The time is right for you and for your child, and we’re here to help you make that transition.
Your babies won’t be babies forever and, eventually, it will be time for them to start davening in shul. Especially when the child is your baby and you can spend that time in shul together.
I was thinking about what I wanted to say in this post as my daughter and I were leaving shul this Rosh Hashanah. We had such a positive experience that I really wanted to reach out to all of you so you can have the same. Of course, my thoughts were that this would be great for next year. But I decided to write it up and share it immediately, so maybe it can help for Yom Kippur.
I’m not going to specify an age here because I believe that’s fluid. Know your child before you decide when that age might be. Some girls can start joining in a bit at 6 or 7 years old, and make it through Shmoneh Esrei when they’re 9. And some are not ready until 14. It’s important not to push this stage too quickly.
Discuss an expectation of how long your daughter would like to (and could) be in shul actively participating. Then immediately lower that expectation in your own mind. She may not remember just how tedious it can be to follow along with all the words and when her friends start filing out, she may want to join them.
What works for us is to daven shacharis at home. We then have kiddush (we live close enough for the men and boys to come home and join us for a few minutes) and head out to shul for shofar and mussaf. This timing means being in shul for one long block of time during which she can take a break if she needs, or even leave to play with friends.
It’s key for a new davener to know what will happen when, and how important each tefillah is. Each milestone of the machzor that she can reach – U’nesaneh Tokef, Kedusha, Bircas Cohanim – is another accomplishment. It also helps to know when there is a longer stretch between these milestones, like the 20 minute break she can take before the first shofar blowing during Chazoras HaShatz, so she feels like she can breathe and stretch a bit without missing out on “the good stuff”.
The machzor we’ve found to be the absolute best for the young davener is the Artscroll all-Hebrew version with English instructions (ashkenaz). This allows the child to focus on the kriah without distraction, while still knowing what to do, and when. My older teenagers prefer the interlinear machzor (sfard set or ashkenaz YK and ashkenaz RH) so they can see the meaning of the words as they say them. And some of their friends prefer the standard Artscroll machzor with the English translation on the facing page (sfard set or ashkenaz set), so they can just look over and read a paragraph at a time.
If you live too far for your daughter to go home from shul for a break, or she has no friends to hang out with, consider bringing along an appropriate book for her to read quietly either in her seat or in back of the shul. Some books we like for times like this are the young readers editions of All for the Boss, The Story of Reb Moshe and The Story of Rebbetzin Kanievsky. A simple snack is also a good idea – a cookie or a granola bar that’ll keep her going but isn’t “babyish”.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. Before you know it, your little beginner will be a big girl spending all of the tefillos of the Yomim Noraim in shul. We won’t even talk about how fast she’ll be the one staying home with her own little ones, b’ezrat HaShem!