2.5 and definitely enjoyed by three year olds.

The story is actually a simple, upbeat poem which tells you what you can do for Tu B’Shevat:  “Grab a shovel.  Pick a spot.  Plant a tree – it’s Tu B’Shevat!”  Plant it, bless it, appreciate what it gives back to you, enjoy it – and do it all again at the same time next year.

Tu B’Shevat is the ideal time to start a conversation about anything green.   My three and a half year old daughter is fascinated by the concept of things that grow.   Unfortunately we have only a small back yard, and in the blazing heat of an Australian summer, it’s not an ideal time for planting.  Also, she likes it when things grow overnight – something not easily achieved.

Then I remembered from my own childhood the joy of growing cress.  I bought a packet of seeds, and the scent which wafted out transcended decades!

A cress and mustard garden for Tu B’Shevat

All you need is:

– cress and/or mustard seeds, from any gardening shop.  (The mustard seeds look exactly like the ones I buy for cooking.)
– a flat, waterproof container.  I used an old baking tray, but something like an icecream container lid or takeaway container or lid would work just as well.
– kitchen towelling, or cotton wool, or any other absorbent material that you can keep damp.

How to make your garden:

1. Place kitchen towelling/cotton wool on waterproof container and wet with water.  I used about 6 layers of paper towelling, as it’s very warm here at the moment and I wanted something I could keep damp overnight.

2. Sprinkle with seeds – the more the merrier.  My seed packets advise planting mustard seeds 4 days later than the cress seeds if you want to harvest them together.

3. Cover the seeds with a sheet of paper until they germinate.  It’s OK to peek, and you need to keep spraying them with water, or somehow gently watering the paper towelling without disturbing the seeds. Place the container in a warm, sunny location, preferably at child-height so they can go and check on them 10 times a day.

4. Your seeds will germinate in warm weather in only a few days, much to the delight of your child!  When most of them have germinated, take the paper cover away.  Rotate the container if you find the seedlings lean to one side in their search for light.  (Could this be a metaphor? Remember to turn around if you find yourself leaning too far to one side in your search for enlightenment?:-))

5. Harvest your mature cress and mustard for use in salads and egg sandwiches.  Or just enjoy a little bit of Eden, grown in the comfort of your own home.

Kids love flaps!!  So I decided to make this a feature of our Shabbat Tot craft this month, when we’ll be talking about Tu B’Shevat, the birthday of the trees.

(Yes I know it is more commonly known as the New Year of the Trees, but how many three year olds really understand the idea of New Year? Compare that to the number of three year olds who understand the concept of a birthday and you’ll see why I’ve taken the birthday option!)

Appreciating trees for Tu B’Shevat

First, you need a picture of a tree.  I “drew” mine on the computer using a big thought bubble and a couple of curved lines.  You are welcome to download a copy here:  Tu B’shevat – tree with flaps.
Draw or print this tree on light cardboard, and cut out a number of flaps (I have marked these onto my picture.)

Then,  find or draw some pictures to represent some of the amazing things we get from trees.   I kept it simple, and included wood, paper, a home for wildlife, fruit, nuts, flowers and shade.  These pictures go onto a piece of paper which will be placed behind the tree, so that when you open a flap, you’ll see a picture.  You are welcome to download my pictures here. Tu B’shevat – what trees give us (They were all found on random parts of the internet via google.)

Decorate your tree.  I cut out leaf shapes (teardrops, diamonds, etc) and trunks from assorted coloured paper I had at home, and also used a craft punch.  My daughter particularly enjoyed helping punch out the curly shapes.

Stick the sheet of pictures behind the tree with the flaps, and let your child enjoy finding “tree treasures” for Tu B’Shevat.

If you don’t want to do the two layers, here is a single sheet which combines both pictures but omits the flaps.  Tu B’shevat – all in one page

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Fun crafts and activities for Jewish families with young children

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Enjoy!