Passover Fun for Children
Passover night is all about the children. Here are 6 practical ideas for every family.
Last year, right in the middle of the Seder, my husband left the table and sat down on the floor, among the irritable children who were tired, high on sugar from kosher-for-Passover snacks, and not willing to go back to their chairs.
Yes, we know about napping before the Seder. But not every child succeeded in falling asleep, and thanks to that bane-of-parents, daylight saving time, even those who did nap were pretty tired by then. We just finished Mah Nishtana and the children were already impatient and uninterested.
So my husband took the Seder to them. He brought out funny frogs and a scary looking bear and lion to illustrate the plagues. He even bought a small pyramid and new Playmobil figures who were the Egyptian guards. Using all these toys and his considerable storytelling abilities, my husband soon had the children completely immersed in the story of Exodus.
Leaving the table in the middle of a festive occasion is not considered the height of politeness, but nobody, not even the host (my father-in-law), seemed to be upset. They just smiled approvingly and carried on with the Haggadah.
Because Passover night is all about the children. The most important mitzvah of the night is to tell our children the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Knowing that, everybody around that table understood that my husband had his priorities right.
The need to adjust the Seder to our children is not unique to our family. Many families with school-age children or younger face the same situation.
So what can we do in order to make sure we focus on the children this Seder? Here is a list of practical things every family can try:
Prepare a number of toys which can help you illustrate the stories of the Seder: plastic animals, dolls and figures and Lego parts can all help you turn the tale into a mini-play.
1. Act out parts of the Haggadah. Pick any scene from the Exodus story and get the children – and adults – to act it out. The more props, the better! In many families parents and children to take old bags, pack some matzahs, and walk around the house, proclaiming, “We are finally leaving Egypt!” The children can also pack their favorites toys in the bags, to feel like the Children of Israel leaving Egypt with all the treasures of their neighbors.
2. Prepare a Bingo game. The words on the bingo boards should all be words that appear in the Haggadah. This is an incentive for the children to actually listen to the Haggadah. Once a child completes a row, column, or diagonal, make sure to offer them a treat.
3. Play Where’s Moses? The Midrash tells us that Pharaoh was running in the streets during the final plague, the Death of the Firstborn, looking for Moses. Whenever he would ask the Jewish children, “Where is Moses?” they would give him misleading information. One adult can play Pharaoh, preferably wearing pajamas to emphasize his desperation. The children, of course, should mislead him. This game is guaranteed to cause great hilarity among young children.
4. Make Chad Gadya a fun experience. The song should be the most fun part of the Seder – so much so that children will stay awake because they don't want to miss it. I’ve seen families do all kind of amazing renditions of that song in Aramaic. The key is doing the animal sounds and changing one's voice to reflect the meaning of every sentence (your voice should sound scary when you sing about the Angel of Death, for instance!).
5. Assign roles to the children and interview them. Who wants to be the bear from the plague of wild animals? Who wants to be a concerned Egyptian citizen? Then pretend to interview them for a media channel. Use a bottle from the table as a microphone.
6. Get the children active. Most young children cannot sit down for long periods of time, so it is best to include some physical games in the Seder plan. Just announce from time to time: “And now everybody, jump like the frogs of the second plague!” Or: “Run and scare people like the wild animals!” Granted, there will be noise for a bit, but most children will be better able to listen to you after such a game.