There are times that we are wonderful about creating a meaningful and ideal Shabbat experience for our children, and there are times when we fall down on the job. Every blah Shabbat we have tends to be followed by more and more of them. My conclusion is that blah Shabbatot should be avoided! As children get older, it is easy to forget that one's home Shabbat practice might need to progress as well.
Recently, we have revamped out home Shabbat practice just a little, and here are a few of the things we have done.
1. Empowered Alia and her unique/original ideas by having her prepare and teach us Torah based on that week's parsha near the end of dinner. WOW! She is a fantastic teacher, and she is full of ideas, perspectives, etc. Last week she taught us about why Esau was offered bread and lentils, and what that means for our values today. This week, she spent Shabbat with a friend, but before she left, she chanted in trouped English a summary of the Parsha. It was amazing! To see her smile and confidence makes Shabbat extra special.
2. Our re-introduction of special games has been a great success. We used to do this every week when Chandler was younger and Alia was Neviyah's age. We used to play Red Light Green Light, board games, acting/drama games, etc. The only way I can describe it is that we got lazy about making sure this was part of what we do for Shabbat. The children really value it, and we essentially stopped doing it. Well, it is back on, and the kids really look forward to dinner being over so we can play! With Alia, we usually play Racko, Uno or Life. With Neviyah, it is Candyland, Chutes and Ladders or puzzles.
3. Singing! Our kids love to sing! After the challah, we now sing -- since we are not musical people, we don't know a whole lot of songs. It doesn't seems to matter. Neviyah and Alia love to sing Bim Bam/Shabbat Shalom, Am Yisrael Chai, Oseh Shalom, etc. There is joy in singing. Neviyah usually cannot resist dancing around while we sing, or delving into a spur-of-the-moment creative solo!
4. We have a Shabbat question box that we used long ago but haven't used in a while. Alia loves to pick a question, and then we go around the table and whomever would like to participate does. Questions range from the simple (What are your favorite Shabbat foods?) to the more thoughtful (If you could have one historic or modern figure for dinner, who would it be?) to the personal (What did you do this week that was kind to someone else?). When it is time for Neviyah to pick, she pretends to read it. Last night, she picked a card and said, "I love Shabbat very very very very very very much, and I like to eat sweet challah, and drink grape juice and smell the beautiful flowers!"
The next thing we are going to incorporate is a Shabbat Show and Tell. All those projects from school that come home during the week will have an opportunity to be shown to the family in show and tell style. Each child can present her "work" or "art" or whatever it is she would like. I anticipate this being a fun and special touch to our Shabbat.