Since Chanukah represents the ultimate situation where the Jewish people were unplugged, why not consider toys and whimsical home accents that inspire creativity that isn’t computer-generated?
While the “perfect gift” buzz on latest smart phones, tablets and video game consoles has been broadcast on television and the Internet since Halloween (or Labor Day, in some cases), the annual ritual of putting together gift suggestions for Chanukah offers the perfect opportunity for all of us to take a step back and think about the true meaning of this particular holiday.
For all intents and purposes, we have to remember that Chanukah represents the ultimate situation where the Jewish people were unplugged (having to make the oil last a week) and had to get very creative to keep a bright light shining literally and figuratively.
With that in mind, why not consider toys and whimsical home accents that either inspire creativity or were inspired by the creativity of others?
As play is widely recognized as a way in which young children develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, why not take some time to unplug — not only to bring the human element back into the holiday, but also create magic that is decidedly not computer-generated?
The Reading Room
The Recipients: Children discovering the enlightenment of reading — and the parents and grandparents who embrace helping them on their journey.
What: A Hannukah Bear for Me by Allan and Maia Haag
The enlightening back story: This was created by the Haags, a husband and wife duo who originally set out to create a series of educational books that would teach young children how to recognize letters and spell their names. After Maia developed the concept, they brainstormed together to develop the characters in the book. Better still, the customized holiday fairy tale can incorporate up to 16 names of family members and friends.
Where and how to buy: $39.95 for personalized book and 6-inch Chanukah plush bear, at: www.iseeme.com/hanukkahbook.html
What: The Amazing Menorah of Mazeltown, by Hollywood writers Joy Fate & Hal Dressner, with illustrations by the Chicago humorist Neil Shapiro
The enlightening back story: In the grand tradition of Jewish storytelling, the update of the Chanukah story appeals to adults and children on different levels. Life is tough in the hamlet of Mazeltown until two children, Molly and Max, rescue and polish a grimy menorah from a secondhand shop. Each night they light a candle; and the following morning brings a new miracle of light and lightness to their once sad town.
Where and how to buy: $16.95, from Amazon.com
What: Guess Who Zoo, Guess Who Farm and Guess Who Neighborhood, by Howard Eisenberg
The enlightening back story: Veteran television writer Eisenberg, who is 86 years young, is particularly expert on how to connect with children. One of his first jobs was with the legendary The Howdy Doody Show, which parents and grandparents can surely relate to.
Where and how to buy: The books run $14.95 each at: barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com. A companion CD, featuring Eisenberg himself, is available for $9.99 at his website, www.guesswhozoo.com.
The Game Room
The Recipients: Kids of all ages. There’s nothing like a universal game or toy to bridge the generation gap and get people talking to each other and back into the world (as opposed to the video game).
What: “Lawsuit! The Board Game”
The enlightening back story: The “Game of the Year” award winner is available at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia as well as online through Amazon. “Lawsuit!” teaches what it’s like to be a lawyer in a fun way. It’s the perfect game for the lawyer wannabe, lawyer, or anyone 8 and up who just wants to have fun playing a game with family and friends.
Where and how to buy: For the particulars, visit: www.lawsuitgame.com.
What: Hanukkah Bingo Game and the Hannukah Games Box
The enlightening back story: The ageless and timeless classic was re-imagined by Ellen Zimmerman (a veteran marketing/consulting/PR professional), whose maternal grandparents hailed from Philadelphia, and fondly recalled all of the family-friendly games that brought the generations together during large holiday gatherings. Hanukkah Bingo is part of her Jewish Holidays in a Box products (boxed kits, games, and e-guides) to help families celebrate the holidays at home more joyfully, and with less stress, while they build delightful memories. A positive side benefit is making content of Jewish texts more accessible to kids and teens, which may result in keeping those video games shut off during the gatherings.
Where and how to buy: Hanukkah Bingo Game ($12.75) and Hanukkah Games Box ($23.95) are both available through Amazon.com as well as Jewishholidaysinabox.com.
Exploring Your World
The Recipients: Kids of all ages who love “making things” from scratch, creating presents for friends and family and embracing the great outdoors come Spring 2014
What: The YayLabs! Ice Cream Ball
The enlightening inspiration: Anytime of year is a great time for ice cream, especially when you can create your own flavors or just love the gee-whiz moment of mixing stuff together and getting something safe, edible and delicious as a result. Becoming the next Häagen-Dazs founder (yes, they were a Jewish family), can be as easy as adding salt to one end, ice cream mix to the other end, and then shaking, rattling or rolling it for 20 minutes.
Where and how to buy: The Yaylabs! Ice Cream Ball can be purchased in a pint or quart size and comes in seven fun colors. Retailing for $34.99-$44.99, it can be purchased at: www.industrialrev.com/ice-cream-balls.
What: Clocky and Tocky Rolling Alarm Clocks
The enlightening inspiration: Humanizing technology is important, especially if you are teaching young ones to learn how to tell time, in a culture where the concept of snoozing a few extra minutes come morning just isn’t an option anymore. When the alarm sounds, Clocky/Tocky will wait for you to get up. If you snooze, they’ll jump off your nightstand and run around your room, determined to get you up on time. Hey, you have to get up to be in time for school or work anyway!
Where and how to buy: Available for $39-$58 at: Nandahome.com, Nordstrom, Best Buy and J&R Music World.
What: Kiss Natural’s DIY Lip Balm Kit
The enlightening back story: Mike and Marie Wiesel started the all-natural DIY craft kit company with the mindset that nature got it right the first time, especially when girls get to that age when they want to start trying out makeup. Mike, who has many Israeli ties (his parents immigrated to Israel after World War II, and he had his Bar Mitzvah there) and Marie are proud of their girl-friendly chemistry experience, which includes good things like shea butter, safflower oil and beeswax and fruit flavors.
Where and how to buy: A 10-pack DIY kit is available for a suggested retail price of $21.95. A five-set mini pack is also available for the suggested price of $13.95. Area retailers include Duck Duck Goose, Just Kidding Around, Aunt Jean’s Toys & Treats, and Lolli Lolli. It is available online at: www.kissnaturals.com/united-states.
What: Midrash Manicures Hanukkah Nail Decals
The enlightening inspiration: These glitzy decals were developed by a New Yorker as a fun way to further dress up the festive season. A perfect companion for the KISS DIY Lipgloss Kit.
Where and how to buy: $12 at the National Museum of American Jewish History (www.nmajh.org) in Old City; ModernTribe.com
What: SuperME! Comic book-inspired functional backpacks.
The enlightening inspiration: Sometimes the best toy or game is one’s imagination, and it can prove to be positively priceless, especially when helping a child build his or her confidence. The super-pack has a cape tucked away in a hidden pocket to help little ones easily transform into their own superhero personas. Even more super is that SuperME offers interchangeable Velcro patches to express each child’s hobbies and interests, and there are two Maccabee color options!
Where and how to buy: The line, ranging from $29.90 to $49.90, is available at: www.supermehero.com, as well as The Children’s Boutique in Philadelphia and Raffetto’s Shoes in Manasquan, N.J.
Good as Gelt
The Recipients: Families who recognize Chanukah’s historic origins as a children’s festival and celebrate that in their festivities
What: The Menurkey Menorah: Plaster Edition
The enlightening inspiration: The Menurkey, a playful menorah shaped like a turkey, came to light as a Kickstarter.com Internet sensation when a young inventor learned of the strange calendar anomaly Thanksgivukkah, which happens on years Chanukah falls close to Thanksgiving. The inventor thought people might like to have a turkey menorah because the two holidays share several traditions.
Where and how to buy: Available for $50 at the National Museum of American Jewish History (www.nmajh.org) in Old City; ModernTribe.com.
What: Jonathan Adler’s Elephant Menorah
The enlightening inspiration: Leave it to designer Jonathan Adler to merge sleek, urban sophistication and youthful whimsy. He makes Chanukah an unforgettable occasion with this stylized pachyderm-menorah hybrid.
Where and how to buy: $158, ModernTribe.com
What: Mazel Tov Knee High Socks
The enlightened inspiration: Why should Christmas celebrants have all the stocking-stuffing fun? These ocean-blue socks are standard equipped with sparkling silver heels and toes, and the time-honored phrase that wish your recipient Good Luck.
Where and how to buy: $10, ModernTribe.com; $6, regular length Chanukah socks, National Museum of American Jewish History (www.nmajh.org) in Old City
What: The must-have Chanukah sweater by Geltfeind
The enlightened reason: You know you want one. With unapologetically festive holiday sweaters coming out of drawers and into the public eye from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, why not show your true colors with these sparkling blue, gold and silver statement makers, even after the last menorah candle has been lit. Geltfeind is the result of a Kickstarter campaign by Carin Agiman, who has teamed up with the proudly Jewish-owned women’s knitwear company Belldini and Joseph Esshaghian.
Where to buy: www.geltfiend.com and ModernTribe.com