Your house is cleaner than a surgical suite, the food smells delicious, and the table is set for a king, what could go wrong now? A bad seating arrangement, that’s what. Particularly when dealing with children, a bad seating arrangement can lead to stress and disappointment for children and adults alike. There are two factors to consider when seating kids for a Passover seder: age and behavior. Considering age is critical: the younger the child, the more assistance they need from an adult at the table. The older the child, the more they don’t want to sit next to their parents. As for behavior, you’ll have to consider how they get along with the other children present as well as their general ability to sit still, pay attention, or seek attention. Here are three seating strategies you can employ to ensure an enjoyable Passover seder for everyone.
The divide and conquer seating strategy is best for very small children (toddlers & infants) and children that generally don’t get along. As hostess, consider which parent is the best with a child (meaning which parent will actually correct behavior…it’s not always mom!) and seat them next to the child. Children with challenging behavior should be seated towards the end of the table, limiting their influence over others and proceedings. It is debatable whether to seat the child with difficult behavior next to the seder leader. Sometimes, being close to the action helps keep the child’s attention but sometimes, it can distract the leader, so use your knowledge of the individuals as best you can.
When children get a little older, they can then start to be seated in pairs, employing Strategy #2: Controlled Chaos. Well behaved boys can sit next to each other, but rambunctious boys often do well seated next to girl or baby instead. If you need to do this, be sure to let the girl’s parents in on this strategy so they know what’s going on (but not in a lashon hara kind of way). At one of my seders, I had this plan foiled when a girl’s parent shifted around all the namecards so her daughter could sit next to her friend. As in Strategy #1, you can place a younger or more poorly behaved child on the end.
Strategy #3: Funner Together is suited towards families with older children, like teenagers and any children that are well behaved and get along. I would sit the seder leader on the end with the adults so they can enjoy adult conversation when dinner is on. Take it from me as a leader that was once on the kids end, it’s no fun watching from afar as all the adults have interesting conversations while you are surrounded by kids. I can’t stress enough that this seating plan is really only for mature kids that can handle independence. I see this plan used a lot with younger kids under the guise of “they’ll have more fun” and what ends up happening is so much fun that parents have to get up constantly to correct their kids.
As the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and even the tightest seating plan strategy can sometimes fail. At my wedding reception I noticed a guest roll her eyes waaay across the table at someone twenty feet away only to realize the venue mixed up the seating plan (reversing the ends) and the person she was suppose to be sitting next to was on the opposite end of a long banquet table. Oh well. If a normally well behaved child has one of their bad days or a parent guest insists they seat their child against your plan, let it go. Things happen.
This is my last post before Passover and I’ll be taking the whole week off! I hope you all enjoyed my posts this year and that you all have a meaningful and inspirational Pesach.