Know who your congregation/audience is. Young parents and young children (ages 2-7).
Keep service short and varied, with different activities interspersed (ex.: Songs, stories, quiet moments, Kiddush or snack, a presentation of some kind by a guest, etc ). Be flexible – be willing and able to alter your plan and demeanor to meet the needs of the specific group.
Keep both adults and children involved; make it interactive. If a child answers a question incorrectly, be prepared to validate their answer in some way. Be casual and welcoming. Consider stepping down from the bima or bringing the children closer to you.
Make prayers simple (few words) with introductory explanations children can understand. Also, consider using transliteration where possible. Use your voice to create different moods.
Choose easy, catchy Shabbat songs (knowing the repertoire sung during Shabbat celebrations in the Nursery or Pre School is helpful). Remember the importance of repetition. Routine is important with small children, so once you have developed a basic format, keep following it. Aim for developing a smooth flow from one activity or ritual to the next. Young children will lose focus very easily if there are breaks in the service or program.
Create a songbook/prayer book specifically used for this service (spiral binding is preferable—it lays flat on a table or music stand).
Knowing the children’s names is helpful; you can use a “Hello—Shabbat” type song to learn their names.
Use props when possible, during songs, stories, and prayers. Visual aids keep them focused and interested (ex.: puppets, hats, beanie babies, large pictures, traditional symbols of Shabbat). Try to create a multi-sensory experience wherever possible. If you are going to use puppets or props, make sure they are arranged in an organized way. However, you should also consider keeping them covered or away in a bag or box until they will be used, so as not to be a distraction during the service.
Create a support system by enlisting select parents who are already attending (because of their young children). They do the set-up, clean-up, advertising in local papers and Jewish papers, bulletins, synagogue website; also, place a large banner outside the synagogue, etc.
A yummy Oneg/Kiddush afterwards is always enticing. Don’t forget to use B’rachot!
TOT SHABBAT CURRICULUM – Cantor Carol Chesler
When mapping out the structure of the lesson plan, during which time the music of the Tot Shabbat service will be taught, follow these guidelines:
What age children are in the class? One age group
A range of ages
A mix of generations
How long is the class? 10-15 minutes
How large is the group? 1 class (8-15 children)
2 classes combined
An assembly in a larger room
What is the goal of the lesson? To sing existing repertoire
Is the Shabbat music class held in a different location, for example in the chapel or sanctuary?
How is Shabbat being observed in the classrooms? What songs are being sung in the individual classes? What Shabbat concepts are the children learning? Is there a connection between the music program and what is happening in the classrooms?
Does the congregation offer a family service or Tot Shabbat program (on Shabbat itself) during which the repertoire is re-enforced?
Do the clergy of the congregation celebrate Shabbat with the children with any frequency or consistency?
Do parents participate in Shabbat celebrations with their children during school hours?
Are any Shabbat resources being sent home with children to promote Shabbat observance? (Ex. Shabbat-in-a-bag, complete with ritual items, a CD of Shabbat music, and a booklet with simple instructions for celebrating Shabbat at home) Are Shabbat resources available to nursery school staff, like songbooks, CDs, picture books, ritual items, etc.?
Shabbat Repertoire for Nursery School Aged Children (2-5 years old)
[Following Shabbat Songbook of Cantor Carol Chesler:
Artists and recordings noted with the song selection]
IMPLEMENTING NURSERY OR PRE-SCHOOL SHABBAT CURRICULUM
Welcoming all students and parents upon arrival at school each Friday morning with spirited Shabbat songs in the hallway. (Sung by cantor and nursery school director)
Shabbat sing-along sessions in the sanctuary for all students/parents/teachers once a month, using songbooks, song sheets, props, etc.
Shabbat celebrations in classrooms each Friday, using similar repertoire as used in sing along and Family Friday Night Service. (All teachers have a copy of Cantor’s Shabbat song book in the classrooms.)
Family Friday Night Service (or “Tot Shabbat”) 3 to 4 times during school year, lead by rabbi and cantor, featuring one age-group from the nursery school (doing selected songs from the Bima).
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF BOOKS ON G D, PRAYER, SPIRITUALITY
APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN – Hazzan Arlyne Unger
Because Nothing Looks Like God, Karen Kushner & Lawrence Kushner, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont. [like God’s Paintbrush]
Does God Hear My Prayer?, August Gold, Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 2005 [good pictures-young children]
Does God Know How to Tie Shoes?, Nancy White Carlstrom, Wm. B. Eerdsmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1993. [Seeing God from a Child’s Perspective]
Shirim Al Galgalim: Songs on Wheels. Debbie Friedman, Sounds Write Productions (now distributed by URJ Press).
A Singing Calendar: Early Childhood Songs, Nursery Rhymes and Playlets. Ruth Etkin, Tara Publications.
Songs for a Jewish Head Start: Based on Original Songs by Rita Gold. Presented by Peter and Ellen Allard, URJ Press. [includes CD]
Torah Alive – Music Connection. Ed. by Joel Eglash, URJ Press and Transcontinental Music Publications. [includes CD] Songs can be used when going over parasha]
Also useful –
Manginot: The Complete Jewish Songbook for Children, Volumes 1 and 2. Volume 1 ed. by Cantor Stephen Richards, Volume 2 ed. by J. Mark Dunn, Joel N. Eglash, Cantor Alae S. Katzew, Transcontinental Music Publications.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF EARLY CHILDHOOD SIDDURIM
A Shabbat Evening Siddur for Young People. Rachel Anisfeld and Timothy Lytton, Torah Aura Productions.
Shabbat: A Family Service. Judith Z. Abrams, Kar-Ben.
A Shabbat Morning Siddur for Young People. Rachel Anisfeld and Timothy Lytton, Torah Aura Productions.
Siddur Kol Ha-Noar – The Voice of Children: A Siddur for Shabbat, ed. By Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and Rabbi Jeffrey Schein, Reconstructionist Press, 2005
Siddur Ma Tov: A Family Shabbat Prayer Book. Rabbi Lauren Kurland and Julie Schwartz Wohl, Behrman House.
Siddur Shabbat B’Yachad: A Siddur for Young Children. Ed. by Iris Greenbaum and Judith Radousky, EKS Publishing Co. [also Leader’s Guide available]
Siddur Shabbat La-Tz’i’rim: A Young Children’s Shabbat Siddur. Concept by Lyndall Miller (contact her at Gratz College)
***Recommended Resource when getting a Tot Shabbat started:
The Tot Shabbat Handbook: A Practical Guide for Engaging Young Families in Congregational Life. Ed. by Paula Feldstein, URJ Press.
Submitted by Hazzan Arlyne Unger Important that parents sit with their children, in the same row.
Make the starting point clear through body language. Put on Tallit very deliberately.
Start with Nigun.
Shabbat Shalom song and bless each other.
Parents hold up Tallitot to form a line of tents. Children sit on bima floor under Tallitot. Sing Ma Tovu. After singing, have parents continue by humming the melody. Under Tallit do some aspect of Torah lesson. Also, Ma Tovu “compliment.”
Eilu D’varim -
Give out slips of paper in advance. Line those people up on the bima. Sing refrain only of “Eilu D’varim” by Jeff Klepper. Have people act out their mitzvah while leader says each mitzvah. In between sing refrain for “Eilu D’varim.” At the end everyone can shout out: “Torah study is equal to them all!”
Mizmor Shir L’Yom Shabbat – talk about something special that happened on Shabbat.
Barchu for community
Anyone who is celebrating a birthday can lead Barchu.
Why is it so special to pray together as a kehillah?
Shema– if younger children, then parents cover their children’s eyes. For all children – parents turn to your kids and teach them something. What is something new you want your child to learn this week?
Visual cue – poster with “large ear” - What are special things we “hear” that can connect us with God?
Mi Chamocha – something interactive regarding crossing the sea, etc. Imagine feelings of Israelites at that time. Also, sense of Mi Chamocha and challenges.
Sing Adonai S’fatai Tiftach as everyone walks to own private spot in sanctuary. Short time for silent meditation.