Passover is the original kid-friendly holiday. Or, it should be. After all, Jews are instructed to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt to all generations, and parts of the Seder—the Four Questions, hiding the afikomen–are designated specifically for children. Still, the length of time it takes to read the Haggadah, the long wait for dinner, the esoteric midrashic passages, all can make it hard for little ones to stay awake or for older kids to remain engaged.
With some creativity and planning, however, you can design your Seder to be fun and involving for children of all ages. The key is to make them active participants. Give them things to do before the Seder begins. Children of all ages can help clean the house for Passover and set the festive table. They can make their own decorations or prepare Seder plates. Older children can get involved in food prep, peeling hard-boiled eggs or chopping apples or dates for charoset. If the children enjoy cooking, give them culinary assignments. It’s never too early to start practicing how to make the perfect matzah ball!
Besides being the inspiring account of the founding of the Jewish people, the story of the enslaved Israelites leaving Egypt is a great drama, filled with action and suspense. Encourage older children to prepare a dramatic presentation: they can write a play, choreograph a modern dance, or perform a rap version of the story. Younger kids can play the parts of the slaves or the little prince. Incorporate songs the kids have learned, either traditional or contemporary, including the many parodies of familiar songs available.
Hunger can make anyone cranky, so make sure that kids eat before the Seder. Even adults have been known to murmur, When do we eat; to deal with that, think about serving something heartier than parsley at karpas. Many people offer potatoes, salad, roasted vegetables, or boiled eggs. The prayer said at that point covers all of these.
A great beforehand project for children is to write and illustrate their own Haggadot. Stripped down to its essentials, the Seder (which means “order”) includes only a certain number of activities. The rest is midrash! Kids can include their own versions of their favorite passages or come up with new ones. If the Haggadah turns out to be a success, it can become an annual tradition. Happy Pesach.