This year make your seders particularly engaging for young children with these helpful hints from our talented Parenting Through a Jewish Lens faculty.
“The seder is all about the children. We ask the families attending our seder to work with their children well in advance to prepare a section of the haggadah to present to the rest of the group. We also offer treats to any children who ask questions during the seder. In the Talmudic days, they gave almonds and nuts for treats. We give mini marshmallows! If you ask a question, you get a marshmallow. This has kept our children engaged in the seder for years.”
“One thing we did last year that worked wonderfully was asking the adults at the seder to share with the kids a story or time in their lives in which they overcame some kind of obstacle. We paired each adult with a kid at the table and had them share their story. The kids had the chance to hear a real story of “redemption” and ask questions about it. It turned out to be the highlight of our seder. This was based on a teaching from Rabbi David Silber’s haggadah, in which he expounds on the notion that the stories we tell are defined and shaped by who we tell them to.”
“We’ve had success with taking some time out of Magid (telling the story) to get up from the table and go to the living room and have the kids (and adults) put on a play. Simple costumes, such as towels for headdresses, a crown for Pharaoh, a staff for Moses and a sheet to wave for the Red Sea, are easy to get. The process gets the kids involved—they have fun and learn the story.”
“The haggadah provides a traditional version of the story, but you can tell the story other ways too:
- Substitute a favorite picture book that tells the story.
- Tell the story in song.
- Go around the dinner table and have each person add the next step to the story.
- Use props, like puppets, costumes, crowns, a baby-doll Moses and plastic frogs to tell and act out the story.
- Go around the table quickly and have each person finish this sentence and repeat the preceding ones: ‘When I went out of Egypt, I took with me….’
- Play a version of ‘Simon Says’ with a child playing the Pharaoh who orders the Israelite slaves (the grownups) to do whatever he or she says.
- Have lots of snacks (e.g. sliced vegetables and dips, hard-boiled eggs, sliced fruit) for both children and adults to nibble on.
- Create a Passover treasure hunt by hiding cardboard matzah, kiddush cups, eggs, lamb bones and other items before the seder starts, and play the game during the traditional afikomen search so there are enough things for each child to find.”
“Before the seder have your family make pillows for each guest with their names and decorations. Use white fabric, fabric adhesive, fabric markers and pillow batting to make and decorate the pillows. Each guest can then find their place at the table by searching for their pillow, which allows them to “lean” into the seder toward freedom. You can also try making a tent in your house using old sheets hung from the chandeliers or corners of the ceiling. Put big pillows in the tent and ask your guests upon arrival to enter your tent to rest. Ask your guests (perhaps while wearing Bedouin-inspired clothing, like a flowing skirt) what it was like in Egypt, what it was like to leave and where they’re going now, etc. You can do the first part of the seder in your tent, offering appetizers for dipping, like artichokes in mayonnaise/dill sauce, potato chips and crudités with eggplant dip or guacamole, boiled new potatoes, etc.”
“Include paper placemats (and extra paper) and crayons for the kids and have them draw parts of the seder as it progresses.”