Helping Kids Welcome Guests

“Let your house be open wide.” – Pirkei Avot 1:5

When guests come calling at your front door, you’re about to practice the time-honored value of hachnasat orchim, Welcoming Guests.

In the early part of the Torah, Abraham and Sarah go out to meet the unexpected guests that arrive at their tent and work to make them feel comfortable. The mitzvah of welcoming guests, or hachnasat orchim, is not just about inviting people in but also making them feel honored, relaxed, and at home. Explore this concept further with the stories, activities, and videos below.

DO

HANG UP A WELCOME MOBILE

Welcome Mobile

In September, PJ Library is sending an extra present with your books, a hangable Welcome Mobile. Whether it’s displayed in your house or your sukkah, the mobile can serve as an “interactive guestbook” as you and your children enjoy hosting guests – during Sukkot and throughout the year. 

Need a quick primer on Sukkot?
Check out PJ Library's 2018 Quick Guide to Celebrating Sukkot With Kids

Download GUEST CARDS

Download  EXTRA GUEST CARDS

HOST SHABBAT

Have you been wanting to host that new family from Tot Shabbat for a night? Take the plunge and invite them over. Even if you’re not ready to roast a whole chicken or make a wicked batch of cholent, you can still host an awesome Shabbat. Just order some take out, set the kids up with some games, and enjoy an evening of being together. By getting to know a new family and future friends, you’re modeling good hosting behavior for your children. By asking questions and being thoughtful about food allergies when menu planning, you’re showing your little ones how to focus on others while having a nice night in.

WRITE INVITATIONS

Whether you’re organizing a play date or having a friend over for dinner, let the kids create a special invitation to mail or hand to your guest. Your child will get to flex their creative muscles. Plus making the invitation will help build anticipation for the event.

PRACTICE BEING GOOD HOSTS

Welcoming Guests

Kids are naturally pretty adept at honoring hachnasat orchim; they like to play with friends and enjoy time with family. Tap into their natural enthusiasm by reinforcing good “hosting behaviors” during play time and when guests come over. Encourage your kids to greet guests, offer to take their coats, or tell them about what’s for dinner or snack.

GIVE GUESTS FIRST PICK

When your child has a friend over for a get together or play date, encourage them to let their friend choose the activity. Part of being a good host is taking turns and being open to a guest’s interests. Reminding kids that a guest gets to pick first helps reinforce hachnasat orchim in a fun, organic, and age-appropriate manner.

READ

Chick-Chak Shabbat

Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff

Recommended for children 6 to 7 years old

Everyone in Goldie Simcha’s apartment building knows it’s Friday night when they smell her delicious Shabbat cholent. But one Friday night, Goldie doesn’t feel well enough to cook. Her neighbors step up to make an unusual cholent for Shabbat -- and soon Goldie will feel much better.


Company’s Coming

Company’s Coming by Joan Holub

Recommended for children 2 to 3 years old

Family and friends arrive to visit and take part in a family’s Passover celebration. The Four Questions are asked, foods on the seder plate are sampled, and there’s a hunt for the afikomen.


Emma’s Poem

Emma’s Poem by Linda Glaser

Recommended for children 7 to 8 years old

Emma Lazarus was raised in a wealthy Jewish American family in 1880’s New York City, where she was moved by the plight of immigrants. As a young woman, asked to write a poem to raise money for a pedestal for the proposed Statue of Liberty, she composed “The New Colossus” and so became the voice of the Statue of Liberty. This is the story of the difference she made in her world.


Fridays Are Special

Fridays Are Special by Chris Barash

Recommended for children 2 to 3 years old

For this child’s family, Fridays aren’t like other days. On Fridays, the hustle and bustle is a little different. Everyone seems to be getting ready for something special -- something cozy and wonderful. What could it be?


Friday Nights of Nana

The Friday Nights of Nana by Amy Hest 

Recommended for children 3 to 4 years old

In this contemporary intergenerational tale, Jennie and her grandmother find happiness in their joint preparations for the Sabbath.


The Mitten String

The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner

Recommended for children 6 to 7 years old

Ruthie loves to knit -- and to help people. When her family gives shelter to a deaf woman and her baby, Ruthie realizes there’s a way for her to do both at once!


The Wooden Sword

The Wooden Sword by Ann Redisch Stampler

Recommended for children 7 to 8 years old

Disguised as a servant, an Afghani shah slips out of his palace to get to know his people. When he encounters a poor Jewish shoemaker full of faith that everything will turn out just as it should, he decides to test that faith. Will the shoemaker'sheerful optimism be shaken when faced with a matter of life and death?


Welcome

Welcome by Stephane Barroux

Recommended for children 5 to 6 years old

Polar Bear and his friends have lost their home. Will they find a safe place to stay? After several animals turn them away, the polar bears find an empty spot where they can settle. And now someone else needs a home...

WATCH

These short videos teach children about how to be a good host and welcome others.

How to Make People Feel Welcome via Shaboom! via BimBam

This adorable episode of Shaboom! gives kids (and their grown-ups) a quick introduction to hachnasat orchim.

Explaining Hachansat Orchim via Shalom Sesame

One of the most fun parts of Sukkot is welcoming friends and family to your sukkah. Watch along as the monsters from Shalom Sesame get ready to bring guests into their celebration.

What's Jewish about Welcoming Guests? For Parents! via BimBam

How does hachnasat orchim extend beyond playing host when people visit? This video for parents expands on the Torah teachings about hospitality.

Where It All Began via Shalom Sesame

When guests unexpectedly arrived at the tent of Abraham and Sarah, the couple warmly welcome the visitors, make them comfortable, and feed them generously.

MORE

Honoring Guests via Kveller
Jewish Hospitality via MyJewishLearning
Birthday Party Planning and Prep via PBS Parents
Welcoming Guests Books and Activities via PJ Goes to School