Over the past few years we’ve built up a fairly well stocked collection of books to help us celebrate Chanukah. Here are eight of our favourites, one for each night of the festival! We’ve also been getting busy with lots of Chanukah play activities which we’ve added in too, enjoy!
Elmo’s Little Dreidel by Naomi Kleinberg, illustrated by Christopher Moroney and published by Random House
Elmo has been invited to his friend Gil’s house for Chanukah and to help them celebrate he’s brought along a big bag of chocolate coins. Gil shows Elmo to play dreidel and even gives him his own dreidel to take home. Elmo can’t wait to get home and show his mum and dad how to play too.
A sweet picture book that describes the tradition of playing dreidel in a clear and accessible way with everyone’s favourite Sesame Street character.
Buy Elmo’s Little Dreidel from Wordery.
Where is Baby’s Dreidel? by Karen Katz, published by Little Simon
It’s nearly time for Chanukah but where is Baby’s dreidel? Little ones are invited to join the search by lifting the flaps in different rooms of the house. During the search lots of Chanukah items are discovered; the chanukiah, candles, presents but just where can that dreidel be?
Bright illustrations make for a really engaging read for little ones with the added extra of revealing extra pictures and opportunities for talking about Chanukah.
Buy Where is Baby’s Dreidel from Wordery.
Chanukah Activity – Playing Dreidel
As well as collecting more Chanukah books each year we also add to our collection of dreidels. Dreidels are a type of spinning top with Hebrew letters on each side. The game is traditionally played with Chanukah gelt (gold coins, usually the chocolate kind in our house) and the letter you land on after spinning determines how many coins you get or give up.
I wanted my boys to be able to play with the dreidels throughout December so I gathered all the ones we have into a basket which I kept at a low level so they could always access it. What I didn’t want was them being able to access chocolate coins all the time! So, I cut out some circles from shiny gold card for them to use as their gelt. Perfect practice for playing against their family and friends when Chanukah starts.
Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko, published by Alfred A. Knopf
This book is wonderful for two reasons, firstly because it is a Chanukah story of course and secondly because the family in it are an interfaith one, just like us. We are a family with a Jewish mother and non Jewish father, exactly like the one in the book, and just like this family we enjoy a mix of two traditions during the holidays.
Both extended families come together so beautifully as they gently weave stories and traditions for a gorgeous celebration illustrated in a joyous mix of paint and collage. Finding books that reflect our Jewish life is often difficult so finding any that include interfaith families are even harder. Books like this do so much to support children like mine in understanding who they are.
Buy Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama from Wordery.
Mrs Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nancy Cote and published by Albert Whitman & Company
Rachel’s parents are busy getting ready for the holidays but all Rachel can think about is making delicious potato latkes for Chanukah. Rachel is looked after by her neighbour, Mrs Greenberg’s while her parents run errands but while she’s there her craving for latkes is so strong that she convinces Mrs Greenberg to let her make them. Although the results are a lot messier than she planned. What will her parents say and will Rachel manage to put things right for everyone?
A light-hearted story with a beautiful message about the mitzvah of looking after and visiting others during the holidays.
Chanukah Activity – Role Play Making Latkes
If you’ve ever made latkes (and if you’ve read Mrs Greenberg’s) you’ll know that making them is a pretty messy business. A great sensory activity would be to set up a big tray of grated potatoes and flour for little ones to explore. But for something with a bit more longevity I set up a latke making role play area.
Living in the UK we don’t have much access to Chanukah specific toys but this one I made up just from the things we have around the house and our usual toys. I gathered toy foods that are used in latkes; potatoes, onions and eggs, toy cooking utensils and a big bowl and spoon from the kitchen. To make our “latkes” I simply cut out wiggly, shapes from some thick yellow card.
My two-year-old is really enjoying this activity and is using so much language to describe how latkes are made as well as using some complex motor skills to try and flip them in his pan.
Is It Hanukkah Yet? by Chris Barash, illustrated by Alessandro Psacharopulo and published by Albert Whitman & Company
So much of the excitement around holidays is the anticipation and this beautiful picture book captures this perfectly. The children in this book start noticing changes outside as winter sets in; the animals hiding away in warm dens, the bare branches and the cold weather. They recognise that Chanukah must be close and help with the preparations; putting up decorations, finding the candles and making latkes.
Softly illustrated and with the use of repetitive lines this is a great book for young children to help build their excitement for Chanukah.
Buy Is It Hanukkah Yet from Wordery.
Hanukkah Counting Book by Emily Sper, published by Scholastic
Chanukah lasts for 8 days so it is the perfect holiday to tie in some counting and number practice and this book provides it in spades. Not only does this book count up the candles each night in English and Hebrew but also in Yiddish. A trilingual book!
As each candle is added the numbers are written out in all three languages, with Hebrew and Yiddish also transliterated to help with pronunciation. Chanukah objects are counted out with every new number and there is a lovely cut out detail running through the pages that adds a new candle until we have all 8.
With extra information about Chanukah and the languages spoken by Jewish people this is a book that can be enjoyed all year round.
Chanukah Activity – Playdough Mats
This is another activity that didn’t require any Chanukah specific toys so it is really easy to set up even if you don’t have any Chanukah resources. I printed pictures of chanukiahs and laminated them then got the playdough out to build and decorate the candles and chanukiahs.
This is a lovely hands on activity and great to support fine motor development and counting.
My First Chanukah by Tomie dePaola, published by Grosset & Dunlap
This book is a great introduction to Chanukah for little ones, in uncomplicated language it explains the festival and the traditions we follow. The illustrations are very sweet and feature a baby enjoying their first Chanukah with their family and getting excited about dreidels and presents.
A beautifully simple yet informative book about Chanukah for very young children.
Buy My First Chanukah from Wordery.
Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Karla Gudeon and published by Blue Apple Books
Count up the 8 nights of Chanukah with a new haiku for every night! Each page introduces another night of Chanukah and another candle in the chanukiah. Cleverly constructed with the pages getting narrower at each turn to slowly reveal a fully lit chanukiah this is a beautiful picture book to read.
Vintage style illustrations with delicate patterns weave their way through the book to give it a truly magical feel. This book provides lovely opportunities for older children who could draw their own Chanukah patterns or challenge themselves to come up with their own haiku.
Buy Hanukkah Haiku from Waterstones.
Chanukah Activity – Chanukah Shape Cutters
Last year I was so excited to find these Chanukah shape cutters in a Jewish food shop near to us. They can be used for lots of activities like paint printing, stenciling and of course, baking! Playdough is very popular in our house so that’s where our cutters have spent most of their time…
If you can’t get hold of any specific Chanukah shape cutters then 6 point star ones are much easier to find and any gingerbread people cutters can easily become a Maccabee cutter instead!
Do you have any favourite Chanukah books, activities or traditions you like to do with your family? We’d love to know so please share with us in the comments. Happy Chanukah!
Are you a Jewish family who would like free books about your religion and culture for your children to enjoy? If so then head over to PJ Library and sign up for yours, they are a wonderful organisation and are responsible for half the books in our list!
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