Torah learning with the littles

>>How do you get your littles to learn Torah?  I don’t really mean halacha and every day things they see you doing, but – I don’t know.. The parsha, things like that?  Maybe you have a parsha reader?  Do you do crafts at all?  I am very, very, very not-crafty.  But I want my kids to.. learn! :-)  They are 4.5 and 2, so still very young, but I really wanted to ask you. <<

I think my answer is going to disappoint you, because I really don’t focus on it!   A big part of that is that so much of my focus is on the older kids, so the littles naturally have things filter down to them without me consciously learning with them. 

We have a parsha reader – My First Parsha Reader – it doesn’t excite me but I do have it and it’s okay.  There are definitely better books but that’s what I have.  Our supply of parsha cassettes, that were heavily used for years, has dwindled with breakage or being lost, so I don’t consistently use this anymore.  Dd14 often tells the parsha to the littles and the middles; she prepares it for girls that she tutors and so they always know it well come Shabbos!   And of course dh goes over salient points at the Shabbos table.

I do other Jewish reading with them but it’s not systematic in any way – sometimes we read Our Sages Showed the Way type material, and sometimes we read the Artscroll middos series type books, and they get something from it all.  They enjoy listening to stories by Rabbi Burstyn, and ds4 has picked up a lot of knowledge like that.

Ds4 this week asked dh to learn gemara with him (he hears ds12 repeatedly telling dh he wants to start)!  After a few insistent requests like this, my husband agreed to learn some mishnayos with him, so they did three mishnayos together, and I was a little taken aback at how well ds4 explained it all to me later that night!  When they’re ready, they’re ready….(not that we’re officially starting mishnayos now!  It’s about following their lead.)

I’m not too crafty; I’m better at being with them, taking them places, and reading than doing projects.  The one exception to that is that I’m pretty good about letting them help bake in the kitchen; I’m happy to let them play with challah dough or roll out dough to make whatever they want.  Dd16 used to do more crafts with them (that’s a strength of hers) and sometimes dd14 does that now (like last week she did some nice stuff with the splitting of the sea), but I give them lots of paper and crayons/markers/colored pencils, and let them color whatever they want. 

I think my husband is very good at integrating Torah stories into bedtimes and general storytimes.  I don’t know all that he tells them since I don’t hear, but I know he covered a lot of Navi by telling them stories of Nach, sitting or standing in the dark next to their beds at night.  He’s often just read to the kids straight (with a little paraphrasing difficult words or concepts) from the English translation of the Tanach, and I can’t figure out why they sit there and listen with interest, but they do!  Sometimes I read them Nach stories (from different books), but again, it’s not systematic. 

It’s likely that if I only had the littles, I would be a lot more conscious of what I was doing with them, since I wouldn’t have the influence of siblings benefitting them and I’d be aware that it was all up to me and my husband to create the learning environment.  I’m more relaxed about this than I was when I had six kids under age 9, and was making sure to cover different material (albeit in an integrated manner).   I don’t think you have to make a huge effort as much as to look at what you’re already doing, and find ways to help your child be involved in it. 


2 thoughts on “Torah learning with the littles

  1. I totally agree with following the lead approach. I don’t homeschool, but ds was in a secular gan so anything Jewish we wanted him to know was on us (Rosh Hashana in gan was limited to apples and homey for a sweet year, and how the bees make honey…). As for dd, she is now in a religious gan but with mixed kids so the emphasis is not specifically on religious subjects (which I am fine with, since the overall approach of living together is very good in my eyes). However, she came to me a few weeks ago asking me “right we should learn Torah every day? So why do we only learn Torah in gan on Friday?”. I haven’t spoken to her teacher yet (though maybe I should…), but we did start integrating more Torah orientated discussions in the house…like we used to do with ds.
    We have a (Hebrew) parsha reader which I used mainly for the pictures when the kids were small, and ds now reads on his own. the series “maagal hashana” (round the year in English?) which I find excellent and read occasionally from. and Our Sages showed the way which I read from as a treat.
    I made sure that the kids know we put importance on Torah learning and that they see us learning- not so much the amount of material they know. My niece goes to a gan where by shabbat she can tell the whole parsha with countless midrashim- my kids don’t..but they have a love for Torah and the will to learn more and more.
    Technically- I also made sure to build the kids a small (but growing) selection of Jewish books on various subjects (inc. storybooks) which have they place in the main SIfrei Kodesh library in the house. This way they know that they have access to all the books in the library – when they’ll want to open them- and that their sifrei kodesh have the same importance as ours. I think that by showing them that we value the learning they do as much as ours, we are showing them the right way…
    So far it worked- ds (now almost 8) graduated of his own will from the parsha reader to the chumash (for preparing for shabbat!), will open a Tanach to find out more after he heard something in shul and regularly trues to learn mishnayot on his own. Between him and his sister asking for for Torah learning, I think we managed to give them the base to be Bnei Torah, even if the amount of materail we shower on them is not enormous.

    AS far as crafts are concerned- I think they are nice can help to grasp concepts but can be kept as once in a while only (and they are plenty of very easy crafts to do..)

  2. we’re not much into crafts here, though i did get the boys to make kohen gadol paper dolls a week or so ago, which they loved (though i’m not sure that i communicated effectively what they were for).
    we don’t do much parsha stuff, a little, but less than i’d like. but i figure we have many years to go – my eldest is 4.5 as well.

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