Parenting | Make your seder kid-friendly with a little ingenuity

“Parenting” is a new advice column contributed by experts at Parents Place, a division of S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services. The agency, with locations in five Bay Area counties, helps families manage parent-child concerns through workshops, coaching, counseling, special-needs services and activity groups. Learn more at

With a week left before Passover and all that shopping, cleaning and cooking to do, it’s understandable if parents aren’t thinking much about how they’ll keep the children engaged in the holiday. But a little preparation can go a long way toward making sure it is meaningful for all ages.

In my family, we make the seder as participatory as possible. Granted, it can be hard to keep small children interested and involved, but over the years my husband and I have incorporated a lot of fun activities into the Passover holiday.

One idea is to search online for holiday coloring projects for young children, such as Passover placemats. Then, as you’re reading the lengthy story of Exodus from your haggadot, your youngest guests can be filling in the story of the Jews’ departure from Egypt in crayon.

Another big hit in our household is props to represent the Ten Plagues. Frog hand puppets, plastic sunglasses (for darkness) and other toys representing hail, lice, boils and cattle disease will entertain the children while lightening the mood all around.

Remember, too, to include children in explanations of Passover’s significance. No reason to water down the seder conversation to an elementary level; kids old enough to be in school are quite aware of what’s going on in the world and have rich imaginations and a storehouse of their own ideas. Talking about the timeless issues the story of Exodus raises — freedom and slavery, hunger, punishments and rewards, springtime and miracles — should prompt dynamic seder-table dialogue.

For our seders, my husband likes to send out an email to guests in advance about some of the topics he will be broaching as seder leader. This allows families with children to begin the discussion and to set expectations.

But as interesting and kid-friendly as you make your seder, don’t expect that your younger guests can sit still for the entire time. (It’s hard enough for most grownups to do so!) Allow them to get up and stretch and walk around the table. Also be sure that you have snacks for them to nibble on. They get hungry, and they shouldn’t have to wait for the Hillel sandwich to eat. At home, we prepare pesadich (kosher for Passover) granola for kids to nosh on during the reading of the haggadah (find an easy recipe at Check online for other Passover-friendly snacks for children that are easy to prepare in advance.

Speaking of advance preparations, include your children in seder planning and tasks. Chopping apples for haroset traditionally is assigned to older children (10 and up), but there are many other enjoyable activities that will help younger kids feel more engaged. If you clear your home of hametz — forbidden bread products — you and your children can create a scavenger hunt for cereal, breadcrumbs and other leavened food items to discard and burn before the holiday. One year, my son enjoyed making name cards for all of the guests. 

Of course, all the forethought in the world can’t predict the occasional drama when family and friends come together. Like, if cousin Trudy, who is still not talking to Uncle Mort over a perceived slight, finds herself across from him at the seder table. Or if Fred, the family dachshund, becomes lethargic after gorging on stolen brisket.

Fortunately, these types of dilemmas have sensible solutions: Talk to Trudy and Mort in advance to head off any tensions and get assurances they’ll behave, and put Fred in the backyard during seder preparations.

Joking aside, when I’ve asked my now-grown daughter and my teenage son what they’ve most enjoyed about our seders over the years, they’ve invariably replied that it has been the sense of community we’ve created around the table. We have always been sure to invite a broad range of family and friends, and our non-Jewish guests have found the seder particularly meaningful. Consult with your children about a teacher or friend they may wish to invite. It will enrich the experience for everyone.

Mimi Ezray, LCSW, MPH, is director of children’s clinical services at Peninsula Parents Place, a division of Jewish Family and Children’s Services.