12 Yalda Activities for Kids
Shab-e Yalda is the traditional Iranian holiday of celebrating the longest and darkest night of the year. It is just around the corner but it can be easy for kids to lose sight of with all of the hustle and bustle at this time of year. This list is designed to give you easy, kid-friendly ways to bring excitement into your home and build anticipation around this special holiday.
Count down the days
This simple idea is a perfect way to build anticipation for Yalda by making a visual for counting down the days until Shab-e Yalda. Simply create a paper chain representing the days until Shab-e Yalda and each day allow your child to rip off one link. It is a great way for children to visualize and see the shortening of time until it is time for celebration. If you really want to get creative, write an activity on each link before making and complete that activity on the day it is removed.
Image via Amazon.com
Read about the seasons
This is a great list of books about seasons. The book pictured, Seasons, contains beautiful imagery that promotes curiosity and conversation. Read them ahead of time and help your child learn about the changes of seasons and look around their environment for clues that the season is turning.
Celebrate Yalda fruits all month long
There is significance behind the fruits associated with Yalda. Did you know watermelon has long been thought to help build immunity during the long cold winter? Particularly if your child has not yet been exposed to these fruits, find different ways to enjoy them all month long. Even adding a popsicle stick to a piece of fruit as pictured is an easy way to add some fun. You may be surprised how excited your child is to eat it this way.
Allow your child to prepare a pomegranate
Pomegranates are so fun to eat but can be a big mess to prepare. This simple way to prepare allows your child to partake in the preparation without the mess of juice stains. Allowing your child to help prepare food will build a greater sense of connection, appreciation and will often make them more likely to try new foods. If you want to preserve some of the juice before adding to the bowl of water, simply do the first cutting over the bowl you'll use for serving.
Do a Yalda craft
Make and gift Yalda Ajeel
Dried nuts and fruits are traditionally served on Shab-e Yalda and preparing your own mix is a great way for kids to get acquainted with the various ingredients. Wrapping small bags of it in tulle or a gift bag make a great way for your children to share this special time of year with friends or family. You can certainly buy traditional Iranian nuts and fruits at a speciality store but you can also use things that are widely available at a regular grocery. You can make due with what you have on hand and still have it be festive. Here are some traditional and non-traditional ideas:
- Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews or pecans
- Whole or chopped fruits: figs, dates, raisins, dried berries, craisins, mango, banana chips
- Seeds: pumpkin seeds, sesame seed
Want to really boost the flavor? Toast the nuts and seeds. Don't have time to make your own? Check Niloofarmix.com for premier Persian fruit and nut mixes.
Learn about the astronomy of winter solstice
Older children will be able to read and watch simple lessons to learn about the winter solstice. Even little ones can get a little lesson about the earth and moon if you keep it simple. Need to brush up on science? Scroll down on this lesson to get the facts and common misconceptions.
Image via turmericsaffron.blogspot.com
Make a sweet treat
Baslogh is a sweet often enjoyed on Shab-e Yalda. If you are looking to make a homemade treat for the big night, this is it. If you're looking for a recipe that is easier for small helpers to work alongside you, something like tut would be a better choice. Although traditionally served on Nowruz, there is not an easier recipe for kids to help with than this one. Kids love rolling the tut (and probably eating every other one) and will have a sense of pride contributing to the Shab-e Yalda spread.
Listen to Yalda music
This very sweet song from Pardis for Children is easy to learn and will have your little one singing along in no time. You may even find yourself singing if for days to come. It's contagiously fun and helps to reinforce all of the vocabulary related to Yalda you child may have learned. Looking for more? Here is another Yalda song for children by Najva Khabbazian and a few more for more grown up tastes from Ebi, Fataneh and Ali Molaei.
Set up a child-friendly sofreh
All of the components of the sofreh will have more meaning to your child if she has had prior knowledge and understands the significance of each item. To help your child build excitement for the holiday, consider setting up a sofreh with your child the week beforehand. If you child won't be awake when it's time to celebrate on Shab-e Yalda, a little early celebration can take place with children at whatever time of day works for your family even if it's just lighting a candle and sharing fruit after dinner.
Some fun ways to make your Yalda sofreh child-friendly:
- Allow your child to arrange the sofreh to her own liking
- Have your child help choose dishes and decor that will make it special for him
- Take a walk outside and allow your child to forage some natural items to add as decoration
- Consider an electric candle that your child can use safely
- Choose a simple Persian proverb and use it to display on the sofreh - older children may write it themselves
Carve a watermelon
This one is last because I didn't want to lose anyone with something that looks time-consuming, but I promise it isn't! A dragon is so easy because there is not any real detail work and it just takes one small watermelon. You could put this together in the time it takes your children to eat snack. Simply halve the watermelon and cut one half into slices. Use the round end to cut into feet. Use the other slices for wings, a head/neck and a tail. Everything can be help in place with toothpicks (break off the visible ends). It does help to cut small square notches on each side of the body for the wings to nestled into and stay steady. You can make this the evening of Shab-e Yalda or if there is too much going on then, make it ahead of time. Your kids won't mind!
Has this list inspired you to add anything new to your traditions this year? If you try any of these activities with your kids and would like to be featured on Little Persian social media, simply tag #littlepersian. It'd be so fun to see!