Passover for Kids-20 Great Tips for a Kid-Friendly Seder by Rivka Slatkin

The following is an excerpt from Rivka Slatkin’s Passover Perfectly Organized Planner.

Why focus on the kids?
We are taught that the main purpose of the Haggadah is “Vehigadeta Levincha”, teaching your children about the Exodus. The Gemarah instructs us to purposefully plan activities for the kids so they do not fall asleep and to peak their interest.

Easy to say, but how do you keep the kids inspired?
It’s hard to keep the kids awake though! With the Seder night as long as it is, and with this instruction in mind, it is important to have on hand lots of creative ideas to keep the kids awake. “But I’m so busy switching my dishes and cleaning the house,” you may be thinking.

No, no no, you don’t need to plan anything complicated or in advance for a kid-friendly seder! Do have a few ideas in mind though because you know the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Enjoy these crazy ideas for charming all of your sons (and daughters)- even the ones who are unable to ask.

Passover for Kids-Spice up Various Sections of the Haggadah
Kadesh

Let your kids lead the introductory song of the Seder’s Order, you know the one that goes, “Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz.” Then, after everyone sings the traditional song, have the kids make up a rap song with the order. Have a competition as to who has the best rap!

Urchatz
2-3 year olds love to pour water! Have them walk around with a bowl and washing cup and a towel and appoint them as the water-boy or girl, pouring the full cup over each pair of hands.

Karpas
For young kids, designate the karpas domain as theirs. Let them be in charge of the karpas. They can give each guest a potato or celery stick and dip it for each guest. Then, let them keep the stash and dip for themselves as a snack throughout the seder until they’ve reached their tummies share.

Yachatz
Once the middle matzah is broken, the kids can take the afikomen bag and hide it. Throughout the seder they can switch hiding places but let them get started hiding at this point to keep the excitement flowing.

Maggid
I interviewed a Jewish storyteller coach as well as a dad of four about how to keep kids interested in the Seder, since after all, that is the critical part of the mitzvah of having a seder.

Here’s what Jewish storyteller and storytelling coach Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff had to share:

1. Focus on one specific part of the Exodus story. Because there is no way to delve into every aspect of the story, picking one piece to tell is a great way to more deeply learn one part of the story. When you TELL the story, rather than reading it, you are following the commandment to tell the story of the Exodus. (Hagaddah means “the
telling”.)

2. Share the story through the perspective of one character (Jocheved, Miriam, the Pharoah, the princess, a Hebrew slave, etc.). Tell his or her story using the Torah text and also include rabbinic Midrashim and your own creative midrashim.

One year, I told Miriam’s story in the first person, as if I were Miriam. I told pieces of her story throughout the Seder. Just after the candle lighting, I began telling her story as if I were Miriam as a young girl, worrying about the consequences of “my” mother giving birth to a boy. As the Seder progressed, I shared Miriam’s sadness as she watched her little brother floating down the Nile River in his little ark of reeds. I added more pieces to Miriam’s story and just before the meal, I joyfully “remembered” leading the women in celebration as we danced and played timbrels. I included rabbinic Midrashim as well as my own creative midrashim. Sharing aspects of Miriam’s story throughout the evening made the Exodus more personal to the participants.

3. Create a comfortable storytelling setting. Another year, when it came to the Maggid section, I invited people to leave the table and come into our living room. We sat on couches and I told the whole Passover story (this time a short version) and then asked the
participants to comment. I had questions for the participants to respond to as well, which led to a group discussion about the Exodus. Getting away from the table into a real storytelling setting (comfortably seated in a casual semi-circle) provided an entertaining
and relaxing respite from the long ritual of the Seder.

4. Have teens take the younger children into another room early in the Seder. As the adults are participating in the first steps of the Seder, the teens can help the children prepare a skit or song about the Exodus story to be performed during the Maggid section.

The children can wear costumes (scarves, towels and robes are easy and work well for “desert” scenes). If there is not an interested teen, a fun aunt or uncle might love this job of helping the children (and prefer it over sitting through the Seder).

(Jennifer is wonderful. I’ve seen her in action; she makes stories come alive. To contact her, visit www.jenniferstories.com.)

I also interviewed a very creative father of four in Baltimore, Dov Pear, who had a bunch of fun activities to share. He has a great time with these tips and uses them to keep all of his kids awake. Mind you, his sedarim go till about 3:30 or 4 AM!

Avadim Hayinu- “We were slaves in Egypt”

Slave Walk
You can have a lot of fun with this one. Pack a sack of heavy items for each child and have them walk around with them, hunched over.

Can’t get out of Egypt!
Dov Pear, wears a kittel with a sash and ties up the kids in his sash pretending they are slaves. I’m not sure if he ties up all four at once or just one at a time, but you get the picture! It sounds like a lot of fun!

More Slave Walking
This past year, Dov divided up everyone into 2 lines. Each person got up from the table and had to stack several couch pillow cushions on their heads and walk through the line, one at a time, without dropping them. The winner got a prize!

The Main Story of the Exodus
TV Show-“Egyptian Idol”

Tell the story of the exodus as a TV host. Another creative idea, told to me by Dov Pear, was that when his 7 year old son was getting tired, he took a huge empty picture frame that he knew was lying around, propped it up on 2 chairs, and pretended to be a TV host telling the story of how the Jews left Egypt and all of the details. He went through the plagues and took turns with other guests at the seder, giving them a round at being a TV Star! Create your own TV spoof of the story of the Exodus.

Red Sea Splitting
You can have a lot of fun reenacting the splitting of the sea. When you get to the part about the Egyptians drowning, you can take a big blanket and have all of the adult guests at your seder hold the edges, creating a “parachute” like effect with the kids being tossed around the blanket. Be careful with this one or just use a trampoline for the purposes of Egyptian impersonation.

10 Plagues
Plague Kits

You can get the standard plague boxes or create your own. Hand out bandaids for the plague of blood or red food coloring, plastic frogs, stuffed animals for wild animals, nerf ball blasts for hail, red dot stickers for boils, bandannas for the plague of darkness, etc.

Name that Plague
Each person at your seder can act out a plague while everyone watching can NAME THAT PLAGUE! You don’t need to stick to acting out plagues only during the reading of the 10 plagues. If the kids get antsy, have some “makah madness” and shake out their laughs and wiggles by acting like jumping frogs or wild animals.

Rachtza– you probably won’t need much help with any of these next ones since they involve food!!!

Motzi Matzah

Maror

Korech

Shulchan Orech

Tzafun
Afikomen Scavenger Hunt

The kids or parents (depending on who is hiding the afikomen) can prepare clues in advance or provide some clues as to where the afikomen is. Make a scavenger hunt and have the kids work in teams rather than on their own, where afikomen finding can end up in tears. Have lots of little prizes ready for all of the kids at your seder!

Barech
For the next 3 parts, singing can really be encouraged. Animal noises at Chad Gadya, Hallel. Use funny voices, Alvin and the Chipmunks, cantorial voices, etc.

Eliyahu Hanavi
If you don’t have kids that are too little and too frightened, have someone dress all in white and be ready by the door so when it is opened, your costumed Elijah run in the house. This can be really fun if you have a pet who can run in at the exact moment you open the door! You have to coordinate the Elijahs somehow so no one notices their advanced exit.

Hallel
Sing, sing, sing, using the tunes the kids learned in school.

Nirtzah
Throughout the Seder, I suggest you pass out candies, nuts, or little craisins to toss to the kids everytime they participate in the story. The little snacks keep them awake and give them a constant something to look forward to.

You can also perform random tricks, spur of the moment funnies like putting the seder plate on your head or jumping up and down. Magic tricks and juggling are welcome as are story telling! Have fun

I hope you can use this excerpt from our Passover Perfectly Organized Planner effectively at your own seder table!

It’s not too late to get your hands on a copy of the Passover Perfectly Organized Planner. because you still need to finish cooking and cleaning and we’ve got over 100+ Kosher for Passover recipes plus what you MUST know for finishing up your Pre-Passover and Erev Yom Tov Preparations!

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10 comments

  1. Shalom !

    Yishar – Koach on prepering for pesach like that !

    I want to give you another Tip to prepare your kids for pesach:
    go to http://www.meirkids.com/ subscribe (for free, and you can unsubscribe as you finish watching) and let your kids watch it – I think that gonna make them more in the mood of pesach and also can give you more quite time for cleaning,cooking and learning for pesach 🙂

  2. Adorable ideas!
    I have also been working on ideas and game to keep my kids interested during the seder. They are all here, at http://www.thecrumbfactory.weebly.com
    If these help anyone have a more relaxing seder with kids that are less kvetchy, then I will consider this a job well done 🙂

    • There is the best little Haggadah called, THE PAINLESS PASSOVER. It is a very witty, entertaining and yet traditional Haggadah!!
      Go to amazon.com and you can download your copy immediately!!!

      Everyone is talking about it. Your kids and guest will say it was the best Seder ever!!!

  3. I am always at a loss as to how to make the seder endurable for the kids. It is always soooooo late! And this year is later than usual, because of leap year and the time change. I just want to get through it and go to bed! How can I contemplate adding skits and games to it? My kids do not nap! And they don’t sleep late. There is so much preparation for the seder, and the kids learn so much at school about it, and it is over so, relatively, quickly. I think it would be a good idea to make a “seder” of sorts during the day meal, or even before, when the men are in shul.

    • This year we were going to try to give the kids dinner of some sort at 4:30pm and then have them nap after that.
      My kids never either take naps, but that’s because I’ve tried to nap them at 2 or 3. I’m going to try later and see what happens.

  4. I just came across this article while researching family-friendly Passovers. What great tips! Thanks for the ideas.

  5. These are fun tips. We also have the kids do magic tricks and a race with those little pull cars to see who can get out of mitzrayim/across the sea first.

  6. My son’s rebbe (who despite his height and large family I think is also really an 8year old boy) told him that one year the children were falling asleep so he took them all outside and knocked on his neighbour’s door. When they answered, he asked “did you say ha lachma anya and invite anyone who was hungry to join you?” when they answered “yes” he said – “well here we are!” Not sure you could get away with this every year, but certainly very effective!
    In our house, everyone has to sleep on Erev Pesach and we have lots of extra songs and props,eg beards for the rabbis in bnei brak, together with treats for good questions and answers. The kids usually manage to stay up fine.

  7. Shoshana

    We put pillowcases on our heads and pretended to be Pharaoh last year. That was good. Then everyone ran around the garden trying to escape. We marched them back in and carried on. THEY LOVED IT 🙂

  8. Thanks for all the great tips!! I used to make little puzzles for my kids to do at the Seder table (word searches, crosswords) and this year I turned them all into a book that follows along with the Hagaddah: http://www.etsy.com/shop/knaidelpublishing.
    I’m selling it as a PDF for $7.95, which means you can make unlimited copies for your personal use at an affordable price. I hope it will make a lot of people have more peaceful Seders this year!

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