Posted on October 29, 2015
This popular saying implies that everything we need to know about how to live, what to do and how to be, was learned right in the playground sandbox. Cleaning up your own mess, playing fairly, sharing, saying sorry are all fundamentals of proper etiquette that stay with us throughout our lives.
When it comes to teaching children about Jewish values I would adapt this phrase to read “All I really need to know about Jewish values, I learned as early as pre-k.”
Jewish values are quite complex and difficult concepts to grasp – even for adults! So how can it be that Jewish values can be taught to children as young as 3 and 4?
With a lot of creativity and the right expertise, children can not only learn about important Jewish values, but can apply them at home, at school and within their communities.
Here are just a few of the values that we should be imparting on our children at an early age.
1. Hachnasat Orchim – Welcoming Guests: From an early age, children are seeing friends, family and strangers walk in and out of their house. Because welcoming guests into one’s home is so common, it’s important to teach the importance of this value to young children. The most important thing to do is ask your child questions. “What can we SAY to our guest to make them feel comfortable?” What can we GIVE to our guests to make them feel welcome?” Practice different greetings with your child to teach them how to properly say hello. Put together a craft project with your child to create give-a-ways that can be handed out to guests upon their arrival.
2. Protecting the Environment: Children are exposed to many different environments: school, home, synagogue, community centers, friends’ homes, the outdoors…why not take advantage of all these opportunities to teach your child about Tikkun Olam – making the world a better place? Ask your child “How can we help the world?” “What can we do to make our environment a healthy and safe place?” Help your children understand these values by implementing projects. Show your child how to properly recycle, plant seeds outside and explain that by doing so you are giving back to the environment and helping to positively change the world.
3. Tzaar Baalei Chaim – Taking Care of Animals: Kids are fascinated (and sometimes scared!) of pets. Whether they be dogs, cats, snakes, rats or bugs, young children are constantly exploring the world and its creatures. We can teach our children how they can protect and care for animals through multiple methods and projects. Ask your child “What do animals need?” “How can we protect their homes?” In order to actualize this value, you can make animal toys with your child and donate them to a local shelter or put together a “play” animal hospital, teaching your kids how to care for all of God’s creatures.
It doesn’t take a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree to learn how to do the right thing. All it takes are some well thought out and creative ways to reach out and connect to young children. By asking questions, doing projects and exploring the community, parents and young children alike have the opportunity to learn important values that will be carried out through the rest of their lives.
To learn more about our Giving2Gether program, an innovative educational program for pre-k and kindergarteners that is generously funded by The Jewish Education Project and The Covenant Foundation, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 201-244-6702.