Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is the Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt. Each spring, in Jewish homes all around the world, families and friends gather together on the first two nights of the 8 day holiday and celebrate with a special ritual meal called a seder.
But even before this holiday begins, families are busy at home preparing, cleaning and getting ready for a diet overhaul! On this holiday, Jewish people are careful not to eat any foods that contain chametz (leavening) and instead, we eat matzah, a large cracker, to remember that when the Jewish people were finally freed from slavery and allowed to leave Egypt, they left in such a hurry they had no time for their bread to rise!
Teaching Kids About Passover
Setting up your space to include materials relevant to Passover can help all of the children learn about and share in this special holiday. It can also help children who do celebrate Passover to feel seen and represented in their classroom.
Every family has their own unique traditions and customs as well. In this special time of year, it can be very meaningful to invite families of children who celebrate Passover to share with you some of their own special traditions.
Here are some things to consider when teaching kids about Passover:
What Materials to Include
Ritual objects, props, books, art and media that are relevant to Passover can add beauty and diversity to your classroom this time of year, especially as other Spring holidays and traditions are celebrated and observed. It can be helpful to send a letter home to families of your students asking them to send in a photo of something they do to celebrate this time of year. Asking families to donate or lend related holiday materials can be a wonderful way to include symbols of the season in your classroom.
Your local library is a great resource for literature and other types of media related to Passover.
Many children’s departments will designate a special space for Spring holiday books and librarians are always eager to help! Many synagogues also have lending libraries and may be able to connect teachers with resources for their classrooms.
The internet is also a great resource for fun learning materials.
You can access everything from child-friendly versions of the Passover story, printable materials, videos, ideas for crafts and activities and more. I will include a list of suggested websites below.
Invite a Special Guest
If you have Jewish students in your classroom or school, you have an opportunity to welcome parents, grandparents or even local community rabbis who are willing and able to come to your classroom and share in teaching about Passover.
If you do not have any volunteers within your classroom or school community, consider reaching out to a local synagogue or Jewish Community Center to connect with someone who would be interested in an opportunity to visit your classroom and teach students about the holiday.
College campus groups
Hillel or high school Jewish youth groups are another great resource to connect with potential volunteers. Many synagogues have Jewish education programs as well, and these are another great resource for ideas and materials.
Meaningful Props, Symbols, and Activities for Passover
Passover is a holiday rich in rituals! As you teach about Passover, you’ll want to include some meaningful props, symbols, and activities. Here are some ideas:
- Share the story of Passover with your students. There are many books, videos, and even online resources to do this.
- The story itself is retold as part of the holiday at the seder using a special book called a Haggadah. There are many versions of this book! Consider having an assortment to share and compare. Some are even made specifically for children! Families and community synagogues are a great place to ask for copies you could borrow.
- Music is also a big part of this holiday and creates such a festive environment. You can search through Google Play, Pandora or similar apps for Passover playlists or find some Passover CDs (even at your local library or community synagogue)
- Common holiday props include a seder plate, a kiddush cup (wine goblet), matzah, a matzah cover, an afikoman bag (a pouch in which a small portion of matzah is hidden during the seder and saved for dessert), Haggadahs, cushions or pillows for reclining on during the seder meal when we eat like royalty, candles and candlesticks, a special wine goblet for Elijah’s cup, and a dish for saltwater in which vegetables are dipped to remind us of the tears and sadness of the Jewish people during their time of enslavement. Every family has their own unique artifacts and ritual objects, so asking them about these can be a great starting point. In the absence of actual objects to display and share, artwork and photographs depicting them can be very meaningful.
- There are many unique foods eaten on Passover. Matzah is probably one of the most popular! There are 4 cups of wine (or grape juice for the children!) consumed during the course of the seder. There are also some very unique symbolic foods included on the seder plate:
- Zeroah (shank bone)
- 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)
- There are many great ways to learn about Passover through fun activities, art, and play. Fun Family Crafts has a great collection of Passover Crafts for Kids. You can also check out 8 Great Passover Activities for some fresh ideas!
Additional Passover Resources:
Here are some great resources you might use in your classroom or home learning:
- PJ Library is an organization that aims to connect Jewish families and children to books and resources worldwide. The Passover for Kids page on their website has a collection of useful links, including videos, music, games, activity ideas, recipes and even a kid-friendly version of the Passover Story.
- 3 Dinosaurs has a Free Moses & The Ten Plagues Pack and Free Passover Placemats you can print out.
- There are some great children’s videos about Passover. Some of my favorites are Passover at Bubbe’s, and Shalom Sesame, It’s Passover, Grover!.
- There are so many great Passover books for children. Here are some of my very favorites:
Community Connection Extension Activity
If you are looking for a way to enhance and extend your learning this time of year, connecting with residents at a nursing home is a great way to spread cheer as Passover approaches. This holiday has a very rich family component and sharing an intergenerational craft activity or songs and just some quality time and smiles can bring a lot of happiness to those who may not be able to attend a family seder this year.
I hope these resources and suggestions get you off to a good start as you prepare to explore this exciting holiday. Be sure to check out 8 Great Passover Activities to go along with this and to those who are celebrating, Happy Passover!