Passover Seders with Kids
How to have a fun and meaningful Passover.
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 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. When kids get antsy, pass a play microphone to a family patriarch or matriarch and let the storytelling begin.
Perform a Little Elijah Magic
Give little skeptics something to think about by making Elijah's wine magically disappear. Secretly place some super absorbent polyacrylamide crystals (sold in gardening or craft stores as Aqua Crystals or Hydro Gel) in the bottom of an opaque Elijah cup. Just before you welcome the prophet, let your children see you fill the cup with "wine" (a.k.a. water with kosher for Passover food coloring). By the time you finish singing "Eliyahu Ha Navi" the liquid will be solidified. That's when you turn the cup upside-down and reveal--tada--Elijah drank every last drop! (Hint: A pre-seder practice round will help ensure a successful liquid/crystal ratio.)
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-covered 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.
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