Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Av 5761 - July 25, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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Home and Family
Vacation -- From Problem to Challenge
adapted from an article by A. Dover

Vacation time is here again. Can you say that you feel the same joy and relief that filled your hearts as schoolchildren at this time?

Teachers don't need to seek this joy; it bursts forth spontaneously just as it does with their students. But you mothers have the age-old problem of keeping the children occupied for two long months without a real framework. Day camps solve part of the problem, but there remains the Bein Hazemanim afterwards when everyone is home with loads of time on their hands. How can we fill this time positively so as to leave a good taste and pleasant memories for both children and parents?


Miriam, an experienced parenting expert and guidance counsellor, suggests that we include the entire family in planning the vacation. "To be sure, it is the parents who have the final word, and everything must have their seal of approval, still, it is important that the children hear what will take place in the home in the near future. This, incidentally, is a good idea for the rest of the year, as well. It is very good for a child to know that in the coming week, these things will be bought and in the following week, others. On this day we will be going here and another day, doing something else. This includes visits to the dentist, family bar mitzvas etc., purchase of school supplies or a visit to family or the supermarket. This way, a child experiences everything in a deeper, more meaningful way and is more of a partner or active participant.

"I have often asked a group of women what vacation means to them. Their spontaneous reactions expressed an attitude of something threatening, exhausting, difficult. Few mothers considered it a challenge." Miriam offers ideas following one definite pattern: to utilize this time for the enjoyment and benefit of all.


"One good hour with the family," she says, "is a time when everyone is seated around the table, even the two-year-old. He won't be contributing any ideas, but he will definitely be included in the feeling of togetherness. This is how to begin planning what you'd like to do with your vacation. Throw ideas around, brainstorm, with each member making their suggestions and the parents examining them seriously, and then deciding. Make a list of the reasonable possibilities in order of preference. Parents can learn a lot about what preoccupies a child's imagination. Such a "round table discussion" requires effort but it is a golden chance to deepen our relationships with our children."

Parents should come prepared with ideas of their own. A lackadaisical approach or slim choice of possibilities will create an atmosphere of boredom of `really, there is nothing worthwhile doing.' And even if the ideas only originate from the parents, give the children the options of choosing and feeling they are part of the decision making.

Some ideas:

Arranging family albums according to certain topics. You can choose "The Developing Family," which begins with Abba and Ima as children, passing on to their wedding etc. With lots of pictures to work from, you can create different kinds of albums.

"How about choosing certain chapters from neviim to tell?" suggests Miriam. This requires preparation, but there are many reference works to be had. You can also have a Story Hour focusing on various gedolim of our people, in turn. Recommended for the participation of fathers, as well!"


There are always table games or large (500-2000 piece) jigsaw puzzles that can be done on a table and covered over with cardboard or polygal during mealtimes (or laid under a matress on a wooden bed etc.). When parents join in a table game, it is that much more fun, even for the parents.

"I know of a father who wanted to learn with his seven-year- old son, but the boy was never in the mood. He naturally preferred to ride his bike. The father asked his son what he would like them to do together and he said: `Play tag around the living room table.' So be it. They pushed the furniture aside and began chasing one another. The father had a hard time catching the slippery tyke but every once in a while, the boy gave in and let himself be caught. After two days of this, the boy said, `After we play tag for a while, let's sit down and learn.' What had happened? The father had met his son at a point that was important to him and the boy was then able to relate to the father at his junction."

Vacation is just such a time where parents and children can meet halfway at points that are mutually important.

Vacation is the time to invest in a new game! But don't go to a store to shop around! First discuss the purchase with the children. They can ask their friends what's worthwhile and experiment with them at their homes. In general, an important rule is not to work around the problems but around their solutions. Not: I'm bored/ I have nothing to do/ Yanky is bothering me, but around the solutions. Where shall we go. What shall we do. What shall we buy. To be sure, each outing, especially to stores, requires a debriefing before to avoid the frustrations of children with "big eyes."

Let older children occupy the young ones. Tell the older child to prepare an activity. Involve him, challenge him to make it an interesting responsibility.

Make a break in the daily schedule. Get up early to see the sunrise from a nice site near the house. Prepare the children with an explanation of the tefilla: Yotzer ohr... Hameir lo'oretz..., perhaps with a small demonstration of a ball revolving on an axis around a beachball-sun. Use a flashlight for a day-night effect. Talk about shadows. The need for nighttime.

Enjoy the fresh feeling of morning when there are no people or traffic around. Coordinate the actual sunrise with your prayers. Go to the Kosel or lehavdil, the beach or a mountaintop, or a desert scene near your house. Or anywhere between buildings where you can spot the horizon. Sunset is almost as nice. After davening, create a mood by soft talking, then relax with a roll and chocolate milk picnic breakfast.

In general, says Miriam, whenever you plan to go somewhere, talk about it beforehand. Create the mood, anticipate it, sing about it, perhaps a homemade song. Feel it through and through.

You can't escape the fact that you are home most of the time. How about preparing a quiz? In rhyme, with hints, not too hard, not too simple.

Tell a story in installments over a few days time. The children can write a story, too, with one or two beginning, another child taking over, and so on, and on. Buy a long roll of paper and have the children draw on it, either simultaneously, or in sequence, with one taking over from another, including Ima. It can tell a story, with or without captions, about the family or can be imaginary. Give them free rein.

Don't forget to give each child a bit of individual attention. How? When the whole family is busy at some project, take one child aside for fifteen minutes of undivided attention. Talk to him, play with him, listen. Then take another child. Don't feel you have to make the entire rounds in one day.


Rivka, a mother and teacher, insists on a weekly schedule which she draws on a large sheet of paper and posts on the frig. Broken up to hours, it includes rising, davening, breakfast, morning activity, lunch etc.

She also likes to create interesting breakfasts, buffet style, with different kinds of spreads, cheeses, vegetables attractively cut up, eggs in various ways (mushroom omelettes), all temptingly laid out, like a hotel. You may introduce new foods and spices, like cheese and dill etc., use colored disposables. "After all the trips and visits, it was the breakfasts that the kids remembered most from last year's vacation."

Nechama took her children to an industrial area where they picked up all kinds of scraps and saw production in action. Her girls then supervised art projects like sunglasses, purses, etc. A Jerusalemite, she visits the natural spring at Lifta (for free), hikes to Motza or the Castel and so on.

Not to be forgotten is the marvelous guide put out by the "Vaada Lemaan Hashabbos" listing Shomrei Shabbos pools, museums, attractions, zoos, hotels, eateries, van services, gas stations. Call 03-5791053 for your copy.


Rachel suggests you buy all kinds of paint materials and let the children have a ball. Spread newspapers and put on aprons/old shirts/large garbage bags cut down the back for safety with holes for arms and head (supervise). Buy lots of coloring books (you can zerox the pages). Paint old toys and blocks.

How about scavenger hunts with clues. Planned beforehand, with prizes. Or a peanut hunt -- that's great fun!

Make a neighborhood newspaper, for a few families, your building. Include stories, drawings, quizzes and puzzlers. You can even sell them for a minimal price to cover costs.

Put your tape recorder to use and tape stories with sound effects or make a play for your friends, home made puppet shows, a concert.

Buy simple musical instruments like a melodica or harmonica and learn to play by ear.

There are many do-it-yourself craft books, simple cookbooks etc. worth investing in; these can be bought second hand.


Rabbi Monk from Bnei Brak put out a booklet on how to keep busy during vacation. He suggests visiting factories, like a shofar factory, a tzitzis workshop, a Shaatnez laboratory, a Moshav that keeps Shemita.

Create playgroups, even for schoolgirls, and have each mother do her specialty, be it baking, crafts, visiting an interesting place, gymnastics, dance, or supervising them at the pool.

There is no end to ideas. We've just tapped the barrel. Enjoy, and to your good health!


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