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10 ways to make your seder kid-friendly


by Lila Hanft, Cleveland Jewish News, 04/11/08

When the Red Sea parts during Kim Farcas’s family seders, the children suddenly want to be Egyptians.

To part the Red Sea, grown-ups hold up two bedsheets to form “walls” of water. The Jews pass through without incident, but the giggling “Egyptians” find the “water” closing above their heads, bundling them in bedsheets. (Tickling optional.)
A truly engaging seder for children will be “all about them,” says Farcas, an early childhood Judaics teacher at The Agnon School and mother of three. The activities and conversations should be age-appropriate and genuinely fun, Farcas explains. When her children come to the seder table, “they’re excited; they all care” about what’s happening.

“It’s not realistic to expect young children to sit still” as adults read through the entire haggadah, notes Farcas. “The younger the child, the shorter the seder should be.” She recommends giving children plenty of snacks and as much physical activity as you can. “By l’shana haba’ah (the end of the seder), we’re all up and dancing around.”

Some years, Farcas and her husband have conducted very child-centered seders, put the children to bed, and returned to the seder table for a grown-up reading of the haggadah.

It does take energy and creativity to make your seder kid-friendly, Farcas warns. “Prepare ahead, and involve your children in the preparation.”

Ten tips:

1. Chometz hunt: Involve children in the hunt for chometz (the leavened grain products forbidden at Passover). Ask children to find ten pieces of bread (sealed in plastic bags) you’ve hidden around the house. Attach words to each bag that form a secret Pesach message.

2. Pesachdik or chometzdik? Farcas involves younger children in this phase of Passover by putting out boxes of food for them to sort. They line up all the Pesachdik in one place and chometzdik in another.

3. To each his own (plate): Several days before the seder, have children sandwich a decorated drawing of a seder plate (use tissue paper and markers to decorate) between two clear plastic plates. Seal with diluted glue or decoupage sealer. (Google “craft seder plates“ for more instructions.) Some families put cheap disposable seder plates and kiddush cups at each child’s place.

4. Handy helpers: For the Urhatz (ritual hand washing), ask one child to carry a pitcher of water and pour it over each guest’s hands and another child to carry the basin and towel. Talk about how it feels to have your hands washed by another person and how it’s connected to the themes of Passover.

5. Flee! When the Maggid (the telling of the story of Exodus) begins, jump up, thrust a backpack into each child’s arms and give them one minute (or longer, depending on age) to collect the things they’d want to bring out of Egypt. Talk about how it felt to choose quickly and why they chose the things they did.

6. Maggidpiece theater. Act out the Maggid in costumes. Ask older children to write a script ahead of time. Children who can’t yet read can be given stage directions and lines to say by a prompter (an adult or older child).

7. Plagues props. Children’s “plague kits” are available in local Judaica stores. You can also improvise your own. Farcas uses cheap sunglasses for darkness and sets plastic cows upside down, feet up, for cattle disease. Plastic frogs and bugs can be found at dollar stores and oriental For blood, Farcas puts water in one goblet and red food coloring into another. She pours the water into the food coloring, and then pours it all back into the first goblet. Her kids “know it isn’t really magic” but always love the trick. (Don’t pour the food coloring into the water; that would be “coloring,” which is forbidden on Jewish holidays.)

8. Which plague am I? Using purchased foam masks of the 10 plagues (available at local Judaica stores), Farcas has each child put one on backwards, so he doesn’t know what it is. Then he asks the others questions until he figures out which plague he is.

9. Don’t make me throw candy at you! The kid who finds the afikomen gets a treat, but she shouldn’t be the only one. Reward questions, answers and interesting thoughts with small toys or candy. To encourage participation, warn children at the beginning of the seder, “Don’t ask any questions tonight, or I will be forced to throw candy at you as punishment!”

10. Charoset cook-off. Assign a charoset recipe to children old enough to cook (with adult supervision). Along with the version you usually make, try something exotic like Israeli charoset with bananas, dates, and pistachios or Venetian charoset with chestnut paste, dates, figs, poppy seeds, pine nuts, dried apricots and brandy. (Go to for recipes.). At the seder, vote on which you like best and/or discus why the recipes vary so much.


More Passover reading from the CJN:

Haggadot for every seder you can imagine and some you can’t by Lila Hanft (2007)

Writer Marge Piercy lights the way to lively, meaningful seders by Lila Hanft (2007)

Seders and the Civil War by Lila Hanft (2006)

Making new memories at your family seder by Lila Hanft (2006)

Seders like you've never seen by Lila Hanft (2006)

Food & entertaining

Seder menu: favorites with a few new twists by Joan Kekst (2006)

Passover pleasures from the kitchens of CJN staff by Carol Splaver (2006)

Helpful hints for Passover baking by Joan Kekst (2006)

Sumptuous and healthy Passover seder by Joan Kekst (2005)

Ease the Passover kitchen crunch by Joan Kekst (2005)

Desserts to bake ahead for Passover by Joan Kekst (2005)

Enjoy lighter fare during Passover week by Joan Kekst (2004)

Customizing the charoset by Gary Liston (2004)

Shortcuts for Passover cleaning and cooking by Carol Splaver, Channah Appel & Ellen Harris (2004)

Contracting to sell chometz, 21st century style by Herb Geduld (2004)

Getting rid of chometz before Passover holiday by Joan Kekst (2004)

New cookbooks stir up Passover delicacies by Rahel Musleah (2004)

A Passover feast by Joan Kekst (2004)

Preparing for Passover seder by Joan Kekst (2004)

Passover substitutions by Joan Kekst(2004)

Bake ahead for Passover by Joan Kekst(2004)

Countdown to Passover by Joan Kekst (2004)

Seder menu features traditional favorites by Joan Kekst (2003)

Charoset recipes for Passover by Joan Kekst (2003)

Preparing foods for seder plate by Joan Kekst (2003)

CJN samples quick Passover fixes & mixes (2003)

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