How to create a shorter Seder

Mar 21, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. ET

Young kids have short attention spans during a regular dinner, so we can't expect them to sit still for the Seder. But with a little creativity, you can create a Seder that even the youngest will enjoy while keeping with the Passover tradition.

Seder meal

Every spring, Jewish families around the world celebrate Passover, an important holiday that commemorates the Jews being led out of slavery in Egypt, and their exodus to Israel led by Moses. Passover lasts for eight days, but the first night is very special because of the Seder.

The Seder is a traditional ritual that is followed by a meal. Families read from a Haggadah, a book that tells the story of how Moses led the Jews' exodus out of Egypt. Traditional, by-the-book Passover Seders include 15 different parts to the story and can last up to an hour or even much longer — not ideal for very young kids.

Learn how to host a Passover Seder >>

There are many ways to create a shorter Seder. Here are some ideas from moms who have done it:

Plan ahead with your kids' help

Ellen Zimmerman of Jewish Holidays in a Box says, "Before the Seder, the leader should go through the Haggadah and mark the parts that make sense for your family/crowd, paring down to what seems right for you. One other tip to help the [Passover] Seder go faster, but hit all the key points, is to build a mini-seder plate for each person (children can do this) with all the symbols that we eat on it, including some charoset, maror and parsley. On ours, we also put a few munchies that help children make it through."

Learn the meaning behind the Passover Seder plate >>

Make your own Haggadah

Judy Nolish wrote her own kid-friendly Haggadah. She says, "I wrote the Haggadah so everyone had something to read and do." If you're not up to writing your own Haggadah, a quick internet search will bring up plenty of templates for DIY seders as well as pre-written, shorter Haggadahs perfect for kids.

Nolish didn't let her creativity stop with her Haggadah — she also incorporated fun ways to tell about the plagues, an important part of the Passover story. She explains, "Some of the people put colored round stickers on their arms for boils. Bulk plastic frogs, flies, farm animals to tip over when the cattle died and best of all — lots of mini marshmallows for hail which we threw all over the room. Everyone loved that, especially the dogs. I spent a lot of time thinking of how to represent the parting of the Dead Sea and the killing of the firstborn. I took 9-inch white paper plates and glued on three long blue crepe paper streamers and glued the plates on paint sticks. When the sea was to open everyone flapped the plates. I then used black marker and on the back of the plates, I drew an unhappy face."

Ditch the table

Nolish says, "We had the Seder in our living room with everyone clustered around the coffee table."

Leah Aharoni suggests taking things a step further. She says, "Drape the couches with quilts and bedspreads. Kids will have a ball reclining on prettily covered mattresses with pillows. Set the 'table' on crates, night stands, or a combination of the above, covered by a tablecloth. If you are uncomfortable eating the meal this way, consider the arrangement for the reading of the Haggadah and move into the dining room for the actual meal. Added bonus, kids can doze off without leaving the table."

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