Since my kids were tiny, they’ve always declared Sukkot to be their favorite holiday. Yet for some reason this fun, joyful holiday is not as widely observed amongst Jews who are not Orthodox. Here are five reasons why you should celebrate Sukkot and Simchat Torah with your own family this year.

1. Experience Judaism with all five senses

Modern educators strive for “experiential learning”: the more ways we enage the senses, the greater the impact. Sukkot is the ultimate exercise in experiential learning.

Sitting outside in a sukkah is a visually beautiful experience. As we gaze at the roof made of branches and glimpse the sky above, we connect with the beauty of the world in a way that often eludes us the rest of the year. Sukkot is full of enticing scents: the smell of the etrog, the scent of the plants and greenery all around us. Sukkot engages our sense of touch - feeling the sun’s warmth and the chill of a passing breeze - and our sense of taste and hearing as we eat and sing in the sukkah. It’s a perfect laboratory for appreciating being Jewish anew, using all our senses.

2. Lessons in Jewish Unity

Sukkot brings together all Jews and remind us of the bond that unites our people. Enjoying meals in a sukkah can bring us into contact with Jewish neighbors and friends. On Sukkot we wave the four species that represent four different types of Jews. An etrog, or citron, is a luscious fruit with a delectable smell and taste. Myrtle branches emit a wonderful smell. Palm branches come from trees that produce sweet-tasting dates, and willow branches contain neither taste nor smell.

In Jewish mystical thought, sweet taste represents Torah knowledge and sweet smell symbolizes good deeds. Each plant is likened to a different type of Jew. We take all four plants together and recite a blessing, making a powerful statement that we each bring our own strengths and qualities together, that though we might have different attributes and lifestyles, we are one united Jewish people.

3. The Time of our Happiness

Sukkot is called zman simchateinu, a time of joy and happiness. Many of the trappings of the holiday seem uniquely joyful: the fun meals with family, the upbeat songs and experience of sitting outside in a sukkah. On a deeper level, too, Sukkot encourages us to appreciate the many blessings we have.

Moving outside for a week to spend time in a temporary sukkah helps us to appreciate all the blessings in our life and focus on what is truly important. When we realize that every passing cloud and each breeze affects our well-being, it’s easier to understand and recognize just how dependent we are on the Divine, and how lucky we are to be alive and healthy and safe.

4. Appreciating the natural world

Psychologist Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to explain the physical effects of current-day children not spending time outside. Spending too much time indoors is bad for us. Being outside is linked to better health, greater peace of mind, and enhanced mental health. A 2005 University of Pittsburgh study found that surgery patients healed faster and needed less pain medication when they were exposed to the outdoors even a little bit. It seems that spending time out of doors in a sukkah might have similar hidden benefits to our health, energy levels and our moods.

There is something magical about sitting in a sukkah with friends and relatives, enjoying a meal or relaxing under a temporary roof made of branches, with sunlight and the scents and sounds of the outdoors around us. It allows us to live in a different plane for a moment, experiencing the world and each other in a new and beautiful way.

If you don’t build your own sukkah, there are still ways to experience spending time in one. Many synagogues build a sukkah and sometimes eve host community meals; check out synagogues near you. Kosher restaurants also erect sukkahs for their customers: this might be a good time to check out kosher restaurants in your area. (Note that kosher restaurants will be closed during Shabbat and holidays, but many will be open during the intervening days of Sukkot.) You might also want to check out purchasing a sukkah kit or designing your own. With a little work building a sukkah can be surprisingly easy and fun.

5. Jewish Continuity

The holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah are full of ways to send the message to our children that we value being Jewish and want our children and grandchildren to value it as well.

One of my favorite customs on Sukkot is to invite in ushpizin, or symbolic guests, to our sukkah each night. We invite in our patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and King David. This lovely tradition helps us feel connected with some of the prime figures in our history. Some families have the custom of talking about who else they wish they could invite to their sukkah, further sparking conversations about Jewish history and our connection with past generations.

Sukkot ends with a new holiday,Simchat Torah, a day of rejoicing over the Torah as we complete the year-long cycle of reading the Torah in synagogue and immediately start again at the beginning. This is an intensely joyful holiday with dancing and singing and yummy treats for children and adults alike, as well as beautiful holiday meals. It also sends a powerful message: that we are never finished reading the Torah, and that being Jewish is a wonderful and meaningful way of life that’s to be celebrated.

“I love the candy!” my youngest son said one year as we walked to synagogue on Simchat Torah, his eyes shining at the thought of the dancing, singing and candy that was soon to come. My heart swelled to see him associate celebrating the Torah with sweetness and glee. The holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah are the best way to embrace being Jewish with rejoicing and delight, and to transmit that love for being Jewish to our children.