If you have small children you’ve been there…your kid is bored…s/he starts to misbehave…you start disciplining…you get irritated…you feel embarrassed in front of your friends…you look like a bad parent…Happy Pesach. And although you may usually hand over your phone as a pacifier, at Passover that really isn’t an option.
If you are hosting your own seder you can design it in such a way so the kids don’t get antsy. Not hosting? Be sure to bring things that will entertain your child…and if you are a real mensch bring for the other kids you know will be attending. Of course, check with your hostess first. Here are some ideas for preventing the Seder from Hell:
KEEP IT SHORT
One of the seders I’ll be running has a lot of kids under 6 (like 5 kids under 6), so really the main solution is to keep the service short and sweet. When the kids are grown you will have time to run the longest seder of your lives but for the few years when your kids are small, do yourself a favor and keep it short. There is nothing written that says you have to read the entire Haggadah.
BIGGIE UP THE FUN PARTS
There are lots of fun parts of the seder service that kids are interested in. Drinking grape juice, clinking glasses, hiding and finding the afikoman, the plagues, singing, etc. Incorporate fun things for the kids to do during these moments. We usually use the Plague Puppets and this year we will be using the 10 Plagues Coasters (don’t forget to enter our Giveaway!). Also, have you heard the tradition of whipping each other with green onions during the telling of the Exodus story? My kid is going to love that. Refresh your memory of the seder service and design fun from the get go.
BEWARE THE KIDS TABLE
Although it is tempting to put the kids at their own table, when most them are under 6 and boys in particular, this can turn into something that requires too much refereeing and will disrupt the seder. Perhaps a table of little girls can work but boys, forget it. Instead of a kids table, seat the kids at the main table and split them up in groups of 2 in-between the parents. Sit a boy next to a girl for added good behavior.
PRE-PREP the 4 QUESTIONS
If your kid is the youngest child and they can read, be sure to prep them ahead of time for their role in asking the 4 questions. Tell them how important it will be for them to pay attention so they can do it at the right time (even though of course you will remind them at the seder). A lot of kids will be so excited about the importance of this part that it will hold their attention. You can even prep a couple of kids just in case the youngest doesn’t want to do it…AND you now have several kids prepared and attentive.
Instead of the leader droning on and on, spread out the involvement. Have others at the table say the different blessings. Fill the kids glasses with grape juice and have them take part in the wine blessings. Let one point to the items on the seder plate, have another hold up the matzah. Since the kids are interspersed around the table, having something happen right next to them will get their attention on what’s happening.
REWARDS & PRIZES
Bribes work. Have rewards for participation in various parts of the seder or just for good behavior. You can reward just about anything…the most questions answered, the song leader, even being busy with the party favors. These rewards should definitely be something the kids want. Money is always a motivator at our house (no stereotypes, please).
Let’s face it…busy hands make quiet mouths. Have some simple toys at the kids placesetting to keep them occupied. Restaurants do this all the time…usually with crayons and a coloring sheet but I’ve got a boy and he couldn’t care less about coloring. The best favor I have seen is a small piece of plasticine clay. It kept two boys busy for over an hour. Plasticine doesn’t make a mess and it is gender neutral.
If coloring does keep your kids quiet (and it is allowed in your observance), by all means have some Passover-related coloring sheets ready for them at their place setting.
HAGGADAH with PICTURES
There are a lot of haggadahs that are good for families. My favorite is A Family Haggadah II but you can also get a kids haggadah that can be colored, like My Very Own Haggadah. Like I said before, although my kid isn’t big into coloring, if a prize is awarded for it, perhaps it could keep him busy for 10 minutes.
LET YOUR PEOPLE GO!
Kids are sometimes so amp’d at Passover with all the other kids around that they “finish” their meals rather quickly. Consider allowing them to leave the table and then return for the closing of the seder instead of keeping them chained to the table. It is much easier to release that tension away from the dinner table and return for dessert and the final parts of the seder than to keep them entertained in conversation about Uncle Mortie’s surgery.
What are your go-to tips for keeping the kids interested in the seder?