The Passover seder is the most widely practiced Jewish ritual in modern society. Whether your family’s Passover traditions go back multiple generations or you’re planning to host a seder this year for the first time, we can help you make your holiday experience different – and better – than all other nights.
Conducting a seder that includes small children doesn’t require a special, child-friendly Haggadah – though there are many to choose from. Whatever you decide, here are some additional ideas to help inspire joy and prompt questions as you tell the story of our Exodus from Egypt.
- Get into the holiday spirit. Before the first night of Passover arrives, fill your home with holiday music or try a new activity related to the themes of the holiday.
- Start cookin’. Kids love to help in the kitchen, so why not involve them in preparing food for your seder?
- Clean up – together. Passover is a great time to involve toddlers and preschoolers in dusting, sweeping, and general cleaning. Many toddlers have child-sized toy vacuums and small brooms for imaginary play, but they can also handle dusters and Swiffers – or feathers and wooden spoons if you’d like to do Passover cleaning the more traditional way.
- Show off kids’ artwork. Decorate the table, the buffet, or other parts of the the room with your child’s artwork or handmade craft projects like this homemade handkerchief matzah cover.
- Rest up. If your kids boycott naps, consider some enforced quiet time during the day so they arrive to the seder refreshed. (Come to think of it, this is a good strategy for many adults, as well!) If your little ones don’t tolerate schedule changes well, consider starting your seder earlier in the afternoon and finish up before bedtime.
- Relax! Many people recline at the seder to celebrate being free. With kiddos, try something extra comfy: Instead of putting a pillow on each chair, consider sitting on sofas or on the floor until the meal is served.
- Let kids help. Harness your preschooler’s independent streak by enabling them to be part of the action. What preschooler wouldn’t love to help pour water over guests’ hands during the practice of ur'chatz, when seder participants wash their hands in preparation for eating the karpas (greens)? With a towel in hand, use a plastic basin to catch the water poured by your child using a small, unbreakable pitcher or liquid measuring cup with a handle and a spout.
- Offer snacks. Keep the “hangry” (hungry + angry) away by offering kids lots of veggies and berries to dip after the blessing over the karpas. Anything that comes from a perennial plant or shrub will do the trick.
- Be playful. To get everyone into the pretend play mode that preschoolers come by so naturally, hang fabric from the ceiling to create a makeshift Bedouin tent in your living room. Captivate youngsters during with hats, props, or other safe, easy costumes.
- Show and tell. Haul out the stacking toys, Duplo blocks, or Magna-Tiles and make kids’ creations part of your storytelling.
- Use fun props. Consider adding sock puppets, finger puppets, or songs with hand motions that help you retell the Passover story in language your child can understand.
- Make it kid-sized. It’s amazing how well even the youngest children can sit still when the seating is appropriately sized! Move a small, child-sized picnic table indoors for toddlers and preschoolers to sit at during the seder meal. Instead of a tablecloth, tape down a sheet of butcher paper, and set out some fat crayons.
- Make some music. When it comes time to sing and dance, bring out a bucket of egg shakers, maracas, tambourines, and other noisemakers kids can enjoy.
- Have fun with the afikomen. Choose small, age-appropriate gifts for the afikomen search and rescue team that kids can enjoy after dinner. For added giggles, show them this funny video of a dog searching for the afikomen!
- Escape into a book. Set up a pile of cushions and blankets in the corner with some age-appropriate holiday picture books. This can double as a place for tired children to conk out if they need to.
Once they’re full of healthy snacks and have participated in a joyful retelling of the Exodus, children can enjoy the safe play spaces you’ve created nearby as the storytelling and discussion continues among adults.
Then, your child-friendly-but-not-childish seder can continue in greater depth, bringing enjoyment and prompting questions from the rest of the gathered guests. If you play your cards right, nobody will even think to ask, “When do we eat?”
Download and print a Passover Seder for 2-3 Year-Olds that combines storytelling with music, movement, and exploration of number concepts. Looking for seder ideas for slightly older kids? Check out "Passover Seder for Young Children (4-5 years)" for more.