Telling Our Story: How to Engage Our Children at the Seder

Rabbi Dani Staum


I am always very excited about the Seder, and I always look forward to it weeks before Pesach begins. Yet every year I feel somewhat disappointed. I understand that it is integral that the Seder be oriented toward chinuch and that the story of the Haggadah resonate with each child. But invariably, at the beginning of the Seder, our children begin fighting — usually over silly things, like chairs and pillows.

As the Seder progresses our younger children start becoming tired and cranky, and our older children want to share the myriad divrei Torah on every point in the Haggadah. I would love some tips on how to help our Seder be a more enjoyable and uplifting experience for my entire family. It’s a beautiful idea to speak to every child at the Seder and convey the ideas of emunah, but practically, how can that be accomplished?


It’s hard to give exact parameters, because what works for one family may not work for another. But we can share some ideas that will hopefully resonate with you and your family.

We want the Seder to be a positive memory for our children; one that will remain with them throughout their lives.

How can we engage our children and imprint timeless messages on their souls, while at the same time keep the Seder flowing with a happy and pleasant atmosphere?

It is important to remember that the mitzvot and ambiance of the night in and of themselves create memories in and of themselves. We need only to ensure that the Seder is a positive experience.

Chazal teach us that on Seder night we should pique the curiosity and interest of our children. Thanks to the incredible efforts and dedication of our children’s teachers, today many of our children know more divrei Torah about the Haggadah than we do. Each child comes to the Seder with a plethora of ideas to share. Often when one child is sharing his/her thoughts, everyone else becomes restless. Like so many things in life, and particularly in education, it’s about striking the right balance. The following are some ideas that you may find helpful:

Set the tone

Being as proactive as possible can go a long way. It is a good idea to discuss with one’s children some fair parameters in advance. In some homes only the father shares divrei Torah during Maggid, although each child is welcome to ask questions and add to the father’s points. In other homes each child is allowed to share one favorite thought after a certain number of paragraphs. Contemplate what will work best for your family and discuss the game plan beforehand.

Spread out the inspiration

My father often remarks that he doesn’t understand why everyone has so much to share during Maggid, but when it comes to Shulchan Oreich (or the rest of the Seudos during Pesach) no one has any divrei Torah to share. Why not share some of the Haggadah thoughts then? They don’t expire when Maggid ends.

Embrace the imperfections

One year at the Seder of Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt’l, a student was nervously filling Rav Hutner’s cup with wine when he accidentally spilled some wine on Rav Hutner’s perfectly white kittel. Without missing a beat, Rav Hutner warmly quipped, “A kittel without a wine stain at the Seder is like a Yom Kippur Machzor without tears.”

It’s important to remember that the Seder need not be perfect nor angelic to create a memorable experience for our children.

A big part of our personal satisfaction relates to our expectations. Expect that some children will be whiny, that someone (or someones) will spill on the beautiful Seder table, and that some of our children will complain about how long or how fast the Seder progresses.

Use props

In some families, the leader of the Seder or another adult will sneak out and return a few minutes later in a makeshift costume. They may pretend to be Pharaoh, Moshe, or a regular Jew on the night of Yetziat Mitzrayim. They then breathlessly proceed to share their firsthand story to the wide-eyed young children seated at the table, before bolting out for another costume change.

If one is blessed with older children as well, it’s recommended to remind them prior to the performance that it is geared for the younger audience. In this way they won’t feel the need to downplay the act. Ideally, they would star in the performance as well.

Role play

In every generation, a person is obligated to picture that he had left Egypt. Some families have the custom of walking around the table with matzah over the shoulders, imitating our ancestors on their way out of Mitzrayim.

Offer prizes and treats

Chazal mention dispensing nuts as an incentive to children for asking questions. These days it may be better to use chocolate chips or candies. Your children’s dentist will be most appreciative.

A friend of mine creates “Seder dollars” before Pesach which he hands out during the Seder as a reward for good participation. Those dollars can be cashed in for prizes on Chol HaMoed.

Keep the focus

One of the greatest challenges of the Seder is that many of the members do not understand the content of the Haggadah.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt’l was particular to explain every passage of the Haggadah in a simple manner. His explanations weren’t detailed or lengthy. When those at the Seder have a general idea about what they are reading it becomes far more meaningful.

Some families allow different members of the family to read the translation of the different paragraphs.

Relate the history

Perhaps most importantly, when the details of the redemption and the makkos are read, the leader of the Seder should stress that Hashem did this all for us because He loves us, because we are His children, and we are special! That is a good juncture to mention how Hashem continues to watch over us every day and in every facet of our lives. His love for us has never wavered. After all the Jewish people have endured this year, the message of our national uniqueness and fostering a sense of Jewish pride is vital to impress upon our children.

Personalize the providence

A great way to drive the message of Yetzias Mitzrayim and Hashem’s love for us home is by sharing personal stories.

It’s also a great time to invite others around the table to share a brief personal anecdote where they felt the Yad Hashem. People, especially children, love to listen to stories, especially personal stories. Stories of grandparents, relatives, and other ancestors are particularly meaningful.

If Maggid is becoming too long this can also be done during the Seudah or throughout the Yom Tov. (Seder Dollars can be given out to those children who pay attention…)

Develop a theme

A Rebbe of mine related that he spends time before Pesach developing a personal 3–4-minute idea that he shares with his family at the beginning of Maggid. After that, during the Seder he shares only brief explanations of the paragraphs they are reading. He also includes brief references to his original message throughout the Seder demonstrating how the theme traverses the Haggadah. My Rebbe noted that he views that brief speech as an opportunity to convey an overarching message to his family that he hopes will resonate with them. As he lives outside Eretz Yisroel, he composes a different message for both Seder nights.

As mentioned, the Seder itself produces special memories and sears its imprint onto our neshamos. The ideas here are just ways to bolster that effect.

Perhaps most important for us as parents and grandparents is to take a moment during the Seder to appreciate our nachas and the gift of our families. Our children may not be perfect, but they are the greatest gift we have been blessed with.

During the days after the Seder, people love to ask what time other families finished their Sedarim. A far more worthy question is how long did the Seder last… within their heart and soul?

May we all merit fulfilling the mitzvos and halachos properly and enjoy this year’s Seder with the offering and eating of the Korbon Pesach in Yerushalayim.



Rabbi Dani Staum

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