One of the biggest challenges of the Seder night is keeping your children engaged and excited throughout the Seder. Especially in the Internet Age, when kids are used to constant stimulation, it seems almost unfair to demand that your child sit through hours upon hours of divrei Torah. Keep in mind that the more involved your child is in the planning of the Seder, the more he or she will want to take an active role. Below are a few tips on how to keep the kids involved during the Seder:
• Make a family Haggadah. Using a binder, create a family Haggadah that you can add to each year. Weeks or even months before Pesach, have your younger children act out parts of the Haggadah; take photographs and include them in the Haggadah. Your children can dress up as the Four Sons, or they can reenact the Ten Plagues or the miraculous departure from Egypt. Older children can add their divrei Torah to the Haggadah. You can also include drawings and art projects your children have done in school.
• Digital frames. A few days before yom tov, take pictures of your kids acting out parts of the Haggadah. Put the digital frame somewhere near the dining room table and let it run through the night.
• Set up chavrutot. A week or two before the Seder, pair off older participants of your Seder with younger ones. Have each chavruta prepare a devar Torah for the Seder. This is also a great opportunity for grandparents and grandchildren to bond.
• Seder Plate Discovery Zone. Before or during the Seder, invite your children to a Seder Plate Discovery Zone. Encourage your younger children to feel, hold and learn about each item on the Seder plate. You can ask them to explain what they learned in previous years about the Seder plate.
• Create a space to display your children’s artwork. There is so much that goes on a Seder table– the Seder plate, matzot, Kiddush cups. Make sure that your children’s projects figure prominently. The more they feel they have contributed to the Seder table, the more excited they will be to participate.
• Pick a theme for your Seder. Focus on one idea in the Haggadah each year. For example, if you have younger children, you may want to focus on animals. Place plastic animals on the table and direct your children’s attention to the plagues that have animals in them. Encourage older children to help you pick a theme and to prepare divrei Torah related to it.
• Keep your children engaged with different activities throughout theSeder. Create a bingo board. Each child can get a different bingo board at the start of the Seder with words (or pictures for those too young to read) mentioned throughout the Seder. Give out candy to be placed on the board when the word is mentioned. When your child fills the board, he gets to eat the candy! Involve the older children by asking them to make the bingo boards.
• Make place cards for your guests. While younger children can decorate the cards with your guests’ names, older children can write a thought-provoking question on the back of the place card related to the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim. Have your guests read their questions at different points throughout the Seder to facilitate discussion.
• Encourage your children to pick out a Haggadah they want to use at the Seder. Place post-it notes throughout their Hagaddot offering fun facts or interesting questions to help keep them on their toes.
• Kids get hungry and cranky. Make sure to serve a big meal erev Pesach. Additionally, create edible centerpieces on the Seder table so that young children can easily grab for some fresh veggies and snack throughout the Seder. You can also make individual “goody bags” and place one next to each child’s plate. The bag could contain some candy, snacks and even a few small toys to keep them entertained during slower parts of the Seder.
Devorah Katz is founder and editor of www. challahcrumbs.com, a web site for Jewish families.