Dealing with Toddlers at the Seder Table

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Dear Miriam,

I have two 2-year-olds coming to my seder this year, and I was wondering if you have any suggestions for making Passover meaningful and enjoyable for them. I don’t expect them to stay engaged for the whole seder, but I want to at least give them something to do that is related.

Signed,
Toddlers at the Table

Dear Toddlers,

The seder is designed to elicit questions from participants, and the natural curiosity of kids can add a lot to everyone’s experience. Even so, 2-year-olds are a little young for that, so one option is to encourage their prototypical question, “Why?” and reward them for asking. I know some people toss out a small piece of candy for every question that gets asked during the seder. You could also give out a sticker or a plastic frog, or some other small reward. If you want to buy something more substantial, I have a set of Four Question finger puppets that my kids really love.

Speaking of stickers, if you use a paper tablecloth, you can give the kids stickers and let them decorate the tablecloth while you’re going through the seder. Depending on your style of religious observance, if you’re comfortable having writing utensils at the table, you could give them markers or crayons for the tablecloth as well. You could also print out kid-friendly haggadahs for them to look at and/or color. This one from jkidphilly.org is a great option!

The afikomen hunt is the ultimate kid-friendly part of the seder, and don’t be shy about employing it as a major incentive. You can hide the afikomen right at the beginning and encourage the kids to look for it whenever they need a break from the table. You can also hide and rehide it as many times as they are interested, and again, little rewards for finding it go a long way.

This is so thoughtful of you, but before you get too far in your creative thinking, be sure to talk to the parents. They may be planning to put the kids asleep before you even start, so instead of activities, you may just need to provide a dark, quiet room. They also may have their own ideas of how involved or uninvolved they want their kids to be, so offering to help provide activities is completely lovely, but be sure to do it in a way that will work for everyone and not be too overstimulating too close to bedtime.

More than anything, remember that seder is late and it’s long and it can be hard to hold adults’ attention, let alone little ones, so while it’s great that you’re thinking about this, you’ll also do well to keep your expectations and those of your guests at a reasonable level. If you get through seder without any major meltdowns, I hope you’ll consider the experience a success.

Be well, and happy Passover!

Miriam

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