Jewish Routines for Children

Creating positive educational experiences for your family.

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Morningtime & Bedtime

You can incorporate Jewish-themed songs, music, and books into your child's morning and nighttime routines quite easily. Consider incorporating traditional Jewish prayers that are recited upon waking and going to bed as well. The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) has downloadable informational pamphlets on morning and bedtime rituals for children available on its website. Most Jewish prayer books will contain these prayers, too.

Another bedtime ritual can be blessing your children. My children cannot go to sleep without our sharing the traditional "Birkat Kohanim" prayer. Until I've "blessed" them, our bedtime ritual is incomplete.

Mealtime

Just as there are traditional blessings and rituals associated with waking and sleeping, there are many Jewish traditions surrounding food (and we know that food is a big part of a child's life). Expose your children to "traditional" Jewish foods or foods that were traditional on Shabbat and other Jewish holidays in your house growing up. Don't just serve these foods to children--encourage them to assist in the preparations. This is a great way to get grandparents and other older relatives involved. Have the children help Bubbe make latkes for Hanukkah or hamantaschen for Purim. Make matzo balls and chicken soup together for Shabbat or Passover.

Consider reciting blessings before and/or after eating. Also consider the Jewish dietary laws. While some Jews keep kosher as part of their traditional observance of Judaism, others who are less traditionally observant feel that observing kashrut reminds them of their relationship with God and the chosenness of the Jewish people. With a wide variety of kosher food available in supermarkets and specialty stores today, keeping kosher can feel much less restrictive than you might expect.

Shabbat

The Jewish calendar provides many wonderful opportunities to create Jewish routines for your family. Every week we are given the gift of Shabbat. As any modern parent will tell you, each day is filled to the brim with activities, errands, birthday parties, play dates, sports leagues, and lessons. How fortunate we are as Jews to have 25 hours set aside each week to step back from the hustle and bustle and enjoy some much-needed downtime. Recent studies on child development show that children need more opportunities for unstructured time--the Jewish people have known this for thousands of years.

Celebrate in a way that is comfortable for your family. In some families it's the one time of the week that everyone makes the effort to be home to eat dinner together. Others go to the grandparents' home every Friday evening or make time to be with friends. Still others may opt for more traditional Shabbat observance, including lighting candles, synagogue attendance and other rituals. What's most important is setting aside this time for family.

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Caron Blau Rothstein

Caron Blau Rothstein is the former Director of Special Projects at the Center for Jewish Education in Baltimore, MD. She is currently developing programming for Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, OR.