Not content with the simple rote recitation of The Hagadah? Want to make it an actual multi-generational Jewish learning/growth experience? Want to have a Sedder which will stimulate and excite your children?
There are a lot of ideas out there but here are some of my favorites which I’ve actually tried:
1. Start again. After everyone is finally situated in their designated seat, Head of Sedder (HOS) goes to the front door, opens it and urgently calls everyone to quickly come outside to see something. When they arrive HOS says : “Imagine that right now we would get up and just leave our houses. Leave to go to Israel/Jerusalem/Har HaBayit. Just grab our suitcases and go. Everywhere in the world, right now, all Jews are sitting down to remember when The Jewish People left Egypt. Let’s do the same. Everyone head back in; We’re now ready to start our Sedder”.
2. Move Maggid away from the dining room to the living room. Children sit on the carpet or mattresses in center while adults sit on the sofas/armchairs. You will be amazed how this can transform the Maggid from a ritual to an actual family discussion/activity (Make sure to bring your cup of wine with you).
3. Encourage questioning. Throughout the Sedder every question (or answer) said by a child – awards them a chocolate chip to be placed in small baggie. Kids may eat them throughout Maggid, but whoever has the most chips by the end- gets a prize. (Other options are tiny marshmallows or, small notes that say “Good Job”).
4. Q-cards. Under each plate place a card which has on it information to be used at variant times during the Sedder. Examples:
1) An individual “special” word – whenever this word is recited in the reading, the person needs to yell out: “Pesach, Matzah and Maror!”
2) A character from the Pesach story – when there is a lul in the story, pick random participant, who needs to either act out his character, or answer 21 questions until the other participants guess his identity (don’t forget all the animal characters from חד גדיא!)
5. Experience slavery. Immediately after מה נשתנה, bring out blocks and tell the kids to each build a building to a certain height. As they build, Head of the Seder (HOS) makes suggestions of improvements. Upon completion, HOS instructs to ruin and re-do better. When they start re-building, HOS takes a more aggressive attitude, bossing them around about how to build the building. After the kids get upset (or even cry) HOS stops and explains that this is similar to what happened in מצרים, it started off mild and gradually changed into slavery. Continue with עבדים היינו.
6. Four sons.
1) Ask each participant to identify which son they are and why (can be both a serious as well as a bit of a silly conversation). Adults can share which kind of “son” they were when they were kids…
2) The 4 sons through the ages. Download and print out enough versions of The Four Sons collection, based on which you can have many fascinating discussion with participants, of all ages. Sample questions:
i. Identify who is each son in the various depictions of the four sons. How do you know?
ii. What are some of the differences between the various depictions of the various sons? (for adults – what do these differences mean?)
iii. Which depiction is you favorite? Why?
iv. Which depiction best describes our family?
v. (For adults:
– What is common to all the depictions on the 3rd page? A: they carry strong ideological statements – Zionist, anti-enlightenment and anti-socialist
– What is common to all the depictions on the last page? A: they depict whole families, not only sons
7. The Plagues
1) Each child acts out 2 pre-assigned plagues and the other kids have to guess what it is.
2) Blood – Ask for “Jewish” and “Egyptian” volunteers to demonstrate the plague of Blood. Prepare 2 non see-through cups, one of which should have at the bottom red food coloring. Make a spectacle of pouring clear water from same jar into the “Jewish cup” and then the “Egyptian cup”, hand to them and ask them to describe what they see. HOS explains that the same water stayed water for us but when was used by the Egyptians- became blood.
3) Darkness. Split kids into “Jews” and “Egyptians”. Blindfold “Egyptians”, who need to protect their chocolate chips from the “Jews”, who want to “borrow” them. HOS explains that this is what happened in מצרים- the Egyptians couldn’t see anything and the Jews could. The Jews went into the Egyptians homes to take treasures as compensation for their hard work.
8. Elijah’s cup. Have someone sneak out of the room a couple of minutes before Elijahs cup. This person leaves house and stands outside the door with his head covered with a Tallit. When children open the door – Elijah walks in, walks silently (remaining hooded) to the table, bends down enough to fool that he is drinking (while making sure to spill some of it) and then leaves.
Word to the wise:
1. Different activities are appropriate for different ages
2. Change the activity to fit your “clientele”
3. If you find one that the kids love – do it again. It’s worth the time
4. Choose wisely how many “special” activities to do. You don’t want overkill. I recommend choosing the 3 or four you think will work best.
5. These ideas are not meant to replace the traditional Sedder, rather to enhance it; to evoke more interest and engagement in the readings and observances.
Chag Same’ach VeKasher!
(Feel free to add in things you’ve actually done and seen succeed)