Its easy to forget that the seder is really all about passing down our traditions to our children amidst the hustle and bustle of planning for the holidays. My sister-in-law always makes the seder fun for the little kids by buying plastic bugs and frogs from Oriental Trading Company. She then asks Passover questions and whichever kid answers first-she throws them a bug or a frog! (bugs and frogs represent some of the ten plagues) They love it!
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When your Passover table is filled with boisterous youngsters who get fidgety before it’s time to recite the Ma Nishtana, the evening may begin to feel longer than those infamous years of slavery in Egypt, and filled with more tears than the salt water intended.
But don’t fret; your liberation from bondage is closer than you think. The following offers a guide of creative ideas for frazzled parents who seek to inspire every kind of child, including the wise one, the simple one, the one who is too young to ask and, well, I’m not even going to mention the fourth one.
Don’t forget to invite your children to share.
First, you have to set the scene; I always make my table child-friendly by setting the table with Passover paraphernalia such as plastic frogs, red water colored with red wine or grape juice (blood), sunglasses (darkness), ping pong balls (hail), masks and other and plague-related odds and ends.
Just as you invite all of those who are hungry, don’t forget to invite your children to share. Welcome your children to bring their ownHaggadahs to the table and share what they have learned with everyone else.
As you set your table with your finest Passover china and crystal, don’t leave out the most important display – the handmade pillows, sederplates and crafts your progeny created in school this year and in previous years.
Try to reward good questions, singing, readings and stories with something special. This way, they will pay attention to the proper place in the Haggadah. I have found that this technique keeps everyone alert.
Some people charge the children at their seder with the task of producing a Pesach-related skit. All the children can be given a part to play from the Haggadah, along with props, such as toy frogs and plastic bugs to add more realism and dramatic flair. The activity has the added benefit of requiring a certain amount of planning away from the table, affording the adults an opportunity for higher level conversation.
Some have the custom of marching around the table with either a piece of matza or a heavy load of items on their back. This helps us to fulfill the mitzvah of the Seder, which requires us to feel and act as if we have personally experienced liberation from slavery. Similarly, some people dress up like slaves and walk around the table to reenact the Jews‘ Exodus from Egypt. But you don’t have to end with your journeys through the dessert around your table.
A scavenger hunt through the Haggadah will also keep everyone on their toes; you can give your seder participants a list of words or characters to find as they read through the Haggadah.
One family I know ends their seder with an energetic round of the song “Who Knows One,” complete with elaborate hand motions. It certainly helped that they drank four cups of wine first!
When children are involved in seder preparations, it gives them a sense of ownership.
Generating enthusiasm for the seder can begin before the matzah and herbs are even brought to the table. When children are involved in seder preparations, it gives them a sense of ownership in the event. There are little jobs you can give them to help prepare, such as getting the salt water and bitter herbs ready. It may even encourage them to stick around at the table longer.
One family I know prepares a treasure hunt in advance, with clues to finding their missing afikomen. The adults are forced to participate whether they like it or not because without the afikomen, the seder cannot be completed.
If you successfully follow some of the suggestions above, you might get the ultimate compliment at the end of the meal. The children just might say, “Next Year–at your table–in Jerusalem.”
- Paper bag dramatics. You can make parts of the Haggadah come alive by giving kids a bag of random materials. They must act out the part of the Haggadah using the materials. This can be done for the Ten Plagues as well.
- Make the Ten Plagues come alive by throwing something out on the table for each one. For blood, put colored cups of water around the table. For frogs, throw around little toy frogs, etc.
- Act out traditional Passover songs, such as Dayenu.
- Dress up in robes or sheets to create the look of slaves.
- Create a scavenger hunt out of the frogs that you have hidden around the house during the day.
- Jump over a low bucket filled with water to recreate the splitting of the sea.
- Get some sacks for the kids to pull around; fill with water bottles and then reenact the exodus from Egypt.