Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Get Your Kids to Love Passover

Many many of my friends and their families have a hard time with Pesach. I know, it seems like a tricky holiday. After all, there are so many rules and things that we can't eat.

And I know that some people reading this can't quite relate to the way that I keep Pesach - since I'm not overly stringent about certain things and I do eat kitniyot. But this is what my family does to keep Pesach and how we make it as interesting and fun as possible...because I want my kids to LOVE Passover as much as I do.

So here goes, my get-kids-to-love-my-favorite-holiday rule:
say YES to as many things as you can.

Chocolate cereal that mom won't buy any other time of year (even tho it's the matzah stuff)? Yep, it's Pesach!

Potato chips for snack? Yep, it's Pesach!

REAL maple Syrup AND chocolate chips on your matzah meal pancakes? Why not? It's Pesach!

Ice cream for a snack (or...even, gulp....breakfast)? Yep, it's Pesach!

Israeli chocolate spread on matzah? (or even...on a spoon) Yep, it's Pesach!

Basically, I make it about what you GET more than what you don't get.
I make as many playdates at OUR house as I can, I bake brownies and offer chocolate spread on matzah for any meal they want.(Oh, and I clear the house of all chametz, of course. So it's just not there if they ask. They can look in the cabinet and take anything they see...out of sight, out of mind.)

Meals are simple - we do eat a lot of fish and potatoes, but everyone likes my Farfel-Cheese Casserole which I make at least once. I always make a few batches of matzah brei as well, which goes over pretty well. We eat eggs for breakfast and sometimes for dinner or lunch. I don't worry as much about nutrition except for one key element: lots of fruit. I splurge and get as many kinds of fruit as my kids will eat. (Gotta keep I make sure that every meal has a piece of fruit attached to it and while I'm happy to offer all that junk food they want, I still suggest a pear or apple as the FIRST idea for a snack. Sometimes they take me up on it!

This year we went to the zoo, and we packed a picnic, which we ate before we went in. This worked because even though I put all the stuff in the cooler, it was pretty hot and I would have worried about it if we tried to leave it in the car while we walked the zoo. The kids had matzah crackers with cheese, carrots, macaroons and clementines. I brought a big bag of potato chips and salads for the grownups. It worked great and no one went hungry. (Including the goose who tried to crash our picnic. He got the leftovers...)

We are not as absolutely strict as some people so I usually schedule one trip to New York Slices where they make matzah pizza and one trip to Max and Benny's for their Pesach menu (we didn't get there this year) which breaks up the monotony of eating at home, too. But even if you don't do that, my method would still work well.

The other problem is that so many other people around my kids don't actually keep the holiday. I generally solve this by doing as much fun stuff as a family as we can (want to watch a movie? Sure, it's Pesach!) and inviting other kids to our house for playdates instead of the reverse. The other kids don't seem to mind matzah with cream cheese and it keeps my kid away from having to explain anything.

Side note: This year I made THESE amazing brownies from Marcy Goldman's great Jewish Holiday Baking cookbook and I plan to make them every good. Seriously. You wouldn't believe they're Pesadik.
At the end of the day, Passover is my favorite holiday. Yes, it's a challenge, but I love that. It helps me feel special and different, it helps me think for a whole week outside the box, it helps me create something that my kids remember from year to year. And I think that while they might not love Pesach quite yet, they don't mind it at all. And that's good enough for me at this point. I can only hope that as they grow older, they'll love it as much as I do.
I feel connected to the story, I truly feel that I walked out of Egypt and I get choked up as we read the lines from the Haggadah..."and you shall say to your children on that day, this is because of what God did for US when WE went forth from Egypt."
The Prince of Egypt
We've watched Prince of Egypt at least 3 times this Pesach and I find my eyes get moist each time we are freed from slavery. And each time we watch it, I ask my kids "who are those people leaving Egypt?" and they've learned to answer, "that's us."
That's what I want.
So...What do you do to make Pesach special in your house?


homeshuling said...

We have exactly the same approach here. My mom even bought them kfp cotton candy which they have been nibbling DAILY. Even so, they are getting pretty sick of the limited options.

Otir said...

Honestly, my kids love Pessah every year, and I have never seen it as a problem. I am the worst cook on earth, but come Passover, it becomes my duty to prepare more creative, colorful meals than the rest of the year when it is so easy to go with the lazyness of serving the easy stuff with all the chametz and finger foods...

There are so many possibilities with potatoes and spring vegetable, every day we have had different meals and no one is complaining... until they go back to school, where I guess they are exposed to the non-Jewish food that is served there.

But at least, I feel like I have instilled the idea of what Pessah means.

May I say that it is all a matter of attitude?

countryfriedmama said...

Well, sadly, this year Pesach was special because everyone got a stomach bug and spent the wasn't pretty.

Generally, though, our 4-year-old LOVES Passover, and I want to do what I can to maintain her enthusiasm as she grows. She hasn't noticed yet that she is "missing" anything.

I asked my husband this morning if Easter baskets might be a conspiracy to make Jewish kids feel bad about Passover. I was kidding. Sort of. In any case, we will end Passover with discount jelly beans and Cadbury eggs. Looking forward to that little shopping trip tomorrow.

Heidi and Craig said...

We have taken the same approach to making the holiday as fun as possible. For breakfast, we allowed matzah with chocolate spread. For snacks, we gobbled macaroons and toffee chocolate matzah. And the kids had a fabulous time enjoying all of their special Passover candy!

I wish I had more school lunch ideas for the kids, but as it turned out, they had short days and could have hot late lunches when they got home. (Any ideas out there?)

And, meanwhile, both my 6 yo daughter and 4 yo son have been absolutely fabulous and respectful and understanding - no whining or fighting at the stores when there are samples of non-Pesach goodies from cookies to pizza to toast and pasta. Just, "Oh, right. Passover. Gotcha." =)

We also made sure the seders were as kid-friendly as possible - like mini parties!

So, yeah, they know we can't have some stuff, but they also know Pesach is a very fun week!

Minnesota Mamaleh said...

excellent post, phyllis! agreed, it has to be fun and feel oh-so-very full of yesses! we do the fun snacks and spread the week thoroughly with fun activities-- finger puppets, plague bag, coloring sheets, matzah painting, red sea water play (a pre-school idea-- LOVE it!) and red play doh to go along with the red sea bit. we also put up all of the pesach crafts that they've made the last few years. fun and family-- win and win. :)

rivster said...

I am really going to take your approach next year. We did the Pesach play stuff but I like how you treat the food options.

Unlike most, I do not enjoy Pesach. Never have. I love the meaning and if we could do the ritual every night, Frume Sarah would be one happy girl. So I try very hard not to pass on my mishegoss to my kids :)

tali said...

we take the same approach, the chocolate spread on matzo and the matzo brie is probably our favorite. we also have a passover sack filled with little frogs, a notebook, etc that they use every year and by the time the holiday is over i pack it together with the rest of the passover things and pt it in a "holiday" box in the closet. they are always looking forward into opening that box. (we have the same for Hanukkah) exited to open that box with that. we also put a lot of emphasis on spring, and flowers, and do lots of crafts.

thanks for a great post

Jew Wishes said...

What a great post! I love it. "Why not, it's Pesach!".


Batya said...

One of the points the Rabbanit (Rebbetzin, Rabbi's Wife) Yemima made during her talk was making the cleaning fun. And our local rabbi says that we shouldn't fight with minor children about kitniyot; it's only a custom at most. He also tells Ashkenazim with certain medical conditions to choose two kitniyot to add to the family's Passover menu. My grandchildren are Tunisian (from their father) and I serve rice for them.

Fairion said...

We follow a very similar approach. We do not eat Kitniyot and my daughter is dairy-free so many of her regular dairy-substitutes are off limits as well as the standard fare.

Yet she loves Pesach. We have tons of fun, all kinds of neat treats and lots of special time.

Alycia said...

Our problem is our son. He is a very picky eater. When we walk into our inlaws, the smells of a Passover meal starts him complaining. Since my father in law does a very truncated service, the food is usually the center of the conversation. My son can only sit there and eat matzo with honey since he won't touch chicken, brisket, matzo balls and forget about gifelte fish.

We usually don't prepare him for the meal but you guys have given us a few nuggets to think about for next year.

Oh, he did find the Afikoman this year so at least he had a few minutes of happiness!

Shira Salamone said...

We used to do something similar with our son every Shabbat when he was a kid: The only white bread allowed in our home was challah, and we let our son eat as much challah as he wanted, once we got our "cut." :)