As a Hebrew School teacher, Rosh Hashanah is one of my very favorite holidays. Kids relate to the stirring themes of the Jewish New Year and love the beautiful, multi-sensory ways we celebrate.

Here are seven of my favorite Rosh Hashanah projects to do with children, from preschool through high school. Try some at home with your own kids.

Projects for Younger Children:

Potato Stamp Rosh Hashanah Cards

This is fun with younger children, but an adult will need to handle the kitchen knife.

Materials needed:

  • 2-3 baking potatoes (raw)
  • Cookie cutters (optional)
  • A kitchen knife
  • Tempera paint
  • Styrofoam or old plastic plates
  • Smocks or old tee-shirts
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Markers or crayons

1. Explain that on Rosh Hashanah we wish people a “Shanah Tovah,” a good year, and that greeting cards are a beautiful way to convey our wishes for a good new year.

2. Brainstorm people you’d like to send homemade Rosh Hashanah cards to. Write down a short list. Consider personalizing your potato stamp cards for each person on the list.

3. Prepare the potatoes. Slice them in half and dry them thoroughly on a paper towel or kitchen towel.

4. Select cookie cutter shapes. Press a cookie cutter firmly into the cut half of a potato. Leaving the cookie cutter stuck in the potato, have an adult carefully slice off a thick slice of potato all around the cookie cutter. Then carefully remove the cookie cutter. (You should now have a shape that can be used as a stamp.) Carefully dry the potato stamp some more. (Moisture will prevent the paint from adhering to the stamp.) Make as many potato stamps as you would like.

5. Line a table with old newspapers. Put smocks or old t-shirts on the kids. Pour tempera paint and set out cardboard and potato stamps.

6. Have children press potato stamps into paint, gently tap off excess then carefully stamp the pattern onto cardboard. ids can use several different stamps, and experiment with different colors and patterns. If you’d like to change a stamp’s color, have a grownup carefully rinse off the potato stamp in the sink, then pat the stamp dry.

7. Let cards dry thoroughly. Place dried greeting cards in envelopes and send them to loved ones for Rosh Hashanah.

Make a Play Shofar

Materials:

  • The inner tubes from 3 empty toilet paper rolls
  • Masking tape
  • Tempera paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Smocks or old tee shirts
  • Plastic or styrofoam plate
  • Party horn (the type kids get at birthday parties)
  • Scissors

1. Remove the plastic whistle from the party horn; discard the rest of the party horn.

2. Have an adult slice through one of the toilet rolls and wrap the cardboard firmly around the whistle. Tape in place.

3. Cut a slit halfway up the second roll of toilet paper and roll it so one end is smaller and can fit into the end of the toilet paper roll that’s attached to the whistle. This should create a slightly bent shofar shape. Tape in place.

4. Cut a slit in the third toilet paper roll, roll it so one end is smaller, and fit the end of this roll into the second toilet paper roll. You should now have a curved shofar shape made up of the three toilet paper rolls tucked into each other, resembling a shofar. Wrap the entire “shofar” with lots of masking tape to hold everything in place.

5. Kids paint their “shofars”. Let dry, then blow the play shofars to remind everyone that Rosh Hashanah is coming!

Simple Honey Server

Materials:

  • One yellow plastic mustard squirting container (the kind commonly used in diners)
  • Black Felt
  • 2 black Googly eye craft stickers
  • Glue
  • Scissors

1. Thoroughly wash and rinse the mustard container.

2. Cut out 3-4 strips of black felt. They should be long enough to fit around the container. Then cut out two larger pieces of black felt in the shape of wings.

3. Carefully wrap the strips of black felt around the yellow container so they look like the stripes on a bee’s body. Glue in place.

4. Clue the two felt “wings” onto the container so they resemble a bee.

5. Glue two googly eyes onto the top of the container, next to the opening where the mustard (or honey, in our case) comes out. This way, the long opening becomes the bee’s nose, next to the googly eyes.

6. Fill with honey and use at Rosh Hashanah meals!

Projects for Elementary School Aged Children:

Rosh Hashanah “Simanim” Mobiles

Making this project together is a fun way to learn about simanim, traditional Jewish foods and items that signify a sweet new year!

Materials:

  • One small embroidery hoop (available in many craft stores)
  • Cardboard
  • Hole puncher
  • Scissors
  • Paper clip
  • Yarn or colorful think ribbon
  • Crayons or Markers

1. On Rosh Hashanah it’s traditional to eat various simanim, signs, to express our hopes that we have a good new year. One famous Rosh Hashanah siman is apples dipped in honey, signifying a sweet new year. Other simanim include pomegranates (just as a pomegranate is full of seeds, we hope to be full of mitzvahs), the head of a fish (signifying the “head” of the new year) and carrots. Brainstorm ways you can make your own, personal simanim for your mobile: maybe hearts (to signify love and friendship), books (to represent a great school year) or flowers (to represent beauty and sweet odors).

2. Kids can draw an outline of the simanim they want to depict on cardboard, then color them in. Cut out the shapes and punch a hole near the top of each shape.

3. When it’s time to assemble the mobile, cut string or ribbon into different lengths and tie one end to the simanim shapes and the other end to the embroidery hoop. Space them out so they hang nicely and balance each other. Then tie two more lengths of string or ribbon crosswise over the top of the embroidery hoop and secure these with a paperclip, so that you can hang your mobile on a hook.

Writing a Rosh Hashanah Letter

Materials:

  • Paper
  • Envelope
  • Pen or a pencil

1. Brainstorm about your hopes and dreams for the coming new year. What do you want to accomplish? What qualities would you like to incorporate into this new year? Write a letter to your future self, to be opened one year from today, enumerating your wishes for the coming year. Where do you hope you will be then? What experiences do you hope to have had?

2. Find a place to put the letter where you won’t lose it. When I teach, I typically keep my students’ letters in my desk and give them back at the end of the school year. Another option might be to keep the letter someplace accessible so that we can refer to it and remind ourselves of our goals and hopes.

Projects for Older Children:

Rosh Hashanah Two Pockets Project

Materials:

Two sheets of paper and a pen or pencil

1. Rabbi Simcha Bunim Bonhart of Peshischa (1765-1827) lived in Poland and was a major Jewish leader; he was known for encouraging his students to look deeply into themselves, asking what they could do to become better people. Read the following quote by Rabbi Bunim: “Every person should have two pockets. In one pocket should be a piece of paper saying ‘I am only dust and ashes’. When one is feeling too proud, reach into this pocket and take out this paper and read it. In the other pocket should be a piece of paper saying: ‘For my sake was the world created.’ When one is feeling disheartened and lowly, reach into this pocket and take this paper out and read it.”

2. Discuss what this means. If you like, you can look at the original sources for these two statements. The quote about being nothing but dust and ashes comes from our patriarch Abraham: when he argued with God about destroying the city of Sodom, Abraham said “Behold, now, I desired to speak to my Lord although I am but dust and ash” (Genesis 18:27). The quote about the entire world being created for me comes from the Talmud in a discussion about the infinite preciousness of each and every human life: “each and every person is obligated to say: the entire world was created for me” (Sanhedrin 37a). What do these verses mean to you? Describe their messages in your own words.

3. Now, write down two lists, just as Rabbi Bunim suggested. On one list, write all the things that we are proud of in our lives. Include all our blessings and what we are grateful for. On the second list, write things that we’d like to change about ourselves. Put both lists in an envelope and place them somewhere they will be far away from prying eyes, but still accessible if we want to look at them again or amend them. Have a final discussion about what these lists signify. Did writing these lists help clarify our goals for the coming new year? Was learning these quotes helpful? Why or why not?

Tzedakah Project

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it’s customary to engage in tefillah (prayer), teshuvah (repentance) and tzedakah (giving donations to those in need).

Materials:

  • Students will have to be able to navigate the internet and use a phone
  • Paper, pencils, spreadsheet
  • (Optional: Poster, paper, markers, glue, scissors)

1. In Judaism, we are all commanded to give tzedakah in a fixed amount: between 10% and 20% of our salaries. Ask your kids to research a few Jewish charities. Provide them with an initial list of local charities if you like, including your synagogue and local Jewish organizations. Then have them research charities by looking at websites and phoning up organizations that interest them. Then assemble a list of about half a dozen charities that you might like to support.

2. Have a family discussion about your kids’ findings. Ask them to present reasons why they want to support one charity over another. In Hebrew School, I ask each child (or teams of children) to create colorful posters illustrating their favorite charities and the impact they have. (This can be done by using printouts from organizations' websites, making a collage of promotional materials that charities send in the mail, and adding personalized illustrations.) You might want your kids to create posters to show their family and friends why they favor certain charities, too.

3. Come to a family decision, using input from your kids. (In Hebrew School, we have a big discussion followed by a vote.) Once you’ve decided where your tzedakah donation will go, involve kids in the process. Remember that not all tzedakah involves money; it also encompasses volunteering and helping out in other ways too.

There are so many more ways to get kids involved in Rosh Hashanah preparations and excited for the holiday, too. Consider baking and cooking together for the holidays. Ask your kids to set your holiday table, complete with homemade decorations and hand-lettered place cards. Have kids read about Rosh Hashanah and prepare some words of Torah to deliver at Rosh Hashanah meals.

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