The marquee event of my Hanukkah party each year is distributing the gelt and playing dreidel. Until that time, I like to have a few Hanukkah activities for the kids to do prior. Especially with boys, who don’t often feel that socializing is a thing to do in itself, having some planned activities helps alleviate boredom and nagging their parents at the party.
#1 – Crafts
I always like to have a crafts table set up in the back room. There are always some kids that are interested in crafts. Last year, I had a quilling project that was successful and the year before that I had plain paper bags the kids could decorate with cut outs from coloring pages. Whatever you choose, just make sure you have lots of nice crayons, pens, pencils, glitter glue, etc.
#2 – Building Challenge
If you have a a lot of LEGO, blocks, Tinkertoys, etc. you can give the kids a building challenge. Tasks like making a functional menorah or dreidel should keep them plenty busy.
#3 – Coloring
Easy, easy, activity. There are always some kids that are interested in coloring. I think the trick to this activity being generally appealing is providing really fun coloring implements – pens, crayons, glitter glue, stickers, etc. Attractively display everything with lots and lots of coloring pages. I also like to provide an inspirational sample, as some kids need a little encouragement.
#4 – Sing-a-long
If your kid goes to public school, you know how tedious the Winter performance is where you have to sit through 10 Christmas songs just to hear 1 Hanukkah song. This is your chance to create the Winter performance of your dreams. Set up is pretty easy – you just need to have the lyrics on hand and be ready to lead the singing.
Above: A Hanukkah with Mazel from Kar-Ben and other Hanukkah books
#5 – Story time
This one is so easy, it almost doesn’t even need explanation. Collect together all of your Hanukkah books and have them on hand. Periodically during the party, get one of the parents to volunteer to read a story (or two). Calling out “story time, story time” to gather the kids together.
#6 – Dress up Photo Booth
This is fun for both boys and girls and kids of all ages. All you need is one of those indestructible kids cameras (you can use your phone too if you trust your kid with it) and a lot of dress up items…clothes, hats, jewelry, etc. You can go to a charity shop to get some great items. The kids self organize and dress up in different costumes and take their own pictures, with plenty of hamming. Bigger kids can even dress the little ones up and take pictures. The kids delight in their own pictures and you can send the pics to their parents afterwards.
#7 – Cards
My kid is really into cards right now. For little kids, War is doable but when they get a little older Crazy Eights (Hearts) is fun. Older kids can learn Gin. For added Math fun, teach them how to properly keep score. Playing cards really makes kids feel grown-up and they dig that.
#8 – Balloon Free for All
It doesn’t get easier than this. Have an assortment of balloons (round, long, bumpy) and let the kids do whatever they want with them. You can have ribbons to tie on and even a helium tank if you have older kids to monitor it. Then the real fun starts.
#9 – Shamash
Separate one child from the others and ask the group to come up with a noun (e.g. cat, car, tree.) The separated child returns and must ask a series of yes/no questions using “shamash” in place of the noun, to try and guess the secret word. For example, “Can you ride the shamash?” “Is the shamash big?” The other kids can answer with yes or no only. If the child correctly guesses the word, another child must take their place and the game starts over.
#10 – Forget #10…Let’s Play Dreidel!
What can I say? The dreidel competition was so fierce last Hanukkah and the chanting of “Shin, Shin, put one in!” was so ferocious, my kid felt he needed to wear his safety goggles. I couldn’t believe there was so much excitement over gelt so I needed to check to make sure they weren’t playing with real money!