The 2019 Quick Guide to Celebrating Sukkot With Kids

This year Sukkot begins in the evening of Sunday, October 13  and ends in the evening on Sunday, October 20.

Sukkot, the fall holiday of thanksgiving, starts five days after Yom Kippur and lasts for a week. The most popular tradition of Sukkot is building, decorating, and spending time (even sleeping!) inside a hut called a sukkah.

On Sukkot, families welcome guests into their sukkah, or visit friends in theirs, enjoy delicious seasonal foods, and feel thankful for what they have.  

Want a quick primer on Sukkot traditions and customs? Watch this video from BimBam.

Use the buttons below to learn more and celebrate Sukkot with your kids this year.

SUKKOT WITH KIDS UNDER AGE 5

For small children and toddlers, Sukkot is offers a fantastic space for imaginative play and for doing small, easy to understand mitzvot like welcoming guests, being kind to animals, and celebrating with enthusiasm.

Is it Sukkot Yet?
Sadie's Sukkah Breakfast
Tamar's Sukkah

 

You can also:

Decorate your sukkah together.

  • Use your new PJ Library welcome mobile
  • Hang plastic play fruit from the dollar store (or the real thing)

Imagine what it feels like to sleep outside. Play pretend together – what sounds might you hear? Birds chirping? Wind blowing? Cars driving by if you live in a city? What would you see through the thatch roof on your sukkah?

Build a sukkah in your living room! Make a mini-sukkah from building blocks or play pretend with a pillow fort.

Sing a song like “Hinei Ma Tov.”

SUKKOT WITH KIDS AGES 5+

Great books for this age group include The Vanishing Gourds: A Sukkot Mystery by Susan Axe-Bronk, Shanghai Sukkah by Heidi Smith Hyde, Tikvah Means Hope by Patricia Polacco, and The House on the Roof by David A. Adler.

The House on the Roof
Tikvah Means Hope
Shanghai Sukkah
The Vanishing Gourds

 

You can also:

Make your own decorations

Watch the Shalom Sesame monsters welcome guests in to their sukkah!


What are some ways that you might welcome people into your sukkah?

Shake the lulav!

Invite ushpezin. Welcoming guests is a time honored tradition in Judaism. The Talmud, a book of Jewish law and wisdom, notes that welcoming guests is even more important than studying Torah or worshipping God (Shabbat 127a). The beloved Jewish scholar and philosopher Maimonides insists that it is only in the presence of guests that one can experience the true joys of a holiday. A popular practice is to welcome a different Biblical guest, known by the Aramaic term ushpezin (guests), into the sukkah each night of Sukkot. Take the idea of ushpezin and make a guest list with your children – who will you invite? PJ Library characters? Friends? Celebrities? Far-away relaties?

Be generous. Generosity means giving eagerly to others, and even more than necessary. A common Hebrew expression for generosity is nedivut lev, literally a willing heart. Giving wholeheartedly is what distinguishes nedivut from ordinary giving. How can you be generous to others during Sukkot? Invite friends and neighbors to your sukkah, share delicious treats with them, give tzedakah and maybe find a family service project to do during the holiday as well.

SUKKOT WITH TWEENS

Although kids in this age group are almost teenagers, they’re not too cool (yet) to join in on decorating the sukkah and preparing snacks to share. Let your kids practice the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests, by planning a night in the sukkah. They can pick the menu (pizza and tacos are both solid Sukkot foods), invite friends, and play host for the evening.

pj-our-way-kids-bake-apple-pops

PJ Our Way members from Orlando make apple pops together for a Sukkot celebration.

Since kids in this age group already know the customs and traditions associated with Sukkot, focus on books that build on themes of the holiday: gratitude, welcoming guests, and feeling pride and joy in celebrating. Here are some great titles to check out:

A Time of Angels
The Boy From Seville
The Doll Shop Downstairs
Jesse's Star

SUKKOT FOR ALL AGES

Regardless of your age, you can help enhance the celebration, hiddur mitzvah, by decorating, playing music, and enjoying and sharing delicious food. Hiddur mitzvah reminds all Jewish people that holidays should be enjoyed with great enthusiasm. For parents, holidays can often feel stressful or hectic, but by taking a step back and refocusing on the value of hiddur mitzvah, you can find ways to reframe the energy around your holidays. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that we have to do a lot, or more, for each holiday – create a better sukkah, make a bigger meal, buy an expensive, imported, etrog, but that’s not what hiddur mitzvah is about.

Instead, think of hiddur mitzvah as an upgrade to your holiday – maybe you won’t do as many things, but you might do them better. Instead of trying to make twenty homemade Pinterest-worthy decorations for your sukkah, try to do one project as a family that you can reuse every year. Forget the artisanal cheese-plate you were trying to craft and serve some imperfectly perfect hummus made by the kids as a sukkah snack. Order pizza, invite friends, relax, and enjoy your holiday together.