Here are some tips and tricks to keep the kids engaged throughout the night. It's good that you are reading this now because some activities require more preparations than others.
Add some sweets to your shopping list. They are great to pass out as the night goes on.
Pesach night is focused around asking questions. We do many things, like removing and returning the Seder plate to the table throughout the evening as a way to get the children to ask questions. Keep track of questions being asked using a point system. (Make sure you have some way of keeping track of the points. I suggest cards with set numbers on them, 1,5,10,15,25,50,100, or even playing cards would work). Side note- all too often our children are taught that answering a question is more important than asking one. Teachers have a tendency to only reward students that know the answer to questions, and not to those that ask questions. That should not be the case. Training our children, when they are young, that asking questions is equally, if not more, important, will only help them in the future, as adults.
SEE-Der Plate: You can invite your younger children, during the seder, to the come check out the seder plate. Hands on- let's look, and describe what we see. Feel each item on the plate. What does each one feel like or remind you of?
Decorate your table with a theme:
The number 4 (for a Sesame Street themed table)
The Red Sea Split
As an added bonus, create an edible centerpiece, preventing anyone from getting "hangry".
Conduct a museum walkthrough- All participants, as they read through the Hagaddah, can mentally take note of two paragraphs that deepened their understanding of the story or that resonated with them and describe it to everyone. To take this idea to the next level, before Pesach starts, have each participant draw two pictures about the Seder or story, hang them up around your table and in middle of the seder, everyone stands up, takes a look at all the artwork and then shares what they liked about each one.
While on the topic of art, feel free to display your children's art around the table or the walls. There are a ton of crafts and free images you can find on google that can be easily printed and personalized.
Role Play Give each participant a role to play at the seder:
Seder plate monitor- putting it on and taking it off the table.
Afikoman watcher- this person needs to keep a close eye on it or else someone will grab it.
A sommelier (Wine Pourer)- pours the wine for everyone (someone should pour his cup for him, after all, we are all free people).
The reader or storyteller.
Cup Controller- keeps track of the cups
Children can create place cards for each participant.
Create a bingo board (flippity.net- a great site for making word searches and crossword puzzles as well as bingo boards). Hand out one board to each participant. As you go through the Hagaddah, participants cover the words they hear. First one to bingo wins.
Have a leapfrog contest.
Create a play that everyone can take part in.
Blow up a beach ball. Write 1 question word per section. During the seder, throw the ball to a participant. When they catch it, they ask a question about whatever is being discussed using that word that is facing them.
Create a mad lib using any of the topics from the story- slavery, exodus, matzah baking, 4 cups of wine, etc. Using everyone's help, "fill it out" during the Seder.
Play a classic game of telephone during the seder. Start with a word from the Hagaddah and whisper it to the person to your left. That person whispers what he/she heard to the person to their left etc. It's always fun and interesting to hear what the person to your right heard, once it went around the table. Broken telephone is also a great game, especially after the 4th cup of wine.
Personal connections keep everyone engaged. I always say, the more the merrier. Whether it's a grandparent telling a story about a time they were "enslaved" or a time you felt pressured and weighed down by something and how it felt once it was finally lifted. This year, as we sit in our homes wondering when the Corona virus will disappear, many are feeling enslaved and stuck at home.
During the discussion about the plague of darkness, you can have a family hide and seek game.
What's in the Bag? Each participant should bring 3-5 items to the table that have something to do with the Seder. Keep them in a bag so no one sees. Throughout the seder, and taking turns, each participant can describe one item from their bag. Everyone else has to guess what it is and what the connection is. Want an added twist, trade bags with the person across from you to throw everyone off. You can make it a little more interactive for older children by preparing Jimmy Fallon's Box of Lies game, just use Pesach themed items. (Props to you if you put a live frog in one of the boxes).
Pyramid building: Everyone at the table can build a pyramid out of any material. The tallest and strongest pyramid wins. Or you be the Pharoah and decide which one you like the most. Remember, everyone is a winner.
Charades is a fun family game to play during the Seder. It is very inclusive and many participants can be involved at once.
Pin the Event on the Timeline: Along the same lines of pin the tail on the donkey; cut strips of paper and write major Jewish history moments on each slip. Put a timeline up on the wall and blindfolded, each participant attempts to put the moment, they picked out of a hat, in the right place. This can be personalized easily, as you can add your family history throughout the timeline.
The Voice Pesach edition or Lip Synch Battle: Each participant sings a song they know or creates one on the spot about the story or holiday.
Seder's Best Chef: Which participant can build the tastiest sandwich using just the ingredients on the seder plate (besides the shank bone). Feel free to add more ingredients to the "pantry".
The point is, make sure you have something for everyone. Each family is structured differently. Each member of each family learns differently. Your job is to orchestrate discussion and maintain attention throughout the evening. Often times, this is a daunting task. I hope with these activity suggestions, the task just got easier or at least inspired you to create your own Pesach playbook.