Passover – Seder With Kids Theme
Every spring I look forward to Passover, the weeklong celebration of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. My kids, however, dread the Passover Seder because it takes so long. The challenge of balancing the holiday rituals that make up the meal is often not worth it. The kids wiggle in their chairs, complain they're starving and usually poke, prod and make faces at each other.
But I don't give up easily – especially on important Jewish holidays. So here are my suggestions for a family friendly holiday.
If Passover is about teaching our children the story of Moses and the Exodus, I believe it should be done in a comfortable environment that suits them. Put your china and fancy glasses away and set the table with plastic bowls, plates and utensils that your kids help pick out at a party store. Make it festive but informal.
The day before Passover, my kids make their own Kiddush cups. Having their own special cup to drink from during the Seder makes the celebration more fun for them. It gives them a sense of being part of the action. We make two different kinds of cups: a jeweled Kiddush cup and a “stained glass” Kiddush cup.
For the jeweled cup, start with a plastic wine glass. Buy multicolored crafting gems and glue them all around the outside of the glass and on the stem. Make sure to leave enough lip room at the rim for drinking. For the “stained glass” cup, again use a plastic wine glass and, starting at the outside midsection, glue on pieces of different colored tissue paper. Completely cover the glass, working your way down to the stem and base. Next, use a paintbrush to cover the entire tissue papered glass with Mod-Podge (found at most craft stores) and let it dry. The kids are so proud of their Kiddush cups and sip grape juice throughout the meal.
I keep the Seder brief, summarizing the Passover story with only the symbolic foods we like to eat (we're not a horseradish family.) I figure remembering some of the story is better than none. Sitting on the table is Charoset, a mixture of walnuts, chopped apples and wine. It represents the mortar used by the Jews to build with during the period of slavery and it tastes so good on matzo. Hard boiled eggs are also on the table, why I'm not sure, but we've always included them since I was a kid. We all love to eat them too (although my youngest son pokes out the yolk and eats just the white.) And of course there is matzo, the unleavened bread that reminds us that the Hebrew slaves were in a hurry when they fled and could not wait for their dough to rise. The kids love to eat the matzo with cream cheese and sliced cucumbers or peanut butter. My older son loves parsley so I include it to be dipped in salt water to remember the tears shed by those in slavery.
That's the Passover overview I use and it keeps the kids attention. As they get older, I can add more, but for now it's just right. The main meal includes matzo ball soup, baked chicken and a broccoli and cheese soufflé I make with crushed matzo. (There are so many ways to use matzo that I'm sure some of your favorite recipes could be modified with it.)
We also make a game out of the word Passover. We see who can say “Passover” the most times during dinner. The kids love to say things like, “Pass over the soup please” or “Pass over the matzo.” I think it reminds the kids of what holiday we're celebrating (sometimes it's hard to recall which Jewish holiday is which) and keeps them focused on the meal.
For dessert we have white chocolate almond matzo. It is so good that I have to share the easy recipe with you: Line a cookie sheet with foil and lay matzo in a single layer, covering the entire bottom. Melt 1 cup of butter and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan over low heat until smooth. Pour over the matzo and spread it evenly across. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and pour one 12-ounce bag of white chocolate chips over the matzo. Return to the oven for 30 – 60 seconds to melt the chocolate, then remove. Smooth the chocolate over the matzo and sprinkle crushed almonds on top to cover. Refrigerate overnight then break into pieces and eat.
Last, but not least, I help the kids make afikoman bags. We take an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper (any will do, but the thicker the better) and fold it in half. The kids punch holes along the two shorter sides then weave string or yarn through the holes, “sewing” together the two sides. I tie knots in both ends and the bag is done. The kids decorate the afikomen bags with their name and any other design they wish.
My husband hides the bags with a piece of matzo inside while the kids close their eyes and count to 50 – they love hide and seek. Once found, each child receives a prize. The prizes range from a coloring book to puzzle to racecar. The Passover celebration is now complete and we all remind ourselves of how lucky we are.