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Sensory-Friendly Ways to Power Through Passover

Sensory-Overload Much??
Let's Do Passover!
 By Roberta B


As holidays go, Passover is pretty user-friendly. It can even be a great holiday for inviting  friends to join in, since the primary activities are eating, storytelling, and playing with food—all universally appealing. From a kid perspective, though, it can sometimes feel like a whole lot of sitting around waiting for something better to eat than parsley. Extra verses of Grandpa singing Dayenu may have been enough to keep the party entertaining when we were kids, but let's face it, the bar has risen a little since then. To keep the retelling of the slaves' delivery out of Egypt lively for the next generation, we've collected 10 creative ways to make a Passover seder fun for kids. This is not your mama's seder, but it should help to hold everyone's attention until the brisket arrives.

1. Plague Gift Bags
A seder is a party, right? So it only makes sense to have gift bags. The 10 plagues can be the most entertaining part of the meal with the right props; there is so much more potential in frogs and locusts than the traditional removal of a drop of wine for each. Hit the 99¢ store in advance to fill everyone's bags with tchotchkes like plastic cows for the cattle disease, sunglasses or sleeping masks for darkness, maybe bandages for boils, or ketchup packets for blood—get creative! Put a bag o' plagues at each plate, and don't let anyone open them until the right part of the service!

2. Haggadah Scripts
The best part of a seder is participation, and there is a lot more that kids can read than just the Four Questions (though that bit is generally pretty darn adorable). If your haggadah (the Passover book read at a seder) is a traditional one that involves lots of monologues by Grandpa, why not divide it up into scripts in advance, so everyone has parts to read? The more often the reader changes, the more engaging the story. This is also a great opportunity to find out what a comedian Aunt Kayla can be, as she yucks up the wicked son and the simple son. As an added bonus, new readers can practice their parts in advance.

Smurfs, of course, cross the Blue Sea...

3. Set the table like the Red Sea
This is fun for kids to help out with before the dinner guests arrive: ask them to dig out a selection of LEGO figurines, superheroes, or any other set of small action figures, and set the table with two cloths of the same color to represent the water (blue works well, but so can red for the Red Sea). Lay the table with a gap down the middle, and the figurines can march down the middle to freedom. 

4. Costume Party
Why not make it a costume seder? There are plenty of interesting characters, from pharaohs and Egyptian princesses to wandering Bedouins and burning bushes. This keeps the story lively, not to mention the holiday snapshots Instagram-worthy.

5. Passover Bingo
Here is an idea that takes some advance prep, but it guarantees everyone will pay attention. Make Bingo cards ahead of time with boxes to mark for pouring wine (that gets mentioned a lot), plagues, the four sons, Elijah, the Red Sea, Pharaoh, the various items on the seder plate, etc. Here is a link to a simple example, but you can also make the game more challenging by choosing some of the less obvious figures and objects. Don't forget to have prizes for the winners!

6. Hand Washing
This is a little more traditional, and really quite simple, but it's been a hit with the kids at my table every year. I learned when visiting Egypt that there is a mealtime tradition there to this day involving children bringing a pitcher of water around the table for adults to wash their hands before eating. A Passover light bulb switched on over my head as I washed my hands. Every year, we bring out a fancy pitcher, bowl, and linen towel that the kids carry around the table to the adults each time the hagaddah requires another round of hand washing. The kids pour water for us and then for each other, from biggest to littlest.

Hand washing was never so much fun.

7. Plague Charades
There really is endless fun to be had from those plagues. When it's time to list all the awful things that happened because Pharaoh hesitated to let Moses' people go, everyone can take turns acting out each plague (which the others need to guess) until you've gone through all 10. 

8. Elijah Says
If Elijah manages to drain the cup of wine in the center of the table unseen, why shouldn't he also whisper something in someone's ear? Start off with the person who "heard" Elijah sharing the message with the person next to him, and then send it around the table in a game of telephone until it becomes something (presumably) quite different by the end.

9. Red Sea Splitting
By the time the Red Sea opens up, everyone could use an excuse to get on his feet. Take a blanket (preferably red), lay it on the ground, and re-enact the part when the sea engulfs the Egyptians. Did anyone dance like Miriam watching the rest go down? Discuss.

10. Post Afikoman Theater
Obviously the best game—the scavenger hunt for a half piece of matzo—is built right into the service. There are all sorts of ways to draw out the fun of the hiding, finding, and ransoming of the bit of unleavened bread symbolizing dessert, aka the afikoman, but what about the aftermath? When grown-ups are digesting and waiting for the effects of those four glasses of wine to wear off? Suggest that the kids create a play using all of the story elements from the meal. The more kids you invite to your seder, the more entertaining this after-dinner show can be (particularly if you don't shortchange anyone on that fourth glass of Maneschewitz). Enjoy the goofiness, and Happy Passover!

Pharaoh takes his bow.

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