Passover with children
I got the question: What can I do with my toddler, age 18 months, at the seder? My answer is, not much. Feed her, hold her, distract her with toys and put her to bed on time. There isn’t a lot about the seder that a tiny one can enjoy other than the company. You’re biggest risk is over stimulation and a very miserable child. So just don’t over do.
But what about older children? I consulted one of my favorite Family Educators, Vicky Kelman, for suggestions. Here are her Top Ten Ideas for a Family Friendly Seder.
1. Start out in the living room not at the table. Tell the story there. Once you get to the table everyone will be thinking about FOOD.
Note: I used to show the old Charlton Heston film, The Ten Commandments, later we moved to The Prince of Egypt in the week preceding seder. Then I asked my children, what did they get right about the story? What did the movie get wrong?
2. Decorate the living room. Make it look like a tent by hanging fabric or a parachute from the ceiling or walls. Have lots of pillows for people to sit on.
3. Ask guests to prepare by bringing something. Something to read or sing is great. The act of preparing and contributing helps everyone feel connected and motivated.
* ask one family to write a song about karpas; they can use a tune like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Other families can write about other things – Moses, Miriam, Egypt.
* A family can make a centerpiece. They can use parsley or other spring plants
* Guests can bring food for seder – matzah, grape juice, wine or a dish
* Have others bring different harosets and have a tasting
Note: I’m big on a potluck seder. I assign everyone a dish to bring & I’ll be bringing dishes to my friend’s house this year. She and I always make different harosets. Wouldn’t be seder without them!
4. Hold a matzah tasting. Buy three or more brands of matzah – or have guests bring different brands.
5. Serve dessert first! How is this night different?
Note: Wow, I would not have thought of this! My mother would never have let me have dessert first!
6. Serve dinner to the kids first. They will concentrate better on the important part of the evening – hearing the story – if they aren’t hungry.
7. Dress up in costumes. Get out lots of sheets and scarves and get dressed up the way we imagine the Israelites did.
8. Remember that karpas isn’t only parsley. Karpas can be other kinds of vegetables including potates, artichokes, carrots or celery. Think of it as your hors d’oeuvres course and get creative.
Note: I never thought of karpas this way before. This year I’m going to really play with vegetables. I always have some vegetarians at my seder so this will be fun.
9. Hold a quiz show. Create a Seder Jeopardy game. Make categories like Plagues, Passover foods, Moses, Seder Guests, etc. Intersperse the telling of the story with rounds of the quiz game. Or you can prepare a basket of quiz questions – color coded for different levels of difficulty.
Note: My son invented, Fun Facts. Basically I have a stash of candies and as we tell the story anyone who adds a fact gets a candy. You line them up in front of your plate and who every has the most wins. Many people find that they snack on a few and thus, don’t win but they don’t care.
10. Put on a play. Older kids can guide younger kids in acting out the story. Or the older kids (or adults) can tell the story aloud as the younger kids mime.
What are you cooking for Passover?
Are you a meat eater? There’s a good chance you’ve thought about making brisket. Watch this TV chef do it. I also found a recipe for matzah lasagna. That and matzvah pizza are the two foods that get my son through Passover! My daughter is more inventive and willing to go flourless.