Jewish Routines for Children

Creating positive educational experiences for your family.

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Consider incorporating traditional Shabbat rituals into your observance at a pace that feels right for you. Perhaps you will start by lighting candles together, and saying kiddush and motzi every Shabbat. Many parents bless their children on Friday nights. Why not add a special, modern twist with your own special blessing for each child?

And how about going to synagogue? Chances are a synagogue near you has special family services, learners' minyans, tot Shabbats or a junior congregation. These services are tailored to young families and can make synagogue feel more warm and welcoming. Your children will look forward to Friday night or Saturday morning services when they know they get to wear their special Shabbat clothes and participate in their special services.

Holidays

The Jewish holidays provide other wonderful opportunities for establishing meaningful and memorable routines. Go apple-picking for Rosh Hashana. Decorate and eat in a sukkah for Sukkot. These days you can buy a pre-fabricated sukkah from websites like www.sukkah.org. Dance with the Torah on Simhat Torah, and consider buying your child his/her own plush, stuffed Torah for this holiday and for bringing to synagogue on Shabbat. Light candles and spin dreidels on Hanukkah. Plant trees or flowers on Tu Bishvat. Dress up on Purim, and shake the grogger and boo every time you hear the name Haman read in the megillah. Get together with family and friends for the Passover seder, and teach your children the four questions. On Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, consider ways your family can support Israel, from attending a community-wide Israel fair to purchasing Israeli products. Study some Torah on Shavuot.

Shabbat and Jewish holidays provide an opportunity to create routines--in the form of customs, traditions, rituals--that your children and your entire family will look forward to each week and every year. The details are not as important as the acknowledgement of these Jewish holidays as special times for your family. Do not feel that it has to be "all or nothing" in terms of your observance--do as little or as much as feels comfortable and be open to modifying your routines as the ages and stages of your family dictate.

Be a Jewish Role Model

Whether it is making the mundane sacred, or incorporating the sacred into your family's routines, there are a variety of ways to develop Jewish routines for your children and your family. It is as important for parents to model the rituals and routines as it is to encourage them in your children. As your children's first and most important role models, you need to "practice what you preach" to your children for them to truly absorb the values and traditions you are trying to instill in them through the practice of Jewish rituals and establishment of Jewish-themed routines. Before you know it, your children will be making Jewish memories that will last a lifetime.

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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.