Author Topic: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?  (Read 1570 times)

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MommyPenguin

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Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« on: March 16, 2013, 05:40:58 PM »
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

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2013, 07:03:24 PM »
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. 

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Bexx27

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2013, 07:21:36 PM »
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.
How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these. -George Washington Carver

Tea Drinker

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2013, 11:27:22 AM »
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.
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cicero

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2013, 04:31:16 PM »
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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MommyPenguin

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2013, 08:43:37 PM »
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!).

cicero

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2013, 07:11:01 AM »
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).

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lowspark

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2013, 08:49:39 AM »
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.

cicero

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2013, 03:42:51 AM »
So mommy penguin did you have a Seder? How did it go?

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MommyPenguin

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2013, 11:51:52 AM »
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.

cicero

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2013, 07:56:38 AM »
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.
glad it went ok. I think you are right, if you do this every year, the kids will get used to it and anticipate what is going on.

I guess because my own DS went to Religious schools and they had a lot of build up and mock seders in school, and also he was involved in the cleaning, shopping, prep etc, so he got more into things.

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Moray

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Re: Passover Seder with kids--what would you focus on?
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2013, 02:52:09 PM »
Glad it went okay. In my family, the patriarch hides the afikomen and then the kids get to search for it. We always designated certain areas of the house "on" or "off" limits. Sibling squabbles were settled by making sure the prize was something the whole family could enjoy, like a board game or a movie. That way, the focus is on the thrill of the hunt :)

Also, I've found that most little kids go nuts for matzo ball soup. It tastes familiar to them, and the balls are fun to eat, especially if you make them small-ish. Your Emily and Jenny will probably be old enough to help roll the balls next year.
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