“It is said of Rabbi Akiba that he would give parched wheat and nuts to children on the first night of Passover in order that they would not fall asleep and would take an interest [in the proceedings].” – Pesachim 99a
Keeping children engaged in a Passover seder is a challenge dating all the way back to the Talmud. Different techniques have been tried throughout the ages: taking things off the table at odd times, putting baskets of matzah on children’s heads, or even pretending to whip them with leeks during the singing of "Dayenu."
The Chocolate Seder was conceived with the understanding that a carrot works better than a stick – and that chocolate is more enticing than a leek. It is not intended to replace your family’s seder, but rather it is a “practice run,” a family activity designed to acquaint children with the order, songs, and customs of the seder before the fact.
The Chocolate Seder follows the format of a traditional Ashkenazi seder, with 15 different sections. In many ways, it resembles any other introductory-level seder, with explanatory text accompanying each section and action to ease the way for those who are not familiar with the process. It also attempts to translate some of the levity of the seder – present in the rabbinic wordplay – into a form that is more understandable to children.
As part of your preparation for Passover, pick a time to sit down with your children before the holiday and hold a Chocolate Seder, so that when they encounter the real seder they will feel more familiar with what is going on.
This activity is appropriate for young children (even non-readers) through young teens. In addition to conducting the Chocolate Seder for children, you can build excitement about the upcoming seder by having them make a matzah holder, place cards for guests, or by decorating a bag for the afikoman. Get even more ideas from the ReformJudaism.org Chocolate Seder Pinterest Board.