5 Ways To Keep Kids Engaged At The Seder
Close your eyes and picture the perfect Seder scene: Pristine white tablecloth. Fine china and gleaming silver. Children sitting and listening raptly to the haggadah.
It’s a scene straight off your haggadah cover – and that’s the only place it exists.
Because at our real-life Seders, especially with all the challenges we face for Passover 2020, things are going to be a little different than you wished they would be. We’ll all have antsy kids, blotchy wine spills, and almost-like-china plastic dishes. And while we can overlook the spills, we don’t want to give up on the kids. After all, Seder night is THE time to share our heritage with the next generation.
However, without all the extra help and visitors this year, it’s up to you to keep the kids engaged- and that can be a real challenge.
Let’s take a look at some creative ideas to help capture and keep your children’s attention. We included all different categories to appeal to all types of kids.
1. Make-Ahead Crafts
Make-ahead crafts will build your children’s excitement and anticipation before the Passover Seder even begins. And they’ll love the attention they get when everyone uses their creations at the Seder.
a. Makkot Masks – (Ages 3 – 10)
Sure, you could buy them ready-made, but what fun is that?
Start with 10 DIY paper masks and then individualize each mask to be a different plague:
- Blood – paint the mask red
- Frogs – paint the mask green and decorate with foam frogs
- Lice – glue on googly eyes and draw little legs
- Wild animals – decorate with foam animals
- Pestilence – cover with dead (upside down!) farm animal stickers
- Boils – stick on pink foam circles
- Locusts – paint the mask green and add puffy locust stickers
- Darkness – paint the mask black and add some googly eyes for fun.
- Death of firstborn – cover mask with sad emoji stickers
Those are our suggestions, but you and your kids should use your creativity. These Passover stickers can help you with options for all the plagues!
b. Wild Animal Napkin Rings – (Ages 5 – 10)
Kids can easily make simple napkin rings. All you need is:
- 1-inch ribbon
- Animal decoration such as:
Cut the ribbon into 3-inch pieces and glue together to form a circle. Glue on an animal decoration to cover the place where the ribbon ends meet.
c. Passover Wordcloud Placecards (Ages 10 – 13)
This craft is for slightly older children with basic computer skills.
- 5 x 7 index cards
Wordclouds.com is a free wordcloud creator website. You choose the list of words and the shape. Then download your wordcloud as an image.
To make the placecards, print copies of your wordcloud in a 2”x2” size and cut out. Fold the index card in half, tent style. Glue the wordcloud on the left side of the card and write the person’s name next to it.
You can get really creative with the Passover word list, the shapes, and the colors. You can even create a personalized word cloud for each person!
2. Prizes At The Seder
Is there any kid (or adult!) who doesn’t love prizes?
Rewards can be a very effective way of keeping kids involved and active at the Seder. And the more creative the prize system, the greater the level of interest.
- Check out Rachel Nayman’s original CharKIDary Board. It’s a kids’ version of a charcuterie board, filled with prizes having to do with the ten makkot. Kids can choose a prize when they participate in the Seder.
- Add some intrigue to your seder with the Mystery Word Game. Make a short list of words for your mystery word list. They should be likely to come up at the Seder, but not too common—for example, chochom (wise son) or mateh (staff). A designated adult keeps the list and a stash of candy. A child that says one of the mystery words gets a candy. There can be a larger prize for the child that correctly guesses a mystery word.
- Your children can be Singing Stars. Encourage kids to sing with the adults or sing their own songs by giving “tickets” to enthusiastic singers. You decide how they can redeem their tickets.
Sitting and listening are passive. But these activities can turn your kids from spectators to active participants.
- Seder Bingo Board – You or your kids can make bingo boards with words or pictures that come up during the Seder. As the words or pictures are mentioned, kids can put candy on the squares to mark them. A child that gets “bingo” can eat the candy.
- Drama – This is a classic favorite, included in many families’ tradition. Let the kids act out dramatic scenes from the Passover story like the ten plagues, leaving Egypt with matzah on their backs, or crossing the Red Sea.
- Play that Card – Using index cards, have each child write 3–5 commands that can be executed during the Seder, like “Tell your favorite Passover story,” “Sing a Passover song,” or “Switch seats with the person next to you.” (Tip: You probably want to approve the cards BEFORE the seder.) The children can play their cards on other Seder members during maggid, but each card can only be played once.
4. Give Kids Jobs
Giving the kids responsibilities makes them invested in the Seder.
- Even pre-schoolers can help set the table.
- Young elementary schoolers can pass around karpas, matzah, or maror.
- Older elementary schoolers can help make the charoset or other foods.
- Teens can be wine stewards, pouring wine and grape juice for the Seder guests.
5. Children’s Haggadah
The illustrations in a children’s haggadah or Passover picture book can hold your child’s attention for an incredibly long time. Here are some top picks:
- Boruch Learns About Pesach (ages 3 – 6) A fun, rhyming introduction to Passover.
- Artscroll Children’s Haggadah (ages 5 – 8) All the text is included with colorful print and illustrations.
- The Katz Haggadah (ages 8 – 12) Gorgeous illustrations. (May be scary for some children.)
- Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel (ages 8 – adult) A picture is worth a thousand words.
- Unofficial Hogwarts Haggadah (ages 10 - adult) Harry Potter meets the haggadah!
- 300 Ways to Ask the Four Questions (ages 10 – adult) Your “mah nishtanah” will never be the same after you hear it in Swahili.
We just covered lots of options, but sometimes, even with your best efforts, a child doesn’t want to participate in the Seder.
Don’t take it personally. There could be a million little reasons from a mild tummy ache to a fight with a sib to being hungry that are making your child out of sorts.
And don’t force the issue. Make your Seder an interesting, interactive, and warm place to be, and your children will come around with time.
*Given the current situation, some of the items listed in this article may no longer be available on Amazon, or may not ship before Passover. Feel free to find similar products with better shipping dates or skip shipping altogether and be creative with things you already own around the house.