History Behind Hanukkah Traditions

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Hanukkah begins tonight, and although it’s not a holiday we celebrate, Travis’s latest Raddish kit contained a yummy traditional recipe (latkes) as well as an interesting lesson plan about the holiday. So we were intrigued to delve into it!

As background, we read a quick poem about Hanukkah and enjoyed the suggested video on the history of the holiday.

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There were several suggested ways to craft a menorah, thereafter. We tried a very simple version made simply with painted clothespins clipped to craft paper or folded paper plates…

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…but then also copied the method we used earlier this month for advent candles. This time, I cut toilet paper tubes in half for shorter candles and we wrapped them in blue cardstock with blue ribbon.

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Wrap a taller candle in white cardstock for the center shammash. Add a felt-wrapped tea light to each candle. I brought this menorah to the table for Travis and I to discuss. We counted the candles, and talked about how each one represented one night of the miracle.

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Time to light it, making sure to work our way right to left!

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To add to our discussion, we waited until dark and then turned out all the lights except the candles. Travis helped brainstorm a list of other light sources, including flashlights, light bulbs, and the sun.

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We discussed the differences among them, and he completed the sentence: “Light is important in my life because…” citing the ways it helps him see and focus and feel unafraid.

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I was glad this lesson offered the chance to learn about another culture and customs. For bonus fun, don’t forget to play a game of dreidel with chocolate gelt for a reward.


Exploring Patagonia

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Here was a very different lesson plan from Raddish Kids, in conjunction with the Comida Argentina recipes Travis has been cooking up. My kindergartner got to learn social studies, all about one region of the world!

Truth be told, the unit was quite simple compared to many Raddish lessons. I showed Travis the Patagonia region on a fantastic map we have featuring elevated surfaces for mountains. He immediately picked up on how mountainous the region was, and also how close to the ocean.

We read a few fun facts about the area, including the discovery of dinosaur fossils. Then it was time for a video!

Raddish provided a worksheet for children to draw images of what they learned in the travel video. Travis immediately paused it and said, “Mom, there’s water!” His delight was infectious, pausing the clip every few seconds to draw the glaciers (“silvery mountains!”), desert, flies, or any other things that jumped out to a five-year-old boy.

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There are numerous ways to continue the lesson from here. Children are encouraged to present their knowledge while pretending to be something, be that an archaeologist, chef, journalist, or artist.

Because Travis loves YouTube clips, I suggested he be a travel blogger giving his review of Patagonia. But first, he wanted to make those glaciers! He raided the craft bin and wrapped Styrofoam balls in aluminum foil. These were glued to a sheet of shiny cardstock as “ice”. He added dowels as “desert”. All of this received lots of glue on top as snow.

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Without further ado, here’s my little travel blogger, enticing you to Patagonia!

Be a Food Historian

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Of all the lessons that have accompanied Travis’s Raddish Kids recipes so far, this one was the least accessible to a preschooler. I did my best to adapt it for Travis and it turned out to be sort of his first social studies project!

First, I set out some of the Thai ingredients we had used in our recipes and grocery store hunt, and invited Travis to test them out with all his senses. He was almost scared by the smell of little bird chiles!

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And incidentally loves soy sauce plain. Invite your child to taste, smell, and touch if appropriate, and add items like lemongrass, sugar, lime juice, or ginger.

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Big kids can go in depth here into the history of Thai food and learn that being a food historian is a real job; however, the suggested links from Raddish were heavy on text rather than video.

Instead, I showed Travis images of a few other iconic food/country pairs, including:

  • Tacos & Mexico
  • Baguettes & France
  • Sushi & Japan
  • Pizza & Italy

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I then asked him which he wanted to explore more in-depth. He’s been very into Japan lately (ninjas, in particular), so chose that pairing. Again, there were many suggested links to web resources for big kids, but these were text-heavy and not of interest to my preschooler.
Instead, we located Japan on a world map. We then thought of a few things he knew about the country and printed out pictures of each.

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He helped write the word ‘Japan’ across the top, and we glued down the pictures.

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Voila! His first social studies project. I was proud he stuck with me for this lesson, which ultimately ended up being quite cute.

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Be a Thoughtful Traveler

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The lesson that accompanied Travis’s Mango Sticky Rice from Raddish Kids was all about etiquette while traveling abroad – big stuff for a small four-year-old! I made it accessible with more of a role-play game and I liked giving him this intro to different customs.

First, I walked up to Travis and gave him a fist bump. Well, this got a look of surprise, not normally how mommy greets him!

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Do something similar to your child, whether a wave, a hug, a high five, or anything out of the norm. I explained that people around the world greet each other differently, and we were headed on a “trip” to find out more!

We checked out a good infographic with different greetings, and cut up cards with each country’s name on it.

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I asked him which one he liked best (everything from touching an elder’s feet in India to shaking fists in Niger), and he chose the Maori hongi greeting. To New Zealand we go!

That meant racing to his room to spot New Zealand on the map. “We have to fly far!” he exclaimed. For role-play fun, pack a bag. Travis decided he needed a comic book and a bathing suit.

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Off to the plane! The country name card became our plane ticket, which he loved hole punching.

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We mimed getting into our seats and flying.

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I could get used to this travel without the hassle! In no time we were in “New Zealand”, and now we could do the hongi.

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We also tested out a high five, a traditional Thai wai, and more, each time first pinpointing the country on his map, and then boarding our airplane.

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There’s a lot in this lesson that we didn’t do. For extension with older children, ask lots of questions about what it will be like upon reaching their destination. Reflect on what it means to be “thoughtful” in another country. Have your child pick a country and learn the traditional greeting, then design a way to teach their peers about it, whether through a travel brochure, song, dramatization, or other medium. You could even play World Greeting Charades!

What is a Landmark?

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We’re only in our second month of a subscription to Raddish Kids, but I continue to be impressed with the company’s thorough lesson plans to accompany each recipe. I mentioned last month that the lessons are meant for everyone from preschoolers through big kids, so you’ll need to adapt and adjust accordingly. To wit, I worried Travis wouldn’t get much out of a lesson on French landmarks (to go along with the French dessert we baked), but boy was I wrong!

The idea is to learn about the Eiffel Tower specifically, and then follow-up with a discussion of landmarks in general. So we started with a video clip about the Tower.

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Travis had so many questions right away: Could you really go to the top? What was the tower made of? How did they light it up at night? He was even more amazed when I pulled out a few old photos from my own trip up to the top!

Next, we looked at pictures of other landmarks. I selected some from a travel magazine, and showed him a mix of man-made (the Great Wall of China) and natural (the White Cliffs of Dover). Now it was time to ask him to define a landmark based on what he saw.

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This was a tricky question for a preschooler, but he decided it was something you built. I pointed back to the cliffs again, and we settled on this definition: anything that can be easily recognized, that marks a specific location.

We explored further with a fantastic STEM activity, encouraging kids to build replicas of famous landmarks. Duplo was a natural medium for my preschooler, and he loved the challenge.

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Here is our little Eiffel Tower, replete with a tourist on top!

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We also tackled London Bridge, the Parthenon, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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Big kids can get super creative with these, in a wide variety of materials, and aim to be much more exact.

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From here, older children can go on to make a brochure, travel blog, or model of any landmark they choose. But Raddish’s suggestion for young kids was to keep things closer to home. I’ll be honest: If I didn’t have a three-month-old, I would have taken Travis to a world-famous landmark in nearby New York City, like the State of Liberty or the Empire State Building.

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But since that was out of the cards, I asked Travis if he could think of a landmark in our little town, and was so proud when he remembered the bell we pass ever day en route to school, part of a Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building.

So off we went on a frigid morning for a few pics!

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Travis loves using our instant camera, so was a happy participant despite temps in the teens.

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We came home and wove it all together by making a brochure. I showed him a few examples, and soon he was gluing pictures down proudly.

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In sum, this was definitely an advanced social studies lesson for a preschooler, but I’m glad we accepted the challenge to tackle it. Travis learned so much, and we had a blast in the process.

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