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15 Common Sense Tips for Making a Kid Friendly Seder

  1. If there are children try to begin the Seder as early as possible so the evening will not end too late.
  2. Encourage visiting parents to feed their child a Passover snack right before they come to the Seder (i.e. a child whose usual dinner time comes much earlier in the evening.) Or put little snack on the seder table for kids to munch on during the seder. That’s what parents did in Medieval times.
  3. Consider skipping the hors d’oeuvres entirely, or at the least, tell guests when the Seder will begin so that parents have the option of coming right before the designated time. For children coming from a long distance, time to wind down will be important..(Without an hors d’oeuvre period for adults the kids will be more focused because they won’t get settled into playing before the seder begins. Actually, the dipping of the parsley was considered the hors d’oeuvre of the Seder in ancient times. You can serve a full plate of hors d’oeuvres after the parsley is dipped.)
  4. Consider whether or not you want to have a children’s table during the reading of the Haggadah. You may wish to create family groupings at the Seder table unless the adults intend to extend their dialogue with adult themes.
  5. Have enough Seder plates so that all children are sitting near a plate and can see the ritual foods on the plate.
  6. Have enough haggadahs for everyone and picture haggadahs for non-readers.
  7. Are house and cell phones off? Does kitchen help know NOT to make noise during the recitation?
  8. Seders get boring not because they are long but because they are unfocused. That’s when guests begin to lose attention. It wouldn’t hurt to gently set a few ground rules – whatever is appropriate for your family. For instance once the Seder begins ask that no one go to the kitchen or be away from the action of the evening. Every family has its own dynamics but if you can create a focused, participatory experience for everyone for one half hour your seder will move quickly enough. (Suggestion: If the children get fidgety give very young children crayons and a Passover coloring book or other materials at the Seder table. Of course, it is fine to feed babies.) If a young person cannot sit still, he or she might sit on the floor next to the Passover table and quietly draw pictures of Passover scenes.
  9. Consider hiring a baby-sitter if there many very young children at the table and encourage guests to have their children sit at the table if they are able.
  10. Have special personal messages pasted into haggadahs to keep kids interested.
  11. Adults can have trouble focusing, too. They need special attention! Give them special tasks – special readings, the role of leading songs, answering questions you’ve prepared.
  12. Give Passover pencil gifts to every child who answers a Passover question correctly. Have questions and pencils for the adults, too!
  13. Give “Leader” parts to parents who can then turn to their children to teach them.
  14. If the children are very, very young, do only the essential parts of the Seder, most of which are the fun parts. Cut everything else. See the * below.
  15. As the dinner concludes, don’t forget to tell the kids before they go off to play that there will be another 10 min. of the Seder after dinner. (After the meal there are two more cups of wine, the opening of the door for Elijah and songs to sing… and it goes very quickly.) Try not to linger too long over coffee. The longer the meal the harder it will be to get the children back to the table. (You might tell the children to go off to create a skit based on the story of Passover to be presented at the very conclusion of the Seder, perhaps with the help of a parent) You may want to give a gift to the best skit or the best actors, etc. Know that the search for the afikomen was created precisely to get the children back to the dinner table.)

Good luck!

*The essential parts of the Seder will take about 30 min before dinner and another 10 min. after dinner:

Candle lighting

Blessing and first cup of wine

Blessing over Parsley

Break middle matzah and hide the Afikomen

Four Questions

Recitation of the story of the Exodus… or improvised retelling if children are very, very young

Flicking wine onto plate as the plagues are listed

Singing Dayeinu

Leader pointing to the shankbone, matzah and maror and giving a word of explanation.

Blessing and second cup of wine

Blessings over the matzah and the maror and making the Hillel sandwich of charoset and maror.

 

DINNER:

Search for the afikomen

At least one paragraph to thank G-d for the food.

Blessing and third cup of wine.

Elijah: his cup acknowledged and open the door for Elijah.

Songs and concluding prayers, which include the blessing and fourth cup of wine.

All shout out: “Next Year in Jerusalem!”