Try these 8 Great Passover Activities for preschoolers and toddlers to teach young kids about Passover in a playful and developmentally appropriate way.
Passover is an 8-day Jewish holiday that falls each Spring, commemorating the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. The holiday begins with two nights on which a seder takes place. Seder is the Hebrew word for “order,” and the event retells the story of Passover with a special meal that includes unique foods, rituals, traditions, and songs. Families gather together during this holiday and it is a special time in Jewish homes.
The preparation beforehand can be a busy time for many parents and families. Many Jewish families are careful to eat only foods that are “kosher for Passover,” and to eliminate any foods that contain chametz (or leavening) not only from their diets during these 8 days, but also from their homes.
Think of it as a big Spring cleaning! The seder itself can be very long and go late into the night. The change in diet and routine can be both exciting and a little disorienting for young children. And yet, Jewish tradition tells us that the most important part of this holiday is the children themselves!
8 Great Passover Activities for Young Children
Children are encouraged to ask questions about the story of Passover at the seder and many even get the special role of reciting a part of the liturgy known as “The Four Questions.” While the story and the traditions of this holiday are important, the most important part of all is the children’s participation and enjoyment of it. They, after all, are the ones who will carry these traditions on! It is therefore very important to engage even young children in the process of preparing for, learning about and celebrating Passover–and what better way to do this than through fun, hands-on Passover activities?
Whether you are looking to learn about the holiday at home or in your classroom, to adding more activities to your own celebration of the holiday or just to learn about the holiday itself, we’ve got you covered with 8 great Passover activities that will have your children exploring science, building, sensory play, storytelling, practicing math concepts, literacy, art and even some practical life skills!
Are you ready to dig in?
Setting the Stage: DIY Passover Props
Passover is a holiday rich in ritual objects. These items can be found in many Jewish homes, some even handmade, collected from special places and passed on from generation to generation. One of the most special ways to connect young children with these special materials is to engage them in making their own! The best part is that they can be shared at a family seder, used in play or displayed for family and guests to see. There are so many ways to make these items, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Make Your Own Seder Plate
Every seder table has a seder plate! These can be simple or ornate, disposable or treasured heirlooms. Some might even be made by kids! Here are a couple of versions you might try:
The Keep it Simple Version: You will need a white paper plate, markers/crayons/colored pencils, glue stick, muffin liners (optional), printed pictures of seder plate foods for children to look at and/or glue on (optional). Families commonly have 5 or 6 items on their seder plates, each of which has symbolic meaning to the story.
Provide one paper plate to each child. If you are using muffin liners for each of the special seder plate foods, you will need 6 per seder plate. If not, you will want to draw or trace 6 circles onto the white plate. One of the special seder plate foods will go into each section. Children can draw these items, glue on printed pictures (there are great photos and clipart available through a simple Google image search) and/or write the words for them (in English and/or Hebrew). Seder plates can be very beautiful and ornate. Children can draw their own decorative designs or you can even add in some stickers or small craft items to glue on.
Scholastic.com has a free printable seder plate coloring sheet that could also be used as reference or for pictures of the seder plate foods. The 6 special seder plate foods are:
- Zeroah (shankbone)
- Beitzah (egg)
- Maror (bitter herb, commonly horseradish is used)
- Chazeret (some families include an additional bitter herb, commonly romaine lettuce is used)
- Charoset (a sweet paste made from apples and wine or grape juice)
- Karpas (vegetable–onions, boiled potatoes or parsley are commonly used)
The Upgraded Version: For a seder plate that is sturdier and can actually be used in play or at the seder table, you can use a large plastic plate and 6 small plastic dishes/bowls/cups. I like using a clear disposable serving plate and clear disposable dessert/condiment bowls. These can be found inexpensively at party supply stores or dollar stores. You will also need glue (school glue is fine, tacky glue is even better), small craft items like gems or foam shapes or tissue paper squares to glue on and/or stickers. Permanent markers and a low temperature hot glue gun can be helpful add-ons. The adult may wish to glue the smaller dishes onto the larger plate in advance using a hot glue gun and to write the names of the 6 special foods in or near each section.
If you are comfortable allowing older children to use permanent markers, they can do this part. Alternatively, you can prepare the words on paper or sticky labels and have children cut them out and stick them on. The children can decorate their seder plates. Tissue paper squares are especially beautiful when glued to the bottom of a clear plate and look a bit like stained glass. To make your seder plate even sturdier, you may want to seal it with a layer of Mod Podge or even glue on a second clear plate over the first (particularly if you glued tissue paper to the bottom).
Make A Kiddush Cup (Wine Goblet)
There are four cups of grape juice or wine consumed during the course of the seder and each guest needs his/her own kiddush cup! Party supply stores or dollar stores have beautiful disposable options for this, including wine goblets or shot glasses. You can purchase these and children can decorate them with small craft materials, tissue paper, stickers or even permanent markers. You can also get a pack of tiny paper Dixie cups and glue or tape them together with their bottoms in the center to create a wine goblet. The children can color and decorate this.
Make Your Own Matzah Cover
During much of the seder, the matzah at the table is under wraps! Beautiful and ornate wraps! We cover the matzah with a decorative fabric garment and children can make their own using a white cloth napkin or a square of white fabric or felt. You can write the word “Matzah” on it in English or even Hebrew if you wish. Children can decorate their matzah covers using fabric markers or paints, gluing on small craft items or even tie-dyeing them if you are feeling quite adventurous!
Half of a piece of matzah is hidden during the seder and saved for later. Some families have the custom to search for this hidden piece of matzah–a task that children are frequently put up to with a prize or reward upon its recovery and safe return! This piece of matzah, known as the afikoman, is stored in a little pouch or bag. You can make one by folding a rectangle of felt or fabric in half and sewing or gluing the sides, leaving the top open like an envelope. Children can decorate their afikoman bags.
Make Your Own Pretend Matzah
Great for dramatic play, you can make your own pretend matzah in a variety of ways. Using cardstock, paper, a paper plate or construction paper, you can create the look and texture of matzah by doing a crayon rubbing over the surface of Lego or Duplo blocks. If you do not have those, you can create your own textured surface by dotting school glue in a grid across a piece of cardboard and rubbing over that once the dots are dry and bumpy.
Alternatively you can make paint prints of the texture using brown or yellow paint and the bumpy surface of a Lego or Duplo block. Matzah is commonly shaped like a square or circle. This is a fun art activity for kids that even the very young can do and you can save these for later because we’ll use them again!
Want to do more?
Now that we’ve covered the bare basics of the seder table, here are a few extra ideas to take it above and beyond:
Make a baby Moses toy
The story of Passover begins with the Jewish people’s leader, Moses as a tiny baby. Afraid for his safety, his mother wraps him up and places him in a basket and sends him off into the river where he was later discovered and rescued by none other than the daughter of our story’s antagonist, Pharaoh! Young children will love to create and take home their owl little baby Moses toy to play and tell the story with.
You will need:
- A basket: you can buy a small basket, recycle a container or berry basket or even use a paper bowl and have children glue or weave yarn around it to look like a basket
- A baby: you can purchase toy babies (even the dollar stores often sell these) or you can make your own with a wooden peg doll or clothes pin
- A blanket: cut a piece of fabric to size so you can wrap your Baby Moses and keep him warm and dry! I’ve often recycled an old pair of flannel pajamas for this purpose.
Make a seder pillow and/or pillowcase
There is a custom during the seder to recline and eat like royalty! Many families use an extra cushion or pillow for this purpose. Children who are a bit older and ready for a beginning sewing project may be able to sew their own simple pillow using two felt rectangles, a needle and thread, some polyfill to stuff it and some adult assistance and support. Begin by sewing around the perimeter of the felt rectangles leaving a space open. Turn your work “inside out” and stuff it with polyfill before stitching up the remaining gap. The pillow can be decorated with fabric paints if desired. For younger ones or those who have less time, you can decorate plain white pillowcases using fabric paints or markers or even tie-dye to put over a pillow used at the seder.
Make a “Cleaned for Passover” Door Hanger
Cleaning the home for Passover is a huge task! Celebrate each step of accomplishment by marking off rooms already cleaned with a handcrafted door hanger. (This is also a helpful reminder to family members and guests not to bring anything into the room that is not allowed to be eaten during the holiday.) I like the craft foam door hangers sold in craft supply stores for this project. You can also cut out your own from cardstock. Your children (or you) will want to write in marker or puffy paint that “This Room Has Been Cleaned for Passover” and children can then decorate their door hangers with stickers, foam shapes, buttons, gems or whatever strikes your fancy. These also make a great host gift or even a great intergenerational project to share with an elderly friend or relative. I particularly like this project as one to do if you have the opportunity to visit Jewish senior citizens in a nursing home before the holiday.
Dramatic Play and Retelling the Passover Story with Loose Parts
Storytelling is a huge part of this holiday. There are great books, movies and written resources available (and you can check out a list of those in “Tips for Teaching Young Kids about Passover.” [include link] Hearing the story again each year is an important part of celebrating the holiday. Reenacting the story through play can be even more meaningful to young children. This can be done through playacting with costumes, with puppets, or–my favorite way, with a variety of loose parts!
You may want to include reading or telling the story into your loose parts play, whether through providing books for the children to look at and read with you or through telling the story to them. There are aspects of the Passover story that are pretty explicit for young children and each family and educator must decide how they are comfortable relaying it. Luckily, there are great childrens’ resources available! In addition to many great children’s books, you can use “The Passover Story for Kids” available online through PJ Library.
When it comes to loose parts play, I like to set out a variety of materials and see where the children take it! You can do some intentional set up yourself to invite them to the scene or let them take the lead altogether. You can do this indoors, outdoors, on a small scale for small world play or on a larger scale for playacting. Here are some ideas of materials you may want to include:
- Books, pictures, and music about the story of Passover
For Small World Play:
- Small toy people or wooden peg dolls to represent Moses, the Jewish people and Pharoah
- A small toy baby and basket to represent baby Moses
- Small toy frogs, bugs and animals and other relevant small props to represent the 10 plagues or those you are comfortable playing about
- Mirror trays, scarves, fabric for “water”
- Blocks, legos, rocks, stones and glass gems, magnatiles or other favorite building toys for building Pyramids and other scenery
- A dollhouse and props can be used to represent a modern family having a seder. You may wish to include miniature dishes and small loose parts to represent seder foods and matzah–you can even make your own with clay, Sculpy, felt, pompoms, etc.
- Fabric, scarves, clothing and props to make costumes
- Tambourines and instruments to represent the music played at the Nile when the Jewish people were finally freed
- Blue fabric, felt or scarves or even blue gift wrap or tissue paper to represent the Nile River. You will need two rows of this so you can “split the sea”
- Brown or green fabric, felt or scarves, or even gift wrap, tissue paper or craft/butcher paper for the center of the Nile when the sea was split
- Larger building materials like blocks, Megablocks, recycled tubes, shovels and tools for building
- A baby doll and basket with a blanket for Baby Moses
This list of materials is by no means comprehensive and you can choose additional props or leave some out altogether. You can also decide to have this as a more “directed activity” or leave it open and available in your home or classroom for children to explore and play as they please.
For other general dramatic play ideas, you may wish to provide Passover props and foods in your kitchen and home living area. This might include a seder plate with parts and props, a kiddush cup (wine goblet), haggadahs (the books used by Jewish families to retell the story of Passover during the Seder), fabric or props for a matzah cover and afikoman bag and toy matzah. You can use the props you made in our first activity, use toys and materials you already have or purchase a set of toys like the KidCraft Passover Set.
You may include tools for cleaning in your dramatic play area as well, since many families are busy cleaning their homes this time of year. You might also add on props like a fancy tablecloth, candlesticks and candles, a vase with flowers and perhaps some fancier dress-up clothes to set up a seder. Some schools will also hold a model seder with the children to go through the routine and activities before the holiday begins.
Matzah is one of the most important and popular holiday foods. Consider setting up a simple matzah bakery by using or crafting a toy oven, providing some baking sheets, chefs hats, aprons and potholders and, of course, pretend matzah. You can even craft a matzah spatula with cardboard and a wooden craft stick. Remember–baking matzah must be completed within 18 minutes! It might be a good idea to include a timer or clock in your dramatic play area as well.
Sand Dough Sensory Play
Slavery was no walk in the park and the work it took the Jewish people to build before the advent of modern technology was excruciating. Young children today, however, love to build–and what better way to recreate the concept of making bricks in the desert of Egypt than by making your own sand dough.
You will need:
- 8 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup baby oil
- Shovels, ice cube trays, sand molds, Megablocks (these make great “brick” molds) buckets, and containers
- Little toy people (optional)
Combine your ingredients. The dough may be a little crumbly on its own, but when pressure is applied by the hands, it does stick together and hold a shape! This can be a messy play activity, so I recommend covering your workspace or even taking it outdoors. It works particularly well in a sensory bin or sand table but you can also use smaller bins or trays to play.
Frog World Sensory Bin
For a playful spin on the plague of frogs and another great sensory bin activity, create a small world fit for a frog!
You will need:
- Blue food coloring or liquid watercolor (optional)
- Toy frogs (often sold in dollar stores)
- Rocks, stones, wood circles or driftwood, glass gems, artificial plants and flowers–anything you might find in a pond! You can even cut lily pads out of green craft foam if you wish.
- Books or photographs of ponds and frogs for reference (optional)
To extend this activity and learn more about frogs, check out this frog life cycle small world bin!
No, I didn’t spell that wrong! In this fun process art activity, children will continue to explore the plague of frogs.
You will need:
- Plastic or rubber frogs (I found both the plastic ones and rubber bath toys at Dollar Tree stores)
- Washable tempera paints in the color(s) of your choice, I hear the frogs prefer green
- Construction paper (you can use blue to look like a pond or any color)
- Plastic trays or paper plates for paint
- Paint brushes (optional)
Prepare your paint tray or plate with a puddle of paint. Children will dip their frogs into the paint and print with them on their paper. In this activity, it is really the process of it over the finished product; do not worry if the children use their frog “brushes” to make lines, designs or even dip other parts of them into the paint to use rather than making footprints. This is a great activity for multiple ages.
Baby Moses Sink or Float Science Experiment
This is another great activity to use with multiple ages. In fact, I like it so much that I repeat it year after year with my own children to see how they have grown in their scientific understanding. In this experiment, children will be put to the task of building a waterproof “basket” for Baby Moses that will get him safely across the Nile River without sinking!
You will need:
- A sensory bin, water table or bathtub filled with water
- Baby dolls (you may prefer to use water safe dolls here, but in a pinch, dollar stores usually have baby dolls and if they get wet, it’s not the end of the world!)
- A variety of buckets, baskets, trays, containers (recyclables are great)
- Masking tape to connect materials
- Various loose parts and recyclables children may wish to add
- Baby doll accessories like bottles, blankets, towels (optional)
I like to include the challenge of engaging the children to find and select their materials for this experiment. Ask them what they can use to build a basket or boat to get Baby Moses safely down the Nile? Give them time to build and construct their vessels as well as opportunities to test them and try again as needed! For older children, you may include paper or graph paper and colored pencils to prepare a “blueprint” of their plan. You can do this activity indoors or even outside if weather permits. Extend the understanding by talking about what worked, what didn’t and why.
Game Time! Children learn through play and in these simple games, you can play about Passover themes at home or in your classroom.
Food Sorting Game
There are many foods Jewish families refrain from eating during the holiday of Passover. One of the most important tasks before the holiday is to rid the home of foods not to be eaten on Passover. Using toy food or pictures of foods cut from magazines, create a simple sorting game of foods that are eaten during Passover and foods that are not eaten during the holiday.
It should be noted that families have many different customs about foods this time of year! To keep it simple, I include only generic and obvious items in the game like breads, rolls, cookies, crackers, cereal, pasta and other items containing chametz “leavening” that would not be eaten during Passover and other foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, matzah, eggs, etc., that would be eaten during the holiday. You can even use a large sack or bag to collect the “chametz” into and haul away!
Searching for Chametz Game
Families search and scour their homes for chametz the night before Passover will begin. This is serious business, but also quite fun for the children! Recreate the event by hiding pieces of actual bread, toy bread or pictures of bread (you can use your collection of chametz from the above game) around your home or classroom. Have the children search for them and collect them into a paper bag or sack. If you are using real bread and actually cleaning for Passover, it would be a good idea to take note of how many pieces you hid and where they are hidden!
Find the Afikoman Game
Finding the afikoman is a big deal in some homes. In some families, the children are put to the task. Sometimes there is a prize involved! In my own home growing up, we used to hide it from our parents and they would have to search for it. You can take turns having one child hide the afikoman (you can use actual matzah here or your props from the first activity) and have the other children find it. You may want to have your hider offer clues and notify the seekers as they are getting hot or cold!
Little Helpers and Practical Life Skills
Children love to help prepare for Passover. We often joke at my house that kids are both helpers and hinderers in the home this time of year, but it is so important to include them in the process and they learn and gain so much through doing it.
When we are busy cleaning the house for Passover, we offer the children rags and spray bottles of water (you can add a bit of dish soap in if you wish) to clean as well. They can also help dust, sweep, make beds for guests and go through their own toys to get organized and find anything that may need to be cleaned or removed (like those lost Cheerios from two months ago…)
If having the children actually clean doesn’t feel like a good option, they also enjoy “pretending” to clean by having a bin or water table filled with soapy water, sponges/rags and plastic toys to wash. The added bonus here is that your toys will get cleaned! Win, win!
The kitchen, as you might imagine, is the busiest room this time of year, both for cleaning and preparing holiday foods. When my own kids are rather underfoot in the real kitchen, I know it’s time to send them out their toy kitchen with the task of cleaning it for Passover.
You can use rags, spray bottles with soapy water, toy or real cleaning tools (dollar stores are great for this) and let them have at it! When they are done cleaning, they like to set it up for Passover the way we do in our actual kitchen–by covering the countertops and surfaces (I buy them their very own roll of cheap tinfoil each year for this and it is their most coveted holiday gift), and labeling areas that have been “Cleaned for Passover” with sticky labels.
With pre-writers, you will need to assist, but older children can write themselves!
What do children love just as much as cleaning? Cooking! Food is such an integral part of holidays and family traditions. Inviting kids into the kitchen to help prepare holiday foods is a very meaningful way to connect the generations and preserve family customs. Children especially enjoy making their own charoset for the seder plate and while recipes can be quite unique from family to family, the most basic two ingredients are apples and wine or grape juice.
For a child-friendly version, you will need:
- Grape juice
- Cinnamon (optional)
- A vegetable peeler
- A knife (if children will be cutting, I recommend a knife like this one or this set available from Amazon)
- A cutting board
- A mixing bowl and spoon
Young chefs will need adult support and supervision. Peel, core and slice your apples. You will want to cut your apple slices into smaller chunks. For the purpose of learning, these don’t need to be uniform or itty bitty. For the actual seder, I usually use my food processor.
If you do want to use this at your seder, you may wish to have the children grate the apples instead or use a food processor once they are peeled and sliced. Add just enough grape juice to coat and combine. You can sprinkle on some cinnamon if you like.
Bake Your Own Matzah!
This cooking activity is more about the process than the product. Baking matzah that is kosher for Passover (acceptable to use during the holiday) is a very complicated process from start to finish and anything baked in an oven that is not kosher for Passover cannot be used on the holiday itself. This is a great activity to do before Passover, nonetheless, as it really gets the children’s hands-on experience. It won’t look or taste like store-bought matzah.
I like to introduce the activity by reading The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman.
Ingredients and Tools:
- 2 parts flour to one part water (2 cups flour and 1 cup water are a good amount for two bakers)
- a mixing bowl
- a mixing spoon
- measuring cups
- a rolling pin
- a baking sheet
- A timer
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour your flour into a mixing bowl and make a hole in the center (your little bakers can do this!)
Now, start a timer for 18 minutes–this is to show your little bakers how the process of baking matzah must be complete in 18 minutes.
We love our visual timer for this and I also explained that it’s only to show how quickly this happens in a real matzah bakery so that no one would feel nervous about it.
Slowly pour the water into the depression (little ones can help with this, too) and mix until a dough is formed.
Split your dough into balls for each baker and roll it flat. Poke holes in the dough with a fork.
Next, you’re ready to place it on an ungreased cookie sheet (we lined ours with foil) and bake for about 3-4 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges.
The thinner the matzah, the faster it will bake. Taste test! You might even have fun comparing it to matzah purchased from the store!
I hope these Passover activities bring a lot of fun and hands-on learning to your home or classroom this season. If you are celebrating, I wish you a Happy Passover!