As if there wasn’t enough pressure to clean the house for Pesach, to cook the food for Pesach and to host many many family members for the holiday, we’re also told that the Seder is created so that “the kids will ask.” Our real job as parents is to offer a seder that is child-friendly, interactive and creative. Here are some easy ways to get there:
- Set realistic expectations. No child is on their “A” game at 10 o’clock at night. They are overtired, hungry and probably suffering some form of sensory overload. And that is okay. We’re going to let our kids be our kids this year at seder. Choose the specific parts of the seder that you want to focus on and focus there. Recognize that small children will not make it until the afikomen. And that is fine. Planning elaborately throughout the seder leaves you frustrated and your kids overwhelmed.
- Plan ahead. Work with each child to do one thing at the seder. A younger child can practice (and practice and practice) Mah Nishtana with you in the week leading up to the seder. An older child can make a game or prepare a dvar torah. A younger child can be in charge of the centerpieces. Each one of my children has one piece of the Haggadah that they are in charge of.
- Play to your strengths. Got a kid who loves Lego? Ask her to make scenes from the Egypt story in Lego and display them on the Seder table. Have a child who is artistic? Work with them on a few Egypt art projects. One year, for reasons that are beyond me, we glued wild animals together in a pyramid to show the plague as a centerpiece. It was a hit.
- Pick a theme. One year we focused on life in Egypt. One year we focused on the ten plagues. Pick one part of the Haggadah and put your attention there.
- Make food accessible. Our kids eat dinner before the seder even starts. But let’s be honest, they aren’t the only crabby people at the table. Strategically place cut vegetables, edible centerpieces or little bags of candy to make sure that seder isn’t sabotaged by an empty belly.
- Know your audience. I often think of jury consultants who are hired to learn everything about the members of a particular jury. Know who should sit where (here’s a good time to mention that we LOVE place cards at our seder). Not everyone loves everyone and after four glasses of wine, you want to make sure to keep the old family history to a minimum.
- Let voices be heard. Each child should feel some form of ownership over the Seder. Make sure to hear from every child. Pose directed questions, solicit opinions, compliment all endeavors. Kids should feel comfortable and encouraged to contribute.
- Never underestimate the element of surprise. While you’ve helped your kids prep for seder, make sure you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve. Bring makkat dam to your table by putting just a little bit of jello powder in a few glasses. Add water and voila, Egyptians at your table. A quick game of name that plague goes a long way. Decorate your dining room. Set your living room to look like a pyramid. Your kids will sense your investment into the seder and want to join in the fun.