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Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?

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MommyPenguin:
I'm thinking about doing a Passover Seder this year.  My mother was Jewish, and so although I was raised Catholic, I grew up celebrating Passover at a great-uncle's house (with lots of formality, etc.).  When I was a teenager, an uncle had young children, so he revived Passover and made it a little simpler and more fun with the kids.  So I've had some experience with *going* to a Seder, but never having one myself.  I decided this year would be a good time to introduce my kids to the ideas.  They're 6, 4, 2, and 5 months.

I got this Haggadah from the library that is *great*.  I really like how it presents the story, how it explains things in really simple terms but covers a lot of stuff, and it even has some ideas for dancing/games that involve getting up from the table, which might be a good idea with kids who are so little!  But doing everything in the book would take hours, and, well, see ages of kids above.

Anybody have any experience with Passover and little kids?  Since it's just our family, I have full leeway to have it whatever length I think appropriate or break it up however I need to.  I'm trying to think about what the most essential things to cover are, and what things I can leave out most easily.  For instance, can we skip the ritual washing of the hands (assuming hands were washed the ordinary way before the meal), or is that important to include?  The book has a page about why we wash our hands, which is interesting, but could be saved for a future year when the kids are older.  Can we skip the "drinking of the wine" parts, given that my husband and I aren't big drinkers and the rest of the participants are children?  Or should we get some Manischewitz and keep to the ritual?  What about the glass for Elijah?  I'm inclined to keep the Afikomen hunt, as I think the kids would enjoy that... although I'm a little rusty--prize only for the kid who finds it?  Right?  That's gonna lead to crying other kids, as the 6-year-old is almost guaranteed to find it and leave the 4-year-old and 2-year-old in the dust.  Not that I think kids should never lose, it's just a bit tough within the family and with only two other competitors, and the same one almost always winning because of age.  Other thoughts?

If it would be helpful, I can give a summary of what parts/activities/games are included in the book, but I didn't want to make this post overlong, and I think most people familiar with the Seder would already basically know the routine.

Library Dragon:
I've used http://www.torahtots.com/home.htm for coloring sheets, games, etc. 

As for the wine, a small bottle of whatever you like is fine.  When I was in the Army I planned passover seders for Jewish congregations and we didn't serve wine to the children.  You can opt for a good red grape juice.  You do need something visual. 

As long as the prize isn't too big you can have it only for the finder.  A quarter is fine. 

Bexx27:
You can use grape juice instead of wine. The kids might enjoy putting the drops on their plates. I would focus most on the Seder Plate and explaining the symbolism. Maybe instead of a competition the kids can work together to find the Afikomen and they all get a prize. That's the way my family did it and it was a lot of fun.

Tea Drinker:
Grape juice instead of wine, for some or all participants, is fine. My family always got Kedem grape juice, and still does. Some of us stick to that--I don't like wine and my girlfriend doesn't drink--and some of my relatives may have one or two glasses of wine and then switch to the grape juice.

For the afikomen, my family's tradition was that the kids collectively would hide the afikomen (while Grandpa was out of the room washing his hands), Grandpa would make a not-very-serious attempt to find it, and then buy it back from us, so everyone would get a small prize/gift. Or you could skip that step altogether, your kids won't be expecting it.

cicero:
i grew up Jewish orthodox so had many many seders, both in my parents /relatives homes and on my own.

it is my experience that passover seder *is* about the kids. the rituals, the asking of the questions, the songs - the whole point is "and you shall tell to your children on that day", the word "hagaddah" is from the root of "to tell" and the parents are supposed to tell the story to the next generation/s.

i wouldn't skip the wine drinking ritual, but as others said - use grape juice.

we always liven things up by using props (frogs, snakes, one year my son got those "blood" pellets, animal dolls, etc) for the 10 plagues, and we play different games with the songs.

afikoman - i buy presents for all the children.

make it shorter:
do the kiddush, the hand washing, the potato/egg in salt water, hiding the matza, pick out a few of the stories and let each child read (or with your help), dayenu, the matza/bitter herbs, horoset and then the meal and a few of the songs at the end. we've done seder in a little over an hour (or probably less), it is possible to make it short and sweet.

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