By Marlyn Press & Roslyn Haber
Jews are commanded to teach their children about the Exodus from Egypt as though we are still living through it. Though many children know the story of Passover, there is always more we can teach about the meaning behind it and the rituals and customs of the holiday.
Here are some suggestions you can use to engage children in the Passover holiday and provide a more meaningful experience for them.
(1) Word power is the effective use of words and ability to read and write, helping children to better understand concepts. Children can make up a play about the holiday using the vocabulary and objects used during the Seder. Encourage them to try to write a manual describing the steps in the Seder or write their own answers to the Four Questions. In addition, reading books and articles about the holiday and how people around the word celebrate it will provide a richer understanding of Passover.
(2) Other creative ideas include making up dances or using hand/finger plays to follow along with the Seder. Let children create various types of art projects including Seder plates, cups, and pictures depicting the Exodus story or the Seder.
(3) Is there anyone who does not love music? Adding music to any event only enhances it. Music fits right in to the Seder celebration. Children can learn the melodies to the songs that are sung during the Seder.
(4) Older children may want a more practical learning experience. They can solve some of the mathematical problems regarding the number of plagues listed in the Haggadah and how many plagues different rabbis proposed. Younger children can use the plagues to count from 1 to 10.
(5) Experience emotions related to Passover. Parents can explain to children how the Jews must have felt leaving their longtime home. If appropriate, have children make connections between any moves they have experienced and the Exodus itself. We hope to develop in children the understanding that Jews are living through the same Exodus today as the one that happened years ago. Discuss with them how they would feel about such an event in their lives. What types of feelings did the Jews have? What would be their fears and hopes for the future?
(6) Finally, we can engage children with questions about the wonders of nature. This will develop understanding of our world and the natural wonders around us. How did the Jews survive in the climate of the desert? How was it different from the climate of either Egypt or today’s Israel? What are some of the supernatural events that happened in the desert?
The more children understand what is going on at the Seder, the more engaged they will be. Try to use some of these ideas to provide them with a more meaningful experience.
A happy, healthy, and kosher Passover to all!
Marlyn Press, Ed.D., and Roslyn Haber, Ed.D., are associate professors at the Touro College Graduate School of Education.