Cultural / Religious Activities:
On this page i share some cultural activities to do with little children. As a child in Egypt, The Eids and Ramadan were eventful and fun because we played in the streets and celebrated with the kids in the hood. But now children do not play in the streets anymore, and more and more these festivities are lacking excitement. So checkout the ideas below.
I do not show our Christmas and Easter activities because those are easier to figure out. The Christmas Tree, Santa Claus and the Advent Calendar for Christmas; the egg coloring and the hunt for the eggs in Easter. However at the bottom of this page, there is a reference to a children biblical book & movie, both in aamiya dialect.
Also here is a link to more ideas for cultural activities:
(1) Books about Ramadan and Eid El AdHa
(كتب أطفال عن إحتفالات رمضان و عيد الاضحى)
Below are links to our favorites. They are great books if you are looking for storybooks that are less about the religious customs, and more about the festivities and the spirit of these celebrations. All books are by the Jordanian children's books author: Taghreed Najjar.
(2) Ramadan: The Giant Lantern (Fanoos)
Craft a "giant" cardboard lantern/'Fanoos'. Use a TV or Fridge cardboard box. Color it with gold or silver paint stray, and decorated it with stars and crescents and colored paper. You can also cut out a door from each side.
Everyday of the month of Ramadan the kids would find a treat in the lantern, little things: a candy, a balloon, kids tattoos, a yoghurt juice, stickers, a book...etc. In addition, i have given them a piggy bank so that sometimes they get money in the 'fanoos' (an easy way out of sweet treats). To make it more exciting, i put a stick-on light from the inside and when that light turns on, it means that a treat was inside the lantern. The light would turn on at different/unanticipated times of the day.
They love it and it is a HUGE hit. To them, it is less about the present and more about the anticipation. On the first day of Eid they get a real present in the 'fanoos'. I have also used the 'fanoos' to give them good deeds to do, as will be described below.
(3) Ramadan: A Tracker
This idea is inspired by the Advent Calendar for Christmas. Print and laminate a month long Lunar calendar (see below). On each day of Ramadan that passes the kids stick a star on the relevant moon. They are always asking me when Eid is, so this is an easy way to give them some perspective on where we are in the month. ّI also give them binoculars and we try track the real moon in the sky.
One can also turn this into an advent calendar and give a treat for each day on the lunar calendar. We do not do that because we already have The Giant Lantern/Fanoos (above).
(4) Ramadan: A Good Deed Jar
(برطمان الأعمال الخيرية)
They can pick out of a jar a good deed to do each day. Things like: help your parent with extra work around the house; donate one of your toys to charity, go the day without complaining, wear an outfit you normally make a bit deal to wear, make a thank you card to someone special, call grandma & grandpa and be nice!! Here is a document with some ideas:
(5) Ramadan: Build Your Own small 'Fanoos'
(إعمل فنوسك بنفسك)
There are many Lanterns/'Fanoos' templates on the internet. A lot of them are from cardboard paper. But i wanted to make one where they can put a light in it. For the one in the picture below i used cone-shaped plastic cups. I prepare the cups and the lanterns in advance (without the kids around). I use a glue gun and a strong kitchen lighter (with a lot of gas refills). I first melt the base of a cup to make an opening at its bottom and then i stick two cups together (one cup as is - with its base, and the other one with an open base from the melting). Then i melt two very small side holes (in the cup without the base) to pass a ribbon for the handle (i use pipe cleaners/chenille stems for the handle). I give the lantern body to the kids prepared and glued already. Through the melted big hole the kids put a small tea light - as if a candle; they tie the handle (through the melted two small side holes); and they decorate the lantern. For younger kids we decorated the lantern body with glittery foam stickers, but as the kids get older you can decorate the lantern in more sophisticated ways (by: glueing cut colored tissue paper all over, painting the body, or painting islamic shapes using stenciles..etc).
(6) Ramadan: Songs for All Kids
(أغاني لكل الاطفال)
It is not easy to find songs about Ramadan that are universal and that can be shared and sung with children of other religions (such as in music class sing-along). The two songs below are of that kind.
(7) Ramadan: A presentation for School on Ramadan
(الكلام على رمضان فى المدرسة - للمتغربيين)
I think it is nice when you are living abroad to try get the non-muslim community on board; to cleberate with you. The kids then dont feel that they are celebrating this alien festivity. Here is a nice article on the importance of this:
We live in New York and I noticed from their school calendar that there were school celebratory activities for Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanza...etc, but non for Ramadan. I suggested to their teachers to add Ramadan and they welcomed the idea.
Possible things to do in school:
(1) Build your own famous (see the plastic fanoos above, or any other on the internet)
(2) read a book (see recommended books above)
(3) sing a song (see above)
(4) a talk about: Ramadan and the Lunar calendar; and spotting the crescent for the start of Ramadan & Eid,
(5) illustrations of how kids can be helpful, kind & generous during Ramadan; and ALSO enjoying the fanoos (see below);
(6) take your Giant Lantern (above) or a made box, and fill it with many cards of Good Deeds (see above) for each kid to pick a card and commit to doing a nice thing (teachers like this one); and
(7) give dates or date cookies covered with sugar (ma3mool / ka7k) for snack!
(8) Eid El AdHa Sheep Piñata (BY FAR ... THE FAVORITE):
(پنياته' خروف عيد الأضحى' )
A friend of mine gave me the fantastic idea of making a sheep piñata (piñatas are a Mexican tradition for birthday parties). The idea fits great with the biblical story of Eid El AdHa. So instead of slaughtering a sheep (which is what we do in Eid El AdHa; following the Biblical sacrifice story of Abraham);we smash a sheep piñata.
Unlike mexican tradition, i dont fill it with candies, rather a lot of little goodies: stickers, chalk, a little candy, crayons ...etc. It is a HUGE success... especially when we invite the kid's friends over. Adults love it too. The kids are asking all year round about when the Eid Piñata is coming!
Many instructions for making a piñata are on YouTube (see link below) but you will have to tweek it to make the sheep shape. I made two balloons: a big one (30 inch balloon) for the body and a small one (regular) for the head; and i connected them with superglue and paper mashe'. I also did 3 layers of the paper mashe. It takes 3 days to do (each an hour) as you have to wait for each layer to dry. DO NOT leave it to dry in the sun, the air expands and the whole thing pops... TRUST ME :) !!
The more you do it, the easier it gets.
(9) Easter or Christmas: Book and Movie
(للأطفال: فيلم عن المسيح و كتاب حواديت من الإنجيل)
Below are links to the reference for a children book about biblical stories, and to a children movie about Jesus, both in the Egyptian aamiya dialect. The book is by Zondervan and Dar El Kitab El-Mokaddas.