Hanukkah is a Jewish festival of lights honoring the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. It is marked by lighting 8 candles for the 8 days of celebration. These Hanukkah activities are wonderful for kids and families of all ages to learn about the holiday and celebrate in a respectful, fun way.
This guide is intended to help you appreciate and avoid cultural appropriation as you learn with and teach your children about this beautiful holiday. It also directs you to resources created by those of Jewish heritage, and provides ways to support Jewish creators as we benefit from the gift of their beautiful traditions. I’m especially thankful to my friend N who provided insight, resources, and made sure the information was accurate.
This guide to Hanukkah with kids contains affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own. That means I earn a small commission if you purchase through my link, but doesn’t change your price.
Hanukkah Activities and Family Learning Guide
Featured Hanukkah Picture Book
Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Tanya Simon (Author), Richard Simon (Author), Mark Siegel (Illustrator)
Hanukkah Picture Book Read Aloud
Oskar and the Eight Blessings Picture Book Discussion Questions
- What are some of the foods that you might eat for Hanukkah?
- What is the purpose of the 8 days/nights? Have you ever celebrated for eight days in a row?
Featured Hanukkah Book for Preschoolers
Latke, the Lucky Dog by Ellen Fischer (Author), Tiphanie Beeke (Illustrator)
Hanukkah Picture Book Read Aloud for Preschoolers
Other Hanukkah Books for Kids
You can find these saved in my Bookshop.org shop, as well!
Hanukkah Activity Books for Kids
- The word Hanukkah means “dedication.”
- Hanukkah lasts for 8 days.
- Hanukkah falls on the 25th of Kislev on the Jewish calendar.
- In about 200 B.C.E., Antiochus IV Epiphanes told the Jews living in Judea that they could no longer practice their religion and that they must worship the Greek gods.
- In 168 B.C.E., his soldiers killed many Jews in Jerusalem and desecrated the temple and erected an altar to Zeus.
- The Jews fought back and their leader, Judah Maccabee, managed to get the Syrians out of Jerusalem. They wanted to cleanse the temple, rebuild the altar, and light the menorah. The temple required holy light from the menorah at all times.
- When they wanted to do this, they had enough sacred olive oil to last for one day for the menorah. But the Hanukkah miracle is that the oil lasted for a full 8 days, leaving them enough time to bless new holy oil.
- There is another version of the story that says that the Maccabees celebrated for 8 days after reclaiming the temple, but does not talk about the miracle of the oil.
- A Hanukkah menorah, or Hanukkiah, typically has 9 candles – one for each day of the celebration, and one helper candle, called the shamash.
- Hanukkah is actually a fairly minor holiday in Jewish tradition. Holidays such as Passover and Rosh Hashanah are much more important.
- There are many different spellings for Hanukkah…and they are all correct! Since Hanukkah is a transliteration from Hebrew, it can be spelled Chanukah, Hanukah, and many other ways.
- This article has some interesting thoughts on Hanukkah as a symbol of tradition vs. assimilation.
Hanukkah Crafts and Games
Hanukkah Menorah Handprint Project
I love this project because it’s super simple, and even very young children can participate!
Pour a small amount of blue paint in a paper plate. Have your child rub the inside of their hand in the paint so that it covers their fingers and palm. Make a handprint on the white paper. Repeat with the other hand, with the thumb of the 2nd hand connecting to the thumb of the first hand (so that there are 9 total “candles”).
After washing hands, pour a small amount of gold paint in a new paper plate. Have your child press their thumb into the paint. Then have them make a thumb print at the top of each “candle” to make a “flame.”
Other Hanukkah Activities for Kids
- Hanukkah candle-lighting blessings and readings, skits, and jokes.
- Here are 25 other Hanukkah crafts!
- This sand art menorah craft project looks beautiful! (You’ll need colored sand, clear jars, a funnel, silver straws, and yellow paper.)
- This post has lots of Hanukkah activity ideas from dreidel games to Hanukkah puppets to Hanukkah Mad Libs.
- DIY Hanukkah candles
- Origami dreidel craft
- Popsicle stick Hanukah decorations
Featured Hanukkah Food: Potato Latkes
There’s no more traditional food for Hanukkah than potato latkes. These crispy fried potato pancakes are as addictive as they are commemorative; the oil in which they are fried is an homage to the oil that lasted through the 8 days. (Other foods fried in oil are popular for Hanukkah, too!)
This potato latkes recipe is tried and true and utterly delicious!
Hanukkah Activities for Kids: How to Celebrate 8 Days of Hanukkah
You can celebrate each of the 8 days/nights of Hanukkah with a different activity:
Night 1: Light candles.
- You can make your own hanukkiah or paint one or buy one that’s complete. You can even just light candles that you already have.
- Discussion Topics (depending on age):
- Why do so many holidays this time of year focus on lights?
- Why are many Jews afraid to put their menorahs/ hanukkias in their front windows, though it’s thought to be important to spread the light? How can we support our Hanukkah-celebrating friends in this?
- Why do we have the center candle (shamash)?
- There are a lot of very specific traditions (like which side to start lighting candles from). What’s something that you always do the same way (e.g. putting on shoes/socks, drying off after a shower)?
Night 2: Play dreidel.
- Play dreidel. You can play with coins, with candy, with nuts, or with chocolate coins (called gelt, which is “money” in Yiddish).
- Where to buy gelt: Judaica stores and sites; some pharmacies and grocery stores. Be sure to call ahead!
- The dreidels in Israel have 4 letters (“Nes Gadol Haya Po”), but the ones in the rest of the world have 1 different letter (“Nes Gadol Haya Sham”). That’s because “Po” means “here,” while “Sham” means “there.” “A Great Miracle Happened” either “Here” or “There,” depending on where you live.
- Discussion Topics (depending on age):
- Dreidel is a game of luck. When is a time you have been lucky?
- Do you know any other games or activities that change a bit based on where you are when you do/play them?
Night 3: Cook some latkes or sufganiyot.
- These are the most popular Hanukkah foods among many Jews, but they’re not the only ones. Jews in different parts of the world have their own variations, like this. See recipes below!
- If cooking is not possible, there may be local vendors who are offering Hanukkah eats, like these in Oakland. Your community may have something similar.
- Make extras and save them for tomorrow night.
- Discussion Topics (depending on age):
- Why do we cook such oily foods for Hanukkah? What’s your favorite oily food?
- What else do we use oil for?
Night 4: Make Hanukkah care package gifts for nearby family or friends.
- For the springtime holiday of Purim, you give “mishloach manot” gifts to friends and family to share in the joy and generosity of the holiday. We can do something similar for Hanukkah by preparing little gift bags with the latkes or sufganiyot you made, some of the gelt you won (or lost) on the first night, and some candles or lights.
- These can be dropped off on porches while maintaining physical distance and are a great way to help light up the world around you.
- Discussion Topics:
Night 5: Enjoy Hanukkah arts, and support the artists.
- You can share/like Hanukkah song videos (see below), watch/review a Hanukkah movie, visit an outdoor mural, appreciate Hanukkah paintings, etc.
- Discussion Topics:
- Which Hanukkah song is your favorite?
Night 6: Have a (re-)dedication ritual.
- Hanukkah is a time of (re-)dedication, to your community and to yourself. What are you ready to dedicate yourself to? Maybe it’s being nicer to your brother, or working on your drawing skills, or being brave when meeting new people. This isn’t about fear of not getting gifts or having your house (Temple) destroyed. This is about getting something precious: another chance to be the person you’d like to be.
- Here’s a wonderful re-dedication activity!
- Once you identify what you are dedicated to, think about how you can have a little ceremony for it. Ceremony helps us focus and remember what’s important to us; it can be grounding. So, maybe if you decide to dedicate yourself to your drawing, you can organize your art space into a haven. Make a plaque that says “Macy’s Art Nook” or put a color film on your window for colored light or hang a poster for inspiration. Have a dedication ceremony for your space with your whole family.
- Discussion Topics:
- What does it mean to dedicate yourself to something? Why do you think people RE-dedicate themselves to ideas/ causes/ activities?
Night 7: Give tzedakah.
- Usually translated as “charity” or “donations,” “tzedakah” actually means “righteousness,” underscoring how important it is to give of yourself. Some people put coins in a type of piggy bank called a “tzedakah box,” while others give food or money to food banks, homeless shelters, etc. It need not be monetary: you can share one toy that you don’t play with anymore or take time to read a story or a FaceTime with someone in the hospital. It’s more about making the act of “tzedakah” a weekly habit.
- If you are able to give money as a family, here are a few organizations you may not be familiar with, which would appreciate your Hanukkah tzedakah:
- AFMDA: This is the ambulance service / blood bank in Israel. They “provide the entire nation’s pre-hospital emergency needs, including medical, disaster, ambulance and blood services.” I know that some folks have issues with Israel’s political or military actions, and if that’s you, feel free to skip this. But I know that this is how anyone in the country – regardless of religion or nationality; even tourists – get to the hospital, for example, so it has value for me. They do many more things (like provide trainings on how to avoid spreading infection, provide blood to those needing transfusions, etc.) to help people. (The “American Friends of” part of the charity name is so that your donation is tax-deductible in the US.)
- HIAS: They “protect refugees who have been forced to flee their homelands because of who they are, including ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities.”
- If you attend a virtual event for Hanukkah, it is nice to give a small donation to the synagogue or organization running it.
- Discussion Topics:
- What do you think living a righteous life looks like?
Night 8: Find your own way to add light to the world.
- That could be writing a letter to refugees in detainee facilities or calling a great-aunt who doesn’t have kids or making a card for someone in a nursing home. There are so many ways to add light to the world. Only you and your kids know how your unique skills and personalities can add the most light.
- If you share what you come up with via email or social media, we’ll link/show them here!
- Discussion Topics:
How to Celebrate Hanukkah with Kids: Avoid Cultural Appropriation and Support Jewish Heritage
An important part of avoiding cultural appropriation is to financially support the cultures from which we learn and borrow. It’s important compensate those from those cultures so that the culture can continue to thrive.
Here are some ways you can support those of Jewish ancestry:
Buy Sufganiyot from a Local Grocer
Instead of searching a big supermarket or even making it yourself, consider supporting a Jewish grocer. You may want to purchase other things while there, as well. Or perhaps buy some for yourself, and take some to a friend!
Buy an Authentic Hanukkiah (Hanukkah Menorah)
You should absolutely purchase a Hanukkah menorah from someone of Jewish heritage. Profiting off another culture is one of the most egregious forms of appropriation. We should avoid purchasing traditional items with deep significance, like these things, from big corporations or those appropriating Jewish culture and religious heritage. You can check somewhere like Zion Judaica (like this inexpensive one), or find one like this.
On that note, try to purchase any Hanukkah craft activities or decor from your local Jewish grocer or from an authentic source if you’re able, as well!
Attend a Virtual Hanukkah Celebration
You can check with your local Jewish community or even just search Eventbrite or something similar. Expect to be welcomed, no matter your religion, as long as you’re respectful and/or interested. Here are a couple suggested events:
Learn about the history of Hanukkah and why it is celebrated.
While it’s fun to celebrate, it’s important to understand the religious significance behind the festival.
There are number of books listed above that provide a basic explanation of the Hanukkah story!
Study Jewish history and culture
Hanukkah is a perfect time to learn more about Jewish history with kids. Deeply saddening events like the Holocaust are important to remember and to teach our children. It’s also important to remember Jewish joy! Share stories of happiness, success, and everyday life that feature Jewish children and adults.
Sign up for an online Jewish cooking class
This is great way to support Jewish chefs and creators. Here are several virtual Jewish cooking classes you can do right from the comfort of your own home!
Purchase a Jewish cookbook
It’s easy to Google recipes, but it’s also wonderful to support Jewish (or Jewish-American) cookbook authors. This cookbook, though older, is a staple and a treasure trove of history and recipes. If you prefer more modern food, this one is one of my favorite cookbooks ever. (You can also find it on Bookshop.org.) Here are some others that I personally have loved!
Hanukkah Writing Assignment: Hanukkah for Kids Language Arts Activity
Draw pictures or write down some of the Hanukkah celebrations. Draw them in order if you can!
Older Elementary School/Middle School
Read a book about Hanukkah and learn about the different ways to celebrate each of the 8 days. Make a timeline to visualize what happens on each day, and draw a picture for the importance of each day.
Write a letter to a friend who knows nothing about Hanukkah and describe what it’s about.
Traditions across generations are important in celebrating Hanukkah. Do you have any traditions in your family? What traditions would you create if you were a grown up?
Religious freedom is an important part of Hanukkah. Is it still important today? Why or why not?
Here are lots more Hanukkah writing prompts!
Kids Hanukkah Music
Kid Movies About Hanukkah
Hanukkah with Kids Discussion Questions
- What darkness have you faced in your life, and what is the light that has helped you overcome it?
- Have you ever experienced fear? How have you overcome it?
- Have you ever experienced what felt like a miracle in your life?
- Gift giving used to consist primarily of gelt (money), and has now evolved and often includes larger gifts. Have you ever given or received a gift before? What is a gift of time or service you could give?
Thanks for learning about Hanukkah with kids with us!
We’ve loved putting together this resource with Hanukkah activities for kids. We’d love to hear if you do any of these activities!
We hope to inspire curiosity and connection through exploring and learning, and we hope this guide helps you and your families. Please share any activities you do with us over on our Instagram. And we’d be delighted if you passed this Hanukkah with kids resource along to others, as well!
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