Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Pesach Book of Shapes

I was just introduced to this fabulous blog by the BJE in Chicago, they have some really great ideas- check it out!

I took the idea of "My Jewish Shapes" and made our own "Pesach Shapes".

You can download it here- My Pesach Book of Shapes


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chol Hamoed Menu and Pesach Shopping List

Many years have gone by where I have made these incredible Pesach Seders for over 100 people, tons of delicious food and everyone walks away happy and full.

Comes Chol Hamoed and the next thing I know, my family are all hungry and I have to figure out what to feed everyone.

Well my friends, this year, I am gonna be one step ahead of the game! Tonight I made my Chol Hamoed *tentative* menu, and I say tentative because I know that some of my kids will be eating the same things every day for a week no matter the options- but I say better have and not need, then need and not have! I tried to include as many fresh fruits and veges where ever I could... so when they're snacking on all that yummy chocolate and those Pesach brownies, I won't feel so guilty;)

and I have uploaded my clear Pesach shopping list template as well as my clear Chol Hamoed Menu template for you to use and enjoy~ Click here to download it and print for your personal use.

Who says Pesach needs to be stressful? As my very wise father in-law always says,
"Proper planning prevents poor performance."
I think this will make him proud:)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Knowing WHAT to say and HOW to say it...

The Power of Using Our G-d Given Talents (and Helping Our Children Recognize Theirs)

There are twelve months in the Jewish calendar. The talent of SPEECH is the first, beginning with the month of Nissan, the month of Passover. “Pe”-”sach” means “the mouth” “speaks”. At the Passover seder we speak of the miracles that were done for the Jewish people when we were freed from slavery in Egypt.

People who have this talent intuitively know what to say and how to say it. This is considered to be the talent of leadership because people affect others with their words.

We can be role models of speech by speaking kindly and thoughtfully. When we recognize this talent in our children, it’s good to encourage them. We can reinforce this talent by telling them how well they speak; “You said it so well,” “I really appreciate the way you spoke to me,” “You explained it so clearly.”

Thanks and acknowledgment are essential to good speech. We can model this and encourage the children to thank, and acknowledge other people. It’s also good to let them know that they can take a few quiet moments to decide how to say what they really want to say.

Tools for Developing Your Talent of Speech:

1. Wake up and give thanks for this new day of life.

2. Validate three people for a good quality or action each day.

3. Before going to sleep, give thanks for five blessings of the day.


* The Kabalah of Speech:

The tribe which corresponds to the month of Nissan is Yehuda (Judah). His mother, Leah, named him, saying, “This time I will give thanks to G-d...” (Genesis 29:35). The root of his name is related to the word ‘Todah,’ thanks.

Judah took leadership through admitting the truth and by speaking out for his brother in Egypt. He took charge of each situation by using clear and heartfelt speech . His descendants were King David, King Solomon and the line of Jewish kings.

**Our first words each day, according to the Jewish custom, are thanks to G-d for having returned our souls.

We wake up and SAY while still in bed, “Modeh Ani lifanecha , Melech Chai v’Kayam , She’heche’zarta be nishmati b’chemla; Rabah emunatecha. (With acknowledgment, I am before You, living and existing King, that you returned my soul to me in mercy: great is Your faith.)

Chana Rachel Schusterman is a Jewish spiritual counselor and coach. If you would like to contact her, please email me at

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Guest Blogger- Chana Rachel Schusterman: Helping our kids Discover and Enhance their talents

All of our kids are special in their own way. A very close and dear woman in my life, Chana Rachel Schusterman, who has raised and married off her 11 incredible, smart and successful children was once speaking to me about how important it is for a parent to recognize and help their children recognize their own individual strengths and talents.

When our kids have this awareness, it will truly help them grow as well as us as parents relate to them and understand them so much more.

Chana Rachel has agreed to be a monthly guest blogger in helping us all identify our own kids talents. Enjoy~


The Kabalah Of Discovering Our Talents

Chana Rachel Schusterman

Before our daughter got married, she told me that among the most helpful guidance I had ever given her was identifying and helping her understand “her talent”. I had already discovered this amazing realization with an older daughter. Identifying her talent and helping her use it changed her life. When we know our main core talent we know “how” to utilize our gift. When we know how to access our inner self we can connect and accomplish our purpose in the world.

This information comes from Sefer Yetzira, the most ancient book of Kabalah (the mystical tradition of Judaism.*) I had learned about this from my teacher in Israel and found it fascinating.

When I discovered how practical this can be, it became even more meaningful. Knowing my own talent has helped me to accomplish what I do in a clearer, smoother way. Utilizing my own talent, I have been able to recognize the talents of my children and of people who come to me to analyze their own personal palette of talents.

During the next twelve months on the Jewish calendar we’re going to look at the talent associated with that month. This calendar counts the months beginning with Nissan, the month of the holiday of Passover. We will begin with the talent of Speech. Everyone can develop the talent of each month as we see what it is and how we can strengthen it.

Although we each use many of the talents, some quite strongly, everyone has one that predominates. Knowing this for ourselves is amazingly revealing and helpful. When we recognize our own talents we accomplish in the way that is harmonious to who we are. When we understand our children’s talents, we can help them to identify what they’re good at and strengthen them to know their own way.

For those who would like more of the Jewish and Kabalistic content, this will be added each month’s talent information.

* Sefer Yetzira names the twelve sons of Jacob (progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel.) Parallel to that are the twelve months of the Jewish calendar, a letter of the Hebrew alphabet and an organ of the body. In addition to this, and most fascinating to me, is the “chush”, a talent which is intrinsic to each tribe or month.

Each talent represents direction. Each tribe was given a physical camping place relative to the others, a position surrounding the most holy place, the Tabernacle, which contained the Ark holding the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The position of each tribe was a direction, a way to face this holy place. On the microcosmic level, we each have an inner soul center. We also have our own personal way to accomplish our purpose in the world. We connect to our soul and travel the path to do our work in the world by utilizing our unique talent.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Some Pesach Activites

I'm back with my baby wipe caps again:) This time, we made the 10 Makos (10 Plagues):
We have these adorable 10 Makos finger puppets that fit inside each one perfectly:

Here is a Chametz/Kasher L'Pesach sorting tray- find the Chametz and put it in the basket (you can also write "Chametz" and "Kasher L'Pesach" on 2 pieces of paper and have the kiddos sort the foods into the correct columns):

A Pesach Sensory Table:

Here's an adorable project we are working on- in my Pesach cleaning I am coming across many treasures (aka- garbage) that I keep thinking how I can use it for the kiddos... I found a bunch of empty DVD covers and we are making lapbooks of the 4 sons out of them (we also learn about the 5th son not mentions in the Haggadah, the son who doesn't even know what Pesach is).

I made pictures of each son and had the kids color them. We're going to slide it into the plastic as the cover of the lapbook. We are then going to make pictures and write about each son and stick it inside the cover. How fun? Will post the finished project once completed. This will really give the kids a very clear understanding of the 5 sons.

Below are some links to where we got some of the things we are using to learn about Pesach:

Here is a link to a fun Pesach Activity Pack I made- Click here to download it and Click here for some previous Pesach blog posts that may be helpful~

Happy Pesach cleaning to all!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"School" is in Session!

It's Spring Break for the Public schools here, so this morning we had a little play date with friends of ours (age 7 and 8) who go to school near by.

I took them into our Montessori classroom and told them that they can "play school" with the kids.

One of the girls goes to the black board on the easel and writes out the "Schedule"- Reading, writing, snack time, math and art. She then tells my kids to all take their seats. They looked a bit confused and wondered why they were being told to sit down as usually, they walk into class and go straight to a shelf and pick out an activity to do. But they sat down anyways.

The "teacher" then gave them each a piece of paper and wrote down the word CAT on each paper and told each of them to draw a cat. My big guy squiggled some random squiggle (he is not into drawing), my daughter gathered her crayons and started working carefully on her master piece, and my 3 year old took the crayons and threw them across the room and burst out laughing...

"Teacher" told him he has to sit in timeout for acting rude. He ended up running out of the classroom and into the playroom and quit "school" (he usually LOVES being in the classroom).

She then said time was up and it was now time for writing. My daughter got upset since she wasn't done and wanted to finish her picture. My big guy said he was done sitting and was ready for a snack, to which "teacher" said he had to wait for snack time. (In a Montessori classroom, there is a place in the classroom with a table and chair and some snacks that the kids can prepare and eat whenever they wish. One would think this would be the most popular place in the classroom, but the kids really only go there when they want a snack.)

Now let me just say that these 2 little girls are delightful adorable sweethearts who come over all the time, and they were just mimicking what they do at school. But witnessing my kids in a standard school environment really made me appreciate a) the fact that I homeschool them and don't have anyone else but me and my hubby disciplining them and b) that we follow the Montessori method, giving them the freedom to learn what they love for as long as they wish.

Well, needless to say, "school" didn't last too long as my kids were not interested in being TOLD what to do and for how long to do it and so it quickly turned to outside play and games for the rest of the morning... but its nice to have these little eye openers once in a while~

Wishing all a great Shabbos,

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Change of Plans...

Up until about a week ago, my little ones would nap every morning between 9 and 12- giving me and the bigger kids this amazing block of time to do lots of big kid stuff together.

Well, Baruch Hashem (Thank G-d), little kids get bigger, and my little ones have now moved their naps up to the afternoon.

And so, we now have 2 new little students joining us in the mornings (they could not be happier:)

The first few mornings were chaotic, to say the least... "mommy, take the baby away, she's taking my playdo"... "mommy, the baby's taking my crayons!!" etc.

I figured that I need to come up with some little activities to keep those little hands busy as well as a special blocked off place in the classroom for the big kids (which I did using bookshelves) so we can resume our usual routine-

Here are just a few things I put together that I put out for them today and they LOVED each activity, it really kept them busy. You can also click here to check out other posts I have put up on activities for toddlers.

Using the pincer grasp, they need to take the buttons out of the slots and put them in the Tzedakah Box:

I attached Velcro to wooden blocks and made a little pad with Velcro dots. They need to pull the blocks off the pad and put it into the bin through the slot:

They need to pull the pegs out of the holes and put them into the bin. I ended up getting much more pegs, they really liked this one:
This one is a bit too advanced for them, my 4 year old love it tho:
Here's to change... L'Chaim:)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Afterthe past 2 days rain ordeal, I really prepared for today to be pretty much the same thing. But to my surprise and joy, we woke up to clear blue skies!!! So in the afternoon, the kids took a trip with Daddy while mommy baked away~ I was really in the Hamantash zone... check out some of the cool Hamantashen that emerged from my oven:

Potato Knishe Hamantashen (using Puff pastry)

Spinach Knishe Hamantashen (using Puff pastry)

Spanish Olive, Tomato and Garlic Hamantashen (using Puff pastry)

Dates and Cinnamon Hamantashen

Butterscotch Hamantashen

Pineapple Coconut Macadamia nut Hamantashen

Red Velvet Hamantashen
Here is my go-to Hamantashen Recipe that I use every year for Hamantshen with a savory filling. For the Red Velvet, I just used a Red Velvet cake mix instead of the Yellow cake mix and went according to the same recipe. For the non savory Hamatashen, I use Puff pastry with all different fillings.

Its all about creativity! Would love to hear some cool Hamantashen ideas that you came up with~
Happy Purim!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rain, Shmain.......

Okay- so I live in a part of the world where its always warm and I can safely say that the sky is blue and the sun shines 90% of the year- and on days that its not shining, its cloudy but we can still play outside. And when it rains, its usually just for a little bit and then the sun comes back out again.

Well, for the past 2 days, its been raining. And raining. And raining. The first day of rain was actually quite refreshing. A nice change. It was nice and cozy. We made hot cocoa, read books, baked hamantashen. It was nice.

But today, the coziness slowly started turning into cabin fever. And when your kids are used to playing outside EVERYDAY, being cooped up for one day is manageable. Two days- things start to get a little loony (note to self- NEVER and I mean NEVER let your 3 and 4 year old play Candyland by themselves- things go flying, cards get crumpled, little game pieces will be thrown across the room as well as the game board by the unfortunate player who comes in second while the one who comes in first dances around the room singing, "I won! ha ha, I won!!!").

Living in a warm place where people are outdoors most of the time is great, except for the times that we cant be outdoors. It really limits us. The only places to go with kids here on a rainy day is the mall (thanks, but no thanks) or the Aquarium, which may very well be on tomorrows list of things to do depending on how hard it is raining.

So aside for out trip to the Aquarium, here are a few things I think we will do tomorrow- just to keep things exciting and avoid any further looniness (if that's even a word)...
  • Make Playdo- (click here for an AWESOME recipe) and use Purim cookie cutters to make shapes
  • Make more Hamantashen- click here for a super easy and yummy recipe (very kid friendly, easy to roll, cut and shape)
  • Finger painting with half a cup of water mixed with half a cup of corn starch with a drop of food coloring. The "paint" hardens as it is put on the paper, making it have a sandy texture afterward. Paint on black paper, the paint shows up more then on white
  • Found this Rainy Day Umbrella Craft, looks super cute
  • Make a Lava Lamp
  • This fun DIY Table Top Soccer Game (we'll make ours into air hockey)
  • Magnetic TIC TAC TOE (using a cookie sheet, a piece of paper with the tic tac to lines, and magnets to play)
  • A Scavenger Hunt in the house (they LOVE Scavenger hunts)
Will we end up doing all of the above- um, most probably not, but I would rather have and not need, then need and not have:)

Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Some Purim Activities

Yes, I know- Purim is on Thursday... but hey- this gives you 3 (maybe 4) entire days to squeeze in some more Purim Activities! Enjoy~

A Purim Sensory Tub:

Montessori Counting with the Kings Jewels:

A Purim Mystery Bag: Show the kids all the objects. Place the objects in the bag and have the kids take turns feeling an object inside the bag and guessing what it is.

Making our own Purim Costumes: Yes, I know how cute these ready made store bought costumes are... but there is something to be said when the kids wear something they proudly made themselves (no matter how it came out;) So here we have my big guy making his beard for his Mordechai costume. My princess already made her Queen Esther crown that she worked SO hard on and is so proud of.

Since it is a Mitzvah to listen to the Megillah, here is a classic Montessori listening activity that you can easily make at home.

Sound Cylinders: Each cylinder has different size beads inside so when you shake them, they each make a different sound. The aim of the activity is to pick one color cylinder, shake it and listen to it. Then from the other color, find the matching sound by listening to each cylinder until you find the exact same sound. There are matching colored shapes underneath each cylinder that tells the kids if their jars are a match. This requires a lot of concentration and is a really great activity if you child is in that zone (quiet, calm, ready to sit down and listen).

Fish Sorting in connection to Pieces, the astrological sign for the Hebrew month of Adar:

Classic Montessori Fish Puzzle and control chart:

Fruit sorting in connection to Shalach Manos:

Just a little something to keep the little ones busy during school time- putting buttons into a Tzedakah Box (cleaner then real money):

Just a little something we did today- was really fun and came out so pretty. I totally forgot to take "after" photos and by the time I remembered, the cupcakes had disappeared:)

Enjoy your week~

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pleasing all the people all the time ~ A Purim Number Game

Kids are picky eaters. They all are, really. Unless you are one of these lucky moms who's kids eat whatever you put on the table then I say GOOD FOR YOU:)

But in my house, like many houses, we have those who need Ketchup with EVERYTHING, those who CANNOT even be NEAR the Ketchup bottle, those who refuse to eat anything remotely colorful (its a good thing peeled apples are white) and those who LOVE LOVE LOVE all vegetables, raw, cooked, you name it. Yes, I actually have one of those kids!

So meal time in our house can be quite the challenge. Figuring out daily meals that work with or without Ketchup, includes something with no color as well as lots of veges.

Here is a sample Dinner menu I have made up of the staple dinners in our home. It pleases everyone and no one goes hungry. I have also included a link to a blank dinner menu for you to print out for yourself, if it can be helpful in anyway. Click here to download it.
Sarah from Center City Jewish Preschool sent over an adorable Purim Counting game. Click here to download the PDF- you can use miniature pegs, Do-a-dots, stamps, paper clips, crayons, markers, you name it, to identify the correct number matching of the amount of objects. I would print these out on card stock and laminate them for future use.

If anyone has any fun Jewish printables they have made and would like to share via this blog, please email them to me at Jewishmontessori18 AT gmail DOT com and I will put it up with a link to download it.

Lets share the wealth!
Wishing all a great Shabbos,
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