Feb 22 2023 Simple Ideas to Bring Purim to Life
Purim: a time to dress up in silly costumes, gather to hear the reading of Megillat Esther, bake some tasty hamantaschen, give homemade gift baskets, and bring the story of Queen Esther to life.
This joyous holiday celebrates the survival of the Jewish people during the Persian Empire. We read how Haman, advisor to King Achashverosh, attempts to harm the Jewish population across the kingdom, casting lots to select the date for his evil plot. His plan is foiled by the bravery of Queen Esther. When she reveals her Jewish identity, the King has a change of heart and the Jewish people of Shushan are saved.
Click HERE to learn more about the history of the Purim holiday and the origins of the story.
Here are ideas to spark your grandchild’s curiosity about Purim. Choose or adapt the activities according to the age of your grandchild and whether you are together in person or at a distance using Zoom, FaceTime, or What’sApp.
Click HERE to download a free Purim Discovery Kit.
On Purim, we can use our imaginations to bring the story to life.
Get into character and try out your acting skills.
On a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle from top to bottom and a line going across from side to side. In each of the four sections, draw a simple face shape depicting one of these emotions: EXCITED, ANGRY, SCARED, and SURPRISED. Each of these emotions can also be attributed to a character from the Purim story. For example, Esther is excited when Achashverosh chooses her to be the next Queen of Shushan.
Once you’ve drawn your emotion cards, cut them out and fold them up. Put the cards in a container. Take turns pulling a card out, and don’t reveal your card to the other person.
Try to depict the emotion of the card with your face and body, and have the other person guess the emotion, which character you are, and when that character felt this emotion. For example, Haman is angry when Mordechai won’t bow down to him; Mordechai is scared when he overhears Haman’s evil plan to rid Shushan of the Jewish people; the King is surprised when he finds out that Esther is one of the Jewish people. You can use these acting skills in the next activity as you bring the Purim story to life and put on your own play.
Create your own Purim Shpiel (performance).
On Purim, we tell the story of brave Queen Esther who saved the Jewish people of Shushan. Many people around the world perform the story as a play, called a Purim Shpiel. We also dress up in costume to remember the way that Esther originally hid her identity in the story.
Explore the activities below to share the Purim story and create your own performance of the story with your grandchild.
First, read a version of the Purim story together. You can find the Jewish Grandparents Network’s kid-friendly adaptation and one-page script on pages 4–5 here. Find an open space to play together. Collect objects from around the house to create the setting of the Shushan kingdom. Assemble your costumes from items from your closet. Ask your grandchild to be the designer and you can be the helper. Decide who will play each character. You can act out the story using your imaginations, or you can use the script. Once you have practiced, invite other family members or friends to watch your Purim Shpiel.
For grandparents at a distance, use FaceTime or Zoom in creative ways. Use the device screen as the stage. Collaborate to create scenery in both of your locations. Act out the scenes with one character on each of your screens at a time. Once you’ve practiced, you can record the video of your FaceTime or Zoom Purim Shpiel and share it with friends and family.
Celebrate the silliness of Purim by making each other laugh.
On paper, draw a silly costume design for the other person. Now, think about how to create your costume using materials you can find around the house. Go on a scavenger hunt to find clothing items that remind you of the designs you drew. Become costume designers by giving the items you found to the other person to wear. The grandchild is in charge of what the grandparent wears, and vice versa. Once everyone is dressed, put on music of your choice and “walk the runway” in a costume parade fashion show.
Purim might even be Opposite Day: yes means no, up means down, dessert comes before the main course. Or put on your clothes backwards or inside out.
Try asking your grandkids to act out a silly movement, walk, or dance, then copy them. You might even create a secret code hand greeting or teach them pig Latin.
We bake and eat hamantaschen, triangle-shaped, fruit- or chocolate-filled cookies that some people say refer to the shape of Haman’s hat.
Use the activities below to experience the tastes and the meaning of the holiday with your grandchild.
Create your own hamantaschen with a twist.
Make hamantaschen with a range of fillings, from traditional to wildly original. You may like to use peanut butter, pineapple, or white chocolate. Let your grandchild come up with some ideas for unique fillings, then fill the dough, and roll the triangle. Once they are baked and ready, lay out the hamantaschen. Close your eyes or use a blindfold and try each variety. Ask your grandchild: Which one is your favorite? Can you guess what each one is made of based on the taste alone?
Click HERE for instructions on how to bake hamantaschen.
Write a Hamantaschen Haiku to explore the themes of the holiday.
Write a haiku poem to explore the theme of having the courage to share yourself and your ideas like Queen Esther in the story. Just as hamantaschen have three sides, a haiku is a short poem with three lines: The first and third line are five syllables, and the middle line is seven syllables. Using this structure, write haiku poems about the things you want to share about yourself with the world. (For example: I like to dress up; I wish I had wings to fly; My eyes are dark green). Once you have written your poem, you can create a Hamantaschen-shaped Haiku craft using this template at the end of the Purim Discovery Kit.
We create gift baskets called Mishloach Manot (“sending portions”) to give to family and friends on Purim.
Many also give charity called Matanot La’evyonim (“gifts to the needy”) so that everyone, including those experiencing food insecurity, can celebrate the holiday with food.
Use the activity below as an alternative way to share gift baskets, focusing on what we appreciate about each other.
Fill gift boxes with thoughtful notes for each other to make “Mishloach Manot Messages of Love.”
Think about a person for whom you’d like to create a gift box filled with love. Decorate a box or plastic container to be the gift basket. You can use crayons, markers, stickers, or other craft supplies you have in the house. Cut several sheets of paper into smaller square pieces (four pieces per page). On each of the pieces of paper, write or draw something you love about the recipient of the box. Examples: Picture of Grandma reading to me or the words “You are kind” written on a piece of paper. Draw or write your loving messages on several pieces of paper. Fold each one and put it inside the gift box you created. You can also include photographs or other special objects that convey your feelings about the recipient. Now, deliver your gift box to the recipient, and watch as they open up each message of love.
If you are at a distance, you can create gift boxes together while you are on FaceTime or Zoom, and then share them through the screen. You can also mail gift boxes to each other and open them together on screen.
Whether you show off your design skills by dressing up in zany outfits or perform the story of Queen Esther at home or on Zoom, Purim can be a time for you and your grandchild to show your silly side while learning about Jewish tradition through creativity and discovery.
Jonathan Shmidt Chapman is the founder of The K’ilu Company, creating projects that activate Jewish early childhood education through theater and imaginative play. He is the creator of K’ilu Kits — interactive audio adventures that bring Jewish holiday stories to life — and Play-Along Parsha — a resource for 3-to-6-year-olds and their families to creatively engage with the weekly Torah portion. Jonathan was previously the Producer of Family Programming at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York.
With gratitude to Ilene Vogelstein for her expert review.
Banner illustration by Deborah Zemke
Child with puppet, children in costumes, and grandparent with child in costumes by Jonathan Shmidt Chapman
Child making hamantaschen by Stephanie Fink
Hamantaschen by Faith Kramer