Shabbat for Families

How to make Shabbat your family's favorite day of the week.

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Shabbat Bedtime

Because on Shabbat we often have the time to spend an extended evening together as a family, bedtimes may be later. Add something special to your bedtime ritual by reading or telling a special Shabbat story: check out your local bookstore for many outstanding titles perfect for children. Also choose a special Shabbat song to sing, like Bim Bom, Lekha Dodi or Shabbat HaMalka.

Waking Up On Shabbat Morning

A friend of mine many years ago introduced me to the idea of Shabbat cereal. Day after day, we eat healthy breakfasts--nutritious cereals, waffles or pancakes, eggs, etc. On Shabbat, take a break from the nutritious stuff and bring out the Shabbat cereal. Sugared cereals make the breakfast before attending services a bit more special, and definitely distinguish Shabbat breakfast from breakfast during the week.

The Shabbat Nap

For generations, the Shabbat afternoon nap has been a grown-up favorite--it's the one time during the week when a nap is actually possible and permitted for adults.  Make naps something to look forward to: families nap together. One of the key values connected to the celebration of Shabbat is that of menuha, rest. Take some time with your children for cuddling or resting with a favorite stuffed animal or book in bed. Make a special rule that parent nap time is always enforced for one hour in the afternoon, and that kids can play quietly while their parents nap. Kids can tuck their parents into bed and wake them up after an hour!  In addition to the nap, the idea of Shabbat menuha also extends to work. Shabbat should be a day when kids are freed from their chores and their own responsibilities. Let it be a day off for everyone.

Havdalah

The ritual which ends the relaxation of Shabbat and begins the work-week is the most child-friendly of all. Havdalah, or "separation," lasts for a mere five minutes, and includes blessings that appeal to the senses. The short blessings are perfect for little ones to hear and say, and it's always a treat to watch the candle burn and sniff the delicious spices before we taste the wine. Saying goodbye to Shabbat together also allows you to help set the tone for anticipating the coming of next Shabbat.

Instead of Shabbat being a day of "no," make it a day of "yes."  Yes, have fun as a family. Yes, provide kids with lots of roles and responsibilities. Yes, enjoy special treats for young and old alike. Try some of these ways to make Shabbat fun for children of all ages, and it just might become your favorite day of the week.

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Sara Shapiro-Plevan

Sara Shapiro-Plevan serves as the Coordinator of Congregational Education for New York City for the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York.