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Sedering with Kids

Sedering with Kids

How to prevent your kids from asking the fifth question, "Are we done yet?"

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Passover Seders and antsy kids traditionally go together like matzah balls and chicken soup. Fortunately, it's perfectly possible to prevent the fifth question (are we done yet?) and the eleventh plague (restless natives) from showing up at our Passover celebrations this year.

Taking into account that every family has different comfort levels, objectives and degrees of observance, here are some tips toward creating a fun and meaningful Passover Seder that promises to captivate the interest of all kinds of kids -- wise, wicked, simple and just plain unable to ask:

That's the Ticket. Prior to the big night, make "matzah tickets" out of index cards. Award the tickets to children throughout the Seder for reciting the Mah Nishtanah, the Four Questions, answering tricky Passover trivia questions, helping little brothers and sisters make Hillel sandwiches and oodles of other desirable Seder behaviors. At the end of the evening let ticket-holders redeem their winnings for Passover related prizes (i.e. candies, plastic frogs, books).

Keep the Karpas Coming. Grumpy kids and hungry tummies go hand in hand. A steady flow of karpas (a.k.a. carrots and celery) and kosher for Passover salad dressing for double dipping, will keep your kids happily crunching away until it's time for the main course.

Give out Goody Bags. Keep your junior Seder participants happy and occupied with special plague goody bags. While you can purchase already prepared "bags of plagues" at Judaica stores and online for around $12 a piece, you can accomplish the same thing at the dollar store for a fraction of the price. Try plastic sunglasses for darkness, toy frogs, wild beasts and insects (lice and vermin) and kosher for Passover marshmallows for hail.

Don't Passover the Books. Visit a library or bookstore and stock up on Passover-themed books. Scatter them around the table for children to peruse during the longest stretches of the Seder. There are some great Passover story books with pictures for younger children and deeper insights for the older children.

Have an Afikomen Search Party. It's always the same story at my house: The big cousins find the afikomen and the little cousins get upset; the little cousins get a prize anyway and the big cousins get upset. By making the afikomen hunt a team effort rather than a competition, we can do away with such griping. Use post-it notes (strategically placed before the Seder) to lead the search party from one destination to the next (i.e. "Go to the place where Elijah will enter," or "Pharaoh had frogs jumping in his bed," see if there are any jumping in yours.") The clues should ultimately lead the pack to the illusive dessert of honor. Be prepared with inexpensive "afikomen finder" rewards for the whole crew.

Take Plague Breaks. Help kids stay focused and fidget-free during long Seders by periodically letting them get their wiggles out. Should your children's attention start to stray from the task at hand, call for a "plague break" and instruct all antsy guests to jump like frogs or run in place like wild beasts.

Have a Matzah Match. Before the Seder, write matched pairs of Passover words on index cards. For example, write "Hillel" on one card and "sandwich" on another; "ten" on one card and "plagues" on another. Keep going - four/questions; matzah/ball; Elijah's/cup - until you have enough cards to secretly stash one under every guest's plate. Sometime before dinner, tell everyone to lift their plates, look at the card and track down their matching half. (Hint: For children too young to read - or to understand the match mentality - cut cards in half using varying puzzle cuts and write one word on each half. When kids find a card that "fits" theirs, they'll know they've found their match).

Put a Spotlight on Stories. The true purpose of the Seder is to pass down the Passover story from generation to generation, but why stop there? Ask a few of your senior guests to come prepared to share stories about Seders past or about their own personal miracles. Furthermore, the more you learn about the inner meaning of the story of Passover, the more exciting you will be able to make it when telling it to children and adults alike. Talk about the idea that this is not merely something that happened to our ancestors but something we all experience as well. What does it mean to be enslaved? To be free? Young and old will have fascinating answers to such questions and discussion.

Keep an Eye on the Big Picture. Sure, planning a kid-friendly Seder is liable to take more work than simply bribing our kids to behave with a pound of chocolate macaroons, or locking them in the playroom with a babysitter for the night. But we'll know our efforts have been well worth our while when our fidgety children one day do the same for our fidgety grandchildren.

Published: March 31, 2009


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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) mya, March 11, 2012 2:15 PM

good tips

great tips..sounds like it works...gonna try!

(8) Aviva Werner, April 13, 2011 1:51 AM

Seder Bingo and Seder Lingo games

Another great way to keep kids involved is with Seder-appropriate games. In Seder Bingo (http://babaganewz.com/activities/seder-bingo) the player marks off a square when he or she completes the activity (for example, pour wine for someone else, hop like a frog, etc.). In Seder Lingo (http://www.babaganewz.com/activities/seder-lingo), the player marks off a square when he or she hears a Seder catch-phrase like slavery, karpas, Egypt, etc. Both games keep kids listening and involved at the Seder. Print out Bingo cards in advance at babaganewz.com. Happy Pesach!

(7) David, March 24, 2010 12:19 AM

One afikomen for each child

For the afikomen, we give each child an envelope to decorate (you can have it decorated before the seder or decorate it yourself for each child if you won't let the children decorate during the Chag). We then break the afikomen into multiple pieces and put a piece in each envelope. Each child has to find his/her own afikomen (fast finders/older kids always help the slower/younger kids). Then, at the end we have a great afikomen puzzle to put together. This works well because we have 4-6 kids at our seder. It might be tougher with more kids.

(6) Naomi, March 3, 2010 10:48 AM

Great tips! Wonderful ideas so that we can keep our kids happy and involved - ultimately the point of the seder.

(5) Sara, March 3, 2010 10:48 AM

Another idea re: afikomen In my family, the tradition is that the CHILDREN (as a group) are the ones to hide the afikomen, and the parents must then ransom it back with a gift for each child. I've always found this to be better than the traditional way of dealing with the afikomen, since the kids are all working together and the little ones don't get left out of the prizes. (Plus, the kids love it when the leader of the Seder goes to take out the afikomen and exclaims in false bafflement, "But I left it right here! Where could it have gone?")

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