Nursery magic

"The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it." - The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

I have heard that there are siddurs (prayer books) that sing to you (check it out!). I have enjoyed my share of wonderful G-dcast videos about the parsha (weekly Torah portion). There are no doubt countless apps with Jewish content for children. I am so grateful that these exist. But, like the nursery toys that by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, I cannot help but feel that there is still some timeless quality that is missing in the digital or electronic realm, a lack that prevents these products from attaining the "nursery magic" of the sort we're aiming at. 

Perhaps this is a good time to talk about Maxine Greene, and privileged objects (truly, I really can't wait any longer!). I discovered this amazing thinker here, deep in an old literature review from Avoda Arts. Greene, an educational philosopher, describes what she calls "privileged objects" which can be "paintings, sculptures, poems, novels, plays, musical pieces, and dance performances, with unique capacities to complicate and deepen our experiences in the world and with each other. They have the potential as well to plunge us into adventures of meaning and to open new perspectives on an always problematic world" (Greene, 1990, p.149). These art forms carry within them the ability to transform and heighten our perception, but, Greene emphasizes, that ability must be unlocked by means of our attending to it, by understanding these forms as deserving of our particular attention. In addition, unlike the everyday mundane objects in our surroundings, "the painting is likely to disclose more and more of its qualities or its perceptual attributes the more often and more attentively it is viewed" (Greene, 1991, p.154). I can't remember where at this moment, but I believe I remember reading (and this would make sense) that Greene also includes encounters with nature and natural objects in this category of privileged objects. 

How does all this relate to Judaica for children? (Is there a better word than Judaica? Please tell me if you think of something!) Well, it is my belief that IF the items that we have available for children are more like privileged objects, that invite repeated attention, and disclose more and more of their depth and meaning over time, they will be met with such appreciation, investigation and attention. Along with an aesthetic focus on thoughtful design and craft, the underlying goal of such objects should be open-ended, sustained creative play (with parents or playmates as well as independent activity) that allows children to feel that they have ownership and agency from within the Jewish rituals, traditions and stories instead of just learning about the religious content.

What do you think? Have you encountered any digital media content that you feel does fit these criteria? Are there any favorite items of Judaica for children that you have or that you grew up with that functioned as privileged objects in your world?

Greene, M. (1990). "Arts education in the humanities: Toward a breaking of the boundaries." In W.J. Moody (Ed.), Artistic intelligences: Implications for education. New York: Teachers College Press

Greene, M. (1991). "Aesthetic literacy." In Ralph A. Smith and Alan Simpson (Ed.), Aesthetics and arts education. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press