Engaging Children at the Passover Seder by Karen Webber Gilat
Gone are the days when kids sit still and simply listen to adults take turns reading the Haggadah. The more engaged your kids are at the Seder table, the happier they’ll be, so the happier you’ll be.
This article contains suggestions on how spice up your Seder, with food, singing, and questions.
Some pre-planning is required so each activity easily unfolds at the Seder.
Found on your Seder plate, charoset combines fruits, nuts, and sweet wine. Its texture reminds us of the mortar between the bricks we made for Pharaoh when we were slaves in Egypt. This year, why not have the kids enjoy a charoset buffet bar?
Choose a few of the following that you can pre-cut into bowls and refrigerate in advance: Apples, pears, dates, raisins, apricots, honey, cinnamon, sweet wine, pre-ground walnuts, almonds, etc. (Be careful to keep nuts separate due to allergies). Matzah meal and bananas can thicken the mixture. Bottled grape juice or a carton of orange juice will thin it out.
Kids will assemble their own bowl in the kitchen, under adult supervision at the point in the Seder known as Rachtza (second hand washing) and before Motzi-Matzah. Pre-made charoset will be on the Seder plate and table.
Why save all the songs for last? Why not sing song snippets as we go along?
Take a well-known melody and substitute words.
For example, just before the meal, as we make our Hillel sandwich (maror and charoset between two pieces of matzah) we could sing:
Just a tad of charoset helps the bitter herbs go down in the most disguising way.
(sung to the tune of “Just A Spoonfull of Sugar”)
Just lean right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip
That started back in ancient times under Pharaoh’s whip
That Moses was a steady man, God made him brave and sure
Though Pharaoh was a mighty man (his heart it was not pure) (2x)
(sung to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island Theme Song")
Bake us some matzah in a haste
Don’t ‘worry bout flavor, give no thought to taste.
Cause it’s merely flour and water only 8 inches wide
then pierce, pierce, pierce with a fork and bake at 475
(sung to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”)
3. ASK MORE QUESTIONS:
Questions are essential to any Seder. The more you ask, the more you learn.
The four famous questions asked at the Seder table are model questions. They are another way to involve kids in the ritual.
Here is a way to ask even more questions. A day before the Seder, the host assembles a Question Bag. This bag contains questions about the Seder, a Jewish holiday or any Jewish person, place or thing. If there will be 10 guests at the Seder, come up with 20 questions. Have the kids in your family join in for more fun. Like the songs above, use the bag throughout the Seder. Adults and kids can ask questions of each other at night, adding stimulating conversation to your Seder.
For older kids ask:
-What is matzah’s nickname? (Answer: bread of poverty, bread of affliction)
-Name a woman in the Passover story. Why was she important?
-Why do we eat bitter herbs at the Seder?
-Why do we celebrate the Seder at all?
Karen Webber Gilat is a cantor, a teaching artist, and chaplain with JSSA (Jewish Social Service Agency). She is the founder of WING&PRAYER which prepares unique learners for bar and bat mitzvah.