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

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Thanks for the ideas!  Yeah, I could use grape juice.  I'm not a drinker, myself, but I *love* Manischewitz.  However, since I'm nursing a baby, I guess I'll wait until next year to indulge (I could still drink a glass, maybe, but I wouldn't be able to finish off a bottle in a few days and nobody else in the family would).  So grape juice should work well enough.

The Haggadah we got has some fun ideas to liven it up, and I do like how it explains some things, so I think that will help.  But it has *so* many ideas that I wasn't sure how much I'd be able to do!  Cicero's list should be really useful for figuring out what to make sure I include.  My oldest is the only one who can read fluently enough to read "regular" (non-easy-reader) stuff, so maybe I'll have her take a turn here or there.  We love the "Dayenu" song, so that will definitely be in it!  Maybe the counting song (four matriarchs, three patriarchs, etc.) and Had Gadya.  The book we have has the music, I think, and my husband plays piano.  I might also drag out my rusty Hebrew and sing the blessing, just so they can get an idea of what Hebrew sounds like (I might teach them the alphabet when they're older so they can "read" Hebrew themselves, but not right now!).

i wanted to add - if you are planning on doing this every year, then start making a list of "special things" - special foods that you have at seder, special dishes (e.g., the seder plate, the matza cover, the wine cups), the books, and so on. as the kids grow up, they really relish those special memories.

and of course - make it yours. do things that make it *your family* special seder. as i wrote above, we always used special props (it started one year when DS had a game that had these jumping frogs in it and i just saw the frog and thought it would be great for pessach. over the years our "collection" has grown). or the way you sing dayenu, or the songs at the end (we used to each sing one line and go around in turns).

As cicero said, the whole idea of the Seder is to teach the story to your children. So by all means, make it about them participating and learning and enjoying it. When I was growing up, we used to ask the same questions every year and my father used to behave as if it was the first time he'd ever been asked and would engage us in discussions complete with both serious moments and silly ones. Our Seders were both educational and fun and I tried to do the same with my kids. Because of this, Passover has always been my favorite holiday.

Yes, grape juice instead of wine. But a bit of warning there, grape juice is heavy and can fill up those little tummies quickly as you are going through the service before dinner so give them very small glasses.

As far as which parts of the service are most important, well, every family probably has a different answer. Since this is the first time you're doing it and since your kids are small, I wouldn't worry too much about what you're leaving out. Instead, go through the book and choose which parts you feel will capture your children's attention the most and just go with those. If you really plan on doing this every year, you can grow the service and experience gradually as your kids get older and engage more. As they are able to read, let them take turns reading paragraphs/sections. Encourage questions and discussions, as that is (in my experience) what the Seder is all about.

Regarding the washing of the hands, I know in most families, they pass around a cup & bowl for washing. In my family, it was more of a game as we all got up and went to the kitchen sink to wash. The first washing is done without a blessing which, in my house, meant, you had to not say a word between getting up from the table and sitting back down after washing. It was one of the best parts of the Seder just because we were three giggly girls trying (usually unsuccessfully) to be silent for the 5 minutes that took! By the way, it's just a quick symbolic rinse of the hands with water a few seconds each - not a total soap & water cleansing.

Again, though, just pick whatever you feel comfortable with doing and feel your kids would get into. I grew up doing the entire service, and so did my kids, from infancy. But it was never (and still is never) a very serious or solemn service. It was all about the kids (regardless of age) participating, joking around, asking questions, etc. There were always some serious moments as the discussion could get academic and that was a great learning experience, parents to children. But there was also plenty of cutting up and generally just enjoying the family time.

So mommy penguin did you have a Seder? How did it go?

Yes, we did!  We actually had it last night, so that my friend who was coming for a visit (she'd never been to a Seder) could come.

It went... okay.  Unfortunately, the kids got sick a couple of days ago, and while two of them are mostly better, one is sick and miserable.  Somebody sitting at the table whining about this and that definitely put a damper on things.

The kids also weren't really fans of any of the food (and I basically only did the Seder plate stuff, not all the other things like gefilte fish or pickled herring or matzoh ball soup).  Even the charoset!  Ah, well, lots of charoset for me.  :)  I do really like the Haggadah I was using ("Why On This Night?" which I got at my library), and I liked the explanations it gave for some things.

Also?  I tried having the kids hide the Afikomen, and then I'd ransom it (give each kid a quarter) to get it back.  It turned into a huge fight with screaming and crying over which kid actually got to pick the hiding place.  Probably mostly caused by the 4-year-old being sick and just sort of at the end of her tether and very prone to crying jags because she was feeling bad.

I think, though, that some of the issues were because the kids weren't used to doing something like this, and because of the sickie.  So I'm hopeful that next year, things will work out a bit better.  I might also try to involve the kids in prep a bit more next year.  This year it was a bit of a tizzy because my friend was visiting and I was trying to prepare for that, and we're also packing up our house to move, looking for a new house, etc.  So I didn't have a lot of time to devote to getting things ready.


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