The High Holiday Hustle. We know the steps well. It starts with a tireless trek to the mall in search of that stylish synagogue suit. Next comes the culinary juggling act, simultaneously preparing Aunt Sophie's tzimmes, Bubbe's killer kugel and a 22-pound turkey, dressed and trimmed. The last step is grooming an entire family and shuffling the whole gang out the door and into the synagogue in under an hour.
The entire dance sequence -- minus the shopping -- is generally repeated the following day. Scrambling through the better part of October, it's easy to forget that the true meaning of the High Holiday season can't be found in Nordstrom or Bloomingdale's or Aunt Sophie's tzimmes, but in appreciating and giving thanks for life's sweetest blessings. So steal a few moments from the holiday hoopla to remind the true apples of your eye just how delicious they are. Even the simplest acts can send children a message, as loud and clear as the shofar, that they're loved and cherished. The following sweet suggestions will help you show your children the honey this Rosh Hashanah and every other day of the brand new year.
Rosh Hashanah Honey for Kids\n
• Take them to a paint-it-yourself ceramic shop and decorate Kiddush cups, apple plates or honey bowls together.\n
• Leave Hershey's Kisses on their pillows on erev Rosh Hashanah, along with a note wishing them a sweet New Year.\n
• Celebrate the birthday of the world with a family nature hike.\n
• Give the world a birthday present by planting a tree together.\n
• Have a honey cake baking party.\n
• Let them design the Rosh Hashanah tablecloth and challah cover using fabric crayons or markers.\n
• Make a Rosh Hashanah hunt by giving children clues that lead them to different places in your home -- i.e., go to the place where you rest your rosh (head) every night. Have a new clue waiting at each stop and a bag of holiday treats at the final destination.\n
• Take a family excursion to an orchard for apple picking.\n
• Bake a round challah together.\n
• Have a Tashlich ceremony by a lake or river, so children can cast their sins away and start out the year with a fresh, clean slate.\n
• Turn an apple on its side and cut it in half to reveal a star in the middle. Dip the fruit in washable paint, and let your little stars stamp away.\n
• Steal some time to read a High Holiday picture book together -- even if they say that they're too old to listen to a story. Some noteworthy choices are "Gershon's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year" by Eric Kimmel (Scholastic, 2000), "The World's Birthday: A Rosh Hashanah Story," by Barbara Diamond Goldin (Harcourt, 1990), "Sophie and the Shofar" by Fran Manushkin (Urj, 2001) and "How the Rosh Hashanah Challah Became Round" by Sylvia Epstein (Gefen,1999).
Year-Round Sweet Stuff for Kids\n
• Flip through photo albums and baby books, and tell them stories about when they were little.\n
• Have lunch with them at school (note: disregard in case of preadolescence).\n
• Have a campout in the living room. Roast marshmallows over candles and tell ghost stories by flashlight.\n
• Give them a coupon that they can redeem for something priceless, like going to a movie with mom or a ballgame with dad.\n
• Plan a family game night once a week. TVs, cellphones and computers not invited.\n
• Have an unbirthday party -- complete with a cake -- for everyone in the family who does not have a birthday that day.\n
• Take them on a "mystery trip" to a place you rarely go, like an amusement park, sporting event or children's museum.\n
• Proudly display their finest schoolwork.\n
• Transform your family room into a movie theater, complete with tickets and popcorn.\n
• Send them comic books, baseball cards or other goodies in the mail.\n
• Create a new family tradition like a weekly pizza-making night.\n
• Do something completely out of character, like starting a pillow fight.\n
• Pack dinner up in a picnic basket and eat at the park.\n
• Watch cartoons with them.\n
• Make up a secret signal together for saying "I love you." (Little ones will love being sneaky; older children will be thankful to save face in public.)\n
• Arrange with the teacher to read a book to their class.\n
• Host special dinners to celebrate their every day accomplishments, like losing a tooth, scoring a soccer goal or getting an "A" on a science test.\n
• Slip a joke into their backpacks.\n
• Ask them for advice about something they know well.\n
• Tell them you love them -- even if they roll their eyes when they hear it -- every morning and every night.
L'Shanah Tovah to you and your honeys.
Sharon Estroff is a syndicated Jewish parenting columnist with graduate degrees in education and child psychology.