Notes from an Editor of our New
Tot Shabbat Siddurim.
by Timothy Lytton
This month, we published A Shabbat Evening Siddur for Young People and A Shabbat Morning Siddur for Young People, two prayerbooks designed for toddlers and their families. These Tot Shabbat siddurim are board books; perfect for parents to hand to their toddler and to point the way through the siddur. In this guest post, author Timothy Lytton discusses the genesis of the project.
A Shabbat Morning Siddur for Young People grew out of efforts by parents in our synagogue to provide an engaging experience for our children on Shabbat morning that would introduce them to the traditional structure and prayers of the Shabbat morning service. We organized a Shabbat morning group including both parents and their young children that meets each week for a twenty-minute service followed by kiddush and a snack. The children’s service includes interactive songs related to each part of the traditional Shabbat morning service: morning blessings (birkhot haShahar), songs of praise (p’sukei d’zimra), the Shema, the Amidah, Torah reading, and additional Shabbat prayers (musaf). Parents and children sing, clap, dance, and march together as we progress through the order of prayer. In the middle, we also discuss the weekly Torah portion, using gross motor games for the smallest children and stories for older children. As some children have grown older, we have incorporated early literacy games, such as identifying important Shabbat symbols and spotting specific letters and words in the Siddur. We designed the Siddur to facilitate all of these activities. When Torah Aura offered to publish the Shabbat Morning Siddur for Young People, they invited us to create a Shabbat evening companion, which our families now use on Friday nights, in synagogue and at home at the Shabbat table.
The siddurim use graphics at the top of each page to mark each stage of the traditional service, for example a sunrise for morning blessings or a musical note for songs of praise. The pictures also depict boys and girls of many different ethnicities and races actively participating in Shabbat prayer and celebration. These siddurim are designed for anyone interested in introducing children to Sabbath celebration, and they are intended for use in Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Orthodox communities. They have helped the families in our own community grow in their love of and commitment to Shabbat observance, starting at a very young age, and we hope that they can find their way into the homes and synagogues of other young families.