Keeping Kids Interested in the Seder

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Received via a community email list:

We’d like to keep our 4- and 6-year-olds alert and excited for as long as possible during the seder. Acting out parts of the haggada has been suggested but we’re drawing a blank on how to do this realistically yet without delaying the proceedings too much.
Has anyone out there in Cyberspace done this successfully in previous years? Can you share your ideas?
Also, any idea how to act out the MAKOT (plagues)?

Despite not doing anything unusual at our seder, our kids manage to stay awake. Our oldest set the precedent at his first seder at age 2.5 weeks. My parents were supposed to join us, but they had been in town for the birth and brit and couldn’t bring themselves to make a second trip so soon. We declined an invitation to the seder, which was just as well, because our newborn stayed awake for the entire time; my husband and I took turns walking with him.

As for older children, it helps if they have learned about Pesach in advance, and have a pictorial haggadah. I’ve heard of props and quizzes, but I think the most important thing is to pay attention to them, explain the text on their level, and have them fully participate in every aspect of the seder including serving. After all, the seder is full of all kinds of interesting activities; we just need to point them out.

Another thing that helps: We serve only two courses and generally end by midnight. And don’t forget the naps.

Please post any suggestions in the comments.

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  1. mominisrael says:

    Actually, we went to a bat mitzvah last night (family) and they had a table for the younger kids to make up a set of makot. They used powdered gelatin for the blood (add water later, although one of my kids already ate his). Sunglasses for choshech, a skeleton for bechorot, pingpong ball for hail.

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  2. Good topic! We have a bag of Makot that we bought years back from some Jewish organization…I guess if you are creative, you can just create your own. Little plastic frogs are good, for example. Or put some beet juice in some water for blood. Bubble wrap looks sort of like boils.
    Also, my kids always love the custom of marching around the table as they are going out of Egypt.
    My friend’s family puts on a play every year. The littlest kids get tiny parts, like being baby Moshe.

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  3. teach songs in advance and sing whatever can be sung.

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  4. Never underestimate the power of a pre-Seder afternoon nap.

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  5. Helene Rock says:

    Mom in Israel, The internet is a veritable source of goodies for kids to keep them interested in the Seder procedings. I have a “box of plagues” that I bought years ago from a Yeshiva in Baltimore that was selling them as a fund-raiser. The adults enjoy the toys in the box even more than the kids. AFterall, kids get to play with toys all the time; the transformers and go-bots make their appearance here only once a year. How about the 4 questions as if Dr. Seuss wrote them? Or the Haggadah by Uncle Eli? Very cute. This year we’re doing a version of “WHo wants to be a Pesach Millionaire?” game that I found on the net. We;ll be having some elementary school age kids vying for “prizes.” And for another friend, who was a college drama major, there’s the Seder according to Shakespeare!!!! Other seder things we’ve done is to separate the Haggadah telling from the meal. The meal was eaten at the dining room table. The rest of the Seder was done on the floor in the adjoining family room. Put down tablecloths or blankets and pretend you’re in the desert. All sorts of decorations are in order here that your kids can make. Buy some “hippie” beaded curtains and use that to symbolically “cross” the sea. It’s as unlimited as your imagination. Chag Sameach. Helene from California

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  6. We never do anything fancy. When they were younger the kids stayed up and participated just because of the challenge of staying up really late; now they seem to enjoy the yearly rituals that we have. You know, the songs, the matzoh balls, the yearly tug-of-war between my MIL trying to hurry my husband (her son!) along, and him deliberately taking his time.
    We always have a fun seder!

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  7. Here’s my post from last year: “The ultimate Pesach Experience”

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  8. mominisrael says:

    Thanks for all of the comments; I wrote to the one who posted the message and I hope she checks them out.
    Helene–great to see you!!

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  9. Last year, my kids (then 12, 10, & 8) made a skit about the 10 plagues. For each plague they did something different. I don’t remember what they did, but it woke us all up — we were on the floor laughing!
    some they did as straight skits, some they did as news reporters, some they did together, some alone — it was very creative.
    If your kids are old enough, they can use their own creativity….

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  10. mama o' matrices says:

    I’ve asked the Eldest, and he says that he liked the Ma-Nishtana, and would say more but he has to pee. [sic] Sorry.
    Two years ago, the Eldest filled a shoebox with ‘plagues’ (a paper colored red, for ‘blood,’ a paper locust, crumpled papers for hail, etc), and he loves showing them off. We insert a reenactment of the Red Sea parting, we translate stuff into kid-friendly English, we encourage rhythmic pounding during songs. Which we sing/have on CD during the weeks before the seder.
    Oh, and I’m a big fan of naps. For me, mostly.
    But it is a challenge!

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  11. teen in america says:

    We have plague masks and puppets and we always distribute them before reading about the plagues. We also have red stickers which we use for boils (some of the boys get a little obsessed with those so be prepared to pull them off stuffed animals).

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